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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 # 683
April 21, 2010
We Live the Values of Earth Day Everyday! - Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County, OSU Extension
Thursday, April 22 is Earth Day in this country as it has been for the past 40 years. Yet for those of us involved in agriculture, and in particular the production of beef cattle, Earth Day has been a part of our heritage for centuries, extending 24-7, 365 days a year. As recognition of Earth Day has evolved over the years, so have the "buzz words" attached to it, and the concerns for our environment which they represent. Today, we call it going "green."
Rather than reinvent the wheel and try to list what may be obvious to most of us, let me simply share this brief message funded by the checkoff.
What's Green? As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, everyone's doing what they can for the environment - recycling, cutting back on energy use, biking to work.
There are many ways to be green. For America's cattle farmers and ranchers, green is protecting the land that is both our livelihood and our legacy. Green is constantly developing new ways to raise more nutrient-rich beef with fewer resources and with a smaller impact on the environment. If we all do our part, we can preserve our Earth for this generation - and generations to come.
In honor of Earth Day's 40th anniversary, we're celebrating 40 ways cattle farmers and ranchers help the environment. Learn more at http://www.ExploreBeef.org
Beef - for Earth Day and Everyday.
You May Be Small, But You Can "Play Big" - John Grimes, Extension Educator, OSU Extension - Highland County
If you think about it, America always has had a certain affection for the underdog or over-achiever. Sports has plenty examples of this. Look at Butler's run in the recent NCAA College Basketball tournament. "Hoosiers" was a classic movie that was made several years ago about a small Indiana high school winning their state basketball championship. Ohio State fans remember Jay Burson as a player who had a very successful basketball career despite a perceived lack of size. Long-suffering Cincinnati Reds fans fondly remember the days of Pete Rose (before his gambling woes!) and how he had a great baseball career because of his extra effort and determination.
I use these examples of sports success because I believe they relate to agriculture and the beef industry in particular. Everyone can think of examples in their local communities of farmers and beef producers that work hard at their various enterprises and get the most out of their available resources. As we are in the early stages of this year's breeding season, I would challenge beef producers to get the most out of their available resources.
When it comes to using many of the current beef improvement technologies that are available to us, the most common excuses given as to why a given resource is not utilized is the fact that our average Ohio cowherd is relatively small (less than 20 head) or that the producer just doesn't have the time to implement a practice because of other farming demands or off-farm employment. I would challenge that these are weak excuses at best. Ohio State football fans know that Archie Griffin is the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner because he didn't listen to the naysayers that said he was too small to be a great running back!
The quickest method to make significant genetic improvement with your next calf crop is to implement artificial insemination (A.I.). Producer testimonials and surveys speak loud and clear that time and labor are the main reasons that artificial insemination is not a more widely used practice. If a producer is willing to devote 10 days or less to an artificial insemination program, there are certainly viable options available.
One of the more popular heat synchronization programs has been the "7 day CO-Synch + CIDR" program for observed heat and timed A.I. systems. Here is a basic outline of this program: Today you insert a CIDR and administer a shot of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Seven days later you remove the CIDR and administer a shot of prostaglandin (PGF). You can breed A.I. based on observed heat or utilize timed breeding at 60-72 hours following the administration of PGF. If you utilize timed breeding, administer another shot of GnRH at the time of breeding. Research involving over 3,000 cows in this program with a 60-72 hour timed breeding system resulted in average conception rates of 51-54%.
Modifications to the "7 day CO-Synch + CIDR" program have been recently investigated to determine if timed-AI pregnancy rates could be improved. Although similar in design to the 7 day program, the "5 day CO-Synch + CIDR" program pioneered at The Ohio State University by Dr. Mike Day and collaborators was demonstrated to be a more effective program for timed-AI in postpartum beef cows than the "7 day CO-Synch + CIDR" program. The primary differences between the two programs is that the "5 day program" features two days shorter use of the CIDR, a second shot of PGF 8-12 hours after the CIDR removal, and timed breeding at 72 hours after the first PGF shot. Successful results have been observed by several institutions with the "5 day CO-Synch + CIDR" program in cows with pregnancy rates averaging 68.2% in 1,162 cows.
