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OSU Extension - Fairfield County

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OSU Extension BEEF Team

BEEF Cattle questions may be directed to the OSU Extension BEEF Team through Stephen Boyles or Stan Smith, Editor

You may subscribe to the weekly Ohio BEEF Cattle letter by sending an e-mail to smith.263@osu.edu

Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter

Issue # 946

July 29, 2015

When Expectations Become Reality - John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

For the past few years, beef cattle producers have been receiving strong economic signals to increase the size of the nation's cow herd. While recent market prices have been historically high, expansion has been limited across much of the country due to large areas of significant drought. However, the situation has changed to the point where drought conditions currently exist only in the far west and in the southern tip of Florida.

Based on last week's release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service semi-annual Cattle report, expectations have become reality. As of July 1, 2015, all cattle and calves in the United States totaled 98.4 million head which represents a 2 percent increase above July 1, 2014. This represents the first increase in the total inventory since the July 1, 2006 inventory.

All cows and heifers that will calve in 2015 reached 39.8 million head, up 2 percent from 2014. This total represents 30.5 million beef cows, up 3 percent, and 9.3 million milk cows, up 1 percent, from the previous year. The 2015 calf crop is expected to be 34.3 million head, up 1 percent from 2014. It has been projected that 72.3 percent of the 2015 calf crop will be born between January 1 - June 30 and 27.7 percent of the crop will calve in the July 1 - December 31 time frame.

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market for all U.S. feedlots totaled 12.1 million head on July 1, 2015, up 2 percent from 12 months earlier. Feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 or more head accounted for 85 percent of the total cattle on feed on July 1, 2015.

CattleFax, a firm focused on beef industry research and analysis, provides more indicators of aggressive expansion of the beef cow herd. Beef cow slaughter is on pace to be the smallest in at least 45 years. The percentage of heifers being placed in feedlots compared to steers continues to run very small. This reduction in feedlot heifer placements has resulted in an increase in over 300,000 head of beef replacement females added to herds in the previous year.

Much like grain producers, beef producers are showing the ability to increase overall production levels with the proper motivation. Simply put, market prices created the desire for expansion amongst cattlemen. Mother Nature's cooperation of providing adequate rainfall and improved pasture conditions across much of the country has resulted in the capability to expand the nation's beef inventory.

Managing Alfalfa Stands Damaged by Waterlogging - Rory Lewandowski and Mark Sulc, OSU Extension

We are receiving reports and have personally observed fields of alfalfa injured by the excessive soil wetness the first half of this growing season. Generally, waterlogging injury appears as stunting with a general yellowing of the entire plant, a result of nitrogen deficiency due to inactive N-fixation in waterlogged soils. Anaerobic respiration occurring in the plant under low soil oxygen also produces compounds that are toxic to the plant.

You should evaluate your stands in the next few weeks by counting the number of live plants per square foot, based on the age of the stand. The following table is taken from an Iowa State University article:

Plants per Square Foot

Stand Age Good Marginal Consider Reseeding
Year after seeding +12 8-12 Less than 8
2 years +8 5-6 Less than 5
3 years +6 4-5 Less than 4
4 years and older +4 3-4 Less than 3

While plant counts are useful, to get a true determination of stand health, plants must be dug up so that crown and root tissue can be evaluated. To do this you must split the crowns/roots. The inside should be a creamy white color. If it is yellowish brown to chocolate brown color, the tissue is damaged or dying. If more than 50% of the roots show these symptoms, reduce your stand counts.

You will likely find some roots and plants that are completely dead, while on others the crown tissue will appear healthy but with roots that are rotting off 4-6 inches deep. We have also seen plant death in wheel tracks where harvesting operations occurred on wet soils, as illustrated in the photo (Photo courtesy of R. Lewandowski).

So what should be done about these stands? The answer of course depends of the degree of permanent damage and how much of the field was affected. Stand recovery over the coming weeks will help you decide whether the field is worth saving, needs nothing but some TLC, or if interseeding other species will help extend its useful life. Last week I discussed alternative forage options for producing supplemental forage. This article discusses management of alfalfa stands to help them recover and interseeding options to enhance forage yield of thinned stands.

With drying in the past week, we have observed remarkable recovery in some fields. Plants are gaining height and the normal green color is returning, indicating that N-fixation is operating normally once again. Plants with healthy crowns and intact upper root tissue will recover as soils drain, even if the taproot was rotted off a few inches below the crown. Assuming no serious pathogens are present, those plants will eventually produce a branched root system from the point where the taproot rotted off, which will function adequately as long as soil moisture is not limiting. However, when moderate drought stress develops in the future, those plants will stop growing sooner compared with plants having deep, healthy taproots.

