Managing Risk in a Risky Business

Garth Ruff, Field Specialist Beef Cattle and Livestock Marketing, OSU Extension

Manage the risk of grazing stockers!

The grass is getting greener by the day and livestock are being turned out to pasture as we speak. For many years cattle producers have purchased and turned out stocker cattle on grass this time of year. The goal: put on cheap gain, utilizing grazed forages. While the pounds added to cattle in a stocker operation might be cheap, one thing is for certain that in 2024 calves being purchased to be stockers on grass are anything but.

Looking at livestock auction reports in eastern Ohio 300-500 pound steers last week cost anywhere from $3.00-$3.52 per pound for quality steer calves. Heifer calves cost $2.50 – $3.00 per pound. That is a range in cost from $750 to north of $1,700 per head invested in a calf that will be grazing through the summer. With that kind of up-front costs in buying cattle this spring, summer grazing is risky as it has ever been and there are Continue reading

Enhancing Sacrifice Grazing Lots: Solutions for Winter Mud Challenges

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension, Perry County (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

Restoring a sacrifice lot offers a unique challenge.

During winter, sacrifice grazing lots serve as vital spaces for livestock, protecting primary pastures from overgrazing and erosion. However, these areas often struggle with mud accumulation due to heavy rainfall and trampling. Tackling these issues is important for both animal welfare and environmental concerns. Every operation has its own unique challenges, but there are some common strategies for renovating sacrifice grazing lots to effectively mitigate winter mud problems.

Before conducting any renovation strategies, it’s essential to understand the root causes of mud problems. Some factors are within our control, while others such as weather are not. Studies emphasize the importance of evaluating soil composition, drainage patterns, and livestock behavior to develop targeted solutions. Taking the time to look Continue reading

Myth-Busting BVD Virus Eradication: Is it Possible?

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian

In Germany they proved BVD virus exposure can be quickly and substantially reduced.

“BVD” or “Bovine Viral Diarrhea” virus contributes to a wide range of reproductive, respiratory, and digestive system diseases in cattle. Although symptoms of the initial virus infection are typically mild such as fever and possibly off-feed for a day, there is much more going on than meets the eye. In calves, the BVD virus is immunosuppressive, predisposing infected calves to secondary bacterial infections particularly in the lungs, leading to significant sickness and death loss from bronchopneumonia in the stocker/backgrounder sector. In naïve, susceptible (non-vaccinated or poorly vaccinated) adult cows and heifers, infection with the BVD virus often goes completely unnoticed but ultimately results in reproductive failure, including infertility, early embryonic deaths, abortions, stillbirths, malformed calves, and weak newborns depending on Continue reading

Posted in Health

Hay Verification Program Summarizes Cost of Production

– James Mitchell, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Arkansas

The Arkansas Hay Verification Program is a collaborative effort between Arkansas forage producers, county Extension agents, and state Extension Specialists. The goal of the AHVP is to implement Extension recommendations for increased hay production in accordance with goals established by both the producer and the county Extension agent. The aim is to assist hay producers in Arkansas by improving the production and quality of their hay and forage resources.


Twelve hay fields participated in the 2023 AHVP. Fields participate on a two-year rotating basis. Among the fields participating in 2023, four participated in the 2022 AHVP. Participating farms are from Cleveland, Conway, Dallas, Drew, Faulkner, Marion, Miller, Union, Van Buren, and White counties. Two fields from Cleveland and Dallas counties participated. All twelve fields were warm season forages, which is the current requirement for AHVP.

The table provided above summarizes hay budgets for the Continue reading

Cutout, Weights, and Production

– David P. Anderson, Professor and Extension Economist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

While the weekly average Choice cutout has been above a year ago most of this year, some have noted some weaknesses especially compared to higher cattle and calf prices. Last week’s negotiated weekly average Choice Cutout averaged $300 per cwt compared to $297 last year.

Several factors are at work in cutout value. In some ways the market is in the winter-to-spring transition period, moving from winter-time roasts and other end cuts to steaks for grilling season. Primal cut values for chucks and rounds have been declining while the primal loin has been increasing. The rib and wholesale ribeye values have not increased seasonally heading into grilling season. Lean beef for ground beef has soared in value while 50 percent lean has remained depressed.

Steer dressed weights are over 30 pounds heavier than last year, and they have been increasing since February. Normally Continue reading

Spring Forage Establishment

Kyle Verhoff, Allen Gahler, Jason Hartschuh, CCA, OSU Extension

Planting window runs to late April for southern Ohio and to early May in Northern Ohio.

