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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter

Issue # 495

July 12, 2006

Late-calving Cows Can Be Costly - Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

The heat of summer is here and the forage is drying up as usual. Hope is part of human nature, but hope is sometimes the only rain one gets.

The chat about what would be ideal gets producers nowhere, so producers need to be proactive by having a plan. Most long-range ranch operations do have or should have a contingency plan. The most popular and common sense plan is when there is grass, have a few extra stock around to graze it.

An extra pen of yearlings, a few more heifers than normal or a little lighter culling could result in extra cattle to harvest grass and add cash in the fall. Activating a contingency plan (moving to a drylot or selling them) should remove those cattle from the operation.

Pairs still are selling well. Calves and yearlings are bringing good money. At the local livestock barn in southwestern North Dakota, five-weight and six-weight calves or yearlings (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) are selling from $109.50 to $117.75 per hundredweight.

Older cows with calves at the side brought from $1,085 to $1,475 a pair. Three-weight type calves were selling for $500 per head.

Reducing cattle numbers is like cleaning house. Each year an operation accumulates some odds and ends, but if feed is looking short, don't hesitate to sell. Early sales can free up acreage for younger, more productive cows. Waiting until everyone decides to sell is not the answer, either, so plan ahead.

The principle behind the second cut is reproduction. Reproduction pays the bills. As was noted a couple of weeks ago, a bull that doesn't settle cows costs money and so do cows that are not bred to calf early in the calving season.

Data assembled through the Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System (CHAPS) reveals that 62.4 percent of the cows living in the upper Great Plains calve within the first 21 days of the calving season. A total of 86.4 percent of the cows calve within the first 42 days of the calving season. The typical growth rate on these calves is 2.38 pounds per day on northern pastures, nursing medium- to large-frame cows.

There are certain management practices that can be discussed involving these numbers, but let's focus on the remaining 13.6 percent that did not calve until 42 days after the start of the calving season or the 6.6 percent that never calved at all. Both of these groups are target groups for early culling. (In BeefTalk 293, one needs to recall the calving distribution table is triggered by the date the third mature cow calves.)

The cow that never calved should not be on the pasture anyway, but just in case she is, pull her in and sell her. The late-calving cows, as defined by the calving distribution table as those that calved after 42 days into the calving season, are most likely to breed late in the next calving season. These cows also should be noted.

Every calf late-calving cows produce already has given up a maximum of 42 days of calf gain. With an average daily gain of 2.38 pounds a day, late-born calves, for all practical purposes, are 100 pounds lighter.

For late-calving cows to improve or breed earlier, they need more feed, but the shortage of feed is the very reason this article is being written. So, pull out the calving book, draw a line 42 days into the calving season. Ask yourself, if cows need to go, maybe, just maybe, should the late-calving cows be candidates for a pair sale?

Farmer Frank and the Tale of the Bull Calf Dilemma - Dr. John F. Currin, VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, VA Tech

Farmer Frank was sitting at the market watching the cattle being sold. He has always in the past bought steer calves, but he noticed that quite a few of the calves being sold were bull calves. He saw quite a few bull calves that he would have been interested in buying if they were steers. Frank wondered to himself if it would be worthwhile to start buying bull calves. The main question he had was how much less a bull calf was worth in order for him to buy it.

Many stocker operators buy bull calves. There are many reasons for them to do this and they include:

1) To get enough cattle to meet their needs, they must buy both steers and bulls.
2) They perceive the bull calves to be a better bargain than equivalent quality steer calves.

The real question is how much more a bull calf costs after you purchase him than an equivalent steer calf? After calculating the additional "costs" associated with bull calves, you can then calculate how much you should initially pay for them at the market relative to the price of steer calves. The extra costs associated with buying bull calves include:

1) The cost of castration
2) Decreased weight gain post castration
3) Increased likelihood of getting shipping fever (BRDC)
4) Increased likelihood of calf loss to death (from BRDC or castration complication)

The following tables compare the health and performance in steers versus bulls. The bulls in this study are relatively lightweight (3 weights). Since castration complications increase the heavier the weight of the bull calf, the differences seen in these experiments would likely be greater the heavier the weight of the bull calves purchased.

