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 # 760

November 23, 2011

Efficient Beef Production, What does it mean in 2012? - Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension

If you are intrigued with the title of this piece, then you won't want to miss the 2012 Ohio Beef Cattle School series beginning on January 26, 2012 and continuing on the Thursday evenings of February 9, February 16 and March 1. Following a theme of "The New Normal," each session will be broadcast locally by many Ohio Extension offices via an internet link, and will focus on optimizing efficient beef production in a rapidly changing business and consumer environment. Nothing is sacred as we explore trends in reproduction, genetics, feeds and feeding, targeted marketing, and the opportunities afforded by backgrounding calves versus finishing them in Ohio feedlots.

Specific topics and speakers are still being finalized, but will include industry respected individuals from across the Midwest. Host locations are also still being secured. If interested in attending, details will be posted here as they become available, or contact your local Ohio State University Extension office to ask if their winter programming plans include hosting the Ohio Beef Cattle Schools.

What is Efficient Beef Production? - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

Efficiency is important to the profitability of an individual cattle operation and to the competitiveness of the industry as a whole. In times of changing output and input values, it is very important to keep in mind what efficiency is…and what it isn't. It is probably most common to think of efficiency in physical or technical terms, which are based on quantity of output relative to quantity of input. This includes common production values such as feed per pound of gain and pounds of calf weaned per cow. Such physical measurements often provide the rules of thumb that guide day to day decisions in an operation.

However, most producers recognize that there are limits to the extent that physical measures of efficiency are economical. What really matters is economic efficiency, which can be thought of as the value of outputs relative to the value of inputs. This results in the important distinction between maximizing production and optimizing production. This explains, for example, why we see different types of cattle in different parts of the country. In more extensive productions environments, a smaller cow and thus a smaller weaning weight is more economical than the bigger cow size that works better in other regions. Technical efficiency is part of economic efficiency but it is not the whole story. This leads to the most important point in this discussion: changing input and output values can change the economic efficiency even when the technical efficiency has not changed. And that can lead to a situation where the optimal decision changes. Relying on physical production guidelines can lead to less economical results when output and input values change.

One of the most obvious situations could be feedlot production. For many years, the relative cheapness of feed grains meant that production systems that pushed physical efficiency in terms of average daily gain and feed conversion were consistent with economic efficiency. However, when concentrate feeds are fundamentally more expensive, the most economically efficient production may be one that accepts slightly lower physical efficiency by utilizing more alternative feeds. This is not necessarily the case for any or all feedlots at the current time but the point is that the production system must be reevaluated when input costs change.

The same may be true for many decisions made by cattle producers at all levels of the industry. The most economically efficient production systems today may imply different targets for production parameters such as weaning weights, average daily gain, etc. The beef industry has a wide range of flexibility to adjust production systems using different inputs, such as relative amounts of grain versus forage. In today's changing and volatile input markets, it is critical that, as individual producers and as an industry, we examine the economic efficiency of our production systems and be prepared to modify some of the physical rules of thumb that have guided decisions in the past.

Does AI Cost or Pay? - Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

Last week we compared the costs per pregnancy for natural service and for a breeding system that included estrus synchronization and AI (ESAI). Considering the current costs of feed and pasture, the cost per pregnancy for natural service ranged from $38 to $72 when producers ran their bulls with 25-30 cows and the purchase price of the bull ranged from $1,500 to $3,000. The cost per pregnancy of the more popular ESAI protocols is from $65-75 depending mainly upon the conception rate to AI. Therefore, if the average cost per pregnancy is about $50, then using ESAI will add $15 to $25 to our costs of production. The question then becomes, does using ESAI increase our productivity enough to overcome this added cost of production.

Little data can be found in the literature that examines the return on investment of incorporating estrus synchronization and AI. We designed a trial to determine if implementation of estrus synchronization and AI is cost effective and impacts net return. Crossbred postpartum cows (n = 351) were assigned to one of two breeding systems. Approximately two-thirds of the cows (n = 251) were subjected to an estrus synchronization protocol suitable for a fixed-time insemination (SYNC). Estrus was synchronized using the CO-Synch estrus synchronization protocol. In short, cows were administered gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH; 100 ug; Cystorelin®, Merial) and 7 days later were administered 25 mg of prostaglandin F2? (PG; Lutalyse®, Pharmacia & UpJohn, Kalamazoo, MI). Cows were administered a second injection of GnRH and were artificially inseminated 48 hours after PG. Ten days later, cows were exposed to natural service for 50 days. Bull-to-cow ratio was 1:50 females in the SYNC group. The remaining cows (n = 100) were exposed to natural service for 60 days (NAT). The bull-to-cow ratio in the NAT treatment was 1:25. The bull-to-cow ratio was different between the SYNC and NAT groups because we anticipated that approximately one-half of the cows in the SYNC group would conceive to AI. To verify date of conception, pregnancy was diagnosed using transrectal ultrasonography.

