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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 806
October 17, 2012
Preg Check Your Cows . . . Please! - Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky
As weaning time approaches, I hope most of you are planning your herd "preg check". If this fall is any indicator, it appears the cost of feed this fall and winter will be very high. If you have not incorporated this management practice in the past, please do so this year so that you won't be feed non-productive females this fall and winter. When it comes time to cull cows from your herd, pregnancy status is one of the first criteria that will determine whether a cow stays in the country or goes to town.
According to the results of a survey conducted by the National Animal Health Monitoring System, fewer than 20 percent of beef cow calf producers used pregnancy testing or palpation in their herd. However, the benefits of this practice are fairly simple to realize. First of all, pregnancy diagnosis allows producers to identify "open" or nonpregnant cows. Compare the roughly $5 per head cost of a pregnancy exam with the $100-200 per head cost of hay alone to feed an open cow through the winter (if you can find hay for $30 per roll). It's easy to see that pregnancy testing quickly pays for itself.
Second, pregnancy testing will provide a producer an estimation of when cows will be calving based on the age of the fetus at the time of the pregnancy exam. An average calving date can be calculated and the producer can use this information to better supplement, the cows through the winter. Remember, the nutrient needs of cows vary throughout their production cycle; cows nutrient requirements are highest immediately before and after calving and are lowest in the second period of pregnancy. Knowledge of the stage of pregnancy can help producers make efficient feeding decisions. For example, most producers will have hay of varying qualities in storage. Since cows in the second period of their pregnancy require less nutrients, producers can target their lower quality feedstuffs for the time when their cows nutrient requirements are the lowest. Alternatively, producers can save their best quality feedstuffs for the post-calving period when a cow's nutrient requirements are the highest. Thus, obtaining the pregnancy status of your cowherd will allow a producer to adjust the supplementation in a timelier manner.
Finally, if the herd needs to be culled and pregnant cows need to be sold due to drought and lack of pasture, knowing the pregnancy status of the cows will be appealing to potential buyers. Buyers will be looking to purchase cows that will calve closely in line with the cows already in their own herds.
Pregnancy diagnosis is a quick and simple procedure. Three practical methods for pregnancy diagnosis can be used in beef cattle: 1) rectal palpation and 2) transrectal ultrasonography 3) blood sampling. Rectal palpation is most common and is an accurate form of pregnancy diagnosis that can be performed after day 45 of pregnancy. Many veterinarians are proficient at rectal palpation, and this procedure requires little time in the squeeze chute. Transrectal ultrasonography, commonly referred to as ultrasound, can be used to detect pregnancy as early as 28 days with a high degree of accuracy. This method can be employed just as quickly as rectal palpation when done by a skilled technician and may provide additional information that cannot be determined by rectal palpation. Using transrectal ultrasonography, the technician is actually "looking" at the fetus and can determine the viability of the fetus and the incidence of twins. It is also possible to determine the sex of the fetus between days 60 and 90 of pregnancy.
The blood test method to determine pregnancy is simple and accurate. First, a blood sampling kit needs to be ordered from the company. The easiest method is to go to goldstandardlabs.lbu.com or biotracking.com and look for their products. Usually, the cost is about $1.50-1.60 per cow for the kit. All the tubes should be labeled according to the instructions in the kit. The most difficult part of this process for most producers will be obtaining the blood sample. Cows must be at least 30 days pregnant and 90 days from calving for the test to work. Also, producer's who have no experience taking a blood sample will need to schedule this test with their local veterinarian. Once the sample is obtained, the samples are packaged and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The cost for the test is $2.50-3.00 per cow. So the total cost per cow will be the cost of the kit, plus the test cost, plus the cost of mailing and any costs associated with obtaining the sample if you cannot do it yourself. Likely the cost per cow will be about $5 per cow for most producers.
The results are normally obtained with 2-3 weeks and the accuracy of the test is very high. If the test calls the cow open, then the producer is 99+% sure the cow is open. When the test determines a cow pregnant, you can be 93-95% sure they are pregnant. This test will not determine stage of pregnancy (i.e. 90 days versus 120 days).
A final piece of information to keep in mind is to sell cull cows early. The market for cows is usually good through September, and then the price goes south at a fairly rapid pace until it bottoms out in November. So, pull the bulls at the end of the breeding season, schedule to pregnancy check your cows about 45 days later, and get rid of the open cows and other culls before cow prices take a nose dive.
So PLEASE have pregnancy diagnosed in your cows. It will save you money.
ATI dedicates beef cattle handling facility designed by Temple Grandin - Janine Mayfield, reprinted with permission from Farm and Dairy
The Ohio State University's Agricultural Technical Institute dedicated its new, state-of-the-art beef cattle handling facility Oct. 12. It is the first of its kind in Ohio.
Six people participated in the official ribbon cutting, with sophomore Emily Painter of Frazeysburg doing the honors.
