Forage Shortage: Considering Early Weaning

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County (originally published in Ohio’s Country Journal on-line)

Less than ideal conditions have led to forage shortages throughout the Midwest. Photo: Ohio’s Country Journal

Low hay inventory this past winter combined with poor pasture stands due to excessive moisture have led to a greater proportion of thin beef cows both across the countryside and on the cull market. As we evaluate the toll that this past winter took on forage stands, especially alfalfa, hay is projected to be in short supply as we proceed into next winter as well.

For a beef cow to be efficient and profitable, we must meet her nutritional requirements for maintenance in addition to those for reproduction and lactation. As a reminder, the hierarchy of nutrient use is as follows: Maintenance, Development, Growth, Lactation, Reproduction, Fattening. This applies to all nutrient categories, not just to energy alone. As we conclude calving season, we are entering the most challenging time in production cycle when it comes to providing adequate nutrition. If the cow does not intake enough nutrients and is in suboptimal body condition at calving (BCS < 5), reproduction is the first to fail. With that in mind, one strategy available to minimize body condition and reproductive losses when forage is in short supply is to early wean calves.

Early weaning is certainly not a new concept and is one that is often employed when Continue reading

Cutting Height in Forages: How Low Can You Go?

– Dwane Miller, Penn State Extension Educator, Agronomy

Whether you’re taking the crop as haylage or dry hay, it’s important to pay attention to forage cutting height. One of our goals as farmers is to maximize our yield; however, cutting a crop too low can lead to several negative issues. The introduction of the disk-type mowers (discbines) allows for cutting very close to the ground. I’ve seen many fields that have been “scalped” right to ground level. This differs considerably from the older sickle bar mowers (haybines), whose technology required that some level of stubble height remain. Stand longevity can be compromised when the crop is cut too low. As a general rule, alfalfa can be cut closer to the ground than our grass crops. We need to think about where energy reserves are stored in the crop. For alfalfa, carbohydrates are stored below the ground in the taproot. Grasses store their energy above ground in the stem base or tillers. Frequent mowing at a close height will continue to deplete these energy reserves, resulting in stand longevity issues.

The second consequence for mowing too close to the ground is Continue reading

Breeding soundness exams: Do ’em!

– W. Mark Hilton, DVM, PAS, DABVP (beef cattle), Clinical Professor Emeritus, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

Talk to any veterinarian who does a significant amount of beef work, and he or she will have stories of a group of cows that went “0 for” at pregnancy check.

Maybe it was a group of heifers with the yearling bull that had zero out of 12 bred, or a group of 30 cows with a mature bull that “got them all pregnant each of the past three years.”

My first case was just six months into practice, when I went to sleeve a group of 25 cows that spent almost three months with a rented bull.

When the first cow that walks into the chute is open, it causes a little angst. When it is the first four, we start thinking, “Oh, no.”

You may continue reading this article at BEEF Magazine on-line

Now is the Time to Prepare for Next Spring’s Calving Season

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

Only 1 to 2 months ago the spring calving cows were calving, the temperatures were colder and the calving pastures were already covered with muck and manure. Experience would say that you do not want to ask cow calf operators how calving is then, because the response would be less than objective, reflecting bone-chilling cold and not enough sleep.

If you wait too long, perhaps until this fall, time will have mellowed most of the events and one soon has difficulty matching a calving season with particular problems. Plus it may be too late to make the necessary changes to reduce calving losses. Now is perhaps the best time to make a few notes on what to change for next year.

The first step is to Continue reading

Weekly Livestock Comments for May 17, 2019

– Dr. Andrew Griffith, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee

FED CATTLE: Fed cattle traded $3 lower on a live basis compared to last week. Live prices were mainly $116 to $117 while dressed prices were mainly $184 to $186.

The 5-area weighted average prices thru Thursday were $116.70 live, down $3.70 from last week and $185.89 dressed, down $6.53 from a week ago. A year ago prices were $114.88 live and $184.28 dressed.

Finished cattle prices continued their consistent weekly decline for the third consecutive week. If a fourth consecutive week of a $3 loss were to occur then most of the positive basis with the June live cattle contract will have evaporated. The positive basis has been the motivating factor for most feedlot managers to push cattle out of the feedlot even though they would prefer to hold the line on cash traded cattle. The current week’s cash trade is still resulting in Continue reading

Time and Change: Evaluating OSU Extension Beef Team Programming

Change can be a challenge, or it can be viewed as an opportunity. As the beef industry continues to evolve, so too, does our Beef Team within Ohio State University Extension. In the past year we have added Beef Quality Assurance trainings to our traditional education programs, including the annual beef school webinars. With recent and planned retirements among the seasoned educators on our team, coupled with the addition of some new educators we would like to take this opportunity to gather input from the beef community.