Table 1. Receiving performance Experiment 1


Item Steers Banded bulls Cut bulls
Calves 83 74 106
Pens 2 3 3
Weight, lb
Initial 337 329 326
Final 420 400 409
Daily gain, lb/d 1.99b 1.67c 1.92b
Intake, lb/d 8.00 7.81 7.57
Feed:gain 3.36 3.69 3.44
aCalves entering the feedlot as steers; calves banded on d 1; calves surgically castrated on d 1
b,cMeans within a row containing different superscripts differ significantly (P<.05).

Effect of Castration on Health and Performance of Newly Received Stressed Feedlot Calves, B.A. Berry et al

Table 2. Performance data (Experiment 2)


Item Steers Cut bulls
Calves 24 81
Weight, lb
Initial 363 372
Final 462 448
Daily gain, lb/d 2.35 1.77
Intake, lb/d 8.85 7.59
Feed:gain 3.77 4.32
aCalves entering the feedlot as steers; calves surgically castrated on d 1

Effect of Castration on Health and Performance of Newly Received Stressed Feedlot Calves, B.A. Berry et al

Table 3. Health response of steers vs bulls (Experiment 2)


Item Steers Cut bulls
Calves 24 81
Pullsb .50 .93
1st Med. Ratec .33 .59
Retreat rated .00 .12
2nd Med. Ratee .00 .11
% Treated
at least once 33.30 59.30
> 1 time .00 23.50
aCalves entering the feedlot as steers; calves surgically castrated on d 1
bAverage number of times calves were removed from their pen for possible treatment
cAverage number of calves which received Nuflor®
dAverage number of calves that received first treatment followed by second treatment within 7 d
eAverage number of calves that received a second treatment after recovery from initial sickness

Effect of Castration on Health and Performance of Newly Received Stressed Feedlot Calves, B.A. Berry et al

In one of the studies listed above, bull calves performed better when castrated instead of being banded. Some larger stocker operators have moved away from the banding of large bull calves because of the effect on performance. As can be seen from the above experiments, bull calves purchased as stockers are worth less than steers regardless of the method of castration. A good rule of thumb is that bull calves are worth $1-$2 per hundred weight less than comparable steers (Table 4).

Table 4

Weight of bulls purchased

Decreased value of bull calves relative to comparable steer calves (per hundred weight)
300 lbs $3-$6
400 lbs $4-$8
500 lbs $5-$10
600 lbs $6-$12

Forage Focus: What is that plant with the yellow flower in my pasture fields? - Jeff McCutcheon, Knox County Extension Educator, Ag & NR

Recently we have received several inquires about yellow-flowered, clover-like plants in pastures. Maybe it is because producers are aware of cressleaf groundsel, Senecio glabellas, and are on the lookout for it (see http://fairfield.osu.edu/ag/beef/beefMy17.html) or it could be that environmental conditions are right for these plants to thrive. Most producers want to know what it is and if it is poisonous?

Typically in Ohio, yellow-flowered, clover-like plants encountered in pasture fields include; sweet clover, birdsfoot trefoil, black medic, large hop clover, or hop clover. Sweet clover and birdsfoot trefoil are generally familiar to most livestock producers. One distinguishing characteristic of sweet clover, Melilotus officinalis, is a raceme, or long stalk of flowers. Birdsfoot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, is not trifoliate; it has three leaflets at the end of a short petiole and two at the base. It has an umbrella shaped flower arrangement, or umbel, with 4-8 distinct flowers.

The plants that I have been questioned about turned out to be black medic, Medicago lupulina, large hop clover Trifolium campestre, or hop clover T. agrarium. These three are similar in characteristics with black medic being the smaller plant, in height and leaf/flower size. One way to distinguish them is by mature seedheads. Black medic loses it's flower petals leaving a tight cluster of black seed. The hop clovers have flower petals that turn brown and remain attached. Here are some websites that show some of the differences:





All three are annual legumes that would be considered low yielding. Just like alfalfa and clover these can cause bloat. Each of these is associated with droughty, infertile, eroded soils. All three are more tolerant of acid soils than the other legumes. Usually I can find all three in roadside ditches.

I am reminded of the statement, "What you have growing in your pasture fields is what will survive your management." If you are noticing a large amount of these annual legumes in your pastures it may be time to look at your pasture fertility program. You can remove nutrients by taking a cutting of hay from the field. Animals will also move nutrients from fields to areas around watering points and shade. This movement takes time but it does happen.

