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OSU Extension BEEF Team
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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 676
March 3, 2010
Forage Focus: Beginning the Grazing Season - Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator, Athens County, Buckeye Hills EERA
Though the weather is still wintry as I write this, it seems fair to say that this may be winter's final hurrah and that spring and the accompanying pasture growth will soon be upon us. At a recent grazing school where I was teaching along with Bob Hendershot, the NRCS state grazing and grassland specialist, Bob said that a grazing program costs about three times less than any feeding program using harvested and stored feed. That being so, it behooves the livestock owner to think about how they might get more out of their pastures and grazing programs. One area to think about is how the beginning of the grazing season will be managed. As the old saying goes, "Well begun is half done".
Factors that must be considered include pasture growth rate, condition of the sod, type of livestock that will be grazing, and number of pasture paddocks that will be utilized. At the onset I need to make clear that improving pasture use and management is dependent upon pasture divisions to a large extent. The more capability you have to subdivide pastures and create more paddocks, the more possibilities there are to better utilize pasture growth.
Livestock love the new grass growth, it is preferred to any hay that is being fed. The challenge at the very beginning of the pasture growth season is to protect the newly growing plants from being overgrazed and the sod base from getting cut up by animal hooves. If the sod is very wet and the soil is soft, it must be protected from hoof action. Churning up the sod base in the early spring to get some early spring grazing can end up reducing the yearly total production. Horses are probably the worst, because of their need to run, and they are followed by cattle whose sheer weight, especially when grouped together can quickly damage a sod base. Sheep and goats make the least impact due to their lower body weight, but again, stocking density plays a role. The point is that keeping livestock confined to a sacrifice area or heavy use feeding pad during some of those soggy early spring days can pay off dividends later in the growing season.
Livestock will graze the newly emerging and young grass plants close to soil level if permitted, and when the plant starts to regrow, they will graze it down again. This is a formula for reducing the vigor and total productivity of the pasture. We have to return once again to basic grazing management principles regarding the ending grazing height and rest period. The tendency in early spring before grass growth really explodes is to let livestock graze the grass plants too low because there still is not much tonnage being produced. Keep in mind that orchardgrass should not be grazed lower than 3 inches in height, while bluegrass and endophyte infected tall fescue can be grazed down to about 2 inches in height. Then, a rest period must be provided to allow that grass plant to recover and grow back to starting grazing height.
What that starting grazing height should be is another management decision. As spring progresses, grass growth will speed up and if the standard 8 to 10 inch starting grazing height is waited for, then some of the paddocks are going to get too tall and mature. A couple of ways of handling the flush of growth are to lower the starting grazing heights, say to the 5-6 inch range, and/or drop some of the paddocks out of the spring rotation. Some graziers refer to their spring grazing management as "topping" the grass. That is, fast rotation through paddocks where livestock are only taking a couple of inches off the top of the rapidly growing plant. Remember leaving more leaf residual is much preferred over taking off too much of the grass plant.
If paddocks are dropped out of the spring rotation, it makes it easier to manage the spring flush of growth. Once grass begins to grow rapidly, the rest period to re-grow to a 6-8 inch grazing height may be as quick as 12-18 days. If there are 8-10 pasture paddocks, this is a 1 to 2 day rotation, maybe quicker than some graziers want to manage. Dropping some paddocks out of the rotation and working with 4-5 paddocks can extend grazing time in each paddock to the 3 to 4 day time-frame. In the early spring, livestock probably should not be in any paddock more than 3-4 days anyway, since grass plants will begin to regrow within that time frame and should be protected from being grazed again.
The question will come up about what to do with those paddocks that are dropped out of the spring rotation. Options include taking a hay crop from them, simulate a grazing pass by keeping them clipped, and let them grow. The advantage of taking a hay crop is that it might be used later as a management tool, but the disadvantage is that there is some significant nutrient removal associated with a hay crop. Clipping is another expense, but does allow nutrients to be recycled back into the paddock and clipping will maintain the vegetative quality of the paddock. Letting the paddocks grow and mature could be an option if, when they are worked back into the grazing rotation they are grazed by a class of animal that has a lower nutrient need, for example dry ewes. If the stocking density is heavy enough there would not be any need to clip the paddock after the grazing pass. If the stocking density is light enough to allow selective grazing, then it may be necessary to clip the paddock after this grazing pass.
The spring grazing season is quickly approaching and a little forethought now given to developing a good start to the beginning of the grazing season will have an effect beyond the spring season. For more information about spring grazing management, contact your county's Ohio State University Extension office.
