Profiting on Cull Cattle

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Licking County (originally published in Ohio Farmer on-line)

Teat or udder problems are just one reason for considering culling a cow.

As cattle producers we often look at ways to improve our bottom line. Where can we profit the most from our production? Is it from sales of feeder calves, breeding stock, finished cattle, freezer beef or some combination? This decision may change from year to year based on economic conditions, feed availability, and facilities.

One type of sale that sometimes gets overlooked is the sale of cull animals. National studies estimate the value of these sales amounts to 15 – 30% of the revenue for beef farms. These culls make up 20% of the beef consumed. Considering the value and importance of these animals to the supply chain we should look at ways that we can manage them to increase our profits.

Hoof or leg issues are another reason to consider culling.

There are many reasons for culling animals. Physical problems, poor performance, age, reproduction, and Continue reading

Feeding Cull Cows; Exploring the opportunity for additional income with Dr. Steve Boyles

Significant returns to a cow-calf operation are from selling cull cows, with most culls being sold in the fall when prices are traditionally at their lowest. In this 12 minute presentation, OSU Extension Beef Specialist Steve Boyles explains the considerations necessary for making the decision to feed cull cows in an effort to sell them into a more profitable time slot.

Hay in May is a Big Deal!

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

Hay making requires a balance between nutritional value and when yield is maximized.

Hay season is officially underway!

In the years since I began working in Noble County there have been two years where conditions were right for making dry hay in May- 2020 and 2021. The smell of mowed hay drying in the warm sun and the sight of fresh round bales peppering fields this past week gave me a boost of much needed optimism. For people concerned with the quality of hay, this is exciting stuff.

Making hay in May is worthy of celebration because the most influential factor on forage quality is plant maturity. As grasses and legumes emerge from the soil in springtime, energy is allocated to leaf production. This is the vegetative stage of growth. The leaves are the most nutritious part of forage crops for livestock to consume either by grazing or as stored feed. It is ideal to harvest forages before they bloom. In legumes, the ideal stage for harvest is “early bud” and for grasses the ideal stage is “early boot”. Both stages describe the time in which the balance between nutritional value and Continue reading

Hay Barn Fires are a Real Hazard

Even when baled between 15-20% moisture, there is still potential for a hay fire!

Hay fires are caused when bacteria in wet hay create so much heat that the hay spontaneously combusts in the presence of oxygen. At over 20% moisture mesophilic bacteria release heat-causing temperature to rise between 130°F to 140ºF with temperature staying high for up to 40 days. As temperatures rise, thermophilic bacteria can take off in your hay and raise temperature into the fire danger zone of over 175°F.

Assessing Your Risk

If hay was baled between 15-20% moisture and acid preservatives were used, there is still potential for a hay fire but not as great as on . . .

Continue reading Hay Barn Fires are a Real Hazard

The History of the Development of the Large Round Bale

An AC Rotobaler in the foreground and an Econ Fodder Roller in the background, Southern Branch

In 1964, R.W Van Keuren, an Ohio State University professor of agronomy and OARDC forage researcher, initiated a study on pasture for beef cows and calves at OARDC’s Southern Branch near Ripley and Southeastern Branch near Carpenter, in cooperation with Ohio State’s Department of Animal Science and the OARDC outlying Branches. Several years later the studies were expanded to OARDC’s Eastern Ohio Resource Development Center at Belle Valley. The hill lands of this region appeared to be a good area for beef cow-calf production. Although initially low in pH and phosphorus and low to medium in potash, the soils generally responded well to fertilization and had good forage yield potential.

Charlie Boyles, manager, EOARDC, and a Hawkbilt large untied bale, 1973

Because wintering represents two-thirds of the beef cow feed costs, the pasture studies were expanded to include year-round grazing. This all-season system included wintering the cows on small round bales left in the field and on the accumulated summer and fall regrowth. The bales were made with an Allis-Chalmers Rotobaler. The bales weighed about 40 to 50 pounds and kept well when left in the field where dropped. The herds were gazed during the summer pasture season on orchardgrass or bluegrass, with tall fescue used for the wintering portion. The early studies were with . . .

Continue reading The History of the Development of the Large Round Bale

Thoughts on the May Cattle on Feed Report

– Kenny Burdine, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Kentucky

Friday May 21st, brought USDA’s May Cattle on Feed report, which estimates feedlot inventory in feedlots with one-time capacity over 1,000 head. Total feedlot inventory on May 1st was estimated at 11.7 million head, which was 5% greater than May 1st of last year. Like most every report being released, comparison of data to last year is difficult due to COVID impacts in 2020. The May 2021 estimate was actually just under 1% lower than 2019, which is probably a better comparison. Seasonally, on-feed inventories tend to decrease through summer, before increasing in fall / winter as spring born calves start hitting the markets.

Comparison of April placements and marketings to last year is also quite difficult. April 2021 placements were up 27% year-over-year, mostly because placement were so low in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, placements did come in higher than pre-report estimates and I think that could have been partially due to dry weather in many parts of the US. Drought tends to push cattle into feeding programs sooner than usual as grazing conditions deteriorate. As Josh noted in last Friday’s video (see below), the percent of pasture rated poor and very poor, is the highest it has been since the Continue reading

Is your pasture telling you it has a fertility problem?

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

Knapweed can indicate soil low in calcium, and very low phosphorous.

If plants could talk, we could learn a lot and our jobs as stewards of the land would be much easier.  When we go to the doctor because we are sick, we do not sit quietly and expect the doctor to know how we feel and then tell us how to get better.  We need to provide information that will help with the diagnosis.  But since plants cannot talk, our job is difficult when we try to locate the source of a problem such as low productivity or an infestation of weeds.

Recently one of my colleagues, Ed Brown, suggested a method of taking stock of what is growing in your pasture.  Knowing what plants are growing in your pastures is an important first step in listening to what the pasture is telling you.  Varieties of plants or changes in these populations from year to year can provide important Continue reading

Another toxic poisonous weed – Cressleaf groundsel

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator

Cressleaf groundsel is included on Ohio’s noxious weed list due to its poisonous characteristics.

This weed has been showing up everywhere this spring.

The yellow flowers may be attractive but it is toxic to livestock especially if it is made in hay where the animals can’t eat around it.  Click on this link for a 12 minute video on managing this noxious weed: Managing Cressleaf groundsel in hayfields

Piecing the puzzle together to get the cows fed

– Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

I like to think about feeding the cowherd like a puzzle. The puzzle pieces are things like stage of production, performance goals, available (and economical) feed ingredients, labor resources, equipment, and even the time of year. As a nutritionist, I could take any number of feed ingredients and piece together a ration, but if it doesn’t fit with the other pieces of the puzzle, it will not benefit the producer or their cattle.

Whether you are starting from scratch and just getting into the cattle business, or perhaps you’ve been at this for quite some time, I think it is essential to evaluate the puzzle every once in a while. Is there a more manageable, or perhaps better way to solve the puzzle? When we start thinking about a small part of our operation, like feeding the cows as just one piece of the larger puzzle, we start moving to a more holistic or systems approach.

Let me give an example of what I am talking about here. In my example, we Continue reading