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OSU Extension - Fairfield County

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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 # 721

February 2, 2011

Forage Focus: Are Your Cows Slowly Starving on a Full Belly? - Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County, OSU Extension

"My cows are eating all they want, and they are full . . . why does it appear they might be losing weight?" Seems like a dumb question doesn't it? Over the years I've heard it many times . . . "look at those cows . . . their bellies are full . . . and to think you told me they wouldn't do any good on (you fill in the blank here) my first cutting hay or corn stalks or soybean stubble or tree twigs or . . . " You name it, I think I've heard it.

It seems sometimes we struggle with identifying the difference between what a cow will eat, and whether she can actually digest enough nutrients from what she eats in a 24 hour period to sustain her body, her fetus, and her ability to provide high quality colostrum and milk when the time comes. Fact is, lots of the hay made in Ohio in 2010 simply isn't good enough! While abundant spring rain was good for forage growth throughout most of Ohio, it made it very difficult for many of us to get hay made in a timely fashion. Many hayfields were cut in mid June and beyond when the forage was in full bloom or going to seed. And, we all know that for any forage plant, quality as measured by crude protein, energy and digestibility declines as the plant matures. While livestock may eat it, that doesn't always mean they are being sustained by it.

In a recent effort to investigate the actual quality of local hay, and then determine what might actually be needed to sustain cows effectively on it, OSU Extension Educators Jim Skeeles and Rory Lewandowski recently took an in-depth look at the quality of several samples of Hocking County area hay. What they discovered was that the average first cutting hay made last summer was NOT good enough alone to sustain cows in their last trimester of gestation or beyond! In fact, when you take into account the weather we experienced in January (according to NOAA the average temperature for the month was 25.6 degrees F in nearby Fairfield County), NONE of the first cutting mixed hay they analyzed was found to be sufficient. In order to provide adequate nutrition, the hay they were looking at needed to be supplemented with corn or a similar form of energy in order to suffice. In fact, one of the hay samples required that 6 pounds of corn per day be fed to a 1300 pound cow in late gestation to balance her ration sufficiently.

Going one step further, as the group explored possibly supplementing the low quality first cutting hay they were evaluating with high protein lick tubs, the conclusion was that the tubs not only cost nearly 40 cents per head per day more than simply offering a little $6.42/bushel shelled corn, but the tubs didn't always meet the energy requirements of the cow. Simply put, the primary concern of typical late made, low quality, mixed Ohio hay is that it is deficient in energy . . . not protein! And, with feeder calves presently topping out at something more than $1.35 a pound at local auction barns, a quarter's worth of corn might be a wise daily investment for a pregnant or lactating cow.

If you'd like the entire story, the slides along with the audio of the program were recorded and can be found under the following links.

Evaluating and Using Hay for Beef Cattle part A

Evaluating and Using Hay for Beef Cattle part B

If you are presently feeding cows first cutting hay, especially hay made after June 1, and the cows are in their last trimester of gestation or beyond, the two hours it takes to view this 2 part presentation by Rory Lewandowski and Jim Skeeles will be time well spent. And, to learn even more on the subject of third trimester cow nutrition, you won't want to miss weeks 3 and 4 of the Ohio Beef Cattle Schools.

Improper Dosing Can Be Costly - Dr. Jeremy Powell, Associate Professor, John Richeson, Graduate Student, and Carroll Prewett, Staff Chair, University of Arkansas Extension

It's 14 degrees outside and you finally got the calf to the chute to be treated. You're ready to give the medication, but when you grab the bottle, the label was badly smeared from the last scouring calf that you treated. You stand there trying to remember, How many cc's? Was it IM or SubQ?

Because of unforeseen circumstances common in the cattle business, it's no surprise that we may sometimes unintentionally give our cattle the wrong dose of an antibiotic, dewormer or other medication. One should bear in mind some important economic considerations if the wrong dosage of medicine is administered. These include the additional cost of medication, labor, performance loss, need for retreatment and potentially death loss.

