Breeding Beef Cows Back after a Tough Winter

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension AgNR Educator, Licking County (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

How do you avoid getting stuck in a rut? Take a different path. There was a real shortage of high quality or even medium quality hay made last year. Forage analysis results that I reviewed last fall were all lower quality than expected. As a result, many cowherds were much thinner at the beginning of the spring calving season this year. The problem with having thin cows at calving time is that they are likely to be even thinner at breeding time.

When a cow eats, her use of nutrients is prioritized. First is maintenance for survival, followed by lactation and growth, which includes weight gain, and finally, reproduction. While reproduction is the number one priority trait for profitability, it is not at the top of the list when the body of the cow is deciding how to use its nutrient resources.

Years of research have established that thin cows are often difficult to get bred. Results often show around a 30% decrease in the number of cows displaying estrus by 60 days post-calving on a cow with a body condition score at calving of 4 vs 6. Similar results are seen when comparing pregnancy rates within a Continue reading

Plan Now for the 2019 OCA Replacement Female Sale

John F. Grimes, OCA Replacement Female Sale Manager

Last year 107 total sale lots grossed $152,275 for an overall average of $1,423.

The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) is announcing an event of potential interest for both the buyers and sellers of beef breeding cattle. On Friday evening, November 29, the OCA will be hosting their seventh annual Replacement Female Sale. The sale will be held at the Muskingum Livestock facility in Zanesville and will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The 2019 Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Replacement Female Sale will provide an opportunity for both buyers and sellers to meet the need for quality replacements in the state. Consignments may include cow-calf pairs, bred cows and bred heifers. Females must be under the age of five as of January 1, 2020 and may be of registered or commercial background. Bred females must be bred to a bull with known EPD’s and calves at side of cows must be sired by a bull with known EPD’s. Pregnancy status must be Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Pre-breeding Nutrition Considerations for Cows That Have Struggled This Winter

– Katy Lippolis, Iowa State Extension Cow-calf Specialist

While spring may finally be here, harsh weather conditions over the winter, and cold and wet spring storms have taken a toll on late gestation and early lactation cows. Some have depleted body stores to make up for the cold weather, so making sure those cows bounce back prior to breeding is crucial to maintaining pregnancy rates.

There are many considerations and management strategies we can utilize to Continue reading