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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 # 713

December 1, 2010

Tips to winterize your cow herd - Amy Radunz, Beef Cattle Extension Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The fall is coming to an end and for most farmers the crops are harvested, the calves weaned, and cows are preg checked. This is a great time for farmers to make plans for the winter for the cow herd and if you take the time now to plan how to feed cow herd this winter, this can pay dividends in the spring and summer. So here are some simple tips to help winterize the cow herd.

1. Body condition score your cows. Weaning is great time to body condition score your cow herd. If you didn't get this done, its not too late to do this before there is snow on the ground. After the calf is weaned, this is the period when a cow's energy requirement's are her lowest and cows can easily gain body condition during this period. Therefore, for your young and thin cows this would the most economically time to put on some body condition prior to winter and calving. One of the most mismanaged groups of cows in the herd is the young cows (3 to 4 years old) and can often be overlooked and farmers should pay close attention to energy reserves of these cows. By feeding your cows now to have a body condition score of 5 or 6 calving could pay dividends in the upcoming breeding season, since body condition score at calving is highly correlated to postpartum reproductive performance. Video on body condition scoring of beef cattle by Purdue University Beef Team

2. Conduct a forage test on winter feeds. This can be valuable information to determine a winter-feeding strategy. This allow producers to match forages to right stage of gestation and age of animal. Energy and protein intake of the cow during gestation is critical not only to her performance but the development of the calf. If cows do not intake enough protein or energy, this could lead to weak calves at birth, postnatal health problems, or poor growth performance. On the other hand, with rising feed costs farmers cannot afford to overfeed their cow herd. By knowing the quality of the forage, you can determine intake of feed instead of the cow, which will in turn save on feed expenses. Video on tips for forage sampling by Iowa State University Extension

3. Make culling decisions. The easiest decision is to cull those cows and heifers which are determined open in the fall. Farmers can be tempted to give cows and especially heifers one more chance, but with rising feed costs can you afford to keep this unproductive females in the herd? There are several other factors to consider when making culling decisions. Unsound udders, lameness and poor mouths should enter the culling list. These could significantly impact the performance of the cow in the coming year. Disposition is another important factor in making culling decisions, not only for your safety but these cows can pass these traits to their calves and the calves are typically lower performing.

4. Decide on heifer replacement strategy. After making culling decisions, you can determine how many replacement heifers you will need. But some important questions to ask first are: Can you afford to develop your own replacement heifers? Or would you be further ahead to purchase bred heifers to replenish the herd? The heifer calves are another challenging group to manage in the cow herd, especially in small herds. This decision to keep or buy heifers is dependent on several factors such as current and future market prices, herd size, facilities, available labor, and economics. To decide what is the best strategy, producers should develop budgets and management plans for each option. For more information: Buying vs. Raising Replacement Heifers by Jason Cleere

5. Estimate your winter feed needs. Now you have made the decision on what cows are being culled, how many heifers you plan to keep, and what is the quality of your feed resources, this will allow you to design your winter feeding strategy. First estimate, your winter hay needs and determine if you have enough forage on hand. If you estimate you are short on forage, the fall can be a more economical time to purchase feed than later in the winter or early spring. This is also a good time to purchase grains or by-products to stretch your winter forage supply. Reducing winter feed costs can have a significant impact on the profitability of a cow/calf operation, so planning a head can be beneficial to the bottom line. Tools to help: Estimating Hay Needs Calculator by University of Wisconsin Extension.

These are some simple tips to plan for the winter ahead for your cow herd, which can save time and money in coming months. If you would like more information on the tips outlined here contact your local extension agent.

Forage Focus: Cattle Rations, Percentage or Pounds? - Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator, Athens County and Buckeye Hills EERA

Generally when we talk about the nutrient requirements of cattle and the ration that they need, it is common to hear those requirements expressed in terms of percentages. For example, this cow requires 12% crude protein (CP), or 55% TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients). Cattle, of course, eat pounds of feedstuffs. We talk about a cow eating 2.5 % of her body weight in dry matter per day. So what is the relationship between percentage and pounds and how does it work in putting together a ration or figuring out if the hay we have is going to meet the nutrient requirements of the cow?

