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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
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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 789
June 13, 2012
Forage Focus: Is it Time to Alter Your Grazing Management? - Jeff McCutcheon, Extension Educator, Morrow County
Talk about extremes. Last year we were still talking about planting at this time. This year, first cutting hay is in the barn and we are wondering if there will be any more. According to the information in the Ohio Pasture Measurement Project (weekly reports can be found at http://ohioforages.blogspot.com) forage growth has not been what we have come to expect the last few years. With no rain in the forecast what is a grazier to do? Relax. Remember, we have been here before - dry periods are expected, but not enjoyed. Be sure to check out previous articles in BEEF Cattle if you don't believe me (mainly the years of 2007, 2002 and 1999 if memory serves). Of course, if you just started managing grazing in the last two wet years, consider this a crucial part of your education. Many experienced graziers refer to it as the school of hard knocks.
Rotations need to slow down. Grass is growing slower, it takes longer to start regrowth after being grazed and it takes longer to reach optimum grazing mass (height) for the next grazing. The number of days grazing a paddock can be increased, as long as you do not over graze. The rest period needs to increase. For most graziers this means pulling more acreage into the rotation. Many use fields where they made first cutting hay. Another consideration is unused fields in your area. Every year I get calls from landowners looking for producers to mow their fields and take all the hay. They just want it mowed. Check around, many of these could easily be grazed.
Every grazier works to protect their perennial forage resource. Do not overgraze! Overgrazing is something we try to avoid in normal years, but critical in dry ones. Overgrazing during a drought can cause slower recovery when we do get rain, reduced productivity even longer after recovery and can cause stand loss.
During dry periods we need to be extremely protective of our residual. Residual is the term used for the amount of green forage left after grazing. Residual is an important aspect of managing grazing. In a dry year it becomes even more critical. The amount of residual has an effect on many things.
The amount of residual affects root growth. Many of you have seen the study from 1955 on leaf area removal and root growth. This data showed that at 50% leaf removal only 2% of the roots stopped growing. At 60% leaf removal 50% of the roots stopped growing. All of the roots stopped growing at 80% leaf removal. A healthy root system helps the plants survive the dry times. If more than 50% of the leaf area is removed then root growth stops. Root growth is used to capture more water and nutrients. At the very least this slows re-growth.
The amount of residual affects re-growth. Green leaves are needed to capture sunlight for photosynthesis. This creates the non-structural carbohydrates needed to fuel re-growth. Without enough leaf area the forages must fuel re-growth from their stored reserves. Growth fueled by the root reserves is slower than growth fueled from active photosynthesis.
The amount of residual affects water absorption by the soil. Grazing below 1200-1500 lbs./DM per acre or 2-3" will allow most of the rain that does come to run off and not be absorbed by the soil. A classic forage study from the 1930's shows the runoff results from a 10% slope where three inches of rain was applied through a sprinkler system over 90 minutes. Pasture grazed to 95% cover experienced a little over 10% runoff. Overgrazed pasture, 50% ground cover, lost 75% of the rain that was applied.
More leaf area means less water runoff. The more vegetative material you have will shade the soil and slow the movement of rain allowing the water to be absorbed by the soil.
When we consider grazing management during dry times remember that without rain pastures grow slower, and close grazing will compound the problem. Slow growth means the rest between grazing needs to be longer. Do not take more residual to allow for this rest. It may get to the point where you need to consider other options, like annual forages, supplemental feeding, and even penning the animals up and feeding them. If growth stops, the worst option would be to open up all of the gates letting animals overgraze the whole farm. Dry-lotting your animals may be the best option.
EDITOR's NOTE: If you are interested in learning more about how and why forages grow as they do, and the grazing management required to optimize their productivity, watch presentation #3 -"Understanding Forage Growth" - from the recent Ohio Grazing School presentations you'll find housed under this link.
Is it Time to Consider Early Weaning? - Dr. Thomas B. Turner, Emeritus, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University (originally published here in June, 2005)
For most beef producers with spring calving cow herds, summer is a time to focus on other things. It seems like the one season of the year when we can reduce the hours per week spent with the beef enterprise. Things appear to be okay and they probably are "okay" but are there potential profits being lost? Consider the following:
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.
Southeastern Ohio Hay Day, June 21
Equipment dealers from around eastern Ohio will demonstrate the latest in forage harvesting and forage handling machinery at Southeastern Ohio Hay Day.
The field day will be held Thursday, June 21, from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station at 16870 Township Road 126, Caldwell. The station is part of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).
The public is invited to this free event to watch live demonstrations and talk with equipment personnel. Registration and access to field equipment displays begins at 4 p.m., with demonstrations starting at 5 p.m. Company representatives will be on hand to demonstrate and discuss the various equipment lines.
