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OSU Extension BEEF Team
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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 837
May 22, 2013
Forage Focus: Pay Attention to Hay Moisture - Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator Wayne County
Driving around the county the past week I could see that first cutting hay harvest is well underway. The goal in haymaking is to preserve forage quality in a form that can be used by livestock at a later date. Each year however, dry matter and forage quality is lost due to spontaneous heating in hay that is caused by baling at too high of a moisture content. Generally all bales left to air dry after baling at 15 to 20% moisture undergo some degree of heating beginning a couple of days after baling and continuing for a week to 10 days after baling. The heat that is generated is a result of plant respiration and microorganisms on the hay consuming carbohydrates (sugars and starches). In general, if temperatures do not exceed the 130 to 140 degree F range, quality damage is minimal. However, if internal hay temperature exceeds 175 degrees F, then combustion and fire can occur.
Wayne Coblentz at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison Wisconsin examined the relationship between moisture content at baling, size of bales and forage quality using a heating degree days concept. Heating degree days are calculated by subtracting 86 from the maximum internal bale temperature measured in degrees F, for each day of storage. The difference is summed until bales reach the point where the difference is zero. His research basically showed that small square bales, baled at 20% or lower moisture accumulated a low level (200 or fewer) of heating degree days. As bale size and diameter increased, baling at a moisture content of 20% resulted in more heating degree days accumulated and a higher risk of spontaneous heating leading to more significant quality losses.
Quality losses begin to increase dramatically as heating degree days exceed 300. Quality losses include an increase in fiber concentration and a decrease in energy concentration due to heating. For example, at 300 heating degree days the increase in neutral detergent fiber (NDF) was about 2 percentage units compared to the initial NDF concentration and the decrease in energy concentration was about 1 percentage unit. At 600 heating degree days the increase in NDF was 7 percentage units and the decrease in energy concentration was about 5 percentage units. Coblentz found that concentrations of NDF could increase by as much as 11 percentage points as a result of spontaneous heating. The increases in NDF are a result of cell sugars being oxidized during microbial respiration. So the fiber components increase because the cell soluble concentration decreases. The other consequence of heating is that energy density as measured by total digestible nutrients is decreased because the sugars and cell solubles are 100% digestible while the fiber components are less digestible.
It is important to understand that some heating loss occurs in any bale made at 15% or greater moisture during the growing season, but heating losses increase as bale moisture content increases and/or as bale size increases. Heating losses can be minimized by baling small square bales at 20% or lower moisture content, 18% or lower moisture content for large round bales and 16% or lower moisture content for large rectangular bales. For legume hay production, these lower moisture contents are problematic because of increased leaf shatter and the associated forage quality loss. In that case, in order to minimize heating losses and minimize leaf loss, it may be necessary to utilize a preservative or plastic wrap to permit baling at higher moisture contents.
Refreshing A.I. Basics Well Worth The Effort - Ryan Sterry, UW Extension Agriculture Agent, St. Croix County
It's not uncommon for the best performers at any given job to deviate over time from set protocols and procedures (the experts refer to this as "Procedural Drift"). Some repetitive tasks become second nature to us and we start forgetting to check the basics. When trouble shooting, it's easy to overlook these basics.
A herd I recently visited is the perfect example of this. After struggling with poor conception rates for some time the producer called a meeting of the herd's veterinarian, nutritionist, and semen supplier. After going through all the possibilities of what might be wrong with the diet, herd health, bull selection, and A.I. technique the semen supplier asked to check the producers A.I. equipment, including the water bath. What did they find? The farms automatic water bath was malfunctioning and was off by more than 4° F! Checking the basics early on would have identified the culprit for low conception rates much sooner for this farm.
Bottom line, periodically checking you're A.I. technique and equipment is well worth the time and effort. Here's a checklist to get you started thinking about your operation.
A more expansive A.I. checklist can be found on eXtension at: http://www.extension.org/pages/25368/improving-artificial-insemination-techniques
When it comes to determining the correct timing of A.I. and correctly identifying cows to breed, South Dakota State University has an excellent publication "Detection of Standing Estrus in Cattle": http://pubstorage.sdstate.edu/AgBio_Publications/articles/FS921B.pdf
EDITOR's NOTE: For more on detecting cows in standing heat, see John Grimes' recent YouTube video below on the subject:
Adding Value to Cull Cows - Gant Mourer, Oklahoma State University Beef Value Enhancement Specialist
Often times, marketing and increasing value of cull cows are overlooked by producers. Mainly due to the fact that the cow is open or aborted and that feed is limiting and it is not cost effective to keep a non-efficient part of the ranch around with increasing feed prices and decreasing forage availability. However, cull cows can represent up to 10-20% of the total revenue for cow/calf producers and producers can increase value of a cull cow by 25-40% by management strategies alone. A producer can increase cull cow value by adding weight, improving quality and marketing cattle during seasonal price increases (Peel and Doye, 2008).
