Small Herd Sire Decisions: The Heifer Bull Dilemma

Garth Ruff OSU Extension Henry County

Bull buying season is almost upon us, and for the smaller cow-calf operators in the region, I think it time to ask the question: Do you need to buy a heifer bull? Year over year as I sit and watch bull buying decisions being made, I have observed producers faced with the dilemma of buying a calving ease “heifer bull” or a higher performance sire with a slightly higher birth weight. Part of the dilemma is the total the cost of the bull, where locally, a “heifer bull” will cost more, due to the willingness of cattlemen to pay for calving ease sires.

Before tackling this question it is important to recognize that the past quarter century, the beef industry has made tremendous strides in the area of genetic improvement, a large part of which can be attributed to the adoption and understanding of Expected Progeny Differences (EPD’s).  With a desire for calving ease, one of the most studied and most utilized EPD’s by cattlemen when purchasing bulls is Birth Weight (BW) and more recently, Calving Ease Direct (CED). Another data point to consider is the Accuracy of a Continue reading

OSU Beef Cattle Field Specialist – Immediate Opening

The individual in this position has the responsibility of developing and stewarding a tripartite partnership between the Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences, field-based Extension professionals, and representatives of the beef industry to respond to the ever-changing needs of beef producers.  Consequently, it will be important for the incumbent to adeptly listen to stakeholders, distill research to a usable form, and develop consistent statewide programmatic responses that can be delivered through Extension and other channels. This individual will serve as the central point of contact through which internal and external stakeholders can connect with the beef cattle expertise at Ohio State. The roles will include planning and organizing learning experiences for producers, industry representatives, and the public that respond to contemporary industry issues and needs in the areas of animal care and welfare, marketing, and forage, including:

– Beef Quality Assurance and bio-security training for adult and youth producers,
– Promote consumer understanding of beef production practices,
– Improved marketing and management practices, and
– Forage systems to improve productivity for Ohio cow-calf operations.

The successful individual would be expected to facilitate the work of the Continue reading

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What’s Next for Food Animal Antibiotics?

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

What is “antibiotic resistance”? When an antibiotic is no longer useful against an infection because the targeted bacteria changed in some way that protected it from the effects of the drug (antibiotic), this is referred to as “antibiotic resistance”. The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine is the government agency responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of animal drugs for their approved uses. FDA has already restricted the use of antibiotics in feed and water through the Veterinary Feed Directive. Now they are gearing up to remove all over-the-counter “medically important” antibiotics approved for foodproducing animals within the next two years and place them under veterinary oversight (“Over-the-counter” means available for purchase at any farm supply or internet retailer without the need for a prescription). FDA has established three goals to accomplish from 2019 to 2023:

  1. Align antimicrobial drug product (antibiotic) use with the principles of antimicrobial stewardship;
  2. Foster stewardship of antimicrobials in veterinary settings;
  3. Enhance monitoring of antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial drug use in animals.

This process will begin after the agency considers comments on the draft Guidance for Industry (GFI) #263 and issues the final guidance. In addition, the FDA plans to “engage with affected stakeholders and state partners at public events, such as meetings and conferences, to hear feedback and Continue reading

Cattle Cycle

– Brenda Boetel, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

The semi-annual Cattle report was released on January 31, 2020. The report showed what many analysts had already been saying; the total number of cattle and calves in the USA was at 94.4 million head, slightly down from January 2019’s number of 94.8 million head. This number indicates that the industry has entered into the liquidation phase of the cattle cycle. But what does that mean for cattle markets?

Cattle cycles have different phases: a liquidation phases, where cattle numbers decrease, and an expansion phase, where cattle numbers increase. This most recent cattle cycle began expansion in 2015, following 7 years of contraction. The previous cycle had 8 years of contraction.

Beef production cycles lag the cattle numbers because Continue reading

Spreads for Higher Quality Grades will Widen

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

I spoke with six individuals this past week that send cattle to either Kansas, Nebraska, or Iowa for finishing. A recurring theme was in relation to the spread between Prime, Branded, Choice, and Select beef. Some of the conversation was that the spreads have narrowed and the market is not offering the incentive to have as high of grading cattle. Looking back at the data does not support this assertion.

It is important to note that the price spread between different quality grades of beef have a seasonal component which means the spreads change throughout the year depending on supply and demand. The Prime to Branded beef spread exceeded $40 per hundredweight for 11 weeks in 2019. In the past five years, the only other time this happened was during the summer of 2017. The Choice Select spread the back half of 2019 was fairly typical in magnitude, but it was actually wider for a longer period of time than is typical. I think the issue is that most of these spreads are narrow given the current market, but narrowing this time of year is typical.

The spreads for higher quality grades will widen moving into summer.

More Prime, But Less Choice and Select

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

One of the interesting trends in 2019 was the retreat in the number of carcasses grading Choice throughout a large portion of the year. The decline in Choice carcasses, combined with lower weights and fewer steers sent to market resulted in some very tight supplies of Choice beef and a wide Choice-Select spread through much of the last half of the year. Feedlot performance, weather, time on feed, and finished weights can all contribute to variation in grading. Weekly steer and heifer dressed weights are up over 10 pounds compared to last year.