Administering the correct dosage of a medication when treating an animal can help ensure that overuse of an expensive pharmaceutical doesn't occur and that there is minimal potential for any toxic effects to the animal or extended drug residue. Treating your animals according to their body weight will also ensure that potentially harmful underdosage does not occur, which could lead to treatment failure and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Medication labels are often written in a manner that assumes everyone utilizing the information is some type of scholarly mathematician. It can be quite a nuisance trying to jump from metric units to English units, and attempting to figure out how many milligrams, cubic centimeters (cc's) and milliliters can all be rather confusing. Conversion factors are helpful in determining the right dosage when reading medication labels. We have listed some commonly used conversion factors in the table below (Table 1).

1 ml = 1 cc (1 milliliter = 1 cubic centimeter 1 fluid ounce = 30 ml
1 liter - 1000 ml 1 gallon = 3785 ml
1 kilogram (kg) = 2.2 pounds 1 pound = 454 grams
1 gram = 1000 milligrams (mg) 1 teaspoon = 5 ml , 1 tablespoon = 15 ml

Table 1: Commonly used conversion factors

Because medication dosage is based on animal body weight, obtaining an accurate weight is a must; otherwise, we will inaccurately dose the animal. Consider a scenario where a stocker cattle producer is about to process 300 calves. Since this producer does not own a scale, individual body weight cannot be recorded to determine dosage for a dewormer treatment or for an on-arrival antibiotic. You can use an average weight from the bill of sale; however, anytime an average weight and dosage is used to treat a group of calves, you would be underdosing the heavier animals and overdosing the lighter animals for each lot. Worse yet, if you misplaced your bill of sale or simply don't know the average weight of a group, an inaccurately estimated average weight can be a costly mistake.

For example, let's say that on average each calf was given just 1 cc too much dewormer and antibiotic during processing and that the dewormer was $0.40 per cc and the antibiotic was $1.30 per cc. This would result in a $510.00 mistake in the overuse of medication to process the 300 calves. Therefore, an electronic scale can make economic sense by assuring the correct dose for each animal and would quickly justify the cost of a scale to weigh each animal. Also, it is very helpful to have dosage information about the commonly used medications for your operation posted near the chute for quick and easy reference. These dosages can be posted on a sign that indicates the number of cc's per pounds of body weight. Figure 1 shows an example of a sign used for dosage information and how easy it can be to utilize when posted near the chute.

Figure 1. Sign containing dosage information for commonly used medications posted near the chute provides a handy reference.

Regardless of the animal's age, all intramuscular and subcutaneous injections should be given in the neck region, never in the rump or back leg. Try to avoid administering more than one injection on the same side of the neck, but if you must, remember to place the injections sites at least 4 inches apart (at least one handbreadth between the two sites). Spacing injections in this manner will allow better response or absorption and less interaction between products, because moving only 1 to 2 inches between sites essentially creates one big site.

Processing cattle in muddy and wet conditions can increase the chance of injection site contamination. Therefore, make sure injection sites are as clean as possible before administering the product. Always follow proper volume-per-site instructions. When injecting antibiotics, never exceed more than 10 cc per injection site.

Remember to pay close attention to sterility of the product container and to the sanitation of syringes and injection systems. Because the rubber stoppers in the product bottles tend to dull needles very quickly, an unused sterile "filling" needle can be left in the stopper while the product is in use. When pulling up product into a multi-dose syringe, only use the filling needle that has been left in the stopper to fill up the syringe. This will ensure the sanitation of the container and alleviate the possibility of contaminating the bottle by a used needle. It will also ensure that you will not be using dulled needles to inject product into the animal. Always remember to read the manufacturer's recommendations for dosage, route of administration, withdrawal period and expiration date.

As cattle producers, we supply this nation with beef. Today's consumer demands that our product is wholesome and free from medication residues. In order to meet this justified demand, we all need to be diligent in assuring quality in our final beef product, and one very important factor is dosing medication properly. For more information about sound cattle production management, contact your county Extension office.

