Impacts of the Cold Wet Winter

-Stephen R. Koontz, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics – Colorado State University

The returning to normal of U.S. federal government reports and data sources are revealing the impact of the cold and wet winter on the fed cattle production. As pointed out in last week’s ITCM, cattle on feed inventories are very high: 11,678 thousand head in the seven major states. This is above last year’s 11,630 thousand head and average of the prior five years for February 1 of 10,781 thousand head. The inventory of long-fed cattle – cattle calculated to have been on feed over 120 days – is also substantial. This inventory is 3,993 thousand head, is well above last year’s 3,558 thousand head, and the average of the prior five years for February 1 of 3,500 thousand head. There are a lot of cattle to be marketed through the end of March and into April and May. Slaughter volumes reported in the weekly Livestock Slaughter report do not communicate that this is happening. Total cattle slaughter is up modestly. Within total cattle, cow slaughter is higher some weeks by 10 thousand head, fed heifer slaughter is up some weeks 10-20 thousand head, and the largest portion – that being fed steer slaughter – is even with the prior year or softer. April marketings will be an important indicator of the potential strength of the cattle markets through the summer. Weak marketings will suggest a backlog of animals.

The Livestock Slaughter reports are also revealing the Continue reading

It’s Time to Get Serious About Reproduction and Genetics

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator (originally published in the Expo 2019 issue of The Ohio Cattleman)

The first quarter of any calendar year is an important time for most commercial cow-calf producers. If it has not started already, calving season will begin soon. Shortly after the onset of calving season, decisions must be made in regards to breeding season. Management choices in the areas of reproduction and genetics made during this timeframe can certainly influence a cow-calf operation for years to come.

Regardless of whether you use a natural service sire or artificial insemination in your breeding program, there is little justification for a lengthy breeding season. 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.

Nearly every management decision associated with the cowherd is simplified with a shorter calving season. Herd health, nutritional, and reproductive management are Continue reading

Reproduction Benchmark Goals

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

The Tennessee Forage and Grassland Council meeting that was conducted in Jackson this week turned out to be a very informative meeting with good discussion. There were several questions asked with several related to reproduction. Many times, producers do not know if they are hitting the mark with pregnancy rates, calving rates and weaning rates because they only have their information in which to compare.

As a benchmark, cow-calf producers should be shooting for at least a 95 percent pregnancy rate, a 94 per-cent calving rate, and a 90 percent weaning rate. These reproduction benchmarks are a good mark to shoot for in the near term. After meeting these benchmarks, producers should be trying to exceed these points if it is not costing an exorbitant amount in dollars and labor. A few practices that will help achieve these benchmarks include a short defined calving sea-son, pregnancy evaluation shortly after the breeding season, and a strict culling regiment.

The Impact of Nutrition on Reproduction

During the Ohio Beef School webinar last month, Dr. Alvaro Garcia Guerra discussed the challenges of getting cows and heifers bred, regardless if by artificial insemination or natural service. In particular Dr. Guerra offered insight into the impacts of nutrition on heifer development and conception rates of heifers, as well as the impact nutrition has on days to return to estrus and conception rates of lactating females.

That presentation, The Impact of Nutrition on Reproduction, is embedded below:

What To Do When Calves Are Born Weak

– Michelle Arnold, DVM, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

“Weak Calf Syndrome” is a term applied to any calf born alive but is slow to stand and may or may not attempt to nurse. Calves born to dams that experience weight loss during the final 50-60 days of gestation are at high risk of being weak. An energy deficient diet fed to late gestation cows leads to prolonged labor, dystocia (difficult birth), poor quality and quantity of colostrum and decreased milk production. Many of the newborn calves presented to the UKVDL in recent weeks for necropsy have had no milk within the digestive tract. With excellent management, some weak calves will survive but most will die shortly after birth. If they survive, many experience sickness, decreased growth rates and lower weaning weights. The following is a summary of known factors involved in weak calf syndrome and how to best Continue reading

Participate in the NAHMS study “Health Management on U.S. Feedlots, 2020”

The USDA initiated the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) in 1983 to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on animal health, management, and productivity across the United States. The NAHMS team conducts national studies on the health and management of United States domestic livestock populations. These studies are designed to meet the information needs of the industries associated with these commodities, as identified by people within those industries.

Presently through April 7, 2019, NAHMS is conducting a needs assessment survey to gather input from cattle producers and other stakeholders about priorities regarding cattle health that should be included in the upcoming study titled “Health Management on U.S. Feedlots, 2020.” To participate and offer your input, go to this SurveyMonkey link:

For more information about NAHMS, visit their website at:

Does 2019 Mark the End of Beef Herd Expansion?

– Dr. Kenny Burdine, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Kentucky

After some delay due to the federal government shutdown, USDA released their January 1 estimates for cattle inventory on February 28th. At the national level, beef cow numbers were estimated to have grown by 1% from 2018. This is a lower rate than was seen last year, but growth nonetheless. Going back to 2014, the beef cow herd has grown by almost 10%. Heifer retention estimates provide further evidence that herd growth is slowing as the number of heifers held for beef cow replacement was down by 3%.

My preferred way to consider heifer retention is to look at it as a percentage of beef cow inventory. Based on these most recent estimates, heifer retention is running at 18.7% of beef cow inventory, which is slightly above the average going back to 1973 (see figure 1). Figure 1 really illustrates how high Continue reading

Cattle on Feed

– Matthew A. Diersen, Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Economics, South Dakota State University

Following the shutdown, fundamental information is slowly returning to normal. The February Cattle on Feed report was released last Friday, with the March report scheduled for its normal date of March 22. The February report gives the January activity and February 1 totals. Also, the report contains the monthly and quarterly summaries of prior-year activity and includes an annual breakdown by feedlot size. Thus, it is a good reference report.

The trade expectations were for lower placements and higher marketings compared to a year earlier, which would have resulted in slightly higher on-feed totals. The actual numbers had placements at 95% and marketings at 103% of last year’s levels, both at the upper end of expectations. The resulting on-feed total of 11.7 million head was Continue reading

Prepare to Evaluate Forage Stands for Winter Injury

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Wayne County and Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

Rapid freeze/thaw cycles and saturated soil conditions have created the potential for heaving with taprooted legumes like alfalfa and red clover.

Forage stands will begin spring greenup in the next few weeks, especially in southern Ohio. While winter injury in forages is very hard to predict, this winter has presented some very tough conditions for forage stands. This is especially true of legumes like alfalfa and red clover. Producers and crop consultants should be prepared to walk forage stands early this spring to assess their condition in time to make decisions and adjustments for the 2019 growing season.

We had some days with very cold air temperatures, but the soil temperatures have been much more moderate than you might expect. The soil temperature at the 2-inch depth is associated with the temperature of plant crowns. The coldest 2-inch soil temperatures recorded since January 1 at the Ohio State University Agricultural Research Stations occurred in late January to early February, falling to 17.8 F at Northwest, 25.4 at Ashtabula (mid-January), 30.3 F at Western, 32.3 F at Wooster, and 32.6 at Jackson. To put this in perspective, temperatures in the 5 to 15 F range as measured at or just below the soil surface can begin to damage Continue reading

Beef AG NEWS: Vaccination Programs Considerations for the Beef Breeding Herd

With calving season into full swing throughout much of Ohio, breeding season is around the corner. A well planned breeding herd vaccination program can improve fertility and conception rates.

In this edition of the Beef AG NEWS, host Duane Rigsby and OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes offer considerations for implementing your pre-breeding season whole herd vaccination program.