So far this year, quality grading is totaling a little more Prime and a little less Select. Prime grading is up almost half a percentage point while Select is down 0.6 percentage points. The average weekly change in Choice grading is up just 0.2 percentage points.

While the national total numbers don’t show much change versus a year ago, regional results show much more significant Continue reading

Muddy Issues; Mastitis and Scours

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County, OSU Extension

Lactating animals are at greater risk of mastitis infections when it is muddy!

We finally got some snow and freezing temperatures! At our house, we didn’t get snow a single day that our Christmas decorations were up, but snow on Valentine’s Day was appreciated. Fresh snow provides a refreshing look to the landscape when it covers up all the muck and brown underneath it.  However, those cold temperatures are still not lasting long enough to firm up the ground and as soon as we track through that snow, our break from reality is over.

Mud creates challenges with mobility both for our animals and equipment. Aside from complicating the logistics of caring for the farm, mud increases our risks for herd health complications too. Many producers have babies on the farm right now. It is important to watch out for signs of mastitis with the mothers and scours with the young.

Lactating animals are at greater risk of mastitis infections when it is muddy. Contaminants on the udder tissue can enter the mammary glands through the milk ducts and cause inflammation. Mothers with mastitis may not Continue reading

Ol’ Man Winter is a Thief!

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

Last winter we had a dramatic increase in the number of cattle deaths compared to previous winters. Excessive rain contributed to these losses and led to wet haircoats and mud conditions in the fields. In the midst of last year’s muddy conditions, we did a series of meetings discussing the effects of rain and mud. I discussed the impacts of wet haircoats on lower critical temperatures and increases in energy for maintenance. When I looked back over a 110-day period that spanned November into February, the local Mesonet station had recorded precipitation 50 of those days. I think Ol’ Man Winter has stolen our winter weather and your profits heading for warmer weather to relax.

How big of an impact is this weather on cattle? Not much research has been conducted under the exact conditions many of you may be dealing with on your farms. We have to interpret the research that is available and make educated guesses on how much the energy needs of cattle increases due to these conditions. This said, you should plan on greater energy needs of cattle outside and closely monitor cattle body condition and health.

I like to show the old foot in the box research in meetings. Ag engineers published work in the 1970’s looking at the impact of mud depth and moisture on the energy needed to lift a leg. These researches obtained a cattle leg from an abattoir and fixed an eye screw to the top of the leg bone. The foot was placed into a box and surrounded by mud of varying depths and moistures. At 1” of mud depth, about Continue reading

Use of Guard Llamas in an Integrated Predator Control System

– Natassaja Boham, Makenzie Doherty, and Jordan Johnson, OSU Animal Science Undergraduate Students and Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Llamas have proven to be beneficial as a guard animals in livestock production systems that include other small ruminants such as young calves and sheep.

In this latest Ag-note, Animal Sciences students Natassaja Boham, Makenzie Doherty, and Jordan Johnson highlight a unique ruminant species (pseudo ruminant that is) that can be used in any livestock operation as a means of control for predators. As Ohio legislation begins to reassess the status of the coyote in terms of being a fur-bearing animal, as a result producers may be limited in how they may be able to trap these predators, producers may be forced to find alternative means to manage this controversial wildlife livestock interaction.

The llama, not to be mistaken with the alpaca, is a large framed, cloven hoofed pseudo ruminant (3 chambered stomach) that originates from South America. Due to their size and natural ‘flocking’ instinct, llamas have proven to be beneficial as a guard animal in livestock production systems, especially with small ruminants. Due to their size alone, llamas pose as a threat to in-coming predators. Llamas have been shown to be most effective against canine species such as coyotes, red fox, wolves, and of course, the domestic dog.

When thinking of llamas, some may remember . . .

Continue reading Use of Guard Llamas in an Integrated Predator Control System

Proposed Coyote Trapping Changes Put on Hold

– Matt Reese, Ohio’s Country Journal editor (Previously published in Ohio’s Country Journal: Febuary 19, 2020)

There are concerns about the ability to control predation of livestock by coyotes

When coyote predation becomes a problem for a livestock operation, it can be a major issue that requires extensive measures to address. For this reason, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife proposal to designated coyotes as furbearers generated concerns from Ohio’s agriculture and hunters and trappers.

“There are a fair amount of hunters that don’t agree with it,” said Mike Rex, who sits on the Ohio Wildlife Council. “They see coyotes as vermin and not a furbearing animal like a fox, and they don’t think there should be any additional regulation.”

With the furbearer designation, coyote trapping by any person (including landowners) would be limited to the existing trapping season for fox, raccoon, skunk, opossum, and weasel which is Nov. 10 to Jan. 31. The current “landowner exemption” for fur taker permits and legal year-round nuisance trapping would remain in place.

Concerns about the proposed changes, though, led to a Feb. 18 announcement from the ODNR that the rule changes have been put on hold for now. ODNR plans engage with . . .

Continue reading Proposed Coyote Trapping Changes Put on Hold