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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 # 664

December 9, 2009

Cow nutrition can have long-term impacts on calf's productivity - Amy E. Radunz, Beef Cattle Extension Specialist, University of Wisconsin

Many producers recognize the importance of cow nutrition, especially during late gestation, because of the influence on the cow's postpartum reproductive performance. However, researchers are discovering cow nutrition during gestation affects fetal growth and development of her calf, which can have long-term impacts on the calf's productivity. Fetal or developmental programming is the term typically used to describe this type of research. Factors such as maternal nutrition, environment, or stressors during gestation can change nutrient supply to the fetus, which can then affect growth and development of organs, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue. These can have long-term implications on skeletal muscle growth, fat deposition, insulin resistance, or hypertension of offspring, which can impact economically important traits such as growth rate, health, and carcass composition.

A recent study at The Ohio State University, conducted by Amy Radunz in her graduate program under direction of Steve Loerch, investigated alternative energy sources to forage in late gestation beef cow diets. When hay supplies are short, producers are faced with the decision of how to stretch their hay supply or find an alternative feed source. Previous research at OSU has evaluated limit-feeding corn as an alternative to hay in late gestation, and a few years ago this proved to be a less expensive choice. Recently, dried distiller grains (DDGS) has become a more attractive economic option for protein and energy in beef cattle diets due to greater corn prices and increased ethanol production. One of the study's objectives was to investigate three energy sources (hay, corn, and DDGS) in late gestation to determine effects on cow performance and feed costs. Corn and DDGS were fed at a limited intake compared to grass hay fed free access in round bale feeders, because corn and DDGS are more energy dense feeds. The goal was to feed the diets at similar energy intakes during late gestation. No adverse effects were observed in the cow performance during gestation or on postpartum reproductive performance from feeding different energy sources in late gestation. However, feed costs were approximately 24% less for cows fed DDGS as compared to cows fed corn or hay (Table 1).

Although cows consumed a similar amount of energy during late gestation, their offspring's birth weights indicate that these energy sources changed how nutrients were partitioned to the fetus. Calves born to cows fed hay had lighter birth weights than calves born to cows fed DDGS or corn, but differences in birth weights due to cow's dietary energy source were not associated with changes in rates of dystocia (Table 2). At weaning, calves born to cows fed corn and DDGS were 25 to 13 lbs heavier than calves from cows fed hay. No difference were observed in average daily gain, dry matter intake or feed efficiency, but calves from cows fed hay did require more days on feed to reach a similar fat thickness as calves from cows fed corn or DDGS. Hot carcass weights were 28 lbs greater for calves from cows fed corn than for calves from cows DDGS during late gestation. Furthermore, calves born to cows fed corn had the least marbling and lower percentage of carcasses grading in the upper 2/3 of USDA Choice compared to calves born to cows fed DGGS or hay. An economic analysis of the finishing phase revealed a lower net return from calves from cows fed DDGS than calves born from cows fed hay or corn due to lighter carcass weights resulting in discounts to carcass value. These results would indicate that feeding DDGS in late gestation may reduce cow feed costs, but if a producer is retaining ownership on the calves, a lower net feedlot return could result for the progeny. Additionally, these results suggest that amount of marbling in the carcass may not only be determined by genetics, postnatal nutrition, and postnatal management, but also could be determined by what the cow is fed during gestation.

Research from the University of Nebraska has also reported that late gestation may be a critical period for intramuscular fat (i.e., marbling) development. Over a 3-year period, steer calves from cows grazing native range with or without protein supplementation were tracked from birth to slaughter. The calves born to cows supplemented with protein had carcasses with higher marbling scores, with a greater percentage of carcasses graded USDA Choice, and with 60 lbs heavier hot carcass weights. These researchers also followed the heifer progeny from these cows and observed greater fertility rates in heifers born to cows supplemented with protein. Late gestation is not the only time critical to development of the fetus, which can have long-term impacts on economically important traits. Researchers at the University of Wyoming have investigated undernutrition in early to mid gestation and have reported effects on calf growth performance, health, and carcass composition. Collectively, these studies indicate that producers should pay close attention to their cow nutrition programs not solely because they impact the cow's performance, but they could also impact their calf's productivity and profitability.

