Simplifying the Replacement Heifer Dilemma: To Buy or To Raise?

– Grady Ruble, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist

Purchasing or raising replacement females represents a significant investment for cow/calf operations and the impact may be felt for years after. To aid in the decision process, we are building a Microsoft Excel based decision aid that will allow producers to compare two business models: developing home-raised replacements or purchasing pregnant crossbred replacement females for a terminal sire system. Our decision aid, which will be available spring 2019, approaches the situation from a different perspective than others in recent years. Instead of only maximizing weaning weight, the focus is maximizing weight produced by the ranch. The idea behind this concept is if one chose not to develop heifers those feed resources could instead be devoted to more producing cows. That same ranch could then Continue reading

Weekly Livestock Comments for February 15, 2019

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

FED CATTLE: Fed cattle trade was not well established at press. Asking prices were $126 to $127 on a live basis while bid prices were mainly $122.

The 5-area weighted average prices thru Thursday were $124.74 live, up $0.72 from last week and $199.20 dressed, up $0.68 from a week ago. A year ago prices were $128.29 live and $202.00 dressed.

Finished cattle trade has been following a similar pattern the past several weeks. That pattern is to delay trade until as late as possible in the week and then price cattle in the narrow trading range that has been consistent the past several weeks. Current finished cattle prices are neither favoring the direction of packers or feedlots which means both parties can be content or they are both dissatisfied because they want a larger share of the margin. It would seem that upside potential in the finished cattle market is still possible moving through the next Continue reading

Is AI Worth the Effort?

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

Artificial insemination (A.I.) in beef cattle is not a new technology as it has been available to producers for several decades. Nearly every cow-calf producer in this country has some degree of awareness of this management practice. While there is a relatively high degree of awareness amongst producers of A.I., misconceptions still exist about the value of this useful tool.

The use of artificial insemination offers several obvious advantages over natural service sires. Some of these advantages include:

  • The availability of genetically superior sires that can create rapid genetic improvement.
  • Facilitates targeted matings and crossbred mating programs.
  • Reduces the number of bulls needed during a breeding season.
  • Helps produce value-added calves for targeted markets.
  • The availability of proven calving ease sires for use in replacement heifer programs.
  • Improvements in sexed-semen technology allows the producer to make more gender specific matings.

Surveys indicate that Continue reading

Livestock Mortality Composting Certification

Composting livestock mortalities can be an efficient and inexpensive method of disposing of on-farm mortalities. Rendering facilities are becoming harder to come by and so are landfills that accept livestock mortalities. Transportation costs are increasing as well. Composting offers a year round on-farm alternative that may be more cost effective than other disposal methods. Once the compost cycle is complete, the finished product can be land applied to the farm’s fields as a nutrient resource.

To start composting livestock mortalities, one must complete a certification course taught by OSU Extension. This course teaches producers how to properly compost mortalities. It covers topics like where to place the compost site, how large of an area is needed, how to manage a pile to compost completely and efficiently, and the economics of composting mortalities compared to other disposal methods.

Presently there are two opportunities in Ohio to gain Livestock Mortality Composting Certification. The first is in Darke County on February 13, and the second is on March 12 in Wauseon. Advance reservations are required for both. Find details linked under the Events/Programs link at the top of this page.

When is the best time to castrate bull calves?

– W. Mark Hilton, DVM, PAS, DABVP (beef cattle), Clinical Professor Emeritus, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

A Kansas State University study showed that bulls castrated and implanted at an average of 3 months of age weighed 2 pounds more at 7.5 months of age than did the intact bull calves in the same study. At 7.5 months, the bulls were castrated, and then both groups were weighed 28 days later to assess gain.

The steers castrated as calves gained 48 pounds, while the bulls that were cut at an average of 578 pounds only gained 33 pounds. That is a lost potential gain of 15 pounds, as these late-castrated bulls had to deal with the stress of healing from surgery.