Commercial Beef Cattle Farm Tour Set for March 13
A "Commercial Beef Cattle Drive-It Yourself Farm Tour" will be held on Saturday, March 13, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. til 3:15 p.m. The event will feature two farms in the very southeast corner of Licking County and two farms in central Perry County.
Stops include the Iden Farms, 16683 National Road (near Gratiot, Ohio) at 10:00 a.m. and the Gutridge Brothers Farm, 8397 Poplar Forks Road SE. The farm is 1½ miles north of U. S. Route 40. This stop will get underway at 11:00 a.m.
The lunch stop will be at 12:30 p.m. at the Poorman Farm, 9050 Stone Quarry Road NW, Somerset, Ohio, and the final stop will be the David and Sue Noll Farm, 3776 Township Road 121, Somerset. Ohio at 2:15 p.m.
The lunch stop will feature brood cow management and breeding programs of commercial herds. Some stops will also showcase handling equipment and beef finishing programs. A more complete description of the tour stops may be secured under this link. OSU Extension Beef Scientist Steve Boyles will be a resource and tour leader throughout the day.
The meal for lunch is being sponsored by Muskingum Livestock Auction, and Muskingum, Perry and Licking County Cattlemen's Associations. The tour is planned and sponsored by OSU Extension offices in Licking, Perry and Muskingum Counties. Reservations can be made through any of the three extension offices: Licking County: 740-670-5315; Muskingum County: 740-454-0144; Perry County: 740-743-1602. Reservations are highly encouraged so ample food can be acquired.
AgSight: Advocacy Can Never Go On Vacation! - Nevil Speer, Professor, Animal Science, Western Kentucky University
In recent months AgSight has addressed the vegan / vegetarian agenda with focus on some of the broad misrepresentations of animal agriculture often portrayed by those who choose to avoid meat, milk and/or eggs. Unfortunately, perceived benefits of such a lifestyle are often anecdotal and subjective - the outcome being mischaracterization of the industry and its products. Such misperceptions have become increasingly pervasive. Fact needs to win out over fiction - especially among the popular media.
That reality has prompted the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) to implement an industry council with broad representation across a variety of interests within animal agriculture. NIAA has a long, proven history serving animal agriculture in tackling important concerns within the industry. Not surprising given NIAA's mission: ". . . to provide a forum for building consensus and advancing solutions for animal agriculture and to provide continuing education and communication linkages to animal agriculture professionals." The time has arrived to once again step forward.
The council's purpose is to develop and deliver fact- and knowledge-based information that impacts public understanding on any issue of importance. Ultimately, such an effort will help to ensure the viability of animal agriculture and food production in a safe, wholesome and plentiful manner into the future. As part of that process, I was asked to provide some commentary on the need for such a council - written on behalf of NIAA for Animal Agriculture leading up to this month's annual meeting in Kansas City. You'll find that below.
(For more information about NIAA go to www.animalagriculture.org)
Animal agriculture stands alone: it's difficult to identify any other industry that's forced to constantly navigate the dynamic merger of business principles coupled with personal and/or social values. That's a tough job . . . and getting tougher every day. On one hand, business competition and concerns about profitability play their hand at levels of production; the enduring need to become increasingly efficient and productive never ends. On the other hand, the pressure to operate within a framework of social acceptability is unprecedented; the media and general public has found renewed interest in values associated with animal agriculture.
Consumer interest, involvement and partnership is welcome. After all, nothing's more important than the food we produce for their families to consume. Therefore, standards and ideals are essential at all stages of production. However, that interest has been progressively twisted and leveraged by extremists in recent years. No doubt, criticism is sometimes justified and the industry can neither tolerate nor defend offenders of common-sense ethics. However, the condemnation is often unsubstantiated, bent to demean and devalue mainstream agriculture, as part of a larger idealistic campaign.
Those with an anti-meat/milk agenda mischaracterize animal agriculture and/or its products: 'There are so many reasons to go vegan - ethics, environment, health, world hunger (or any other issue you might want to list) . . . and no reason to allow the industry to continue.' That mentality is especially convenient amidst vast abundance in the United States and refuses to cite any beneficial contribution of animal agriculture to society. That was best exemplified in August, 2009: Time Magazine's story entitled, "The Real Cost of Cheap Food" was highlighted by a hamburger on the front cover. The overarching message? Animal agriculture is the culprit of the world's problems associated with food and food production.
Animal agriculture has a responsibility to produce safe, wholesome, nutritious food in an ethical manner. And most of the time we get it right. As such, many of the assertions against the industry are unfounded, untrue and just plain wrong. But animal agriculture is inherently a fragmented business where independence is a highly-esteemed virtue. That attribute is problematic - it provides an opening for those who want to caricature the industry in an unfavorable light - intentional or not. Divide and conquer: we're unable to mount a meaningful counterattack and that emboldens those on the other side even further.