You will probably see spatial patterns of poor growth under drought stress that reflect the stress patterns you observed during the waterlogging stress (i.e. severe waterlogged areas will have shorter growth under drought stress because of lost taproots). If the variety is susceptible to Phytophthora root rot, Fusarium root rot, Fusarium wilt, or other soil pathogens and if those pathogens are present in the soil, plant death will continue to occur and will become even more evident if drought stress develops in the next couple of months.

DO NOT cut alfalfa stands that are severely stressed in an attempt to make them grow back more quickly. The opposite could happen, because cutting and energy use for regrowth is an additional stress to the plant. Wait for plants to gain back a healthy green color with new shoots and new leaf growth before harvesting. Wait at least until the normal cutting interval has passed. If the normal cutting interval is well passed, then wait for the stand to begin to recover and cut when soil conditions can support equipment without damaging plant crowns. Remove harvested forage from the field as quickly as feasible. Consider harvesting silage or balage to reduce the time the cut forage lies on the field.

Check the stand for potato leafhopper numbers and lower the action threshold in stressed alfalfa stands to half the normal, as shown in the factsheet found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/ent-fact/pdf/ENT_33_14.pdf. It is likely that leafhopper feeding is occurring, which is an additional stress on the stand.

Alfalfa growers are also wondering if anything can be seeded into existing alfalfa stands to increase yield this year and next. First of all, seeding alfalfa back into alfalfa is not recommended, unless it is a 2015 spring seeding. Autotoxic compounds are released from older alfalfa plants that inhibit germination and growth of seedling alfalfa.

The options for interseeding into existing alfalfa stands in late summer are red clover, Italian/annual ryegrass, perennial forage grasses, and oat or spring triticale. The success of interseeding depends greatly on the existing stand density (existing competition) and soil conditions for seedling emergence and growth.

Red clover and other legumes will produce higher quality forage than grass interseedinged into alfalfa, but grasses are likely to actually improve yields more than red clover. Italian/annual ryegrasses have strong seedling vigor and varieties exist that are more likely to survive the winter and contribute to forage yield next year (see last week's article on supplemental forage options, in CORN 2015-22). Ryegrasses are more difficult to cut with sickle bar mowers and they dry more slowly than other grasses, so they are a better option for those with disk mowers and balage or silage harvesting capability.

Orchardgrass and even low-endophyte tall fescue can be interseeded into alfalfa; however, they are slower to establish, especially in late summer seedings. They will not contribute to yield this year, but assuming they establish this autumn, they will contribute to yield next year and beyond. Perennial ryegrass in northern Ohio and festuloliums establish quickly, but the same cautions apply concerning slower drying rates and difficulty with sickle bars as with Italian/annual ryegrass.

Oat, spring triticale, and field peas can be interseeded in August to contribute to forage yield this coming autumn. Winter triticale, winter wheat, winter rye, or barley can be interseeded in autumn to contribute to first harvest yield next spring.

Interseedings should be completed right after the existing stand is harvested, to minimize the competition from the existing stand during the germination phase. Seeding rates should be from half to normal full stand rates for the species being used, depending on the density of the existing stand (use higher rates in thinner stands). Density and vigor of the existing stand will determine whether interseeded species will establish at all. If new seedlings are shaded completely, their establishment will be poor.

The University of Wisconsin forage website has a good article on interseeding into existing alfalfa stands, available at http://fyi.uwex.edu/forage/files/2014/01/Thickening-Alfalfa-StandsFOF.pdf. The Wisconsin article discusses interseedings made in the spring into winter-injured alfalfa. Keep that in perspective, because not all options discussed apply to late summer interseeding (e.g. seeding oat followed by sorghum-sudangrass). Seeding costs in the article reflect 2003 prices.

2015 Manure Science Review - Glen Arnold and Sam Custer, OSU Extension

The 2015 Ohio Manure Science Review (MSR) will be held in Darke County on Wednesday August 12 at Mississinawa Valley High School, 10480 Staudt Road, in Union City, Ohio, close to the border with Indiana. The MSR is an educational program designed for those involved in any aspect of manure handling, management, or utilization. The MSR consists of both classroom style presentations and field demonstrations of manure equipment. Registration opens at 8:15 am and the program begins at 8:45 am. The afternoon field demos conclude at 4:00 pm.

