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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
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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 932
April 22, 2015
Managing Spring Cover Crops for Feed - Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator Wayne County
Cover crops are planted for a variety of reasons; erosion control, to improve soil structure and health, to provide supplemental forage, as part of a nutrient management plan for manure application or for a combination of these reasons. Depending upon the species of cover crop planted, the crop will not be killed over the winter, but growth will resume in the spring and the grower must make some decisions regarding how to manage that crop in the spring. The management options depend upon the purpose of the cover crop. Here are some management options to consider when the goal is to utilize the crop as supplemental feed.
Cover crop management as a supplemental forage; Mechanical harvest: The primary management consideration is harvest timing and harvest method. Cereal rye, triticale and winter wheat are primarily used if supplemental forage is the objective. Of these 3, cereal rye quality declines the most rapidly as the plant enters the reproductive growth stage and it advances most rapidly from vegetative to reproductive growth compared to the other two forages. So the window of opportunity to make a high quality forage is narrower with cereal rye.
Generally the goal is to harvest these crops at boot to very early head stage of maturity. Because we do not get very many good drying days in our spring weather, the best harvest method is to harvest as a silage or as a wrapped forage rather than trying to get a dried forage product.
Cover crop management in a grazing system: The key to getting good utilization of these cover crops in a grazing system is to have enough animals to graze across the field before the crops get too mature and quality declines too much. So, the same comments about cereal rye apply here, the grazing window can be narrow.
The second principle that should be followed is to utilize strip grazing across the field giving no more than 1-2 days worth of grazing at a time before moving the fence to give access to another portion.
Finally be aware that grass tetany is a risk when grazing spring growth winter wheat or cereal rye so take precautions to prevent it by feeding a high Mg mineral mix. For more detail, see the article on Grass Tetany in Issue # 928 published on March 28, 2015 in this publication.
How about 50 dollars . . . a minute! - Dr. Roy Burris, Beef Extension Professor, University of Kentucky
Would you take an extra minute to earn 50 dollars when you are castrating or processing calves? You could. That's how much extra a growth stimulating implant could earn for you. Implants, when used on suckling calves, have been shown over and over again to return an additional 20 to 25 lbs of weaning weight. How much is that worth? About fifty dollars. How much time does the application take? Not much and it is easy.
Implants were first introduced in the early 50's and their effectiveness has been thoroughly researched since that time. Drs. Johns, Absher and Parker, beef specialists at UK, conducted result demonstrations in 28 Kentucky counties back in 1976 with 776 suckling calves. Implanted heifers had an increase of 28 pounds and steers an increase of 27 pounds. At today's prices that's a pretty good "chunk of change".
Implants are cheap and easily delivered to cattle in the form of pellets placed underneath the skin on the backside of the animal's ear. The pellets dissolve slowly. The ear is the site of choice because it does not enter the food supply.
Failure to use growth stimulating implants might arise from the fear of using anything that is considered a hormone. That and in the 1970's diethylstilbestrol (DES) a human hormone supplement was found to be carcinogenic. Low doses of DES were used as a growth promotant for cattle at that time but DES was banned from use in cattle in 1979.
Producers might be concerned about the safety of meat from calves which have been implanted. However, residues of synthetic hormones are routinely monitored by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA to ensure safety of beef. The natural production of estrogen is several thousand times the content of a generous serving of beef produced with implants. In fact, many foods are much higher in estrogenic activity than beef which was implanted:
Estrogenic activity (ng/500g) of common foods
|Beef from non-implanted steer||5|
|Beef from implanted steer||7|
"Natural" or "organic" labeled beef must be grown without growth promotants, like implants. Consumers who are concerned about the use of implants can find beef through labeling which verifies that implants have not been used. Since implants reduce the cost of production and resources used in production of beef, consumers must be prepared to pay extra for "natural" or "organic" beef.
Similarly, producers which don't implant so that they can sell calves to these labeled programs should realize that they are giving up a considerable amount of growth and income. They should be compensated for this loss of income.
Implants are easy to use, consistently effective and deliver returns many times greater than their costs. Whether or not you choose to use them is your business. No problem. However, unless you are selling calves to be marketed as implant-free and being paid extra for doing so - you are leaving a lot of money on the table when it comes to selling your feeder calves. You might consider making implanting a part of your processing of spring calves.
If you want more information on growth stimulating implants, UK Agriculture and Natural Resources for publication ASC-25 "Growth Stimulating Implants for Beef Cattle" by Lehmkuhler and Burris.
Considerations for Delayed Calving to Fall for Open Cows - Ryan Sterry, UW Extension Ag Agent, St. Croix Co., and recently appeared in the Wisconsin Agriculturist
Much of the focus for beef cattle reproduction programs is on breeding cows in a timely fashion and narrowing the range of the calving window. There's no getting around the fact that excessive days open, and open cows at calving season, cause considerable financial losses for cow/calf operations. Narrowing the calving window reduces variation in calf age, thus helping to produce a more uniform calf crop at market time.