Cattle on Feed: Cattle Market Juggling Act Continues - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

Perspective is always important in cattle markets and all the more so given the tremendous amount of volatility the industry has experienced in the last few years. Nowhere is this more true than with the latest USDA Cattle on Feed report. Taken at face value, it appears to contradict on-going concerns about extremely low cattle inventories and tight supplies. It is important to read the report for what it does tells and also for what it does not tell us.

The January Cattle on Feed report puts December placements at 1.795 million head, up 16 percent for one year earlier; December marketings at 1.827 million head, up 5 percent from 2009 and a January 1 on-feed total of 11.517 million head, up 5 percent from the January 2010 level. The large December placement level is the fifth consecutive month of year over year increases in placements. However, the 16 percent increase in placements was compared to a December 2009 level which was the lowest since 1998. The latest December placement number is up 5.7 percent over the 2005-2009 period and is just one percent higher than the 2003-2007 period, which excludes market shocks in 2008 and 2009. The point is that while the December placement number does tell us something about the timing of cattle in the first half of 2011, it is not nearly as big an absolute number as it first appears.

In a similar fashion, the on-feed total, which was up 5 percent from last year, is being compared to the smallest January 1 number since 2003. In fact, the January 1, 2011 total is down nearly one percent from the 2006-2010 five-year average. Ironically, the marketings number, which will likely get less attention than the placements number, is up 5 percent year over year and is up 8.6 percent over the previous five year average. In fact, December marketings were the highest for that month since 1999.

So what does it all mean? Feedlots, buoyed by profitability in 2010 and rising futures markets at the end of the year; and aided by dry conditions and limited winter grazing prospects, were motivated and able to aggressively place cattle in December. This juggling act keeps feedlot inventories up in the short run but the increase in placements is at the expense of future placements. Although it is amazing how far the industry can push those dynamics, it seems clear that it cannot continue much longer. Feeder supplies will be increasingly tight this spring. Thus, the impact of year over year increases in feedlot inventories the last few months means a slight bunching of feedlot production in the first half of the year likely followed by marked decreases in the second half of the year. I don't expect this to fundamentally weaken current fed cattle markets but it may limit seasonal increases through the first quarter and hold fed prices on more of a plateau near current levels. Of course, winter weather has the ability to change that and the market will be fairly sensitive to any reduction in slaughter level or carcass weights that might result from bad weather.

Beef Cow Herd Dynamics: What is Possible in 2011? - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

The much anticipated USDA Cattle report confirmed that the beef industry is beginning 2011 with a small cow herd, limited replacement heifers and even tighter feeder supplies. The beef cow herd decreased 1.6 percent in 2010 to a January 1, 2011 total of 30.9 million head. The inventory of beef replacement heifers dropped 293 thousand head to 5.16 million head available as of the beginning of 2011. Despite smaller replacement heifer inventories, estimated feeder supplies decreased by 3.3 percent compared to a year ago, as a result of aggressive feedlot placements late in 2010. The question of how much herds expand in 2011will affect beef production in both the short run and the long run.

Possible beef cow herd expansion in 2011depends on several factors including how aggressively producers are trying to expand and what Mother Nature will allow the industry to do. Both of these are uncertain as producer intentions are not clear and the potential for significant drought continues to grow this winter. More fundamentally, the inventory numbers themselves suggest limits on what is possible and the implications of various expansion scenarios. Herd expansion will depend on the net change in cow numbers that result from cow culling and heifer placement in the herd. Cow culling has been at very high levels the last three years and the percent of the beef cow herd culled in 2010 was the highest level of any time in the last twenty years.

Although the number of heifers available as replacements is known from the inventory report, changes in the herd inventory over the year will depend on the percentage of heifers that actually enter the herd. In the last twenty years, an average of about 53 percent of reported replacement heifers on January 1 actually enter the herd during the year. The remaining heifers end up in the feeder supply for one reason or another. Over the last twenty years, this value has varied from a low of 45 percent to a high of about 60 percent, with one spike up to 69 percent in 1993. Not surprisingly, this percentage tends to increase during herd expansion and decrease during liquidation. In fact, this percentage often increases before the replacement heifer inventory begins to increase and is thus something of a leading indicator of herd expansion. Interestingly, this value increased sharply in 2009 and 2010, and although no herd expansion occurred, the implication is that herd decreases would have been more pronounced without this increased intensity of heifer placement. The actual number of heifers entering the beef herd increased each of the last three years because a higher percentage of a smaller replacement inventory was being utilized. In fact, the 2010 value of 57 percent was the fourth highest percentage of replacement heifers entering the herd in the period since 1990. The three higher percentages occurred in 1990, 1991 and 1993, all herd expansion years.

