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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 # 667

December 30, 2009

Late Gestation Preparation - Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources

The increase in nutrient requirements during the late gestation period is significant. Depending upon the mature weight of the cow, crude protein (CP) requirements increase approximately 28 to 30%, while total digestible nutrient (TDN) requirements increase approximately 15 to 17% between month 7 and month 9.

Nutrient deficiency during this period can result in weak calves that are more susceptible to environmental stresses, and cows that are slow to breed back. Failing to provide late gestation cows with a ration that meets their nutrient requirements will negatively impact the potential profitability of the cow/calf operation. Thus, the cattle manager must prepare for those increased nutrient needs. Preparation involves knowing the weight and nutritional status of the cow, knowing the diet nutrient requirements and knowing the nutrient content of the feedstuffs that are being used.

Nutrient requirements of cattle, as provided by the National Research Council (NRC) subcommittee on beef cattle, vary depending upon the mature weight of the animal, the age of the animal and the production stage of the animal. Large frame heavier animals have higher daily nutrient requirements than smaller frame, lighter animals. Pregnant replacement heifers and two year old cows all have higher nutrient requirements than mature cattle at similar production stages. Examples of CP and TDN nutrient requirements for the last 60 days of gestation (months 8-9) for mature and growing cattle are provided in the following table to illustrate this point. The nutrient density requirements are based on a dry matter intake of approximately 2% of the animal's body weight.

Nutrient Density

Daily Nutrients

Nutrient Density

Daily Nutrients

Month 8

Month 8

Month 9

Month 9

Cow Type CP% TDN% CP (lbs) TDN (lbs) CP% TDN% CP (lbs) TDN (lbs)
Mature 1200 lbs 7.7 52.3 1.86 12.6 8.8 56.2 2.16 13.8
Mature 1300 lbs 7.8 52.5 1.99 13.4 8.9 56.5 2.31 14.7
2-yr old, 1200 lbs 8.5 55.9 1.93 12.7 9.4 59.7 2.23 14.1
2-yr old, 1300 lbs 8.5 56.2 2.06 13.7 9.5 60.0 2.40 15.1
Pregnant heifer, 1200 lbs* 8.5 56.2 2.02 13.3 9.6 59.9 2.35 14.6
Pregnant heifer, 1300 lbs* 8.5 56.0 2.13 14.1 9.5 59.5 2.45 15.4
1996 NRC for Beef Cattle
* Projected mature weight

Several observations can be made from studying the table:

- The nutrient density requirement of the diet does not vary greatly between weight classes of similar aged animals but nutrient density requirements are higher for younger animals that are still growing. This reflects the relationship between body weight and a dry matter intake based on a percentage of body weight.

- The total amount of nutrients (lbs/day) that are required increases as animal body weight increases for both mature and growing animals.

- Both the nutrient density and the amount of nutrients (lbs/day) increase as gestation advances.

The take-home management message is that the mature weight of the cow should be known to insure adequate nutrients are being provided. Although many cattlemen think they have 1200 lb (or less) cows, there are many 1400-1500 pound cows out in the country-side. I remember hearing at a meeting a couple of years ago a speaker say that most 1200 lb cows weighed 1500 lbs and most 1000 lb round bales weighed 750 lbs. You have to measure and weight if you want to do a good job of managing.

Feeding to meet the needs of a mature cow will put the younger growing cows and heifers in a nutrient deficient state. On the other hand, feeding to meet the needs of the younger cows and heifers will mean that mature cows are being overfed. Both situations are costly. Grouping cows according to age and production stage would allow more targeted feeding and better economical use of feed resources.

In practice, particularly with smaller herds, I see farmers feeding hay free choice to the entire herd. If the hay is close to the required nutrient density, cattle will often eat more than the 2% of body weight figure. This may allow the younger growing animals to meet their daily pounds of nutrients needed, but it means the older animals are over eating.

Besides knowing your cow weights and nutrient requirements, preparation for late gestation involves knowing the nutrient content of the hay, stockpiled forage or other feedstuffs that may be used. It's very hard to economically match nutrient needs without this information.

The eye of experience and close detail to body condition can help managers make good feeding decisions. When used with knowledge of animal weights, nutrient requirements and feedstuff nutrient analysis, the combination can be increased profitability.

Ohio Beef Expo Deadlines Approach

As you break out your new 2010 calendar and begin to add important dates, be sure to mark March 19-21 for the Ohio Beef Expo to be held at the Ohio Expositions Center in Columbus, Ohio. Plans for the 2010 Expo are well underway and this year's event is shaping up to be one of the best ever with breed sales, shows and one of the Midwest's largest and most competitive junior shows.