The fallacy is that there is a positive “testosterone effect” that justifies not castrating until bulls weigh 500 pounds or more. This is a myth. When bull calves were Continue reading

Kentucky Beef Cattle Market Update

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

Ordinarily, I would use my February article to discuss the USDA cattle inventory report that typically comes out in late January or early February. However, due to the shutdown, that report is scheduled to come out at the end of the month, so we can have that discussion in March. With beef cow slaughter at such high levels, I do think we are starting to see early signs of beef cow herd growth slowing. But, I still look for a slight increase in beef cow numbers when the estimate comes out. In reality, anything between no change and a 1% increase would not surprise me.

Calf markets really haven’t moved since December. A 550 lb steer remains in the low-mid $140’s, as can be seen in Figure 1. January 2019 prices were roughly $11 per cwt below 2018 levels. Note that February just includes one week of prices, but I did choose to include it in the chart. I still feel that this calf market can rally significantly, probably $20 per cwt, between now and Continue reading

Feeder Cattle Prices Discounted to Fed

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

Fed cattle and boxed beef cutout values entered 2019 and have stayed at levels similar to or better than last year. Fed cattle prices are about $124 with last year being close to $126 at this time – this is about 2% weaker. The cutout value is currently close to $217 and was $209 last year – this is 4% stronger. FI slaughter is up better than 5% compared to last year when slaughter weights appear to off almost a percentage point. The wet winter weather in enter cattle feeding region, from the upper Midwest and all the way south through the southern plains will hold weights down and likely create some variability in finishing times. Regardless, beef and slaughter prices are holding strong through this first two-month window into the year.

Feeder cattle and the both live and feeder futures offer some warnings as to likely Continue reading

This Winter Has Been Tough on Cows!

Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Agriculture Educator, Monroe County

To add on too the great nutrition article in last week’s newsletter, I want to mention a resource available for producers to help monitor their cow’s body condition score. An Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet may be found at

Dr. Boyles, last week, gave us all the nuts and bolts for providing the necessary energy and protein to fulfill the cow’s nutritional needs. However, we should also monitor our livestock’s body condition scores to insure the feed being provided coincides with what we see in our livestock’s physical appearance.

Timid animals may not always get enough nutrients even though we are providing them. Our calculations could be wrong also. We hear about so many 1000-1200 pound cows, but there are very few of them at my place. Of my mature cows, more will tip the scale over Continue reading

Time to Step Up Your Game

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

Nearly every business is faced with evolving business models due to changing consumer preferences. History provides us plenty of examples of how traditionally accepted products or services can quickly be replaced by a newer or “better” version. Some call this progress while others prefer simpler, more traditional choices.

The beef industry is certainly no stranger to the concept of changing types and preferences. The size and shape of cattle have changed significantly over the years of modern history. The smaller framed British breed cattle prevalent in the 1950’s and 1960’s were forever changed by an influx of Continental breeds staring around the beginning of the 1970’s. This started a trend towards larger framed, growthy, leaner cattle that were very popular through the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s. The past 20-25 years have seen a trend towards Continue reading

The Winter of 2019; A case for stockpiled forages and feeding pads!

– Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

I wasn’t going to talk about the weather in this issue. I will say though, that I believe most livestock producers are really appreciating any rock pads that they have built. It’s one thing to have snow on top of ice, but in much of the state, that was over the top of mud. I also was a bit envious of the northern portion of the state that I’ve referred to before as being in semi permafrost, until the polar vortex hit.

Heavy forage cover helps to reduce negative impact on soils, but even that has met its challenges this winter. (Photo: Chris Hollen)

I really don’t mind mud occasionally, it’s certainly expected in the livestock business, but not for weeks or months on end. Most producers are done grazing for the winter or their pasture wishes they were done. The impact of a bunch of cows on water saturated soils can be quite disturbing, no pun intended.

Areas with heavy vegetation from stockpiled forage are also barely able to hold up, even moving animals every day. If there is not much vegetation left, then the chance of it being “plowed” is Continue reading