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OSU Extension BEEF Team
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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 643
July 1, 2009
Forage Focus: Oats, planted late, perhaps our most dependable forage?!?! - Curt Stivison, Fairfield SWCD Engineering Technician and Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension Fairfield County
Most know that for the past seven years, we've spent much time in Fairfield County investigating the virtues of oats as an annual forage when they are planted during mid to late summer, or even into early fall. While we've harvested from 2 to 5 tons, and consistently realized average yields of 3+ tons of dry matter from oats planted in July and August after a harvested wheat crop, it's also apparent that yield and quality can vary greatly as planting date, nitrogen fertilization, and perhaps even oat varieties differ from each field planted.
For those looking to grow a cost-effective alternative forage crop yet this summer, and who have wheat stubble available, we offer these observations and recommendations based on experiences since 2002:
* Optimum planting date for oats from the perspective of yield is the first week of August. Early August plantings also result in the highest total amount of TDN produced per acre. Later plantings will be slightly higher in quality, but not enough to offset the yield advantage of early August planting. While being more conducive to a mechanical harvest in early Fall, planting in early July reduces both yield and quality. The earlier oat plantings also exhibit more susceptibility to rust.
* Regardless the planting date, or variety, no-tilled seeding rates of from 80 to 100 pounds of oats have consistently resulted in optimum forage yields.
* Optimum nitrogen application rate is 40 to 50 pounds per acre. This application not only produces the highest yields, but at current values of nitrogen, it's also the most cost effective rate. Higher rates of nitrogen actually appear to depress yields based on our 2008 plot results.
* Bin run oats originating in Canada out perform, but possess similar quality at harvest as certified Armor oats.
* The optimum combination of productivity and quality of August planted oats arrives 60 to 75 days after planting. Oats planted in July mature more quickly and thus, rapidly decline in quality beginning 50 to 60 days after planting.
* Oats harvested 50-60 days after planting and while still in the boot stage of maturity will offer regrowth that may be grazed or sometimes even mechanically harvested a second time.
* A weed control application of glyphosate is a necessary and cost effective practice prior to oat planting.
An additional advantage observed when using oats for an annual forage crop is the opportunity to capture the total tonnage produced with a single harvest cutting if grazing is not an option. It's also important to note that the 3+ ton yields resulting from oats planted in early August after wheat and straw harvest, which have been experienced consistently in Fairfield County, exceed the average yields of the perennial hay crops produced in Fairfield County and also Ohio, on average, over the same time period.
If you've yet to attend any of our field days to see for yourself the results of summer seeded oats, this web link has photos and data of several of the past years' efforts as we explored the alternatives described above: http://beef.osu.edu/beef/graze/wntrgraz.htm.
Getting Cows Bred in July and August - Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky
One of the most challenging aspects of spring calving is trying to determine when to calve to maximize reproductive rate. Reproductive efficiency in a cow herd is most accurately measured by the term "percent calf crop weaned" which is calculated by dividing the number of calves weaned by the number of cows that were in the cow herd when the breeding season began the previous year. The two factors that affect the ability of a cow to wean a calf is pregnancy rate and calf death loss.
Most spring-calving herds begin calving sometime in February or March and end sometime in May or June. Calving in February and March can be challenging because both of these months are typically wet and/or cold. Wet/cold environments result in higher calf death loss; calf death losses average 5-7% for most spring calving herds. One method to reduce calf death loss is to calve when the weather is more accommodating. For example, death loss is much lower (1-2%) for cows that calve in the fall (September and October). One might think that calving in April and May could be a better option; the weather is certainly warmer and calf death loss will likely be lower. To calve in April and May, the breeding season would be start June 23rd and would last through the month of August. Unfortunately, breeding cattle during this time results in lower pregnancy rates and would put most beef cattle producers out of business.
Data from the University of Kentucky Research Center at Princeton demonstrate the impact of breeding season on reproductive rate. In this trial, cows were exposed to a 45-day natural service breeding season. The breeding seasons were early (4/21-6/5), typical (5/21-7/6), or late (6/19-8/4). Pregnancy rates declined dramatically in cows that were bred later in the summer. Pregnancy rates were 89% for cows bred early, 78% for cows bred during the typical time, and only 59% for cows bred to calve later (April/May). Therefore, in Kentucky, cows that are bred to calve later in the spring will likely have lower calf death loss but considerably fewer of the cows will actually get pregnant. Why is pregnancy rate so low for cows in July and August?