What is the impact on beef cow herd size if the trends of 2010 continue in 2011? Given the inventory values for January 1, beef cow culling (slaughter) and heifer placement at last year's rates would result in approximately another 1.9 percent decrease in the beef cow herd by January 1, 2012. A cow culling rate at the slightly lower 2008-2010 average would result in roughly a 1.5 percent decrease in the herd at current heifer placement rates. If the heifer placement rate drops to an average level, the herd size would decrease by 2 to 2.5 percent this year.

Is it possible to increase the beef cow herd in 2011? It will take roughly a 15 percent drop in beef cow slaughter year over year, at current heifer placement rates to hold the beef cow herd at current levels. A 15 percent drop in cow slaughter combined with even higher heifer placement rates could support up to a 0.5 percent increase in the beef cow herd. The required cow culling and heifer placement rates are possible but both would be near the limits of what has been observed in the past twenty years. However, even though 15 percent decreases in cow slaughter in one year have been observed in previous cattle cycles, strong cull cow values makes this less likely now. These reductions in cow slaughter and increased heifer placements have significant implications for slaughter supplies in 2011. Given, these limits, it appears that cow herd growth in 2011 is likely to be modest, at best, even if producers are ready and Mother Nature cooperates.

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

LIVE CATTLE futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) closed up on Monday. The FEB'11LC contract closed up $1.450/cwt at $108.950/cwt and $2.175/cwt over last report. The APR'11LC contract closed at $114.050/cwt, up $1.275/cwt and $2.375/cwt higher than last Monday. AUG'11LC futures closed at $114.850/cwt; up $0.950/cwt and $2.475/cwt over this time last week. Cattle were encouraged by higher hog prices. Prices for beef and pork are high now as a supply disruption in one market can support higher prices in the other. Hog movement to market has been severely restricted by bad winter weather. In addition, recent snow storms are slowing weight gains as reflected in recent cattle sales in Nebraska. Last Friday USDA's cattle inventory report showed the smallest U.S. cattle herd in 53 years but traders said that was expected. Additionally, the report showed the U.S. beef herd continuing to shrink. I conducted random producer interviews this week and found that producers are selling breeding stock because they expect feed prices to remain high. USDA put the choice beef cutout at $173.31/cwt; up $0.46/cwt but $0.31/cwt lower than a week ago. Cash cattle traded at $104-$105/cwt last week. USDA put the 5-area average cash cattle price at $104.35/cwt down $1.50 from this time last week. Processors are concerned with transportation disruptions and higher retail prices at meat displays slowing sales. According to HedgersEdge.com, the average packer margin was raised $18.05/hd to a positive $45.75/head based on the average buy of $105.34/cwt vs. the average breakeven of $108.75/cwt.

FEEDER CATTLE at the CME closed up on Monday. The MAR'11FC contracts finished up $1.775/cwt at $128.000/cwt and $1.650/cwt over last report. APR'11FC futures finished at $129.075/cwt; up $1.900/cwt and $2.750/cwt higher than this time last week. The AUG'11FC contract settled at $129.975/cwt, up $1.475/cwt and $2.675/cwt higher than last report. Feeder cattle found strength following the lead of late-summer delivery month in live cattle futures. This signals feedlots are expecting to be compensated for higher-priced feeders. Estimated receipts in Oklahoma City on Monday were put at 9,500 head vs. 9,829 last Monday. The CME 7-day average price for 65-849 lb feeders for 1/28 was put at $125.55/cwt; down $0.10/cwt. The CME feeder cattle index was placed at 125.65 cents/lb; down 0.53 cents/lb from Friday and 1.62 cents/lb lower than a week ago.

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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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