As soil temperatures rise and the chances of a morning frost decline, the window to spring-establish forages is open. In the spring, the combination of weather and plenty to do make planting opportunities scarce. To take advantage of those short planting windows, the following are items to consider to improve chances for a successful forage establishment this spring.

  1. Soil Fertility and pH: Set up your forages with the best starting conditions you can by providing sufficient available nutrients and a soil pH that allows for those nutrients to be taken up. Follow the Tri-state Soil Fertility Recommendations (https://forages.osu.edu/forage-management/soil-fertility-forages). Phosphorus levels for grass are optimal in the . . .

Continue reading Spring Forage Establishment

Forage Weeds: Fall Forgotten and Spring Startups

Alyssa Essman, Christine Gelley, and Kyle Verhoff, OSU Extension

Common cocklebur is a growing problem in Ohio forages.

Spring means rapid forage growth, but it also means rapid weed growth. Due to the variability of spring weather, there are often only a few opportunities to control emerging summer annual weeds, winter annuals missed in the fall, and biennials that are small enough to effectively control. To manage weeds before they become a problem in forages, it is important to scout and plan accordingly. Forage is a broad category, and the spring weed control plan can look very different between species and operations. The problem weeds and whether control is necessary are going to be different between permanent pasture systems and alfalfa fields, and highly dependent on the consequences of specific weeds.

In established alfalfa, the decision for weed control of some winter annuals like henbit and field pennycress will depend on . . .

Continue reading Forage Weeds: Fall Forgotten and Spring Startups

What to watch for with Asian longhorned ticks and Theileria in Ohio in 2024

Tim McDermott DVM, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

Visit go.osu.edu/BITE, your guide to ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting pests. Photo: Anna Pasternak, UK entomology graduate student

One of the worrisome things about ticks in Ohio has been the increasing numbers of ticks of medical importance to humans, companion animals, and livestock as we have gone from one tick of medical importance twenty years ago to five now, including two new ticks in the past few years. While ticks have always been a problem in cattle, the invasive Asian longhorned (ALHT) tick that was first discovered in Ohio in 2020 has demonstrated the ability to not only vector, or transmit disease to cattle, but to cause mortality in cattle through high numbers of ticks feeding upon the animals. I first wrote about ALHT  in All About Grazing in July of 2020 with the article “The Threat of Asian longhorned tick continues” and then followed up with a March 2nd, 2023 article “Managing Asian longhorned ticks on pasture” so I want to provide an update on where we are in the state of Ohio with ALHT right now.

Where are we seeing ALHT in Ohio right now? As of the end of 2023, we had positively identified ALHT in 11 counties in Ohio including Franklin, Delaware, Ross, Gallia, Vinton, Jackson, Athens, Morgan, Monroe, Belmont, and Guernsey county. We anticipate finding more positive counties in Continue reading

Beware of Reducing Feed at Calving!

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

Reducing the feed at calving causes problems!

I presented at a Master Cattlemen session recently and, after the meeting, got asked a common question about body condition and feeding cows at calving. His question was he had heard that he should reduce feed to his cows before calving to keep birthweights lower to reduce calving problems. He indicated that the BCS of his cows as they begin to calve was only 4. This is a frustrating question because it comes up often and nothing could be further from the truth.

Several researchers have addressed this issue over the last 20-30 years. Each of these experiments had cows that were fed to maintain weight, decrease weight, or increase weight right before calving began. The result of underfeeding cows before calving results in the exact problem the producer is trying to avoid. The research demonstrated that poor nutrition and low BCS precalving:

• Increased calving problems
• Decreased calf health (low colostrum consumption and poor-quality colostrum)
• Increased calf death loss
• Increased the number of days for females to resume estrous cycles.

One of the most extreme Continue reading

Second Quarter Weakening Continues

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

Some feeder cattle and calf markets have softened following the futures selloff triggered apparently by the news of HPAI infections in cattle. Still, many regional markets have remained firm through the same period.  The sharpest drops are in some of the smaller and most volatile cash markets for the smallest animals.  Likewise, live cattle futures have retreated substantially in the same window while fed cattle cash market prices are only off modestly.  The disease news has slowed and modestly reversed the likely and anticipated cash market strengthening.

However, from a margin perspective, some of the price adjustments could have been anticipated.  Beef packer margins are as poor as they have been for over a year.  The first quarter typically has the poorest margins and that is Continue reading