The response to negative events typically involves a brush-fire mentality. We crank up the crisis management team and try to beat back the blaze hoping it doesn't do too much damage in the meantime. Once the fire seems to be put out we go back to doing business-as-usual. But the reactive ad-hoc approach is clumsy and ineffective. More importantly, it's a blueprint for failure - we aren't keeping up with opponents' increasingly frequent assaults.
That possesses some important consequences: namely, misinformation, half-truths and anti-agriculture doctrines begin to catch hold. And when they do, families are the ultimate losers - it destabilizes and demoralizes consumers - there's no solid, reliable source of information about their food and food production.
Animal agriculture needs to be out ahead of the curve! The need for a unified, meaningful and systematic coalition to counter false claims while also promoting the benefits and attributes of animal production has never been more important. Consumers are eager to know the other side - objective and factual information. We can't afford to hunker down. Meeting our obligation on the production side and hoping that's good enough isn't working. We also have to advocate the attributes of animal agriculture and its products in a collective, coherent manner.
Let's get started.
Beef Markets Getting a Boost from Trade - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
Domestic markets have gotten most of the attention in the beef industry the past year and for good reason. International beef trade, while not viewed as a major market weakness, has not been recognized as supporting markets a great deal as well. However, the annual numbers for 2009 and especially the monthly values late in the year suggest that international trade is providing more support for beef markets than may be currently recognized.
Beef exports in 2009 were down less than one percent from 2008, holding much firmer than expected given the global economic recession. By contrast broiler and pork exports were down 2 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Pork exports, in particular were severely impacted by both the recession and the H1N1 flu. More importantly for 2010 is the strength in beef exports late in 2009. Monthly exports were up 27 and 25 percent in November and December compared to year earlier levels. No doubt beefs exports were helped by a weaker dollar late in the year compared to the early part of the year.
Mexico continues to be the major destination for U.S. beef accounting for 30 percent of beef exports. Canada is second with 19 percent of the total and Japan makes up 15 percent in third place. By a slim margin, rapidly growing exports to Vietnam made it the number four export market with an 8 percent share, just ahead of South Korea. Much of the beef shipped to Vietnam is subsequently transshipped to China. Total beef exports were equal to just over 7 percent of total domestic production.
Total beef imports in 2009 were up 3.5 percent over 2008. However, the current level is less than the previous 10 year average. On a monthly basis, beef imports were down 18 percent in November and 31 percent in December compared to the same months in 2008. Major importers include Canada with 31 percent of the total along with Australia (30 percent), New Zealand (20 percent) and Brazil (8 percent). Total beef imports amounted to 10 percent of domestic production.
Weekly Roberts Agricultural Commodity Market Report - Mike Roberts, Commodity Marketing Agent, Virginia Tech
LIVE CATTLE futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) were up on Monday with the exception of the March 2010 contract. The APR'10LC contract finished at $91.725/cwt; off $0.200/cwt and $1.500/cwt lower than last week at this time. JUNE'10LC futures were up $0.200/cwt at $90.600/cwt. Traders' anticipation of the "Goldman Roll" - rolling positions into later months - and spreading into far months were supportive. The market lacked direction as prices in many contracts were noted both above and below the last close. Cash cattle were steady to somewhat lower in thin trade with USDA putting the 5-area average at $90.89/cwt; $0.24/cwt lower than last week's report. Talking with several floor sources the give and take in prices comes amid a hope that the spot-April will provide support based on a price discount to last week's cash sales while those who see lower prices think abundant cattle for sale this week and the recent weakness in wholesale beef sales will weigh on prices. USDA on Monday put the choice beef cutout at $150.16/cwt; up $0.14/cwt and $2.78/cwt over last report. According to HedgersEdge.com, the average packer margin was lowered $1.60/hd from last report to a positive $14.35/hd based on the average buy of $91.23/cwt vs. the average breakeven of $92.35/cwt. Feed buyers might have some buying opportunities prior to the March 10 WASDE report.
FEEDER CATTLE at the CME finished up on Monday. MAR'10FC futures finished at $102.100/cwt; up $1.050/cwt and $0.275/cwt higher than last report. The MAY'10FC contract closed up $1.050/cwt at $104.500/cwt and $0.450 cents over last Monday. Fund buying, lower corn prices, and the spot March-long-price-discount to the CME feeder cattle index were supportive influences. Cash feeders were steady-to-weak in light trade in Oklahoma City, down $0.50-$1/cwt. The CME feeder cattle index for February 25 was placed at $101.36/lb; off $0.12/lb and $0.26/lb lower than last report. It might be a good idea to buy some feed on these lower corn prices.
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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