If you shop around, you will find a variety of prices for the products used in these A.I. systems. There is also a wide range of prices for the semen on beef bulls that are available. The bottom line is that for a $35-$50 investment per cow, you can have 50-65% of your herd's calves sired by a genetically superior bull. I will not delve into the obvious economic advantages of genetically superior calves in this article.
If you are not willing to utilize artificial insemination, let's discuss the use of natural service sires. Attend an auction at the Ohio Beef Expo, an Ohio Cattlemen's Association Seedstock Improvement Sale, or price bulls at private treaty sale from a breeder and you will see a wide variety of prices. Again, I hear the size of the average cowherd used as an excuse for not purchasing a high-quality bull because of the cost associated with a low number of cows. I am not here to tell you what you should pay for a bull, but rather to encourage you to be creative to find ways to use the best quality genetics that your budget will allow.
One traditional management practice implemented by the majority of Ohio's cow-calf producers is to raise their own replacement heifers. Given the average Ohio cowherd size and a typical replacement rate, many producers are retaining five or fewer heifers annually for their herds. Unless producers are using an alternative management plan with these replacement heifers, they are faced with the possibility of a sire mating his daughters by the third year of use. This is just about the time you may be deciding just how much influence that you want to put in your herd from a given sire. Unfortunately, many sires are sold prematurely rather than utilizing an alternative management plan with their replacements.
What are some alternative strategies for adding replacement heifers that will allow you to keep a desirable herd sire for a longer period of time? If you must keep your own replacement heifers, utilize artificial insemination with proven calving ease sires. You may want to start with a couple extra heifers to allow for the realistic possibility that you will not get every heifer bred. Consider sending potential replacement females to a heifer development center and have those return to your operation after they are confirmed bred. Another possibility is to sell all heifer calves produced and purchase quality bred heifers that meet your selection criteria.
What are some alternative strategies for managing the herd sire? The following suggestions will require some cooperation with another producer, one who hopefully has similar goals and ambitions in terms of the type of cattle produced and how they are managed. Consider buying 2 or more bulls together with another producer and plan on rotating them between each herd every two years. After two years of use, you will know something about the breeding ability of each bull and they will certainly be able to handle more cows than in the first year of use. Attempt to find a producer that calves the opposite time of the year (spring vs. fall) from you and switch possession of the bull every six months. Each of these alternative bull scenarios will require greater biosecurity for herd health management. Consult your veterinarian for recommended health protocol.
It is extremely important that producers have a long-term genetic plan to produce the highest quality calves from their herd. Take aggressive steps to retain ownership of known superior genetics. It would be a shame to let go of them prematurely. Sports provide us a very recent example of the problem with letting go of a superior individual before realizing their full potential. Ask the San Diego Chargers football team if they let go of Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees a bit too soon!
Buying a Good Bull (or Horse) is a Deliberate Process - Dr. Roy Burris, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky
It's finally springtime and many beef producers are looking for a good herd sire. We've been poring over breed magazines and now we have plenty of bull sale catalogs to study. We begin the process of considering EPD information bloodlines, body types, etc. We are about to make a cool, calculated, informed decision. Right?
Well, something happens to normally rational folks in the excitement and speed of the sale ring. We sometimes abandon our carefully thought-out plan and get lost in the moment. It's always interesting to see what we actually come home with.
I understand. Been there - done that! I was looking for a cow horse several years ago when I was in Mississippi. I did all the things that cattlemen do when they are looking for a good herd bull. I poured over the information in the catalog, circled some possibilities and looked them over. The sale started and the bidding was lively. The horses that I really liked went for more than I was willing to pay. I had to readjust my thinking in an instant.