The main factor that reduces pregnancy rates in our state, and others in the fescue belt, is heat stress. Heat stress occurs when the body temperature is elevated for more than two degrees above normal for more than 48 consecutive hours. Heat stress reduces pregnancy rates by increasing embryonic mortality. Developing embryos/pregnancies can be lost at two different periods of pregnancy; before Day 7 (loss of the developing embryo) and from Day 25-45 (early fetal loss). Cows that experience embryonic loss in the first week of pregnancy are repeat-breeders; they come back into heat 20-21 days after service. Cows that experience fetal loss from Day 25-45 are normally those cows that conceived early in the breeding season (end of May) but were exposed to extreme heat stress 25-45 days later. Data from trials at the University of Kentucky illustrate that fetal death loss ranges from 5-25% depending upon the level of heat stress. Cows that experience fetal death loss are typically open at the end of the breeding season.
The heat stress problems in our state are the result of consumption of endophyte-infected fescue. Endophyte is a fungus that grows in fescue and it produces chemical compounds that reduce the ability of a cow to dissipate heat. These chemicals redirect blood flow in an animal's body such that the blood supply pools in the interior regions of the body. Normally in the summer an animals blood supply flows more to the exterior of the body so that it can be cooled. The redirection of the blood flow reduces the ability of an animal to cool itself during the night and results in tremendous heat stress on the body and lower pregnancy rates.
How can we reduce the impact of heat stress? The first logical approach would be to limit the access of your cows to endophyte-infected fescue during the heat stress months (mid-June thru August). Grazing options include warm season grasses, endophyte-free fescue, predominately legume pastures, and/or sorgum sudan grass. Cows could graze endophyte-infected pastures until late-May to mid-June while the summer grazing pastures grow. Cows could then be turned out on the "summer pastures" until the end of the breeding season. If non-endophyte pastures are not feasible, then diluting the fescue with legumes and/or other feedstuffs will help reduce the impact of the heat stress. One supplemental feed that appears to reduce the effects of heat stress is fat. Research at the University of Kentucky has demonstrated that feeding cows high fat diets while grazing highly infected endophyte fescue during the breeding season can help reduce heat stress and improve pregnancy rates. In these trials, cows were fed either a commercial fat supplement free choice or whole soybeans (3 lbs/hd/day) during the breeding season (6/5-8/15). Fat supplementation increased hair shedding, reduced cow body temperature, and improve pregnancy rates from 56% to 78%.
The decision of when to concentrate your calving in the spring is tough. Life is easier if your cows could calve later but fewer of them will calve. With little doubt, calving earlier will increase pregnancy rates but will also likely increase calf death loss. Economically, 5-7% death loss is more financially sound than only 60-70% pregnancy rates. Use of alternative summer grazing systems to reduce the effects of endophyte-infected fescue is a logical but sometimes difficult solution. Feeding cows fat supplements will help but perhaps the best solution is to completely change your breeding and calving season. Cows that calve in the fall have lower calf death loss, higher pregnancy rates, and shorter calving seasons than cows that calve in the spring.
Why Have a Calving Season?? - Glenn Selk, OSU Extension Cattle Reproduction Specialist
One of the most asked questions in the cattle industry in the Southern United States: If I "pull" the bulls out for part of the year, won't I lose an opportunity to get a few calves? Should I leave the bull out with cows year-round? Here is the answer: A research analysis of 394 ranch observations from the Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico SPA (standardized performance analysis) data set provided insight into the age old argument about "leaving the bull out" or having a defined breeding season. OSU and Texas A&M Agricultural Economists (Parker, et al) presented a paper at the 2004 Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists. They found a positive relationship between number of days of the breeding season and the production cost per hundredweight of calf weaned. Also they reported a negative relationship between number of days of the breeding season and pounds of calf weaned per cow per year.