To determine return on investment, all costs associated with the estrus synchronization and AI were recorded and are summarized in Table 1. Labor was determined by recording amount of time required to bring the cattle to the corral, work the cows and then return them to the breeding pastures. Four laborers were used, three trips through the chute, and an hourly wage of $7.00 per hour. To determine differences in revenue, calves were weighed at weaning and the differences in weight available to market were determined. Calves from both treatments were given a value of $1.35 per pound.

The results of this trial are shown in Table 2. More cows calved in the SYNC group than in the NAT group and more cows calved in the first 30 days of the calving season in the SYNC versus the NAT treatment. The average date of calving was earlier in the cows in SYNC than in the NAT group. The average weaning weight of calves was heavier from cows in the SYNC than from those in the NAT group. The increase in percent calf crop weaned and weaning weight increased the pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed by nearly 110 pounds.

Return on investment is shown in Table 3. Using market prices from November 2011, revenue increased by $169.41 in the SYNC group. This increased revenue was achieved by investing $29.88 per cow. Therefore the return on investment for the estrus synchronization and AI was $139.53. This return does not include savings associated with reduced bull costs. One-half the number of bulls was used per cow in SYNC group than in the NAT group. If savings on bull purchases are included, the return on investment increases to $199 per cow.

So, using ESAI in a breeding program appears to increase returns by increasing the percent of cows that wean a calf and by increasing the weaning weight of calves. Obviously, every producer cannot expect a 9% increase in weaning rate and a 73 pound increase in weaning weight. Even if using ESAI increases your cost per pregnancy by $30, in today's market, a producer would only need to increase productivity by a total of 22 pounds per weaned calf simply to break even. Only 22 pounds! Perhaps ESAI doesn't cost as much money as it makes!

Table 1. Cost of AI

Item Cost per cow
GnRH $4.00
Prostiglandin $4.00
Technician $5.00
Semen $10.00
Labor (a) $2.88
Total $29.88

(a) 8.6 hours X 3 working days X 4 workers X $7.00 per hour for 251 cows

Table 2. Results of Short-Term ESAI Trial

Cows 251 100
Calving Rate 90% 81% 9%
% Calving 1st 30 days 85% 62% 23%
Mean Julian date of calving 74 + .4 84 + .7 10 d
% calf crop weaned 88% 79% 9%
Weaning age 210 + 9 200 + 12 10 d
Weaning Weight 576.9 + 18.1 504.8 + 21.2 72.6 lbs
Lbs. calf weaned/cow exposed 507.9C 398.4 109.5 lbs

Table 3. Increased Revenues from ESAI

Weaning Weight 72.6 pounds x $1.35/lb = $98.01
% Calf crop (23 more calves x 576.9 x $1.35/lb) / 251 = $71.40
Total Revenue $169.41
Return on Investment $169.41 - 29.88 = $139.53

EDITOR's NOTE: Dr. Les Anderson and John Grimes will each present on February 16 during the 2012 Ohio Beef Cattle School series.

What is the Condition of Your Cow Herd? - John Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

Fall is a very exciting time for most of Ohio's commercial cow-calf operations. Since the majority of this state's producers utilize a spring calving season, they are in the midst of weaning and marketing this year's calf crop. This is the time to reap rewards for months of hard work and management towards the beef enterprise. Now is also a very important time to make management decisions that can affect your operation for years to come.

We are currently in the midst of record high prices for all classes of cattle. Regardless of the price of feeder calves, it is always of the utmost importance to maximize calf crop percentage from your herd. Most reproductive failures in beef females can be attributed to improper nutrition and thin body condition. If you have a concern over the body condition of your cow herd, this is a critical time to address this situation.

Scoring cows on the basis of body condition can be an important tool to help you maximize the reproductive potential of your herd. Body condition scores (BCS) basically describe the degree of fatness of a cow. A numerical range of 1 to 9 identifies the varying degrees of fatness, with 1 being very thin and 9 being excessively fat. Consult OSU Extension publication L-292, "Scoring Cows Can Improve Profits", for visual and descriptive aids with the various condition scores. If you prefer a video reference, this 8 minute YouTube from the Purdue Beef Team is well done.

The time period immediately after weaning is the ideal time to address body condition problems. For most spring calving herds, this would have the bulk of the cows in the second trimester of pregnancy. This is the easiest and most cost-effective time to make significant changes in the body condition scores of your cows.

Ideally, cows should be sorted by body condition at weaning time or approximately 100 days prior to calving. Group cows by condition score (example: thin, moderate and fat groupings) and feed them to reach a BCS of 5-7 by calving. This system will allow the producer to better match feedstuff quality with the nutritional requirements of the cow. Another suggested grouping system would be to group by supplemental feed needs. This system would go as follows: replacement heifers, young cows and thin older cows and mature cows in adequate condition.

Having cows in an ideal body condition at calving will pay dividends during the next breeding season. Cows scoring 4 BCS or lower can exhibit pregnancy rates at least 20% lower when compared to cows BCS 5-7. Regardless of feeder calf prices, this resulting loss of potential calves to sell could spell economic doom for many producers.

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

Fairfield County Agriculture and Natural Resources