Potato Leafhopper - Ron Hammond & Bruce Eisley, OSU Extension Entomologists

Based on our own sampling in alfalfa and soybeans and with the reports we are receiving, potato leafhoppers are occurring in high numbers. Growers are advised to check their alfalfa for potential problems. The threshold on leafhopper-susceptible alfalfa is as follows: when the average number of leafhoppers in a single sample (10 sweeps) equals or is greater than the height of the alfalfa, treatment should be considered if harvest is more than 7 days away. The thresholds are higher for glandular-haired varieties rated as highly resistant to potato leafhopper (at least 50% resistance ratings). The threshold for established stands of highly resistant alfalfa is 3X the regular threshold. This year, these thresholds might be reached because of the larger leafhopper populations we are experiencing. We recommend this threshold for any highly resistant alfalfa that is beyond its first cutting of the seeding year. However, we feel that the regular thresholds should be used for potato leafhopper resistant alfalfa prior to the first cutting of the seeding year, which includes most fields planted this spring.

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

LIVE CATTLE in Chicago (CME) didn't get to react to the latest news report on the wire at 5:00 p.m., EST, Monday that the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA) is currently conducting confirmatory tests for samples from a 50-month old dairy cow for BSE. Preliminary reports were not able to rule out BSE. This could have an impact on the market if the tests confirm BSE to be the cause of the illness given the age of the animal. Some traders felt this most recent news could delay the reopening of the Japanese and South Korean markets to U.S. cattle as we are a trading partner with Canada. "As long as we commingle U.S and Canadian beef it is going to be a problem," one trader said. All live cattle contracts gapped lower a range of $0.50/cwt-$2.075/cwt on Monday in carry-over technical and fundamental selling leaving classic island tops in both the AUG'06LC and the OCT'06LC. The AUG'06LC closed off $1.125/cwt at $84.20/cwt while the OCT'06LC declined the most, closing at $87.05/cwt, down $2.075/cwt. Lower cash beef and live cattle prices also added downward pressure. U.S. Plains fed cattle traded $1.00/cwt lower late Friday at $83.00/cwt-$83.50/cwt and could we could see $79.00cwt-$80.00/cwt this week. USDA on Monday put the choice beef cutout at its lowest level in three weeks at $151.86/cwt, down $0.53/cwt from Friday and down $1.31/cwt from previous reports. The average beef plant margin for Monday was down $4.80/cwt at $23.05/head. Early last week the plant margin was $41.70/head, according to HedgersEdge.com. Week before last these contracts all registered classic bearish tendencies; a) extremely high Relative Strength Indices (RSI's), b) increasing open interest, and c) declining volume. On June 26th, the 4-day moving average turned down but had not crossed the 10-day or 20-day MAs. Since fundamentals drive direction and technical signs indicate when to pull the trigger on a trade, it was anticipated that the market would break this way within 7 - 14 days of the report. It happened. Chart based sell orders accelerated trading at times as technical traders turned bearish. Coupled with the fundamental of lower seasonal demand, futures closed lower on Thursday and Friday last week after posting contract highs in some contracts. Technically and fundamentally speaking this gap looks more like a "break away" gap vs. corrective a gap. This means that the market is expected to continue its bearish direction rather than filling the gap established today. A measuring gap will be something to look for over the next few days. Cash sellers should keep sales as current as possible pushing weights to the limit. Hedgers are strongly encouraged to consider being in short positions in the AUG'06LC and the OCT'06LC futures. Remember sell orders are clustered in the $83.80-$83.90 range on the AUG'06LC and $86.80-$86.90 range in the OCT'06LC. Sell-when-touched orders should be placed $0.80-$0.90 lower than those levels on both contracts to have a good chance at getting filled. Corn users should not consider pricing more corn needs at this time.

FEEDER CATTLE at the CME followed live cattle as higher CBOT corn futures added bearish pressure. The AUG'06FC closed off $1.775/cwt at $114.125/cwt and the SEPT'06FC finished at $114.025/cwt, down $1.625/cwt. Both months were two-week lows. Feeder cattle followed live cattle for the same technical and fundamental reasons. Further bearish notes are out-of-line feeding ration costs and returns. Feeding margins need to narrow or cattle feeders will still be losing money. Trading activity also offset recent gains in the CME Feeder Cattle index. The CME Feeder Cattle index for July 6 was up $0.97/cwt at $115.14/cwt. Some support was seen coming from tight feeder supplies. Cattle feeders should be aggressively pushing cattle out the sales door and hedging incoming cattle. It is not recommended to forward price feed input at this time.

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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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