The Expo will once again include a three-day industry trade show. Last year's trade show which encompassed over 22,000 square feet of indoor space was a full house. If you are interested in promoting your cattle industry related product with a display in the 2010 event, contact Jamie King at (614) 873-6736 as soon as possible. The early deadline to reserve space in the trade show is January 2.

Consignments are now being accepted for the Angus, Hereford, Limousin, Maine-Anjou, Shorthorn and Simmental sales. For complete details about making a consignment or to request a catalog for one of these sales, log on to www.ohiobeefexpo.com and click on the sales link.

The ever-popular genetic pathway will once again be a feature of the main hallway and upper concourse of the Voinovich Livestock and Trade Center. To reserve display space for your bull prospects or donor cows contact the OCA office at (614) 873-6736. A limited number of spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. This is a premier opportunity to reach commercial, seedstock and club calf producers all in one location.

The Ohio Beef Expo will again offer a lot of opportunities for youth participation and education throughout the weekend. Youth events include: judging contest, beef quality assurance session, showmanship and the junior heifer and market animal show.

Over 25,000 visitors from 20 states and Canada routinely attend the Ohio Beef Expo. It is ranked as the ninth largest event hosted in central Ohio and is the premier location to meet Ohio's cattle producers. Don't miss it!

For complete details on the 2010 Ohio Beef Expo, visit www.ohiobeefexpo.com. The Ohio Beef Expo is a function of the Ohio Cattlemen's Association (OCA). The OCA is an affiliate of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and is the state's spokesperson and issues manager for all segments of the beef cattle industry including cattle breeders, producers and feeders. It is the grass roots policy development organization for the beef business. Through the Ohio Cattlemen's Association, cattle producers work to create a positive business environment, while providing consumers with a safe and wholesome product.

Forage Focus: Grazing Bites, December 2009 - Victor Shelton, NRCS Grazing Specialist

In the early 90's, no-till farming was coined "Ugly Farming" by many as the untidiness trademark of this new farming practice. It took a number of years for some people to finally get used to seeing crop residue left on the crop fields and learning and respecting the benefits of doing so.

When it comes to pastureland, the majority of producers and especially suburbanites would have the image of a manicured lawn appearance in their mind…slightly rolling hills of green all tailored to a precise residual height of exactly three inches with exquisite, ready for the ring side, cattle grazing on them. This might be the image most think about, but that is usually not the reality; thus pastures are found overgrazed, especially this time of year as many try and delay feeding hay as long as possible. As mentioned in previous articles, this is best achieved with some reservation leaving adequate residue behind so you don't deplete carbohydrate reserves.

I have found myself on more than one occasion defending grazing livestock to wildlife lovers. Grazing livestock, and especially beef cows, are a great "working tool" that can actually really benefit wildlife habitat when managed to do so.

The first thought that comes to my own mind when I hear "wildlife in the pasture" is deer tearing up my fences. I do swear, the old single wire somewhat temporary fences made with rod posts and yellow slide-on insulators must be deer magnets - because they never failed to tear them up . . . many years after their use, those insulators keep surfacing. A deer's natural world is perceived as in black and white . . . so yellow insulators blend right in. I've found that white poly-wire for temporary fence with white step-in posts tend to get the least damage. Permanent high-tensile wires, even when only one is used, are soon learned and respected even by the deer.

I'm getting sidetracked. A planned grazing system with rotating animals during the growing season is already doing things that have some wildlife benefits, especially for ground nesting birds. Rotational grazing normally creates multiple growth stages and heights of the forages and therefore creates somewhat patchy habitat providing structural diversity for feeding, nesting and hiding.

Heavily used areas such as around watering facilities, lanes and lounging areas are usually disturbed more and create feeding sites for early to mid succession type wildlife such as bobwhite quail, meadow larks and mourning doves. This caught my attention, especially the possibility of increasing quail numbers. Cattle especially, help to open up the dense vegetation canopies of our cool-season pasture grasses and in the process help to create travel corridors and feeding areas for wildlife, especially quail.

In a preliminary study done in southern Indiana looking at bobwhite quail covey numbers. There were almost four times more coveys of quail on beef cattle rotated pasture than undisturbed like habitat. This surprised some wildlife biologists and certainly influenced their respect for "cows" as a wildlife habitat tool.

So if we are interested in enhancing wildlife benefits of our pastures, what else can we do with little effort? The use of more paddocks and or longer rest periods is always a win-win for both the grazing livestock and wildlife creating multiple growth stages and vegetation heights. Maintaining forage diversity and avoiding monocultures is also beneficial with pastures having at a minimum a quality grass and legume present.