Let's begin with the National Research Council (NRC) nutrient requirement tables for cattle. These tables list the nutrient requirements for cows according to their stage of production, level of production and body weight. Nutrient requirements for crude protein (CP), energy and minerals are listed. Energy requirements are listed as either TDN or by mega calories (Mcal) in the net energy system. Livestock classes and stages of production include young growing heifers, bred heifers according to gestation trimester, 2-year old lactating heifers according to milk production, mature beef cows according to stage of gestation, and mature beef cows according to stage of lactation and milk production. Weight of the animal is another factor that affects the nutrient requirements. The nutrient requirements in the tables are listed as a percentage value and as a quantity, for example, pounds, kilograms or grams. It is important to recognize that the requirements are really minimum requirements. Environmental conditions such as cold temperatures or walking in hilly conditions can increase the nutrient requirements.

Here is an example of the CP and TDN nutrient requirements of a 1300 pound cow in mid gestation and late gestation:

Production stage CP% CP (lbs) TDN% TDN (lbs)
Mid-gestation 7.0 1.5 49 10.8
Late-gestation 7.7 1.8 53 12.5

From: Nutrient Requirements for Beef Cattle, Edward Rayburn, University of West Virginia Extension, Adapted from NRC for Beef Cattle 2000

Now let's consider a couple of hay quality analysis test results and see how they match up to the cow's needs. The first sample is a first cutting grass hay with a CP% of 9.5 and a TDN level of 52%. The second sample is a second cut grass hay with a CP% of 13.9 and a TDN level of 63%. It looks pretty obvious that the first cutting hay will meet the nutrient requirements through mid-gestation and maybe even into the first part of the late gestation trimester. It will not be adequate for most of the late gestation trimester based on the nutrient percentages.

Remember though that the cow eats pounds, not percentages. What kind of nutrient levels are we providing if hay is pretty much fed free choice? We often talk about a cow eating about 2.5% of her body weight in dry matter. If our cow weighs 1300 pounds, that equals about 32 lbs of DM per day. How many pounds of nutrients is she consuming at this level? With the first cutting hay this equals 3.04 lbs of CP (32 x .095) and 16.64 lbs of TDN (32 x .52). This cow is consuming more than what she really needs. Even if this cow consumes at only 2.0% of her body weight in DM (26.0 lbs) she will still eat 2.47 lbs of CP and 13.5 lbs of TDN/day. When the ration is considered from a pounds of hay eaten perspective, this first cutting hay could meet the nutrient needs through late gestation.

A few points can be made:

* Forage intake will vary with forage quality. Poor quality forages have lower intake levels because the rate of passage through the rumen is slow. As forage quality increases, and rate of passage through the rumen increases, forage intake will increase to a point. Just as some rough reference points think about very poor quality forage with an intake of about 1.7% of body weight in DM and very high quality forage with a intake of around 2.8% of body weight in DM.

* Cows will luxury consume in excess of what they need. This is more likely with forage of average or better quality.

* In years when hay is in short supply and/or expensive, knowing forage quality and the nutrient requirements in pounds may allow the manager to limit feed hay while meeting nutrient requirements and saving some dollars.

* In all cases, monitor body condition of cows. They will let you know if you are figuring the ration correctly.

More on Cattle Numbers, Beef Production and the Future of the Beef Industry - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article talking about the ability of the beef industry to continue current levels of beef production without rebuilding the herd. There are, of course, many factors that affect the situation and this article provides a bit more discussion of some of the many factors involved. It has been appropriately and correctly noted that some of the superlatives used by myself and other, such as the fact that the current beef cow herd is the smallest since 1963 are relevant only in a broad historical context.

Many things have changed and the industry including the fact that the industry is much more efficient and cattle are bigger now, resulting in significantly more pounds of beef produced per cow. Thus, it is certainly the case that we do not need to return to any particular herd inventory level compared to history. However, the fact is that we cannot continue to increase or even maintain beef production if the cow herd continues to shrink. I suspect that carcass weights will show little or no upward trend in the next decade compared to the last twenty years. Thus much of the compensation for a declining inventory that was offset by increasing carcass weights in the past will not be available going forward.

