A Publication of:

OSU Extension - Fairfield County

831 College Ave., Suite D, Lancaster, OH 43130

and the

OSU Extension BEEF Team

BEEF Cattle questions may be directed to the OSU Extension BEEF Team through Stephen Boyles or Stan Smith, Editor

You may subscribe to the weekly Ohio BEEF Cattle letter by sending an e-mail to smith.263@osu.edu

Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter

Issue # 787

May 30, 2012

Significance of Shrink - Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

During this time of year cattle are being placed on grass. A better understanding of factors affecting shrink should help buyers and sellers of cattle to arrive at a fair pencil shrink under specific marketing conditions.

Types of Shrink: There are two types of shrink. One is excretory which is the loss of urine and feces. Excretory shrink is the initial loss of belly fill. Much of this loss is replaced when cattle are again allowed to eat and drink. The second type is loss is tissue loss. It is the loss of fluid from the cells. Tissue loss is more critical.

The proportion of shrink from urine, feces, and other sources varies depending on environmental conditions. When ambient temperatures are low (below freezing, urine and fecal output can comprise 30-35% of shrink. When temperatures are hot, urine and fecal losses account for about 15-20% of shrink. Therefore, actual tissue loss may account for a significant proportion of the total shrink that must be replaced during a subsequent feeding period.

Time and Distance-Rules of Thumb: A very important factor is time in transit. In many cases, three-fourths of the variation is due to time. This explains why truckers should deliver cattle as soon as possible. The following are some estimates.

Hours in moving Truck % Shrink Days required to Recover Payweight
1 2 0
2-8 4-6 4-8
8-16 6-8 8-16
16-24 8-10 16-24
24-32 10-12 24-30

Distance is included as a factor because some people think in terms of distance rather than time. One estimate is a 3% shrink for the first 100 miles.

Cattle Handling, Equipment & Facilities: Anything that reduces stress in the hauling process will reduce shrink. Good loading and holding facilities, easy handling during the loading process and minimizing quick starts and stops in the hauling process can reduce shrinkage. Here are some links to information on hauling, handling and facilities.

Transporting Cattle: http://beef.osu.edu/beef/beefMarc23.html#linka

Cattle Handling and Working Facilities: http://ohioline.osu.edu/b906/index.html

It is believed that cattle disposition also may have an impact on shrink. In a study conducted at Kansas State University, two cattle sources were used. Cattle from one source were calm and handled easily, whereas cattle from the other source were easily excitable and difficult to handle. During an 11-day period following an overnight shrink, the excitable cattle recovered less body weight than the calm cattle.

Letting cattle have their breakfast: The time of the morning that cattle are removed from pasture before weighing can have an impact on both their body weight and the amount of shrink they incur. Cows grazing were 2.5% heavier in late morning than in early morning. In another grazing study steers that were allowed to graze 3 hours before gathering were 1.9% heavier than those gathered at daybreak. Rate of cattle shrink throughout the day was also affected by length of morning grazing before removal from pasture. Steers allowed to graze for 3 hours before removal from pasture shrank at a rate of 0.86%/h less during the first 2-3 hours following removal from pasture than those steers removed as grazing began at daybreak. Therefore, allowing cattle to graze for an extended period before shipping not only allows them to gain additional body weight, but also reduces their rate of shrink during the early shrink period.

Additional Information:

Review Paper on Shrink: http://pas.fass.org/content/17/4/247.full.pdf+html

Buying and Selling Cattle on the Slide: http://beef.osu.edu/beef/beefSep21.html#linkb

Forage Focus: Beware of Hot Hay - Marvin Hall, Penn State Forage Specialist

This time of year, farmers often know the hay they are baling is wetter than they'd like, but they are taking a chance, hoping to save a better-quality product versus letting the rain cause the crop to deteriorate in the field. Unfortunately, moist hay can quickly become hot hay which can ignite through spontaneous combustion.