This year's MSR will focus on aspects of manure management related to limiting the chance of manure nutrients to reach lakes and streams. Topics that will be covered in the morning program include: Ohio's new rules that limit manure application on snow-covered and frozen ground; lessons learned from the March 2015 application of manure on deep snow; emergency planning 101 for when spills occur; nutrient movement: data from edge of field studies; and the most recent data from university research on expanding the manure application window.

Field demonstrations in the afternoon will feature a new poultry litter applicator; solid manure spreader calibration; smoking farm tile to show preferential flow; direct incorporation of pelleted poultry litter; manure application setback distances; cover crops; and applicators for injecting liquid manure, side-dressing liquid manure, and dragline systems on corn.

Participants in the event are eligible for the following continuing education credits: ODA Certified Livestock Manager, 4.0 continuing education hours; Certified Crop Adviser, 3.5 Soil and Water Management continuing education units, 1.5 Nutrient Management and 0.5 Manure Management CEUs; and Professional Engineer, 2.0 continuing professional development hours. Indiana office of state chemist hours are available as well.

Pre-registration is requested. Early registration by August 4 is $25/person and registration after August 4 or the day of the event is $30/person. Morning coffee, juice, donuts, and lunch are included in the registration. In addition to the program, there will be sponsor exhibits and displays.

More information, including details on program topics and field demonstrations, registration forms, and flyers, are available at http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/ocamm/images/MSR_flyer_2015.pdf

Ohio Manure Science Review collaborators include OSU Extension, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Soil and Water Resources, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Event sponsors include the Ohio Livestock Coalition, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio EPA, Ag Credit, North Star, Brookside Consultants of Ohio, Cooper Farms, Quellz Products Inc.

For more information on the event, call 330-202-3533 or email wicks.14@osu.edu

Cattle and Beef Price Dynamics - John Michael Riley, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University

Last Friday, USDA released their monthly retail beef prices and their farm-to-retail price spreads, with the latter indicating a decline in the "farm" share of the retail dollar. The farm share, which is a retail adjusted fed steer value, registered 51.7% of the retail value for the month of June. This was a 3.2 percentage point decline from the previous month, which was the largest monthly move in either direction since a 3.67 point increase from December 2013 to January 2014 and the largest month-over-month decline since July 2013.

Beyond the spread from feedlot to retail, a look at price dynamics along the beef marketing chain is impressive. The charts below provide price changes for the past 18 months, incorporating nearly all of the record setting prices seen in the industry of late.

Figure 1 depicts prices at various stages relative to their own price in January 2014. Not surprisingly, all prices remain above their January 2014 price through the month of June. Feeder steer prices continue to mark the highest gainers relative to their price levels 18 months ago - in spite of the significant declines in their price following November 2014. Prices of cattle leaving the feedlot and packing facilities have experienced the lowest overall gains, but are still roughly 10% higher than January 2014. Retail prices have leveled out over the past 10 months (excluding a recent jump in steak prices) and continue to be about 20% higher than January 2014.

Figure 2 shows the prices of "upstream" cattle/beef prices relative to the composite beef retail price for the past 18 months. Once again, feeder steers have experienced the most dramatic price levels relative to retail beef, while fed steers and wholesale beef have been steadier when compared to retail.

A few takeaways:

* The supply glut of available feeder supplies continues to be noticeable in the market.

* The glut appears to be easing given the mild decline in light-weight feeders compared to the recent strength in heavy feeders.

* The sharp increase in feeder prices this past winter was not met with the same gusto for prices further down the supply chain and this has created some heartburn for feedlots as they market these cattle, which will likely continue.

* The composite retail beef price has declined month-over-month only three times over the time frame discussed here, with the most recent being this past June's 0.60 cent per pound decline.

* High valued, middle cuts appear to be providing support to beef prices, which aligns with data on overall strength in beef demand.

Figure 1. Market prices for cattle and beef relative to individual prices in January 2014

Figure 2. Market prices for cattle and beef relative to retail beef, monthly


Visit the OSU Beef Team calendar of meetings and upcoming events

BEEF Cattle is a weekly publication of Ohio State University Extension in Fairfield County and the OSU Beef Team. Contributors include members of the Beef Team and other beef cattle specialists and economists from across the U.S.

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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration; Associate Dean, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; Director, Ohio State University Extension and Gist Chair in Extension Education and Leadership. TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181.

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