Hay making and the balancing act . . . quality vs quantity!

Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension, Fairfield County (originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Ohio Cattleman)

With age comes experience, and with experience eventually comes some of those things that you can only shake your head at. This is the time of year when I usually begin to hear one of my favorites, “I don’t like to get in hurry with that first cutting . . . we don’t want it rained on, and I like to let it grow a little longer so we get more. Besides, even if made a little late, it’s still got to be better than snowballs!

If nothing else, the last two springs have taught us this one thing. Not all first cutting forage is better than snowballs. In fact, the inability to make hay in a timely fashion has cost Midwest cattlemen lots in terms of hay quality that’s resulted in loss of cow condition, breed back issues, poor quality colostrum, and ultimately poor calf health and performance. If there was ever a time to carefully balance hay quality issues with the quantity of hay needed, weather permitting, this must be it! In fact, with some aggressive planning and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, perhaps we can have both quality and quantity this year. Following are some points to consider.

Generally speaking, we’re out of quality hay in Ohio and have been for the better part of two years. The condition of some of our cows confirms it, the price of hay at auction markets confirms it, and Continue reading

Making and Maintaining Quality Baleage

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Baleage may be the solution to making quality first cutting hay!

It almost seems like a broken record. We have continually talked about the excessive amount of poor quality hay made last year and the issues surrounding how to incorporate it as a viable feed source in livestock diets. Here in Ohio, we have yet to have had an actual winter and the rain continues to fall. This weather pattern may be the new norm, thus we must learn how to adapt to these challenges. So, the question becomes, how will producers make quality first cutting hay that maintains a high feed value in the future?

The greatest challenge with making dry hay is simply getting the forage dry enough for baling before the next precipitation event. With this being said, how can we decrease this time interval while still maintaining a high quality product? The solution may be making baleage or baled haylage. Baleage is certainly not a new concept, but may be for those that are not accustomed to feeding this type of forage. Thankfully, for those with uncertainty of how to feed this type of forage or looking for more information on improving their current system, on Friday, February 21 at the Ohio Forages and Grasslands Council Annual Conference in Reynoldsburg, Ohio attendees had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Jimmy Henning, a professor and extension forage specialist with the University of Kentucky as he discussed the in’s and out’s of making and maintaining quality baleage.

During his presentation, Dr. Henning noted that the biggest issue that producers have to get a handle on when making baleage is Continue reading

What’s in your Baleage? – Inadequate fermentation may lead to Botulism

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Botulism is a disease caused by one of the most potent toxins known to man. This toxin is produced by Clostridium botulinum, a Gram-positive bacterium from the Clostridia family. This bacterium survives in the environment as a “spore” and contaminates plant material during harvest. For the bacteria to multiply and produce toxin, an anaerobic (“without oxygen”) environment must be maintained. Under certain conditions, round bale silage (or “baleage”) can provide the correct place for botulism toxin to form. In the absence of oxygen (as is found in wrapped hay) and a pH greater than 4.5 (poor fermentation), the spores enter a vegetative state, multiply and produce toxin. This toxin, once consumed and absorbed into the blood stream, blocks transmission of nerve impulses to the adjacent muscles. Two forms of the toxin, Types B and C, occur most frequently in KY cattle. Type B is associated with improperly fermented forage while Type C occurs from the accidental feeding of dead birds, dogs, cats or poultry litter contaminated with dead Continue reading

What to Do with Mold in Feed?

Erika Lyon, Extension Educator, Agriculture & Natural Resources, OSU Extension – Jefferson, Harrison Counties

Conditions that forages are grown, harvested or stored in have an impact on the risk of mold development

Now that we are getting into the summer months, moldy feed might not be on your mind right now, especially if your livestock are grazing. But now is a great time to be cognizant of the conditions that lead up to moldy feed in the winter months. The conditions that forages are grown and harvested in can have an impact on the risk of mold developing later in storage.

First, let’s talk about what mold is. When we say something appears moldy, it usually has a dusty or fuzzy appearance or seems off-color. Maybe it produces a certain “moldy” odor. While many microbes might be referenced when we say mold, it is usually one group of microbes that is causing the problem: fungi.

In the U.S. and Canada, mold can be attributed to approximately $5 billion in cost. This not only includes the loss of feed but also costs from vet bills or even loss of animals that consume contaminated feed and develop a mycosis, or disease caused by a fungus. Mycoses may result from inhalation of spores or from mycotoxins produced by certain species of fungi under specific conditions. Oftentimes, many individual animals on a farm may show symptoms of mycotoxin contamination if they have a shared feed source. These symptoms may include Continue reading

Considerations for slowing feedlot cattle growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic

– published by William Halfman, WI Beef Information Center, written by: University of Wisconsin Extension Livestock Program Educators, University of Wisconsin Department of Animal Science Faculty, and Iowa State University Extension Beef Specialists

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt cattle markets. Cash sales for the week of April 13-17 were depressed as packing plants operated at reduced capacity or shuttered their doors due to labor issues spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic. Having a market that will take finished cattle at a suitable date has become a concern. In addition, the current live market prices, and limited sale opportunities for fat steers have left many cattle feeders searching for solutions to reduce their economic loss.