Table 1. Cow daily as-fed intake and feed costs during late gestation

Grass hay Limit-fed corn Limit-fed DDGS
Grass hay, lbs/day 28 5 5
Whole shelled corn, lbs/day -- 12 --
DDGS, lbs/day -- -- 9.5
Supplement (1), lbs/day -- 2.5 2.5
Daily feed costs (2), $/cow/day 1.36 1.46 1.04
(1) Cows fed hay were provided with free access to a trace-mineral salt mix. Cows fed corn were provided a supplement containing 46.6% soybean meal; 26.7% ground corn; 7.8% limestone; 4.3% dicalcium phosphate; 4.1% urea; and 10.5% trace mineral salt/vitamin/monesin mix. Cows fed DDGS were provided a supplement containing 74.5 % DDGS; 11% limestone; 10.5% trace mineral salt/vitamin/monesin mix.
(2) Calculated with the following prices on an as-fed basis: corn = $3.80/bu; hay = $100/ton; DDGS = $130/ton; corn supplement = $400/ton; and DDGS supplement = ($200/ton)

Table 2. Effects of cow late gestation dietary energy source on progeny performance

Grass Hay (1) Limit-fed Corn Limit-fed DDGS
Birth weight, lbs 85.5 95.0 91.0
Weaning weight, lbs 580 607 592
Feedlot ADG, lbs/d 3.23 3.30 3.09
Feedlot DMI, lbs/d 20.0 20.3 20.0
Feedlot F:G 6.19 6.15 6.47
Lifetime ADG, lbs/d 2.87 2.95 2.87
Hot carcass weight, lbs 677 688 661
12th rib fat, in. 0.42 0.48 0.48
Yield Grade 2.50 2.56 2.61
Marbling Score(2) 517 476 501
Low Choice or greater, % 100 93 97
Average Choice or greater, % 50 24 42
(1) Diets fed to cows during late gestation
(2) Where small=400; modest=500

For more information on this study you can contact Amy Radunz (aradunz@wisc.edu) or Steve Loerch (loerch.1@osu.edu).

Forage Focus: Grass-Fed Beef Notebook is Released - Leah Miller, Director, Small Farm Institute

This handbook has been created as a resource starting point for individuals wanting to have more information about grass-fed beef. It is the compilation from a series of the workshops that were held with a group of Ohio dairy and beef farmers The opportunity to do the workshops and this handbook came from a grant provided by the Agricultural Marketing Service's Farmers Market Promotion Program, United States Department of Agriculture. The project was titled "Building a Grass-Fed Beef Production Infrastructure To Support Marketing and Serve Consumers' Demands."

The suggested resources are designed to lead you to other information sites as you seek to learn about creating, processing, and marketing grass-fed beef. You may choose to use specific sections as questions arise or you may use the handbook as a guide to developing a grass-fed beef farm.

Small Farm Institute would like to thank Ohio State University and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center Animal Science Department for their assistance with this project; The Ohio State University Meat Science Lab and crew; OSU Extension; USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service; North Union Farmers Market and their encouragement to farmers to produce grass based beef; and Parker Bosley for nurturing the vision of farmers and consumers working together for local food markets.

Contributors to the Notebook include: Francis Fluharty, Henry Zerby, Paul Kuber and Jeff McCutcheon from Ohio State University Extension, Bob Hendershot of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Parker Bosley the retired chef and retired Vice President of North Union Farmers Market, and Leah Miller, Director of Small Farm Institute.

The Grass-Fed Beef Notebook may be found on-line in it's entirety on the Small Farm Institute website at: http://smallfarminstitute.wordpress.com/

Basketball Strategy for Cow-Calf Producers - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

Cow-calf producers, like most in the cattle industry, have been on the defensive for the past three years. First buffeted by unprecedented high feed and other input costs in 2007 and early 2008, profitability remained weak as cattle prices collapsed under the weight of the recession and poor beef demand this past year. Poor profitability stalled out the fledgling cow herd expansion that began in 2005 and by 2007 the cow herd was declining.