Painter said the new facility allows students to work with the cattle in a more efficient way, "especially in administering vaccines and shots." She was excited to continue her studies at the new facility, which was designed to reduce stress on cattle.
Reducing stress: ATI worked with Grandin Livestock Handling Systems Inc., from Fort Collins, Colo., to construct a facility designed by renowned animal behaviorist Temple Grandin.
"This facility is a great asset in providing a venue for teaching our Ohio State ATI students about proper beef cattle handling and facility design," said James E. Kinder, interim director of Ohio State ATI. "It will also be highly useful in working with beef producers in outreach engagement endeavors."
Stephen Boyles, OSU professor of animal sciences, asked everyone to walk through the corral acting like a cow.
Using his two pointer fingers, he demonstrated that a human only sees about 180 degrees at a time, whereas a cow sees about 340 degrees.
Consequently, one of the distinctive features of Grandin's design is a system of curved chutes combined with a round crowd pen. The tendency of cattle when herded is to move back in the direction they came from. This new design allows the animals to work with -- instead of against -- their natural behavior.
Other design features include the solid-sided fencing, which keeps the focus of the cattle inside the corral, and the solid coat of gray paint throughout the entire corral. Animals are sensitive to light and Grandin integrated the solid color to keep the cows from seeing startling color transitions.
The ceremony: Nels Hansen, chairman of the Agricultural and Engineering Technologies Division, opened the dedication ceremonies by pointing out what was obvious to everyone: "I can't imagine a more beautiful location to have this facility."
Hansen said that since 1969 when ATI was established, its mission and purpose has been constant.
"Student learning comes first," he said. "We reinforce our mission each day by involving students in the work they'll be applying after they graduate from ATI, and this beef cattle handling facility is in keeping with our mission. Students need to understand how to learn to work with the animals in a safe and respectful way."
Bobby Moser, dean and vice president for agricultural administration, agreed. "We want our students to leave here having used the latest technology, so they can promote that wherever they go and whatever they do," he said.
While Moser emphasized what the students would gain from using this facility, he also stressed that the humane handling of the animals is high on their list.
Act like a cow: Freshman Kyle Bunn of Orville explained how the state-of-the-art hydraulic squeeze chute allows for near-perfect injections into the cows' necks.
"We administer the medicine by the cow's weight," he said. "The squeeze chute weighs the cow and locks its neck in, allowing us to humanely inject the cow without any person or animal getting harmed."
Bunn said their previous chute was manual and the timing had to be just right to lock their neck in or time was wasted with multiple tries.
A second single-file alley way was included in the project, leading to a breeding box. This will allow three cows to be restrained at one time during breeding, allowing multiple students to learn breeding skills at one time.
For students: ATI made several modifications to the design to make it better suited to the college's teaching mission, including a large, covered working area that accommodates a large number of students, an automatic waterer, which allows the cattle to remain at the facility for a longer period of time (compared to a typical commercial facility), and a separate alley for breeding.
"This facility was designed with an educational mission as its primary aspect," said Public Relations Coordinator Frances Whited, "so some things that happen here might not necessarily happen at a facility that's more production oriented."
The older squeeze chute will still be used, but students are excited to use the new one.
"It's such a great experience for the students to be able to use this (new hydraulic squeeze chute)," said sophomore Ashley Lewis of Seville.
Lewis said most big cattle corporations have this type of equipment and having this knowledge is a bonus for them when they graduate.
Ohio State ATI, located in Wooster, Ohio, is an associate degree granting program within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State University.
The new facility is located at 2736 South Apple Creek Road, a half mile from the school's equine facility.
Drought-Stricken Farmers and Ranchers Have More Time to Replace Livestock, 43 States Affected -
IR-2012-72, Sept. 25, 2012
WASHINGTON - Farmers and ranchers who previously were forced to sell livestock due to drought, like the drought currently affecting much of the nation, have an extended period of time in which to replace the livestock and defer tax on any gains from the forced sales, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.
Farmers and ranchers who, due to drought, sell more livestock than they normally would may defer tax on the extra gains from those sales. To qualify, the livestock generally must be replaced within a four-year period. The IRS is authorized to extend this period if the drought continues.
The one-year extension of the replacement period announced today generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes due to drought. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, and poultry are not eligible.
The IRS is providing this relief to any farm located in a county, parish, city or district, listed as suffering exceptional, extreme or severe drought conditions by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), during any weekly period between Sept. 1, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2012. All or part of 43 states are listed. Any county contiguous to a county listed by the NDMC also qualifies for this relief.
As a result, farmers and ranchers in these areas whose drought sale replacement period was scheduled to expire at the end of this tax year, Dec. 31, 2012, in most cases, will now have until the end of their next tax year. Because the normal drought sale replacement period is four years, this extension immediately impacts drought sales that occurred during 2008. But because of previous drought-related extensions affecting some of these localities, the replacement periods for some drought sales before 2008 are also affected. Additional extensions will be granted if severe drought conditions persist.