Within the next week, subscribers to the Ohio Beef Letter will be receiving an individual email containing a link to participate in a short impact survey. The survey should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. This will be an opportunity for you, our clientele to provide meaningful feedback to the Beef Team, that will be used to shape future programs and educational efforts.

On behalf of the Beef Team, we would like to thank everyone in advance for their support of OSU Extension Beef Team programming.

Posted in Events

Forage Options for “Prevented Planting” Corn and Soybean Acres

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

Today, as we sit here on May 15, we know three things for certain:

  • Ohio has the lowest inventory of hay since the 2012 drought and the 4th lowest in 70 years.
  • Ohio’s row crops will not get planted in a timely fashion this year.
  • Grain markets have fallen to the point that in many cases – or, perhaps most cases – for those with coverage, Prevented Planting Crop Insurance payments will yield more income than growing a late planted corn or soybean crop this year.

Grazing oats planted on Prevented Planting acres in very late fall is an excellent alternative for harvesting this cover crop.

Prevented planting provisions in the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) crop insurance policies can provide valuable coverage when extreme weather conditions prevent expected plantings. On their website, RMA also says “producers should make planting decisions based on agronomically sound and well documented crop management practices.”

Today, insured corn and soybean growers throughout Ohio find themselves at the crossroads of a decision that pits the overwhelming desire to want to plant and grow a crop against the reality that financially and agronomically it might be a more sound alternative to accept a Prevented Planting insurance payment. Adding further support to the notion that today Continue reading

Control Pasture Weeds Now

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County OSU Extension

Cressleaf groundsel is flourishing throughout Ohio this year in pasture, hay and crops fields!

With the combination of sunny warm days and more than adequate rainfall received so far in May, grasses and legumes in our hayfields are beginning to flower. Which means, according to our knowledge of grass maturity and forage quality, it’s already time to make hay. If the weather will cooperate, that is.

It’s also prime time to control pasture weeds. Thistles, docks, ironweed, asters, poison hemlock, and cockleburs are up and actively growing. Control on these species is most effective when they are small (less than six inches tall). Many are already past this point. The longer we wait, the greater impact they will have on overall production and the more difficult they will be to treat in both hayfields and grazed pastures.

The decision of how and when to wage war on damaging weeds is one based on many factors. Extension always recommends utilizing an integrated pest management program to control pests and weeds. The most effective programs are Continue reading

Body Condition Score and Getting Thin Cows to Rebreed

– Travis Mulliniks, UNL Beef Cattle Nutritionist, Range Production Systems

During the production year, livestock are faced with dynamic changes in nutritional and environmental stressors that create nutritional challenges.  The last year for many livestock producer have been one of those very challenging years. Many parts of Nebraska experienced high, early spring rainfall and tremendous forage growth, resulting in early maturing and low-quality forages.  This created a situation that many cows were thinner than normal years at weaning.  We coupled that with high moisture, extreme cold, blizzards, and flooding in last few months.  The end result has been really thin cows.

Body condition scoring (BCS) is an effective management tool to estimate the energy reserves of a cow.  If monitored multiple times across the production year, BCS is a good indicator of direction of body weight change.  Body condition score of beef cows at the time of calving has the greatest impact on subsequent rebreeding performance (Table 1). Traditional recommendations suggest cows need to be nutritionally managed at a BCS 5 or greater at breeding for optimal reproductive performance. However, the response is not absolute; some cows are capable of Continue reading

Udder Quality in Beef Cows – Does it Matter?

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, DVM, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Dr. Darrh Bullock, Extension Professor, Breeding and Genetics, University of Kentucky

Picture 1: The two front quarters are blind (dry).

Udder and teat quality are two of the most important functional traits for a beef cow. Although much of the focus in selection of female replacements is on milk production, the milk delivery system (udder and teats) is equally important. It is easy to see that newborn calves have a difficult time nursing oversized teats, especially if hanging very close to the ground, which often results in inadequate colostrum intake. However, there is limited research regarding the occurrence of mastitis in beef cattle and its associated effects. “Mastitis” is infection (usually bacterial) of the milk-producing tissue or “mammary gland”. A cow with a case of mastitis will typically have one or more affected quarters that are swollen and produce abnormal milk. The milk may be thick with clots, thin and watery, or may not look unusual depending on the infecting bacteria. Some cows exhibit signs of illness such as Continue reading