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

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

The Long-Term Impact of a Few Days

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator, retired (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

For spring-calving beef herds, the breeding season is currently or soon will be underway. Many decisions have been made in terms of the genetic makeup of the 2020 calf crop. Natural herd sires or sires to be used through artificial insemination have been selected. Mature cows have been retained and replacement heifers have been introduced to the breeding herd. Hopefully the genetic decisions that have been made will prove profitable when next year’s calf crop is sold.

Reproduction is the most economically important trait in beef cattle for the cow-calf producer. Numerous studies have shown that reproduction is several times more important than growth or carcass traits. Simply put, genetic superiority in any trait does not matter if the beef female is not bred and deliver a live calf for the producer.

Regardless of the size and scope of your operation or your preferred time of year to calve, there is little economic justification for a lengthy calving season. The arrival of breeding season for many herds seems like an appropriate time to revisit this issue. A 60-day breeding season is an ideal goal to shoot for and I would recommend nothing longer than 90 days. If you are currently involved in a longer breeding season, there are valid economic and management reasons to make a change. It requires a little discipline, some rigid culling, and a willingness to use technology and other resources available.

A joint study between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M Universities found a positive relationship between number of days of the breeding season and the production cost per hundredweight of calf weaned. In addition, they reported a negative relationship between Continue reading

A Few Final Thoughts

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator, retired

I have had the pleasure of writing articles regularly since 2011 for this publication and the Ohio Cattleman magazine. Over the years, I have written about several wide-ranging beef management topics and timely industry issues including a few “editorials” along the way. I hope you have found them worth the time it took you to read them and gained some useful information along the way. Since I retired yesterday from over 33 years of employment with OSU Extension, I want to thank you for allowing me to work with you through many OSU Extension and Ohio Cattlemen’s Association programs over the years.

I have tried to think of an appropriate way to wrap up this column. I really could not think of a single topic that I thought would make a fitting conclusion. Rather than focusing on a single topic, I thought I would touch on a few of the subjects that I admit that I am passionate about relating to beef industry. I believe each of these topics have seen many changes throughout my Extension career. Many advancements have been made in each area but I believe there are still improvements to be gained. These are a few of my parting Continue reading

Manure Sampling for Nutrient Analysis

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Wayne County

Acquiring a representative manure sample is the first step to effectively utilizing manure as a source of soil nutrients.

Applying livestock manure based on nutrient content is one factor involved in using manure more effectively. There are two main challenges to sampling manure for a nutrient analysis; determining when to sample and then collecting a representative sample. Ideally, a manure sample is submitted before application and the results are used in calculating the field application rate. In practice, this is difficult especially for liquid manure systems that require agitation before application. In reality, manure is easiest to sample at the time of application, when it is being loaded and hauled to the field. The main disadvantage is that the results are not available to guide the present application. However, manure nutrient values typically remain fairly consistent and constant within a farm, provided the livestock production system does not change significantly between years. In this case, the analysis results can serve to guide future applications. Annual manure sampling across manure types will allow the farm to establish baseline nutrient values.

The second challenge is collecting a representative sample to send to the lab. The small sample sent in to the lab must Continue reading

What are your Bedding Options, is Keeping a Thin Wheat Stand Worth It?

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Crawford Country, Agricultural and Natural Resources Educator

Wheat fields are finally turning green, as we do stand evaluations (https://agcrops.osu.edu/newsletter/corn-newsletter/2019-07/estimating-wheat-yield-stem-counts) many producers are weighing poor stands versus their need for livestock bedding. As you weigh your options be sure to consider alternative agronomic crop fodder or cover crops as a bedding source. The two most common beddings wheat straw and sawdust are both already in short supply across the state.

Precut Rye Straw

The first harvestable option is to look at cover crops you or a neighbor have planted. One option that has gained some popularity is precut rye straw. If your wheat stand is present but not thick enough to take to head you could follow these same principles making precut wheat straw then planting soybeans a month earlier for improved yields over double crop soybeans. There are two options when making precut straw, both of them take place just after the head emerges but before pollination and seed formation. The most common process is to spray the rye with Glyphosate and let stand in the field as it dries and bleaches yellow. The PHI for cereals on some glyphosate products is 7 days between application and grazing or harvest. The best rye straw comes from having a couple tenths of Continue reading

Beef AG NEWS: Developing a Mating System for Beef Cattle

With more than 70 recognized beef cattle breeds in the U.S. it can be difficult to decide exactly which breed or combination of breeds work best in any given situation. In this broadcast, John Grimes and Duane Rigsby discuss considerations for choosing the beef breed or breeds that can best accomplish the breeding and marketing goals of the individual cattleman.

Time for Some “Defensive Driving”

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

The term “defensive driving” may seem like an odd choice of words to start an article about beef cattle. Stay with me on this one. When I think about defensive driving, I think about watching out for factors such as the surrounding traffic, weather conditions, time of day, driver fatigue, etc. and how they may affect your ability to travel safely from point A to point B. How does this concept relate to beef cattle production?

As we are in the midst of changing both weather and production seasons, now is the time to be analyzing your animals and the environmental conditions around them to make important management decisions that can impact your operation for the short- and long-term. Most of you are painfully aware that the beef herd has faced many challenges through the winter of 2018-2019. As we move into spring with green grass and warmer temperatures, do not get lulled into a false sense of security that any problems that we have been experiencing are going to magically disappear.

We fully realize the current situation. We have experienced months of cold, wet conditions that have resulted in excessive amounts of mud. Unless you have had a laboratory analysis of the forages fed your herd through the winter, we have to assume that forage quality of hay supplies is sub-par. Excessive moisture in the spring and early summer of 2018 simply did not allow for the timely harvest of forages to generate high quality feed. Based on my observations and conversations I have had with producers, veterinarians, and other industry representatives, the weather and feed quality has resulted in large numbers of Continue reading

Ohio Beef School Podcasts Released

To suggest the past year has been a challenge for Ohio’s cattlemen is, at best, an understatement. The weather made it nearly impossible throughout 2018 to harvest high quality forage in a timely fashion, the constantly muddy conditions caused animals to utilize more energy than normal, and even though temperatures were moderate during much of the fall, cows with a constantly wet hair coat were expending more energy than normal. Then, as late January evolved into February, in many cases mud was matting down the winter coats of cattle reducing their hair’s insulating properties, thus causing them to utilize even more energy in cold weather.

In combination, this created potential for the “perfect storm” that reportedly is resulting in a challenging calving season in parts of Ohio, as well as concern for conception rates as we move into the subsequent breeding season.

Taking all those concerns into account, the 2019 Ohio Beef School consisted of a single ‘live’ webinar on February 5th that featured three different speakers. Collectively, the overall theme of Beef School was Winter Management of the Cow Herd to Insure a Productive 2019. Each of the Beef School’s approximately 30 minute presentations are embedded below under the Continue reading