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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 742
July 6, 2011
Forage Focus: Is it Really Better than Snowballs . . . part 2! - Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension
Two weeks ago in this publication while we speculated on the quality of the forages we'd been able to harvest to that point around Ohio we asked, "Is it really better than snowballs?" This week, I can tell you that the early forage test returns suggest it might even be worse than we might have anticipated. To this point I've only seen the results from half dozen forage samples, but I suspect they are a good representation. Fact is, if fed as long stem hay in a bale ring, few samples I've seen are sufficient to maintain a mature dry cow in mid gestation. These forages certainly won't support the cow as she nears calving and lactation next spring!
Here's what the forage samples I've seen exhibit.
* The first sample of an orchard grass-timothy-fescue hay was made May 29 in southern Ohio, and had a crude protein of 8.99 (dry matter basis). The most recent sample shows crude protein at only 6.24%. And, there was lots of first cutting hay made around Ohio after that!
* In the first field mentioned above, subsequent cuts made on the first cutting declined about 1% in protein per week of harvest delay. ADF and NDF went up comparably (indicating poorer quality) in the subsequent cuts.
* For those who prefer to look at and talk Relative Feed Values, we're talking mostly 80's and low 90's, also declining as harvest was delayed by weather conditions and workload.
As described in the OSU Extension Fact Sheet, Forage Testing for Beef Cattle, ADF (acid detergent fiber) is an indication of the cellulose and lignin content of a forage. NDF (neutral detergent fiber) is determined from the amount of cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose in the forage.
As harvest is delayed, regardless the reason, ADF and NDF values in forages increase, and digestibility, and the ability of a cow to consume enough forage in 24 hours to satisfy her daily nutritional needs declines. The challenge of effectively managing and utilizing the forage quality we have stored brings us to essentially three alternatives: a) increase the digestibility of the forage, b) supplement the forage with concentrate which meets the needs of the cow, or c) reduce the nutritional needs of the brood cow. In coming weeks, we'll explore each of those options in more detail.
Also, you should make plans now to attend the Ohio Cattlemen's Summer Roundup on August 27 when making 'feed' from poor quality forages will be one of the topics explored on that day. More details will be available soon at http://ohiocattle.org .
In the mean time, get your forages tested and inventoried! What you discover will likely have long term implications on the profitability of your herd.
Is it Time to Consider Early Weaning?
One way to reduce the nutritional needs of a brood cow is to wean her calf. Dr. Tom Turner, OSU Department of Animal Sciences Emeritus, suggests the following considerations regarding weaning management.
* Beef cow lactation peaks at about six weeks post calving and continues to decline.
* July and August pasture growth and moisture are generally limited.
* The number of cows most beef producers keep is a function of how many can be carried in July and August.
* Dry cows consume significantly less feed than lactating cows. Some studies would suggest as much as fifty percent less, or the difference between 4% of their body weight on a dry matter basis during lactation versus only 2% when dry.
* The combination of reduced milk production, decreased pasture and increased calf size may (and probably does) result in calves not receiving adequate energy to maximize growth during this most efficient growth period of their life.
* Calves nursing cows are not efficient in converting creep feed to gain. Most studies would show that it takes 8-10 pounds of creep feed to make one pound of gain.
* Early weaned calves will convert feed to gain at about a 3.5 to 1 ratio.
* Early weaned calves will weigh about 100 pounds more at normal weaning time than calves left on the cow.
* Calves can be successfully and relatively easily weaned from 70 to 120 days of age and started on a grain diet.
* Calves averaging 100 days of age and 300 pounds take up very little barn or shed space.
* If retaining ownership, calves will reach harvest weight earlier and have a higher quality grade.
* Dry cows that have had their calves weaned early will enter the winter in better body condition.
* Calves born in February, March and early April can be weaned on or about July 1 - the typical start of dry, hot weather in most parts of the country.
In summary, early weaning can increase calf weight significantly and decrease cow input. Therefore one could carry more cows on the same land and wean heavier calves with a smaller amount of feed to the calves.
Pregnancy Examination - Is it Worth the Cost? - Dr. Michelle Arnold, Large Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky
With the arrival of spring or summer, thoughts of working cattle begin to stir in most beef cattle producers' minds. However, with the high cost of vaccines and dewormers, the amount of time it takes to round up the herd, and the aggravations associated with herd work, these are not often pleasant thoughts. The last thing a producer wants to do is add time and cost to an already difficult, expensive, and exhausting day or days of work. In this light, it is easy to see why one important management practice frequently overlooked or neglected by many beef producers is pregnancy examination. According to the 1997 National Animal Health Management Survey ("NAHMS"), only one fifth of cow/calf producers have their cows checked for pregnancy although the benefits easily outweigh the cost.