A more relevant time period is the last twenty years. The beef cow herd in 2010 was about one million head smaller at 31.4 million head than it was in 1990 (32.5 million head). In the intervening years the herd increased to a cyclical peak of 35.2 million head in 1996 to an apparent cyclical low of 32.9 million head in 2004 before the market shocks since 2007 pushed the herd down to current levels. Beef production in 2010 is projected at 26.03 billion pounds, 15 percent higher than in 1990 (which had a larger beef cow herd), about equal to the level in 1996 at the recent cyclical peak in cattle numbers and within 3 percent of the all time annual beef production record of 26.8 billion pounds in 2000.

Beef and cattle trade plays a role in this as well. However, the relative importance of beef and cattle trade, in terms of overall production levels, has not changed much in the past twenty years. Net beef imports have accounted for roughly 4 percent of total beef production since 1990 and have, in fact, been smaller at roughly two percent of total annual production in the last three years. Net live cattle imports have averaged less than six percent of total slaughter since 1990 and will be slightly higher than that in 2010. While beef and cattle continue to grow in importance in terms of industry value, it does not explain our ability to maintain beef production in the face of declining U.S. cattle inventories.

The fact is that we have culled an average of over 11 percent of the beef cow herd each of the past three years. Beef cow slaughter as a percent of the beef cow inventory has averaged 9.3 percent since 1990 and has only been higher than 11 percent once before since 1990, in 1996. Measured another way, beef cow slaughter has represented more than 10 percent of total cattle slaughter each of the past three years. Again, in the past twenty years, beef cow slaughter has averaged 9.2 percent of total slaughter and the only other time that beef cow slaughter was more than 10 percent of total cattle slaughter was in 1996. Another rough measure of slaughter intensity of the beef industry is that total slaughter will represent over 94 percent of the 2010 calf crop. This value has averaged 88.3 percent since 1990 and the estimate for 2010 is the highest level over the twenty year period.

The bottom line is that it will not be possible to maintain beef production in coming years if we do not rebuild the cow herd and it is also true that we will not be able to rebuild the cow herd without reducing slaughter and beef production for at least a two to three year period. I believe that prices are approaching levels that will entice cow-calf producers into some level of herd expansion in the next couple of years. Smaller beef production will support higher beef and cattle prices. Consumers, who have for the most part not seen any impacts of this situation thus far, will experience higher beef prices in the coming years and this will provide a critical test of beef demand to see how consumers react to generally higher beef prices.

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. The DEC'10LC contract closed down $0.200/cwt at $102.025/cwt. The APR'11LC contract closed at $108.8225/cwt, off $0.325/cwt. Short-covering (profit taking) by producers, long liquidation by funds as they sold lots, and a stronger U.S. dollar pressured prices. A strong cash market and rising beef prices were supportive but profit takers abounded. USDA on Monday put the boxed beef price at $162.39/cwt; up $0.54/cwt. Cash markets traded $3-$3.50 higher last week. USDA put the 5-area average price for live cattle at $100.97/cwt. U.S. and South Korean trade officials will meet in Maryland on Tuesday and Wednesday to try to resolve differences blocking U.S. exports. Floor sources also said that a weaker U.S. stock market placed reservations on the economy's recovery from recession, which in turn raises concerns about consumer demand. According to HedgersEdge.com, the average packer margin rose $8.30/head to a positive $4.75/head based on the average buy of $100.71/cwt vs. the average breakeven of $100.99/cwt. It might be a good idea to buy some short-term feed needs at this time.

FEEDER CATTLE at the CME finished down on Monday. The NOV'10FC contract finished at $118.400/cwt; down $0.350/cwt. APR'11FC futures finished at $119.300/cwt; down $0.400/cwt. Stronger cash markets, higher corn prices, and profit taking pressured prices. Feeders in Oklahoma City were steady-to-firm; up $1-2/cwt on Monday. Estimated receipts were placed at 8,500 head vs. 6,781 head last week and 9,578 head a year ago. Steers brought more than heifers by about a $1/cwt. The CME feeder cattle index was placed at 114.42 cents/lb; up 0.14 cents/lb.

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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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