The data suggested that for each day the breeding season was lengthened, the annual cost of producing a hundred pounds of weaned calf increased by 4.7 cents and pounds of calf weaned per cow per year decreased by 0.158 pounds. The range of breeding seasons in the data set was from extremely short (less than one month) to 365 days or continuous presence of the bull. The trend lines that resulted from the analysis of the data give us an opportunity to evaluate the economic importance of a defined breeding season. The producer that leaves the bull out year-round (365 days) would sell 45.82 fewer pounds of calf per cow per year on the average than producers with a 75 day breeding season. That same producer would have $13.63 greater costs per hundredweight of weaned calf than the producer that used a 75 day breeding season. In this era of cost/price squeezes, a well-defined breeding and calving season provides a better opportunity to survive the volatility of cattle prices and input costs.
How to Convert from Year-round Calving to a Controlled Breeding Season - Kent Barnes, Oklahoma State Extension Area Livestock Specialist and Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State Extension Cattle Reproduction Specialist
Maintaining a controlled breeding and calving season can be one of the most important management tools for cow-calf producers. A uniform, heavier, and valuable calf crop is one key reason for keeping the breeding season short. Plus, more efficient cow supplementation and cow herd health programs are products of a short breeding season. However, converting from a year-long breeding season to a shortened 2 to 3 month breeding season should not be done haphazardly.
A system for converting from year-round to a 90-day controlled calving season over a period of three years would present less loss and fewer problems than to try to convert in one year. The following steps are suggested for getting on a controlled breeding system:
* Build a good strong bull pen or well-fenced bull pasture. An electric fence in addition to the regular fence may be needed.
* Remove bull from herd. Select removal date to coincide with the latest date you want calves born.
* Sixty days after removing the bulls from the herd (or at a convenient time near this date), pregnancy check all cows and cull all non-pregnant dry, breeding-age females that have been running with the bull and all non-pregnant cows with calves 5 months of age or older.
* Put bulls back with herd the first year so that calving season will be six months long.
* Start breeding replacement heifers 20 to 30 days ahead of the final long-range planned breeding date for your herd.
* The second year, follow the same system as outlined about except start breeding so that calving season will be about four and a half months long.
* The third year follow the same system as outlined above, except start breeding season so that calving season will be 75 to 90 days. Also, cull all open cows this year when pregnancy checking regardless of the age of their calves. The breeding season may be reduced even further in the following years.
What's up (down) with the cull cow market?- Dillon M. Feuz, Livestock Marketing Specialist, Utah State University (6/22/09)
I have been following the cull cow market for 20 years and I have analyzed historical data since before I was born. Of all agricultural markets, this market is more consistent and more predictable than any others I have analyzed. I have looked at cull cow price data from Billings, MT to Amarillo, TX, from Salina, UT to Lexington, KY. The seasonal patterns are nearly identical.
Cull cow prices increase from January through about April, and then maintain or increase slightly in value through August and then prices decline rapidly into October. The prices remain seasonally low through November and then, here is the big unknown, sometimes they stay low in December and sometimes they increase in December. You can take that to the bank. The most reliable part of this seasonal pattern has been the decrease from August to November. In the last 20 years, there has only been one year when prices were higher in November than they were in August - 2003 - the year the border was closed to Canada and steer prices increased 50 percent in a couple of months time.
The typical decline from August into November is about 15 percent in most markets. In dollar values, that would be a decrease of almost $7 per cwt. if cows were at $45 in August to about $38 in November.
Surprisingly, cull cow prices have declined from the $48-49 level for Canner/Cutter grades in mid May to $41-42 this past week. Likewise, utility grade cow prices have declined from $54 to $46 over that time period. That is the 15 percent decline I would expect to occur in September and October.
Why have we experienced a 15 percent decline in the cull cow market in the last three weeks? I know you think you have the answer; it is all those dairy cows flooding the market from the CWT herd buyout program. If that is the reason, then it is mostly psychological at this point in time because the numbers do not support it. In the last few weeks, we have been slaughtering about 111,000 cull cows and bulls per week. That is only up about 1,500 head from the March/April average weekly kill, and that is below the year ago level of about 115,000 head per week. Granted, dairy slaughter has increased from 44,000 per week last year to about 50,000 per week this year; an increase of 13 percent. However, beef cow slaughter has decreased from 71,000 head to 62,000 head. Just looking at the slaughter numbers, I would think we should be seeing near steady cow prices and that beef cattlemen could be justified in blaming their dairy cousins for cow prices not being higher.