Most farmers strive to bale hay that is field dried to 20 percent or less in moisture. At this moisture content, the baled hay can cure properly and maintain quality. With moisture content higher than 20%, hay under storage conditions will generate more heat than can safely be dissipated into the atmosphere. As temperatures rise, dangers of spontaneous combustion increase. Farmers need to be diligent in checking their hay, especially if they know they baled hay that was wetter than normal. Smoldering hay gives off a strong, pungent odor. This odor is an indication that a fire is occurring. If even the slightest smell is present, farmers should take temperature readings of the stack.

Reaching inside a hay stack will give an initial clue. If it feels warm or hot to the touch, that's a good indication that problems may exist. Knowing the temperature of the hay is the only real way of determining how serious the potential fire problem is before flames ignite.

Hay temperature and related actions:

Temperature 125 degrees F - No action needed.

Temperature 150 degrees F - Entering the danger zone. Temperatures should be checked twice daily. If possible, stacked hay should be disassembled to allow more air to move around heated bales for cooling.

Temperature 160 degrees F - Reaching the danger zone. Temperature should be checked every two hours. If possible, stacked hay should be disassembled to allow more air to move around heated bales for cooling.

Temperature 175 degrees F - Hot spots or fire pockets are likely. If possible, stop all air movement around hay. Alert fire service of a possible hay fire incident.

Temperature 190 degrees F - Remove hot hay. This should be done with the assistance of the fire service. The fire service should be prepared for hay to burst into flames as it contacts fresh air.

Keeping a watchful eye on heating hay can save your barn or storage building. Checking the temperature of suspected or hot hay can help you make critical decisions. If you see the temperature rising toward the 150 degree range, you might consider moving the hay to a remote location, away from any buildings or combustible material. Use caution when moving heated bales, because they can burst into flames when they are exposed to fresh air. Wetting hot bales down before moving them can help control this hazard.

Fertilization of Forage Crops - Doug Beegle, Penn State Soil Specialist

This year many areas of the state have been reporting good forage yields so far. As a result, we nutrient removal by the crop may be up significantly too. This combined with increasing fertilizer prices, especially for potassium (K) has raised questions about fertilization of forage stands.

If the field has not been soil tested recently, this should be the first priority to determine what is needed for the current crop and to maintain optimum levels in the soil. Also, if the soil reserves are still adequate the soil test can help reduce the cost of an unnecessary fertilizer application. Soil test kits are available from most Extension offices.

The principal nutrients of concern for legume forages are phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). An alfalfa crop, for example, removes approximately 15 lb P2O5 and 50 lb K2O per acre per ton of yield and at a typical yield of 6 ton/A it will remove a total of 90 lbs P2O5/A and 300 lbs K2O/A, respectively. This removal is built into the soil test recommendations. Recommended fertilizer P and K should be applied as soon after harvest as possible. However, if yields are higher than anticipated when the soil test was run, adjustments to account for the higher removal, might be necessary. These adjustments could be made at a later cutting or better yet in the fall. Simply increase the recommendation by 15# P2O5 and 50# K2O per ton of yield above the yield on the soil test.

For grass hay, the removal of P and K are similar to alfalfa, but in addition grass hay needs a regular supply of added N for optimum production. The N recommendation for grass is 50 lb of N per acre per ton of yield. The most efficient way to fertilize these grass hay stands is to split apply N based on the expected yield of the next growth cycle. Fertilizer should be applied as soon after cutting as practical. All of our common N fertilizer materials work well. If urea or UAN are used, applying these right before rain will help to minimize N volatilization loss.

Manure is an excellent choice for these grass hay fields, especially with current high fertilizer prices. Grass hay has a high demand for all manure nutrients so it will make good use of manure nutrients. Be aware that if manure is used as the sole source of N for a grass hay crop, excess P and K will likely be applied over time. Grass is a luxury consumer of excess K which can result in very high K levels in forage crops when excess K has been applied. This can lead to animal health problems, especially when fed to dry cows. Follow regular soil testing to monitor for excesses of these nutrients.