That sets up the situation in late 2009. Beef production is decreasing and projected to continue decreasing for a couple more years. Several macroeconomic indicators suggest that the worst of the recession is behind us and that we should see recovery that leads to improved beef demand in the next few months. The timing is, of course, uncertain. The macroeconomic signals are a mixed bag right now. The stock market has made a significant recovery from the low in early 2009. GDP growth was positive in the third quarter is likely to show growth, albeit modest growth, in 2010. However, unemployment is still rising and likely has not peaked yet. Consumer spending remains limited as consumers work to repair their balance sheets. Recovery of beef demand depends on consumers having the financial ability to purchase more beef, along with other things. The good news is that beef demand is fundamentally sound. Consumers still want to purchase and eat beef and they will as soon as they can afford to. That will lead to higher prices and the incentive for the beef industry to expand production when it occurs. This scenario is likely to kick in sometime in 2010 and could be relatively strong in the last part of the year.

However, because of the current herd inventory situation, the beef industry has limited ability to expand very quickly. The initial stages of expansion will pull even more heifers out of feedlots and further squeeze beef production. The beef herd expands or contracts on a more or less annual basis due to the seasonality of forage production. It is unlikely that the recovery described above will be in place and obvious enough for the beef industry as a whole to begin much expansion in 2010. However, individual producers may well want to think about how to be positioned for beef market opportunities in the next year without necessarily committing to an aggressive expansion until the macro picture clears a bit better.

What does all this have to do with basketball? Basketball is full of transitions from defense to offensive and vice versa. The key to transitioning into offense is anticipating it and how you play out the final stages of the defensive phase. This is similar to the situation for cow-calf producers. Cattle industry expansion begins with cow herd expansion and cow-calf producers have an opportunity now to think about positioning themselves to be ahead of the game when it comes time to be on the offense. Decisions to expand in 2010 or at least building the flexibility to begin expansion mostly need to be made in the first few months of the year before summer grazing. This might involve returning cow numbers to normal if they are currently low or it might involve saving a few more heifers to set up herd growth in the next 12-18 months or it might involve producing replacement heifers that may get to be in strong demand in late 2010 or in 2011. Producers should think about how they can be prepared for a more aggressive production plan and what signals will trigger them to act ahead of the pack and perhaps a full year ahead of the industry in capitalizing on beef market opportunities that could break out quite dramatically when they happen.

Weekly Roberts Agricultural Commodity Market Report - Mike Roberts, Commodity Marketing Agent, Virginia Tech

LIVE CATTLE futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) finished mixed with deferreds lower on Monday. DEC'09LC futures closed at $81.125/cwt; up $0.125/cwt but $2.075/cwt lower than last Monday's close. The APR'10LC contract finished at $86.325/cwt; up $0.250/cwt but $1.800/cwt lower than last report. OCT'10LC finished at $87.400/cwt; off $0.200/cwt. Weather forecasts for bitter cold snow were supportive. The cold weather will not only make it difficult to get cattle to market but will stress them so their daily gain is not so good. Technical support on the February chart is seen in the oversold contract. When a contract's Relative Strength Index (RSI) is at or below 30 it is seen as oversold. When the RSI is at or above 70 it is considered overbought. Weakness in outside markets and strength in the U.S. dollar limiting exports weighed on futures. USDA on Friday put the choice beef cutout at $137.17/cwt; down $0.28/cwt and the lowest it's been since October 21. Cash cattle were $1.5-$2.0 lower as USDA put the 5-area average at $81.74/cwt; $1.52/cwt lower than this time last week. According to HedgersEdge.com, average packer margins were lowered $23.25 from last report to a positive $11.25/head based on the average buy of $82.48/cwt vs. the average breakeven of $83.34/cwt. It would be a good idea to take advantage of these lower feed prices.

FEEDER CATTLE at the CME were down on Monday. JAN'10FC futures closed at $92.850/cwt; off $0.500/cwt. MAR'10FC futures finished at $93.950/cwt; down $0.600/cwt but $0.200/cwt higher than last report. Prospects for bad weather and weaker outside markets did not help prices. However, lower corn futures were supportive. Cash feeders in Oklahoma City were steady to $2/cwt higher on good demand at the beginning of the session. Demand faded near the close. The CME feeder cattle index was placed at $93.83/lb; up $0.31/lb but $0.06/lb lower than this time last week. It would be a good idea to price feed this week.

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.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status. Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Admin. and Director, OSU Extension. TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-1868

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