For more information including the day's agenda, contact Clif Little, Ohio State University Extension educator, at 740-489-5300 or 740-732-5681, or see the program flyer linked here.
OSU Extension and OARDC are the outreach and research arms, respectively, of Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
National Program to Improve Feed Efficiency
The National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle is a multiyear USDA funded project to develop selection tools and better understanding of feed efficiency in beef production. Because feed intake is a technologically challenging and expensive trait to record on large numbers of animals the research group expect most of the selection for increased feed efficiency to occur through selection on genetic marker information. The goal is to identify the genetic markers associated across multiple breeds with feed intake in the beef production system.
The project involves a consortium of scientists, industry partners, breed associations, and cattle producers who will collect DNA samples and feed intake, growth and carcass composition data from over 8,000 animals (8 breeds): Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Simmental, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Wagyu, and Limousin. A 1% improvement in feed efficiency has the same economic impact as a 3% increase in rate of gain.
More information on this project can be found at: http://www.beefefficiency.org/
Where to From Here for Wholesale Meat Prices? - John D. Anderson, Senior Economist, American Farm Bureau Federation
With the massive grilling event that is Memorial Day weekend in the rear view and with summer heat forcing people into the comfort of their central air, June can be kind of a touchy time for beef prices. It's a bit early yet, but so far prices still look pretty good. Wholesale beef prices are currently well above where they were at this time last year. However, beef prices last week did seem to lose a bit of their recent momentum. The Choice cutout basically held its ground last week, with the weekly average Choice cutout working out to $197.10, up a few cents from the prior week and closing in on the high of $198.51 posted at the end of February. A big drop in end meat prices was more than offset by gains on the middle meats. Conversely, the weekly Select cutout dropped substantially, coming in at $184.47 last week - a weekly decline of $2.46. A gain in rib prices was not enough to offset substantial declines in the end meats.
At $12.15, the Choice/Select spread is as wide as it has been since the first week of the year. There is nothing unusual about a widening CH/SE spread at this time of year. The percentage of Choice cattle in the slaughter mix has been declining since early March - very much in line with normal seasonal patterns - and has now been consistently below year-ago levels for about the last month. Add to this the fact that demand for Choice meat appears to be strong and should arguably be stronger than we are accustomed to given the effect of Wal-Mart making a determined and well-publicized shift toward more Choice product. With these facts in mind, a bit wider than normal CH/SE spread is not really surprising. The question of immediate interest is whether last week's downshift in Select prices portends a more general decline in beef prices. A number of competing factors are in play that will ultimately make that determination.
First, beef demand appears to remain strong, particularly on high-end product: the aforementioned strength on end meats and Choice product is evidence of that. Second, beef supplies will likely continue to tighten over the course of the summer. Year-to-date beef production is down by over 2 ½%. USDA forecasts show production declining even more moving into the third quarter of the year. With tighter supplies, prices will be well supported even if demand just treads water. However, other factors in the market are less supportive. Competing meat production is increasing. Pork production is expected to be up by 2.7% for the second quarter. Recently, the weekly year-over-year increase in pork production has been more like 5%. The export market has provided a home for much of this pork, but higher production could be a real challenge for pork prices this summer. As for poultry, weekly broiler production currently remains about 5% below year-ago levels; however, the pace of production appears to be picking up. Egg sets and chick placements are still running below year-ago levels, but the gap has narrowed substantially in recent weeks as integrators do not appear inclined to repeat last year's much-sharper-than-normal summer reductions, despite weaker broiler part prices over the past month or so. Also looming on the horizon is the potential for Mexico to implement large anti-dumping duties on US leg quarters. (We've seen the Russian and Chinese versions of that movie before, and it doesn't have a happy ending.) The bottom line is that competing meat prices are likely to slip relative to beef prices, making it more difficult to maintain beef prices at current levels.
Of course, outside markets will also play a role in determining where beef prices go from here. The US economy continues to muddle through a weak recovery. The pace of recovery seems unlikely to improve as important questions about the US fiscal environment (namely, the future of the Bush-era tax cuts and the fate of the "mandatory" spending cuts that were part of last year's debt ceiling agreement) will probably remain unanswered until after the election this fall. The European soap opera will be an ongoing source of uncertainty for the macro economy - unless it suddenly ends very badly, in which case it will be a certain source of trouble.
Considering the beef market in the context outlined above, the recent performance of beef (retail and wholesale) and cattle prices has been pretty remarkable. Tight supplies and resilient consumer demand can overcome a lot of other negative factors. Still, further improvement from current levels - especially at this time of year - would be a remarkable feat. I guess if it was easy to get past a $2 cutout, we'd have done it already.
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.
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