A mare came into the ring that was a late addition to sale - she wasn't in the catalog. The price was in my range so I got into the bidding and took home a quarter horse mare called "Show Me". She was a sorrel with a blaze and three stockings. Looked great but was she well-broke like the auctioneer said?
I couldn't wait until the next morning to try out my "impulse purchase". I got up at daylight on Sunday morning and saddled her up. To my surprise and satisfaction, she was just fine. I rode her into a pasture full of hay rolls and couldn't believe my luck. She had a good handle and plenty of speed around the maze of hay rolls. I put her up and got ready for church feeling unusually thankful.
I couldn't wait for Monday morning when we had to work cattle. I would join Frankie and Brad, who worked for me, as a regular cowboy. I had been in the pick-up since I sold Pokey - my outlaw horse. Frankie and Brad were skilled horsemen and both were pretty good at calf roping.
We saddled up and took the horses out to move some cattle. There was one sick calf that looked like he needed a shot and Frankie started to twirl his rope. I said "wait a minute this horse really trails the cows, I think she's a ropin' horse!" I borrowed Frankie's rope and took off after the calf. Things just kept getting better - I caught the calf!
I dallied-off and backed Show-Me up to take up the slack, Frankie got a syringe and Brad came over to admire my horse. I was feeling rather smug and was, in fact, downright proud of myself.
All of a sudden my own little world exploded. The calf darted around Show-Me and jerked the rope up under her tail. She started bucking up a storm. She would throw me up on her neck then flip me back in the saddle. I was hanging on and grabbing for something to hold on to. Meanwhile, Brad was standing there applauding my efforts but making nary a move to help me. I got too far over to the right and my foot slipped through the stirrup. My life flashed before my eyes as I was flailing away and kicking desperately in an attempt to free my foot before I hit the ground and was possibly dragged around the pasture. One last kick as I bailed off freed my foot. I hit the ground, caught my breath and tried to regain my composure.
I was really upset with Brad for not helping me out and intended to tell him so - but a funny thing happened. He began yelling excitedly "Man that was a great ride. You were rakin' her and lookin' good. I think you stayed on the full eight seconds".
Three possibilities came to my mind - (1) I could tell Brad what I thought about him for not grabbing the horse, (2) I could explain that I wasn't actually rakin' the horse but was desperately trying to get my foot out of the stirrup, or (3) I could learn to take a compliment and keep quiet. I chose the latter.
We got back to work and I began to enjoy being one of the cowboys. I would let Frankie do the roping from now on. He seemed to enjoy it more than I did. Although Brad really encouraged me to try it again.
Show-Me turned out to be a pretty good working horse and actually was pregnant with a foal that I sold for more than her purchase price. All of this just reminds me of the old saying that "God takes care of crazy people", but I wouldn't count on it. Plan your purchases and don't do any impulse buying - like I did!
Forage Focus: Nitrogen Fertilization of Pastures and Hay Fields - Jonathan Rotz, Doug Beegle, and Marvin Hall, Penn State Extension
For some this may be a little late but the question still remains what is the best way and time to fertilize pastures and hay fields. Many opt for spring fertilization but even once you decide when you are fertilizing how do you decide how much you should fertilize? Maybe you will base your fertilization rate on a soil test, a shot in the dark, or simply nitrogen fertilization but the question still remains what is the best method? Well obviously soil tests are the only real way to tell what you are working with so test even those pastures and hay fields to make sure you are getting the most out of them. Remember, no amount of nitrogen can make up for other nutrients that may be limited. Even with a soil test, however, there are still some decisions to be made on what you should do with your nitrogen fertilizer.
First off take a hard look at your pasture or hay field and see if there is any legume component in the field. If there is a significant amount of legumes (20-30 percent uniformly throughout the field) you probably don't want to fertilize with N. Legumes will produce nitrogen for your grasses and an addition of nitrogen fertilizer will favor the grasses and may lead to a decline in legumes in the pasture.