Applying manure between cuttings also provides another window to spread manure. This is typically manure that, if not spread on these hay fields, would be stored and spread in the fall when manure nutrient use efficiency is generally very low. Applying to these hay fields can thus dramatically increase the economic return from manure nutrients compared to late fall applications of the same manure for next year's crops. Be careful not to apply too much manure that you smother the hay. Also, apply as soon after harvest as practical to reduce potential injury to the regrowth. Finally, watch soil conditions so that you do not cause compaction by driving heavy manure spreaders on wet soils in these hay fields. Liquid manure rather than solid manure is probably best on hay fields because there is less chance of smothering and you are less likely to gather up remnants of the manure in the next hay harvest.

Grass hay fields are a much better choice for manure than legume based hay fields because they need the N, whereas the legumes do not need the N, thus the N in the manure is wasted on legumes so this reduces the economic return to the manure application. Also, there are concerns with stand injury and the possibility of increased weed pressure. However, if it is necessary to apply manure to legume fields, fall is the best time to do it. This is a way to supply the additional nutrients that might be required, there is less chance of stimulating weeds, and there is good cover in these fields in the fall, over the winter and early spring to minimize nutrient losses to the environment. Usually we give priority to older alfalfa stands for manure application because they usually are more depleted in nutrients and if there are some negative effects from the manure application, there will be less long term impact on a stand that will soon be rotated compared to a new seeding.

Monthly Cattle on Feed: Comments and Implications (5/21/12) - James Robb, Center Director, Livestock Marketing Information Center

Monthly Cattle on Feed reports by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service provide valuable and timely market data, but those reports often need to be put into a larger context, especially when unusual situations are happening. Of course, severe drought in southern states last year had a significant impact on cattle placement patterns and therefore careful interpretation is still required of statistics like the, often referred to, number of cattle on-feed for 120 days or more. But, simultaneously with the drought another less apparent force came into play - the U.S. cattle feeding industry has been going through some structural change.

Structural change has been indicated in the monthly Cattle on Feed reports for over a year. Fewer-and-fewer cattle are being fed in feedlots with a one-time capacity of less than 1000 head. Those farms often include cropping enterprises and have made adjustments caused by high crop prices and negative cattle feeding margins. USDA's monthly Cattle on Feed report only includes feedlots with over 1000 head capacity and those feedlots represent an increasing proportion of U.S. cattle being fed. A result has been that the report can show inventory and marketing numbers above a year ago, but steer and heifer slaughter does not increase proportionally, in fact slaughter has often posted year-on-year declines. Expectations that "more market ready cattle are ahead" have tended not to materialize.

Now, let's review the Cattle on Feed report released last Friday afternoon. For the first time in any month during the last two years the on-feed count was below a year ago. As of May 1, the year-on-year decline was 0.6% (65,000 head).

Marketings during April were larger than pre-report estimates (including those of the LMIC), as has often been the situation in recent months. Analysts expected marketings below a year ago (down about 1.5%), but producers reported to USDA numbers slightly above a year ago. Marketings in the report historically track rather well with steer and heifer slaughter, after making adjustments for the number of Canadian animals imported directly for harvest. In fact, USDA figures put steer and heifer slaughter for the month of April at 4.5% below 2011's.

As expected, placements of cattle into feedlots were below a year ago during April, down 15%. The average of pre-report estimates indicated a 12% drop. The year-on-year decline was due to: 1) large numbers forced into feedlots last year because of drought; 2) huge red ink on feedlot closeouts and no opportunity in April to lock-in anything close to a breakeven sales price for purchased feeder cattle using risk-management tools; and 3) shrinking cattle supplies. Head placed in all weight categories were below a year ago, with the lightweight category (under 600-pound) down 20%.

What are the implications of the latest Cattle on Feed report? In terms of futures market prices for fed cattle, the lows have most likely already been set for this year. The June contract rebounded this past week. As has been the case for some time now, steer and heifer slaughter will be smaller than a cursory view of the report indicates. Based on recent trends and the May 1 number of cattle on-feed in the 1000 head and larger feedlots at 1% below a year ago, steer and heifer slaughter in several coming months down at least 3% would be consistent.

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.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status. Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Admin. and Director, OSU Extension. TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-1868

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