Time to Roll Up the Sleeves

– Dr. Les Anderson, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Unfortunately, the beef industry sits in the middle of a downturn in the market. When the market is low and margins get slimmer, pressure is on cattlemen to get more efficient in their production. Efficiency is a word that is thrown around in the beef industry but what does efficient production look like?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines efficient operation as “effective operation as measured by a comparison of production with costs (as in energy, time, and money)”. Interesting. Unfortunately, in the commercial beef cow-calf industry, we don’t spend enough time discussing or thinking about being an efficient operation.

Efficient beef cow-calf operations control the calving season. Having a short calving season establishes the base for efficient production allowing producers to implement their health, nutrition, and marketing programs more easily. Research from Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University (Parker et al., 2004) has shown that 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

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

Financial, Management Benefits of Pregnancy Diagnosis

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

We are entering an exciting time of the year for cow-calf producers. They have started or soon will be weaning their spring-born calves. Weaning is an excellent time to prepare the calf crop to become herd replacements or for future marketing opportunities by implementing health programs and transitioning to feed rations. It is also a great time to determine the pregnancy status of the breeding herd. Management practices for both these groups can go a long way to determine the ultimate profitability of herd.

The factor that should ultimately sort a female to the keep or cull pen is pregnancy status. The three primary methods used in pregnancy diagnosis are rectal palpation, ultrasound evaluation, or blood testing. Each of these methods can effectively diagnose the female’s pregnancy status when properly implemented. Obviously the preferred result is for the female to be pregnant. Pregnancy diagnosis is relatively inexpensive, especially when Continue reading

Flip this Cow: Adding Value by Reconditioning Cull Cows

– Matt Hersom, University of Florida Extension

Culling cows from the herd is a normal part of annual ranch management. How and when cull cows are marketed represents your last opportunity to generate revenue from each cow. There is an opportunity to add value to cull cows to generate some additional revenue for a cattle enterprise. Just as there are options to be compared before marketing weaned calves, producers should weigh their options before marketing cull cows.

There are a number of reasons for a cow to be culled from the herd. A primary reason is that the cow is open (not pregnant) when the herd is pregnancy tested. Without the prospect of a calf to sell, the open cow becomes an expense. Secondary to pregnancy status is age, as older cows are less productive or have greater risk of health and structural issues. Other reasons to cull a cow include disposition, not weaning a calf, overall poor performance, poor body condition, sickness, or injury. Certainly cows with active sickness/disease or that have not yet cleared withdrawal dates for animal health products should not enter market channels. Cattle producers may have an interest in adding value to their own cull cows, or in creating another potential revenue stream, there is opportunity for improving the value of culls cows.

Adding Value to Cull Cows

Figure 1. Example of the before and after of cull cow 931. (Gainesville FL, Photo credit Matt Hersom).

Before embarking on the process of adding value to cull cows, you need to identify your goals and what resources you have available. Many cull cows are in poor body condition and will require a higher plain of nutrition to add weight. A primary consideration then for adding value to cull cows are economical feed resources. If pastures will be used to provide the base nutrition for reconditioning cows, make sure there is enough extra so that the main herd will not be impacted. Any supplemental feed-stuffs used must provide the opportunity for a low cost of gain. Often these supplemental feeds might be Continue reading

Beef AGRI NEWS Today, the July Podcast

In this month’s podcast of Beef AGRI NEWS Today, show host Duane Rigsby visits with OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes about the winding down of breeding season, pregnancy checking, culling considerations, and late summer forage and hay management options.

“Preg” Check and Cull Replacement Heifers Early

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University

Many ranchers choose to breed the replacement heifers about a month ahead of the mature cows in the herd. In addition, they like to use a shortened 45 to 60-day breeding season for the replacement heifers. The next logical step is to determine which of these heifers failed to conceive in their first breeding season. This is more important today than ever before.

As the bulls are being removed from the replacement heifers, this would be an ideal time to call and make arrangements with your local veterinarian to have those heifers evaluated for pregnancy in about 60 days. In two months, experienced palpaters should have no difficulty identifying which heifers are pregnant and which heifers are not pregnant (open). Those heifers that are Continue reading

The Cost of Keeping One Open Cow Can Pay to Have the Herd Pregnancy Checked

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

Recently the topic of pregnancy checking was discussed. There are several producers who use palpation, ultrasound, or blood test to determine the pregnancy status of cows in the herd. However, there are more producers who use either the eye test or fail to pregnancy check at all.

Regardless of what one may think, every producer is faced with the cost of pregnancy diagnosis. On average, pregnancy diagnosis immediately following the breeding season using palpation, ultrasound, or blood test will cost Continue reading

Beef AGRI NEWS Today, the May Podcast

In this month’s podcast of Beef AGRI NEWS Today, show host Duane Rigsby visits with OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes about breeding season and the multitude of management considerations that come into play this time of year. (FYI, there’s likely an audio glitch that begins about 5 minutes into the podcast. Slide past it and the audio resumes properly for the balance of the recording.)