Adding weight to a cull cow not only increases total available pounds for resale, but also increases body condition. The market structure is broken-up so buyers can estimate fat cover and muscling at the auction. Categories are breakers, boners, lean and light type cull cows. A producer can increase value of a cow by moving her up in the slaughter categories by increasing dressing percentage especially if she is relatively heavy muscled, while at the same time they have increased total saleable pounds.
Traditionally, cull cow prices are affected seasonally, like all cattle prices. In the fall any spring calving cows that are open and have weaned a calf are the first to go. Cull cows flood the market so a decrease is seen starting in July and August and continues on until November or later. So this gives a producer a window to aim for during late spring and early summer to capture value on cows culled from the herd. In the fall, when cow prices are traditionally at their lowest, spring cows are just weaning calves. The calf has increased the nutritional needs of that cow by over 20% when she is in lactation. So not only have we sold a cow in the fall when prices are low but also marketed her when she may be in a lesser desired body condition due to poor late season grass. If a producer can retain the cow after weaning to add weight and condition he can also add value.
A fall calving cow herd can match up much easier with these parameters. A producer can wean a calf in the spring put weight and condition on a cow with forage that is high in quality and hopefully readily available and still market that cow in the summer hitting our window of opportunity. This opportunity to add value also exists with a spring cow that lost a calf during pregnancy or calving and is not reproductively efficient for the cow herd and salvage value for the cow can be obtained fairly rapidly.
A spread sheet is available at http://agecon.okstate.edu/faculty/publications/3078.xls (Peel D.S. and D. Doye. 2008. Cull cow grazing and marketing opportunities. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Fact Sheet. AGEC 613.) for producers to consider their own situation. The fact is that producers may find that it is most cost effective to market cull cows immediately in times when forage availability is limited and feed prices are high, as in drought.
The bottom line is this: Producers need to identify cull cows ASAP. This may mean the use of early pregnancy detection or the use of a record keeping system that indicates a cow that is not efficient and needs to be removed from the herd even if she is pregnant. Once these animals are identified, then management decisions can be tailored to add value that meets a specific producer's needs.
Boxed Beef Run Continues; Feedlot Inventories Down Less - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Livestock Marketing Specialist
Choice boxed beef finished last week at a record weekly average of $207.49/cwt., up $4/cwt. from last week and up $17/cwt. from the recent lows last month. Though this market may be near a peak, the strength and duration of the recent run has been impressive and sets the stage for a stronger summer beef market. If the follow-through from the Memorial Day holiday is good, the boxed beef cutout may be set to hold at stronger levels through the summer. From the current highs, Choice boxed beef could hold near the $200/cwt. for seasonal summer lows before moving higher again into the fourth quarter.
The May Cattle on Feed report showed a second month of strong feedlot placements. However, both March and April were compared to relatively small placements last year and April had one more business day this year so the increases are not as much as it appears. Combined March and April placements were up 336,000 head from last year, though placements for year to date are up only 133,000 head. That raises an important point to keep the recent placement numbers in perspective. Much of the increase in March and April placements were heavy weight feeders that will be matched with earlier lightweight placements when they are marketed in August and September. Those earlier lightweight placements were down significantly year over year which means the recent surge in placements is more of a moderation of coming feedlot marketings than a significant increase. Feedlot inventories are down less than two months ago but they are still down.
The increase in placements this spring was due to several factors. It appears that a good share of the March placements were drought related movement of feeders, especially in the southern plains. The April placements were concentrated in Nebraska and Iowa and likely were backgrounded feeders utilizing the large quantities of corn silage made from drought damaged corn last summer. The movement of these cattle in April was likely somewhat sooner than expected as the long winter exhausted feed supplies in many areas.
The net increase in feedlot placements so far this year is interesting, especially considering that the net imports of feeder cattle from Mexico and Canada is down by 192,000 head and raises the question of what was the source of the cattle. I suspect that some of the increased placements was early movement of backgrounded animals, which means they will not be available later. Although there is no data to confirm it, I also suspect that some of the increase was replacement heifers that have already been diverted back into the feeder market. While these heifers will not be back as replacements, there may be increased demand for replacements later in the year if conditions improve. Mexican cattle imports are likely to remain diminished for the rest of the year and are likely to total a half million head less this year compared to 2012. The point is that feeder supplies are still tight and more feedlot placements now likely means less later.
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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Fairfield County Agriculture and Natural Resources