If you have grass fields that do not contain legumes you should think about the timing of your nitrogen fertilization. For grass hay it is typical to fertilize in the spring to obtain the highest yield possible. This practice has also been widely accepted when dealing with pastures; however you may want to look at your individual system prior to this action. If you already have a low enough stocking rate that it makes it hard to keep up with the spring flush of grasses you may want to hold off on the spring nitrogen as this will only add fuel to the fire.
Once these options have been taken into account you still should think about whether you have the ability to split your application of nitrogen for greater efficiency. For instance, the nitrogen recommendation for an orchardgrass stand that has an expected yield of 4 tons per acre is 200 lb/ac. If this is applied all at once that nitrogen has to stay in the field until all cuttings have been removed. A quick look at the nitrogen cycle will reveal that nitrogen escapes our systems very easily so it may not stay as long as we desire. One way we can manage this is to actually split the application based on how many cuttings we expect to take and it is even better if we can adjust the rate for the expected yield of the next harvest. For the same field we may decide we want to apply 100 lbs. in the spring and 100 lbs. after the first or maybe better yet the second cutting instead of the all 200 lbs. in the spring. Since cool season grasses are not very productive in the heat of the summer a lower rate of N is all that is needed. Obviously, the only limitation on this is the cost and hassle of multiple fertilizations if you do not own your own equipment.
One last thought should be given to the type of nitrogen fertilizer used. Urea (46-0-0) is the most commonly used nitrogen fertilizer for pastures; however it can have large losses due to a process called volatilization, especially in the heat of the summer. If urea is used try to apply it right before rain for maximum efficiency. Do not apply urea right after a rain because the losses will be greatest then. Another option could be ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24). This product does not volatilize so all the nitrogen you apply will be plant available. Some of the limitation to this, however, may include price and the fact that you have to handle about twice the product for the same rate of nitrogen per acre.
For more information on this topic please contact your local county extension agent.
Weekly Roberts Agricultural Commodity Market Report - Mike Roberts, Commodity Marketing Agent, Virginia Tech
LIVE CATTLE futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) closed down on Monday with the exception of the nearby April. April futures seem fairly priced compared to last week's cash cattle market. Spreading was noted as traders bought June and sold August. Spreads involve trading two or more contracts simultaneously while taking advantage of price differences between them. Deferreds are at a discount to April on expectations cash prices will trend lower into summer. The APR'10LC contract finished at $98.950/cwt; up $0.200/cwt and $0.05 since last report. JUNE'10LC futures were down $0.150/cwt at $94.500/cwt but $0.45/cwt higher than last report. The AUG'10LC contract closed at $92.725/cwt; off $0.250/cwt but even with last Monday's close. Lower outside markets and weak packer cash bids pressured prices. USDA put choice beef at $167.11/cwt; up $0.21/cwt and $1.84/cwt over last report. USDA put the 5-area price at $99.51/cwt; $0.28/cwt lower than a week ago. According to HedgersEdge.com, the average packer margin was raised $24.93/hd from last report to a positive $27.10/hd based on the average buy of $99.88/cwt vs. the average breakeven of $102.05/cwt.
FEEDER CATTLE at the CME finished up on Monday. The May'10FC contract closed up $0.375/cwt at $113.050/cwt; but $2.00/cwt lower than last week at this time. AUG'10FC futures closed at $116.025/cwt; up $0.750/cwt but $0.450/cwt lower than last report. Feeders were supported on lower corn futures and bull activity by funds triggered buy orders. Several floor sources said when corn prices are good, cattle numbers are down, and pastures are flush traders think (at least for that day) heifers will be held back for breeding and steers will be in demand to fill empty pens. I'm not that convinced but tight feeder supplies remain supportive. Fund buying in the August contract offset the bearishly weak tone to cash feeders. Cash calves in Oklahoma City struggled to get even with last week's prices. USDA said early Monday that steers were down $2/cwt while heifers were $1-$2/cwt off. The higher finish to futures was mainly due to speculative buying. The CME feeder cattle index was down $0.15/lb at $113.45/lb but $1.77/lb higher than this time last week.
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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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