However, sometimes things don't go according to plan, especially when it comes to reproduction. A new twist to this old problem is the low inventory of the national beef cow herd, which in many markets is placing a premium on pregnant cows and heifers. This may bring about the temptation to try one more time on those cows that didn't conceive during your normal breeding season. Extending the breeding season will have the carry over effect of transitioning a portion of the herd from Spring or Summer calving to a Fall calving season.
If you are considering breeding cows for a fall calving season, an early pregnancy diagnosis strategy is a must. Having a timely pregnancy check in place for the herd will give you the option of quickly re-breeding open cows or culling them. Those cows conceiving to the later breeding could be alternatively marketed as pregnant fall calving cows, or retained in your herd.
A University of Nebraska Extension article by Rick Rasby highlights the considerations of whether or not open cows should be exposed again for breeding or culled. Age of the cow, calving problems, udder and other structural problems, disposition, and inability to care for a calf should be taken in to account. Even if you have the ability to re-breed open cows, consideration should still be given to culling cows with these faults.
A partial budget is highly recommended to help make the decision to extend the breeding and calving season for your particular farm. A partial budget should account for added revenue, added expenses, and any decreases in revenue or expenses from making the change. If you are going to market cows as fall calving, is there enough of a price difference between pregnant fall calving cows and cull cows to justify the added expense? Do your traditional markets look for fall calving cows, or will you have to do research to find an alternative market?
If you are going to retain cows for fall calving, a partial budget is even more important. Along with the financial implications, it will mean significant management changes such as the time and labor of an added fall calving season, and managing nursing cows and calves through our winter environment. Snow, ice, and mud are Wisconsin winter realities, and you need to be prepared for how you will get mother and calf through them. Managing the nutrition of the fall calving herd is another consideration. Remember, fall calving cows will still be nursing calves through the winter and will require a higher plane of nutrition than our typical winter dry cow rations provide. An honest assessment of your availability of higher quality forages, the cost of necessary purchased feeds, adequate facilities to keep those animals clean and dry, and your ability to more intensively manage nutrition is a must.
There is a potential upside though to look at. Fall born calves can be marketed as feeders in early spring, a time at which feeder calf prices typically rising and there are fewer calves on the market to compete with. Or, if you have adequate availability of pasture, calves can be retained and grazed through the summer and marketed in the fall as yearlings. Depending on your operation, fall calving cows have summer pastures to recuperate on and regain condition. Also, fall calving cows will be bred again before the heat of summer. A more detailed listing of the considerations for the fall calving beef herd can be found in the Michigan State Extension article "Fall Calving fits Michigan's Climate for Beef Cow/Calf Herds" by Frank Wardynski.
Cow Prices Remain Strong - Tim Petry, Livestock Economist, North Dakota State University Extension Service
All market classes of beef cattle are at record high levels for this time of the year, but are lower than the all-time record highs established in the last half of 2014. Slaughter cow prices basis the Southern Plains, 85-90% lean peaked in August 2014 at an all-time record high of over $131/cwt. Cow prices then declined seasonally to average about $115 in the fourth quarter 2014. First quarter 2015 cow prices have generally ranged above last year from $103-115.
Support for cow prices has come from lower slaughter. Total cow slaughter in the first quarter was down about 5% from last year. Beef cow slaughter was down about 15% as herd rebuilding that began in 2014 continued. Dairy cow slaughter was over 4% higher as milk prices have waned from last year's record highs.
Even though slaughter numbers were lower, a number of fundamental factors combined are keeping cow prices in check. Increased production of competing meats, more lean beef imports, and lower byproduct values are all impacting cow prices. While total beef production was down about 3.5% in the first quarter 2015, pork production was up over 6%, broiler production was up 5%, and total red meat and poultry production was up over 3%. For the entire year, USDA is projecting an increase in pork production of 6.1%, broiler production up 3.8%, and a 3.4% increase in total meat production.
High U.S. beef prices, the strong $US value, and a drought in Australia with forced cow liquidation are all contributing to a sharp increase in beef imports this year. Data are only available through February, but for the first two months of 2015 beef imports were up 56% over last year. Imports from Australia, our number one supplier, were up 120% over last year.
Current cow byproduct values are over $2/cwt. lower than last year's record high values. Export demand, especially to Southeast Asia, is very important to byproduct values. So the high $US value and the West Coast port congestion problems the last several months have contributed to the lower byproduct values. USDA-AMS publishes a weekly "USDA By-Product Drop Value (cow)" report. It is available at www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/nw_ls444.txt. The report lists the quantity, price, and value for important byproducts from a typical 1100 pound cow. The April 10, 2015, report estimated the cow byproduct value at $14.42/cwt. or $158.62/cow. For the same week last year the value was $16.65 or $183.15 per cow.
Cow prices in the second half of 2015 will likely come under seasonal pressure and could average below last year's record levels. Cow slaughter the second half will be closer to last year and, of course, depends on weather related pasture and range conditions. Extreme drought is still prevalent in the Southwest, parts of the Southern Plains also remain dry, and dry conditions have developed in parts of the Northern Plains.
And the previously mentioned increases in competing meat production and beef imports will be factors to watch as well.
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.
Fairfield County Agriculture and Natural Resources