Quality in the Cow Herd

– Justin Sexten, Ph.D., Director, CAB Supply Development

Market cows often represent 15% to 25% of the herd’s gross income.

When you think of a “quality” cow herd, I suspect you see easy-fleshing cows with 500- to 600-pound (lb.) calves, each born unassisted in a 60-day window. A dream to handle, docile in every case, never a stray missing the gate. Calves top the market and feeders fight over who will own them every year.

That’s a pretty good picture, but let’s widen the view to a quality survey reported by McKensie Harris and others in the 2106 Market Cow Report of the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA). It does not conjure picturesque or pastoral scenes, but there are some interesting quality trends to take in.

Market cows, the culls you sell, are a key source of lean trimmings to the beef supply chain and often represent 15% to 25% of gross income. However, the decision to sell a cow is not an active management choice in most operations. Commercial cattlemen “market” cows as a byproduct of the cow’s inability to remain productive, not because they want to increase income from cull cows.

That’s certainly different from the feeder and fed cattle scene. For one thing, those Continue reading

Should We Keep a Cow That Fails to Do Her Job?

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

This week I’ve had several discussions about reproductive efficiency in cattle and the profitability implications of cows that do not breed and rolling those cows from a spring calving season to a fall calving season. It is understood that many producers that have multiple breeding seasons or that leave the bull with the cows 12 months of the year commonly give cows an extra opportunity to breed. Though it is common, it does not mean it is a best management practice.

First, most cattle producers understand a short controlled calving season (60 to 90 days) is easier to manage and less expensive than Continue reading

Now Isn’t the Time for Business as Usual

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

The fall harvest season has been evident across Ohio over the past several weeks. This certainly applies to both grain farmers and beef cow-calf producers. Grain crops are being harvested and sold or placed in storage for future sales. Cattle producers have even more options as most of the spring 2018 calf crop has been weaned and decisions are being made as to whether calves should be sold as feeders, placed in backgrounding enterprises, sent to a feedlot, or heifers retained as future herd replacement females.

Many important beef management decisions are made late in the calendar year. Any owner or manager of an operation should have a basic awareness of the overall economic situation and long-term outlook for their segment of the beef industry. So where does the beef industry stand today?

The current cattle cycle that began earlier this decade is showing signs of coming to a conclusion. The beef industry has experienced an eventful decade that has seen a rapid decline in cowherd numbers followed by rapid expansion driven by record high prices in 2014 and 2015. Market prices have moderated more recently in response to increases in the supplies of all classes of beef animals. However, market prices have stabilized to the point of giving producers a reasonable chance of profitability. The U.S. consumer who is expected to purchase Continue reading

Fall is the time to control lice. Or is it?

– W. Mark Hilton, DVM, PAS, DABVP, clinical professor emeritus, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

Fall is the time of year we think about lice control in much of the country, but is that the correct timing? More and more we hear producers and veterinarians lament about lack of effectiveness of lice control. Are lice getting harder to treat? Here’s a little history.

Cattle can have two types of lice: chewing (or biting) lice and sucking lice. These pests live their entire life cycle on the animal. Yes, some lice can fall off the animal and live in bedding for a few days, but that is of minor significance when we think about controlling the parasite.

The lice causing excessive scratching and hair loss around the neck and shoulders during the winter are actually on the animal the entire Continue reading

Beef AG NEWS Today, the October Podcast

In this month’s podcast of Beef AG NEWS Today, show host Duane Rigsby visits with OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes about selecting, retaining and managing replacement females, and the impact exports are having on profitability.

Preg Check Your Cows . . . Please!

– Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

It’s weaning time and I hope most of you are planning your herd “preg check”. 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 Continue reading

Know the USDA Cull Cow Grades Before You Send Them to Market

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University

Some culling of beef cows occurs in most herds every year. The Beef Audits have generally shown that cull cows, bulls, and cull dairy cows make up about 20% of the beef available for consumption in the United States. About half of this group (or 10% of the beef supply) comes from cull beef cows.

Whether we are culling because of drought or to improve the productivity of the herd, it is important to understand the values placed on cull cows intended for slaughter.

Cows in body condition score 7 and above are “Breakers”.

The USDA market news service reports on four classes of cull cows (not destined to be replacements). The four classes are divided primarily on fatness. The highest conditioned cull cows are reported as “Breakers”. They usually are quite fleshy and generally have excellent dressing percentages. Body condition score 7 and above are required to be “Breakers”.

The next class is a more moderate conditioned group of cows called Continue reading

Too Much, Too Early

– Justin Sexten, Ph.D., Director, CAB Supply Development

Fall- and spring-calving herd managers don’t often find themselves facing the same decision as those who buy calves for backgrounding, but this is one of those times. Should you implant the calves and if so, what product should be used? Answers will vary, of course.

It’s simple if increasing gain is the singular goal. Given adequate nutrition, the return on investment to growth-promoting implants makes it one of the best dollars you can spend. But let’s examine that given: are there adequate dietary resources to support the implant? Data suggests calves need enough nutrition to gain at least a pound per day to make any implant pay. Few operations plan for gains lower than that, but for those who try to hold calves back to change marketing windows, this may be a consideration.

Another reason implants may not make sense is a contradiction with your marketing plans, such as those who sell natural or non-hormone treated calves (NHTC) at a premium. Implanting would limit marketing to conventional outlets, where facts may not support perceptions. I hear of ranchers forgoing the calf performance from implants because they think non-implanted calves bring more in the everyday market, but there’s evidence to the contrary. Calves that are verified Natural or NHTC may Continue reading

What Path Will You Choose?

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

Based on reports from USDA and industry analysts such as Cattle Fax, it appears that the aggressive expansion of the U.S. beef cowherd will peak in 2019 and level off in the early part of the next decade. From the time the most recent herd expansion began in 2014, producers will have added over 3 million beef cows to the nation’s herd. Our primary protein competitors, pork and poultry, have also been in expansion mode recently which adds more competition for the consumer’s food dollars.

For all of my adult life, I have heard agricultural economists talk about the “cattle cycle”. The cycle is often reported in approximately 10-year increments and a wide variety of economic, environmental, and political effects can greatly influence each cycle. Current and future cattle cycles will face increasingly varied and complex factors that affect the economic health of the beef industry. The next cattle cycle will be impacted by factors such as drought, trade policies, domestic and foreign economies, competition from pork and poultry, sustainability concerns, and the development of meat substitutes.

What does all of this mean for you as a cattleman? I believe there is no time like the present to Continue reading

Fall Plant Control of cressleaf groundsel; Prevent the sea of yellow in the spring

– Dr. Diane Gerken, DVM, ABVT Veterinary Toxicologist

ODA’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab has been involved in two separate cases with animals affected by the toxicity of this plant in the past year.

This plant is Senecio glabellus or now called Packera glabella which occurs in some uncultivated Ohio fields. This is a picture indicating possible plant density in the springtime. If you made hay/haylage with this plant in it, the recommendation is to NOT feed it to livestock or horses. Also, do not use as pasture for any grazing animal.

ODA-ADDL personnel have been involved in two separate cases (one with classic pathology and the second with a positive chemical analyses for the specific pyrrolizidine alkaloids in this plant) with animals affected in the past year. This plant contains at least one toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA), senecionine but reported to contain more. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids cause liver disease in humans and animals after Continue reading