The most obvious benefit of knowing which cows are open is cost savings. A pregnancy examination will typically average $5 per head but carrying an open cow over the winter may cost several hundred dollars in hay alone (not to mention mineral, supplemental feed, vaccines, and dewormers that add additional carrying costs). Knowing who to sell allows one to make good marketing decisions such as:
1. Weaning calves early and selling culls when the cull market is high
2. Selling open heifers when they are younger and still fit the feeder market
3. Sorting off and feeding thin cows to bring a higher price and sell more pounds
Beyond the marketing aspects, pregnancy checking can be a tremendous decision making tool. Cows can be grouped into early or late season calvers and fed accordingly. Scours vaccine can also be administered at the right time to optimize colostral antibodies for the calf. Pregnancy exams are also important for the measurement of herd health and reproductive status. More open cows than expected (more than 5% open at pregnancy check) may indicate an abortion problem caused by an infectious organism such as the IBR or BVD viruses. It could also be an indicator of a sexually transmissible disease such as vibriosis or trichomoniasis. Nutritional deficiencies including a lack of energy, trace minerals, and/or protein may delay estrus and conception due to poor egg development and subsequent ovulation, resulting in open cows. Occasionally damage to the reproductive tract due to a difficult birth may result in a cow that will not breed back. Infertile bulls may be discovered at pregnancy checking time although hopefully too many cows regularly returning to heat would be noticed prior to the end of breeding season. However, in a herd observed infrequently or in a far off pasture, bull problems can easily be missed. Animals that are detected open early can then be immediately returned to aggressive breeding programs using other reproductive technologies.
Pregnancy examinations can be accomplished by several different methods including rectal palpation, ultrasound or a blood test. Rectal palpation performed by an experienced veterinarian can estimate the approximate stage of pregnancy and can be detected 35-40 days after breeding. Veterinarians use the art of palpation of fetal membranes, position of the uterus, size of the cotyledons and size/strength of pulse in the uterine arteries to determine pregnancy status and length of gestation. Disadvantages to palpation are few and often exaggerated. Rough handling of the fetus or membranes early in gestation has been associated with abortion but it is difficult to differentiate these from the "normal" amount of expected embryonic loss. Another concern is blood borne diseases such as anaplasmosis and bovine leukemia virus that can be transmitted cow-to-cow by blood present on an examination sleeve used in multiple cows. Bovine practitioners are very aware of this danger and change sleeves when blood is present or some doctors use a new sleeve on each cow. Ultrasound can detect pregnancy earlier than palpation (around day 27 in the hands of a skilled operator) but is more expensive-largely due to the cost of the equipment. It can provide more detailed information such as viability of the fetus, presence of twins and sex of the calf and it is considered extremely accurate. Both ultrasound and palpation provide immediate answers so cows can be sorted from the chute without handling multiple times.
A blood test ("BioPRYN") is commercially available that detects a protein produced by the placenta which is detectable in serum. Heifers and cows can be tested at 30 days or later after breeding but a cow must be at least 90 days post calving due to residual protein from the previous pregnancy. The blood must be drawn and sent to a participating laboratory for results so cows would need to be sorted at a later date after results were reported. BioPRYN is advertised as 99 percent accurate when it identifies open cows at least 30 days post breeding with less than 1 percent showing false-open (false-negative). Correct open detection is very important because giving prostaglandin to a pregnant cow will often cause abortion. The false-pregnant (false-positive) rate for the test is approximately 5 percent.
There are many ways a producer can detect early pregnancies in his herd and multiple benefits available from this management tool. Producers are encouraged to work with their local veterinarian to schedule this valuable service. With so many potential benefits for one relatively small cost, it is one of the easiest economic decisions for a cow-calf producer to make.
Cattle Outlook, July 1, 2011 - Ron Plain, Ag Economics, Missouri University
The big farm news this week was Thursday's USDA crop acreage report. USDA said 92.282 million acres are planted to corn, up 4.09 million from last year, and 1.515 million acres above the average of pre-release trade estimates. USDA also said corn stocks on June 1 totaled 3.67 billion bushels, 370 million bushels above trade estimates. The combination forced corn futures down the limit on Thursday. For the week, the July corn contract lost 29 cents and closed at $6.41 per bushel on Friday. December corn ended the week at $5.98 per bushel.
Despite record high cattle prices, indications are the cattle herd is still shrinking. Cow slaughter during the first half of 2011 was slightly higher than a year earlier which was 4% above the year before. The weak economy, high corn prices, and drought in the southern plains are likely reasons for the continuing herd decline.
The 5-area daily weighted average price for slaughter steers sold through Thursday of this week on a live weight basis was $110.32/cwt, down $1.85 from last week. Steers sold on a dressed weight basis this week averaged $177.09/cwt, $1.77 lower than the week before. This week last year, live steer prices averaged $91.04/cwt and carcass prices averaged $145.57/cwt.
Friday morning the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $178.35/cwt, down 58 cents from last week. The select carcass cutout was down $1.35 from the previous Friday to $172.48 per hundred pounds of carcass weight.
This week's cattle slaughter totaled 667,000 head, down 2.5% from the week before, but up 0.9% compared to the same week last year. The average steer dressed weight for the week ending June 18 was 832
pounds, up 3 pounds from the week before and 12 pounds heavier than for the same week in 2010. Steer weights have been above year-ago levels for 28 consecutive weeks. Year-to-date beef production is up 0.5%.
Next week begins with Independence Day, so total slaughter for the week will be light. Hopefully, grocery store meat cases will be depleted by Tuesday morning as lots of folks get outdoors to grill steaks.
Cash bids for feeder cattle around the country this week were mostly steady to $6 higher than last week. Oklahoma City prices this week were $1 to $3 higher with price ranges for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $153-$158, 450-500# $143-$146.50, 500-550# $135.50-$146.50, 550-600# $138.25-$144.75, 600-650# $131.50-$143, 650-700# $130-$143, 700-750# $134-$142, 750-800# $134-$139, 800-900# $128-$138 and 900-1000# $123-$128/cwt.
The August fed cattle futures contract ended the week at $112.85/cwt, down 65 cents from last week's close. October ended the week at $119.67/cwt, down 8 cents. The December contract closed at $122.22. February settled at $123.95/cwt.
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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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