In times of depressed markets many cattle feeders lean towards the “hold and hope” method of selling fed cattle, where they retain their cattle longer than is ideal with the hope of waiting out the down turn in the market.

The strategy to hold cattle longer will depend on the goals of the operation and the stage of feeding of the cattle. The good news is that cattle are adaptable to a variety of feeding systems and programs, and their growth can be programmed in a very predictable way through changing the net energy of the ration or using “programmed feeding”.

For cattle ready or near ready for market it may be best to . . .

Continue reading Considerations for slowing feedlot cattle growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Cattle Market Update – April 27

In this 7 minute video Dr. Kenny Burdine discusses changes in the cattle market as of April 27th, 2020, and the potential for direct payments to cattlemen for CFAP.

Cattle and Beef Markets

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

Early in the month of March, cattle and beef markets began to price a worst-case scenario. Composite beef values rallied as retailers chased supplies. Fed cattle prices softened as animals were pulled forward from the pool of already large supplies. Wholesale margins widened considerably to the consternation of upstream and downstream market participants. But the concern was clearly about supply chain disruptions in slaughter and fabrication. Now, one month later, the market concern has clearly come to fruition. Several North American beef plants are temporarily offline or are operating at reduced speeds. The first week of April, steer and heifer slaughter were close to 550 thousand head. The prior four weeks of March slaughter was close to or above 500 thousand head per week. For the most recent week of April slaughter will likely be around 400 thousand head or lower. We will have to wait until the end of the month to see the USDA data but these are reasonable estimates given the known impacts on plant operations. Packer margin discussions are irrelevant when plants don’t run.

How long will reduced beef plant operations continue? That is the next unknown the market is pricing. Boxed beef values have given back Continue reading

Continued COVID-19 Impacts on the Cattle Market

– Dr. Brenda Boetel, UW Madison Division of Extension Livestock Economist

Through Saturday, April 18, 2020, US beef slaughter capacity had decreased by approximately 14,000 head per day due to the closure and/or slowing down of several plants in the United States.  Wisconsin has (as of the time of this writing) not seen major packers close; however, concerns are growing as confirmed cases increase at Wisconsin plants.

The Five-area Weekly Weighted Average Direct Slaughter Report for the week ending April 12, 2020 showed 16,520 confirmed head sold, compared to 20,702 head the week prior and compared to 112,499 head for the same week in 2019.  Note that the week ending April 12, 2020 did have one less day due to the Easter holiday. The cattle market will likely see continued closures and slowdowns for several plants until at least May 1 and likely longer.  The week ending April 12 was the third consecutive week with significant Continue reading

Meat vs COVID-19; The good, the bad and the ugly of supply and demand

Stan Smith, OSU Extension, Fairfield County

While supply chain issues have caused short term disruptions in some retail meat cases, livestock inventory is more than adequate to meet demand.

To suggest that supply in local meat cases has been disrupted since schools closed and ‘stay-at-home’ orders were issued last month might be an understatement.

The good is simply this. We have more than adequate supplies of market ready livestock on the farm to accommodate the consumer’s demand for meat.

The bad is that COVID-19 caused disruption to the meat supply chain that created short term shortages in the meat case, and fluctuations of price in both the meat case and especially livestock at the farm.

The ugly is these concerns are likely to affect both the farmer and the consumer for weeks, and perhaps even months to come. The solution to the chain of events that have caused the problems in the supply chain all revolve around how Continue reading

COVID-19 Impact on Ohio’s Beef Industry

Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Henry County.

COVID-19 has had profound impacts on our food and livestock production systems here in the U.S. With regards to the beef industry the impact has been felt locally and throughout the country. Locally here in Ohio, with the JBS plant in Souderton closed, and reduced packing capacity in other regional packing plants, the local cash market for fed cattle has been greatly diminished. For the past two weeks, auction markets in the state have asked cattle feeders to hold off on bringing fed cattle to market due to packing plant closures and overall lack of packer demand.

Like most of agriculture, timing is critical for the livestock production supply chain to flow as it is designed. What is the impact of holding market ready cattle in local feedlots? Economically, cash flow concerns for small to medium size cattle feeders may arise as packing capacity remains limited. Immediate impacts for cattle feeders include increasing days on feed, selling heavier and potentially higher yield grade cattle once the market returns. Most packing plants have discount schedules of Yield Grade 4 and 5 cattle in addition to Continue reading