In addition to the dairy CWT buyout program, what else might be pressuring cull cow prices lower? Fed steer and heifer prices have been on the defensive the last few weeks, but they have only decreased about four percent in price over the same time period. Choice box beef cutout values have declined about eight percent during that time and the Cutter Cow Cutout Value has declined seven percent. All of this points to a general weakness in beef demand at the moment that is contributing to the deterioration in cull cow prices.
In my opinion, what is driving cull cow prices lower; 1) weakness in beef demand, 2) increased dairy cow slaughter, and 3) the psychological impact of the CWT buyout program.
Most cow-calf producers are not too concerned about cull cow prices at the moment. The volume of sales is always much less this time of the year than the volume in the fall. The big question then is what will the price be this fall? Perhaps prices will stabilize at these levels and then there will not be much of a decline from August into October. However, I suspect that dairy slaughter numbers will still be running above year ago levels and beef cull cow marketing will also increase seasonally. If nothing has improved in the general economy to increase the demand for beef, then this seasonal increase in supply will likely bring about more downward pressure on cull cow prices. With that scenario, many Canner/Cutter prices will be in the mid $30's per cwt. and Bonner and Breaker cows will probably sell around $40 per cwt.
What can you as a producer do in this situation? My first suggestion would be to try and cull earlier rather than later in the fall. Prices are generally higher earlier, and typically cows lose weight and body condition in the late fall before being place on supplemental feed. If culling early is not an option, then perhaps there may be some profit in holding on to those cull cows and feeding them for 90 days. The price of hay and corn will have a big impact on how profitable that feeding enterprise is, but there may also be a greater than normal price rally in the cull cow market if the dairy CWT program has finished.
Weekly Roberts Agricultural Commodity Market Report - Mike Roberts, Commodity Marketing Agent, Virginia Tech
LIVE CATTLE futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) gained on short covering and buy stops Monday. The AUG'09LC contract closed up $2.150/cwt at $84.625/cwt; $1.775/cwt higher than this time last week. DEC'09LC futures closed at $90.250/cwt; up $1.575/cwt and $2.425/cwt higher than last report. Action was brisk with approximately 400 limit-up bids unfilled in the August contract at the close. Early buying sparked the advance and fueled fast action at times, according to floor sources. Beef demand looks better with slaughter still up placed at 130,000 head last week vs. 127,000 this time last year. Cash cattle prices were level with last week's trade and several traders said they expect them to strengthen going against the seasonal slump in beef prices. However, tight supplies on negative producer margins have decreased stocks. Packers may pick up the buying pace this week to keep processing lines full but the shortened processing week may keep the lid on. USDA's 5-area price average was placed at $81.63/cwt. Early Monday USDA put the Choice Boxed Beef cutout at $139.38/cwt, up $0.45/cwt but $1.71/cwt lower than a week ago. A beef recall of 421,000 lbs did not seem to affect trading. According to HedgersEdge.com average packer margins were raised $4.85/head to a positive $13.55/head based on the average buy of $81.51/cwt vs. the average breakeven of $82.57/cwt. It is still a good idea to hold cattle to heavier weights if you can. If you need corn now is good time to buy near-term needs.
FEEDER CATTLE at the CME rose sharply on Monday. AUG'09FC futures finished at $101.725/cwt; up $2.750/cwt and $2.800/cwt higher than last report. The OCT'09FC contract closed at $101.325/cwt; up $2.750/cwt and $2.275/cwt higher than this time last week. Live cattle and lower feed costs on top of short covering and buy-stops were very supportive. October/January bull spreads were noted. The latest CME Feeder Cattle Index was placed at $97.67/cwt, up $0.44/cwt and $1.30/cwt higher than a week ago. It is a very good idea to move feeders when ready.
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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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