There are certainly "forage quality" benefits in keeping forages in a vegetative stage for most grazing livestock. To maintain that "quality", the entire system does not necessarily need to look like a manicured lawn though. We need to consider that economic threshold before getting out the brush-hog - remember those inputs that effect the bottom line . . . if the avoided "maturing" forages are less than one third of the sward, we might be better off waiting until the next grazing period for that paddock and grazing it a little harder the next time (smaller allocation, heavier stocking rate, shorter period of time) allowing for increased diversity in between grazing periods . . . again win-win for livestock and wildlife.

Though usually very hard to do, leaving even a small paddock or area fallow for one year has lots of benefits. It is even mentioned in Exodus about leaving every seventh year fallow. Fallow provides heavier cover for nesting and brooding and some really good, and probably needed additional rest for the forages. I'm told that ideally, this area should have links or corridors to woodlands, other undisturbed areas or longer rested fields . . . which usually should be and is the case in a rotated system . . . especially if the "rested" area is close to the middle of the system.

Certainly if you are willing, the addition of at least one paddock of a permanent warm season grass such as big bluestem, indiangrass, little bluestem and switchgrass or mixes of such can enhance the diversity of the whole system for both the livestock and wildlife. The warm-season grasses can provide quality forages for the livestock during our normal cool-season grass slump period and provide excellent habitat for quail and other wildlife looking for a slightly less dense sward.

Lastly, I think too many people get way too hung up on a few weeds being present. Now, there is a limit! The desired forages need to be the dominate species present in the field, but a few weeds, although sometimes not very attractive, can have multiple benefits too as long as they are not noxious or poisonous. A few milkweeds provide habitat for monarch butterflies. Several provide food for multiple species of song birds. Others can provide a natural source of micro-nutrients for grazing livestock. Unless they are noxious or invasive, a few around really don't hurt anything.

Natural disturbances such as grazing from bison or cows, has always been an important management factor in maintaining wildlife habitat, we just need to take advantage of it.

Consider a little more of an "ugly" approach to grazing, and keep on grazing!

Maybe We Should Slow Down and Ask for Directions - Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

As the year comes to a close, many thoughts come to mind. These thoughts are embedded with questions. What makes these thoughts unique for each person is a combination of time and place.

Questions for older or younger people are anchored at a different point in time. Of course, someone living in Argentina is going to view things differently than someone living in the United States.

We are products of our environment, locally anchored and educated. And then, from within ourselves, we each derive a concept of what should and what should not be.

We live differently. We eat differently. We even may have different fundamental values. There is little wonder that some days we find ourselves puzzled as we peek into the world but then return to our own safe havens.

The world is a good place, but the busyness of the world tends to drive us hard. Often, it is with an opinionated position that we envision to help those we encounter and ourselves. These encounters often are mixed with good and bad feelings. Nevertheless, the close of day tends to bring us some rest and feelings of accomplishment.

But the busyness does not end. With the passing of time, even our roots tend to start to be transparent and those anchors we cling to slowly disappear.

Perhaps now is the time to stop, ponder a bit and appreciate what we have, at least until the next train arrives.

I like to ponder a return to the barn that we have left. The old, large, red, hip-roofed barn was meant to shelter the obvious and the unnoticed.

Perhaps the anticipation was heightened when, after a walk through cold, blowing winds and significant snow, the barn doors brought a sense of welcome. There were 12 cow stanchions and, when filled, each cow quickly would look and then return to what cows do, which is eat and chew their cuds.

The horses were stalled on the other side of the barn, with various calves penned throughout. Add in some cats, a dog, maybe a guest or two and that was pretty much the barn.

Other livestock had their quarters, but the barn was the hub. Morning and evening brought the buckets for milking, setting the daily schedule of cleaning the gutters, feeding the cows and all the other chores that needed to be done.

The day would end when all the chores were done. When we heard mom ask if the lights were out in the barn and the answer was yes, we knew supper soon would be served. Evening did not arrive until the barn lights went out and all were settled.

Those times were tough, too, and hardships were more average than rare. Modern times have allowed for certain hardships to lessen with the more food that is produced.

Yes, the work is still there, but it is different. The barn no longer has the cows and no one waits for the lights to go out.

The busyness remains. Production agriculture is more productive and there are fewer daily chores. Where did all this busyness go?

The answer will not be in tomorrow's paper or the next or even next week's. Until we figure things out, we should hope that somewhere there remains a barn with a stable waiting for new life.

This barn, when the door opens, will find the cows passing the time between feedings by quietly rechewing the current meal and trying to get comfortable. These cows will stretch their necks in anticipation of another feeding but quickly settle again with no concerns.

Perhaps that is why we need to pause as our year ends to ask some questions, take time to ponder the answers and, above all, look for the stable with a manger.

There is so much we do not know. Maybe we should slow down and ask for directions.

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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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Fairfield County Agriculture and Natural Resources