Cost of Wintering Cattle

– Jared Geiser, Research Assistant and Brenda Boetel, Professor and Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

As we move into the winter feeding months cow calf producers have additional opportunities to impact their bottom line. Winter feeding costs represent the single largest cost to cattlemen, typically representing 55-80% of total costs for their cowherd. This cost is important to consider when making the decision to cull open or unproductive cows or feed them through winter while trying to improve body condition score. Additional consideration should be given to feed resources available and market value for cull cows.

Cow calf producers should consider what their individual feed costs are, along with feed availability. The average cow can eat Continue reading

The Challenge of Cow Size

– Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Size has been the common denominator in revenue generation for cow-calf, backgrounding and feedlot operators.

The process of raising cattle has been quite steady, with a general acknowledgment that growth is key to success.

That is a true statement because calf weight, the product of the cow-calf producer, and carcass weight, the product of the feedlot, drive total dollars. What also is true is that bigger cows producer bigger calves, but the discussion becomes clouded when Continue reading

The Start of the Third Trimester, the Most Underappreciated Day of the Year

– Sandy Johnson, Extension Beef Specialist, Kansas State University

Each of us have special dates we celebrate on an annual basis — birthdays, anniversaries and other special holidays. For the cow herd, notable dates might include the start of calving or breeding season and weaning. An undervalued date in cow-calf production is the start of the third trimester.

Off the top of your head and without calculating back from calving, do you know when the third trimester starts for your replacement heifers or cows? I’m guessing it’s not on many people’s radar. If you have a March 1 calving herd with replacements calving before cows, the third trimester starts for Continue reading

Not Too Early to Prepare for 2018 Calving Season

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

You might find the timing of the title of this article a bit unusual. After all, many producers are currently marketing the 2017 calf crop, grain harvest isn’t finished, and winter is nearly two months away. Depending on the starting date of your calving season, the arrival of the 2018 crop is 60 or more days away. Plenty of time to plan ahead, right? Don’t be so sure.

Regardless of when your 2018 calving season begins, management of the beef female during the last trimester (90-95 days) of pregnancy can lay the foundation for Continue reading

Add Value by Culling, Feeding

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

Weaning and “preg checking” tell us how successful our last two breeding seasons were. While many cow herd operators enjoy calving as a time to see the fruits of their labor, I prefer weaning, when management and genetic selection come together in one package. If you fell short in meeting any challenge like keeping pastures vegetative or replacement heifers without records, those effects are in full view when calves cross the scale at weaning.

On the positive side, if calves weigh and look at least as good as expected, we’re already fully invested in Continue reading

The 4 R’s of Feeding the Cow Herd

Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Sandusky County (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

The end of the growing season is near, and for cattle producers in Ohio, that means the beginning of the season that challenges the profitability of a cow/calf operation more than any other aspect.  That’s right, feeding a cow through the winter is the number one cost of production, and the days of $2.50 and higher feeder calves that made it pretty easy to pay the winter feed bill are a fond but distant memory.  The difference between the producer that has had and will have continued success in a slightly different  economic climate and the ones who have and will struggle, will come down to management.  Not just marketing management, but input management, or in other words, feed and nutrition.

There are lots of different methods of storing hay between the time it’s harvested, and fed.

Most anyone involved in agriculture in Ohio has very likely heard about the concept of 4R management in agronomic crop production in order to preserve the soil and ensure water quality – using the ‘right’ fertilizer or pesticide product, putting it in the ‘right’ place, at the ‘right’ rate, at the ‘right’ time.  The cattle producer who will be the most Continue reading

Effect of feeding distillers grains during different phases of production and addition of postmortem antioxidants on shelf life of ground beef

– B.D.Cleveland, J.O.Buntyn, A.L.Gronli, J.C.MacDonald, G.A.Sullivan (Condensed by Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist)

In 2013, 35.5 million metric tons of distillers grains was produced as coproducts of the fuel ethanol industry, and beef cattle account for almost half of distillers grains consumption. Feeding distillers grains to cattle can increase Polyunsaturated fatty acids concentration, increase lipid oxidation, and decrease color stability of beef.

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of feeding distillers grains and the postmortem addition of antioxidants on the shelf life of ground beef products. Continue reading

Don’t Guess, Forage Test!

Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Sandusky County (originally published in the Ohio Cattleman, late fall 2017 issue)

Color is seldom an accurate indication of hay quality!

Across most of Ohio, 2017 has been a challenging crop year, especially for those in the hay production business.  In 2016, while most producers did not have significant yields, quality was tremendous due to the dry weather which allowed for highly manageable cutting intervals and easy dry down.  Since the end of June, however, 2017 has been just the opposite, with mother nature forcing many bales to be made at higher than optimal moisture levels, and cutting intervals measured in months rather than days.

With adequate moisture throughout most of the state for much of the summer, this equates to substantial yields, which in turn for the beef producer, means hay is readily available at reasonable prices.  However, for the astute cattleman that either makes his/her own hay or knows the nature of the business, this also means high quality hay may just be the proverbial needle in the haystack, and for the most part, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.

While there are many options to manage the situation, Continue reading

Cull Cows and Stockpiled Forage

Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Educator, Ag/NR Monroe County (previously published in Farm & Dairy)

At this time of year many cow-calf operators are weaning/selling calves and determining which, if any, cows are going to be culled and sent to market. The sale of cull cows can be a significant source of cash flow for cow-calf operators. Data shows that 15-25% of cow-calf business’ returns are a result of selling cull cows in the fall, after weaning. For this reason, cow-calf operators should carefully consider how and when they market their cull animals.

If you decide to delay marketing cull cows in an effort to add weight, improve quality, and capture a stronger early spring market, stockpiled forage makes a good feed source.

Glen Selk, Oklahoma State University Extension Cattle Specialist, said, “It is important to understand the Continue reading

First-Calf Heifers Require Different Management

– Jason Smith, University of Tennessee

First-calf heifers. Let’s face it – we all struggle with them at least to some degree. And it’s an issue that we face not just here in Tennessee, but across the entire country. If one comes up open, we’re faced with one of two choices. The first (and recommended) is to sell her, which will generally result in an overall loss on that female. The second would be to keep her, and try again next year. Will she get pregnant after a year off? Maybe. But how many of us can operate a profitable bed and breakfast where our guests don’t pay? Most of us can’t – myself included. So if neither of these are viable options, what is? Being proactive at preventing the issue. But before we address ways of doing that, there are few fundamental concepts that are important to understand.

So why are they so dang hard to get bred back? Or, come preg-check time, why is it that the majority of the open cows are coming Continue reading