Details on this relief, including a list of NDMC-designated counties, are available in Notice 2012-62, posted today on IRS.gov. Details on reporting drought sales and other farm-related tax issues can be found in Publication 225, Farmer's Tax Guide, also available on the IRS web site.
Wheat Pasture Demand and Limited Feeder Supplies Support Stocker Prices - Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
Calf prices in Oklahoma jumped as much as $10/cwt. last week with stronger stocker demand and limited supplies both contributing factors. Feeder cattle auction volumes in Oklahoma are down 26 percent over the last six weeks compared to last year. A year ago, fall stocker calf prices increased counter-seasonally into early December. Conditions are right for similar support to stocker calf prices this fall. However, given that calf prices are already at high levels and corn price is sharply higher this year, stocker prices may move up only a bit more or hold mostly steady near current levels.
Some parts of Oklahoma received significant rain this past weekend that will solidify stocker demand in some areas. Rain fell in a swath from central into the northeastern part of the state and across much of the southeast region. Most of the wheat is planted and some areas may have grazeable wheat by early to mid November. However, the north central, northwest and southwest areas received little rain and remain critically dry. Variable moisture conditions across the state means that wheat stocker demand will likely be spread out across the next few weeks as wheat pasture develops at different rates.
The latest trade data for August reveal another reason for tighter feeder cattle supplies. Imports of Mexican feeder cattle through July were running over 30 percent higher than last year. Mexican cattle imports in August were down over 50 percent from last year. However, the 2011 August total was usually high due to large Chihuahua exports ahead of a change in health status that has since restricted imports from that state. Nevertheless, the August 2012 import total was down (perhaps down 10 percent from a more normal August 2011 total) and suggests that the large import volumes may be over. The weekly preliminary data for September indicates that Mexican cattle imports will be down even more sharply. Decreased imports the remainder of the year may offset the increases in the first seven months of 2012 and hold the annual import total to no more than last year. Mexican cattle imports in 2013 are expected to be sharply lower than recent years.
Cow-calf producers are seeing the expected impacts of the tight cattle supply situation. Calf prices are currently $20-25/cwt. higher than this same time last year. While calf prices are not likely to increase in the next 4-6 weeks as much as last year, they also are not likely to drop. Cull cow prices are currently $10-12/cwt higher than a year ago due to continued strength in hamburger markets and decreased cow slaughter. Total cow slaughter is down 4.8 percent for the year to date while beef cow slaughter is down 13 percent year over year. In Oklahoma, auction volumes for cows and bulls are down 68 percent for the last six weeks compared to a year ago. Seasonal pressure on cull cow prices could build over the next month but is expected to be less than usual this year. Higher corn prices this year are tempering feeder cattle demand and bigger questions remain about domestic and export beef demand but tight feeder cattle supplies will continue to dominate the cow-calf and stocker sectors keeping calf and feeder prices very high.
Feedlot Returns: Current and Upcoming Situation - Glynn T. Tonsor, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University
Currently discussion of values of gain available to stocker operators, prospects of herd expansion (or lack thereof) signals that may appear in the closely watched January Cattle Inventory report, and similar issues dominate many industry conversations. It is important however to step back and assess the situation for feedlot operators - the focus of this commentary.
A couple months ago I worked with Dr. Kevin Dhuyvetter to update and expand the process used at Kansas State University to track historical, and project future, returns for finishing cattle. While no approach is flawless, we believe this provides a reasonable barometer of profitability trends in the industry. Consistent with other approaches to assessing finishing returns, our approach suggests returns from closeouts in recent months have been historically low (-$265.35/steer and -$253.16/steer sold in July and August, respectively). These significantly negative returns mainly reflect a squeeze resulting from placements being purchased prior to the spring price pullback, increases in feeding cost of gain triggered by this year's drought, and the lack of an offsetting increase in fed cattle prices. During the remaining months of 2012, we project returns to progressively improve reflecting mainly adjustments in both feeder and fed cattle prices as compared to those underlying recent closeouts.
While an improvement from the recent large losses is certain to be welcomed by those in the feeding industry, some additional words of caution are in order. Narrowly, in aggregate the feeding industry appears to have not initiated substantial adjustments which could alleviate excess capacity concerns. That is, there is too much bunk space relative to available cattle supplies which will continue to pressure returns for many feedlots. Moreover, this excess capacity situation has benefited over prior months by the accelerated imports of cattle from Mexico and multiple impacts of our domestic drought. Going forward however, imports from Mexico will likely decline and any net expansion in the U.S. cow-herd will pull heifers from the feedlot placement pipeline. Both of these adjustments will exacerbate the excess capacity situation and managers are encouraged to take note of implications for their operation. Operations that not only stay aware of similar industry trends but also have identified and acted upon their comparative advantage(s) will be in best position to survive and maybe even thrive as a result.
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