Don’t Forget to Check Your Mirrors

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension

From time to time, I will jump in the farm truck to go to town and pick up supplies or run some errands. Typically, I am not the primary driver of the vehicle, and the seat and mirrors are almost always set for someone of much small stature. While I must move the seat back to get in the truck, I often forget to adjust the mirrors until I am going down the road as I am more focused on where I’m going.

As we go into 2023, I think we need to check our mirrors to remember where the cattle business has been in the past couple years. While both feeder and fed cattle markets look to be rather favorable in 2023 and likely again in 2024, it is easy to loosen the reigns and become a more relaxed in providing daily Vitamin M[anagement]. Good management decisions made when cattle prices were lower are still good management decisions when the markets are more favorable.

Having wrapped up the OCA Replacement Female Sale, demand for replacement females remains strong, partly influenced by sustained strong cull cow prices and optimism in Continue reading

Manure Spreader vs Lime Spreader

Richard Purdin, ANR/CD Educator Adams County

Manure is a valuable resource that should not be overlooked.

Winter is here and the holiday season has arrived. As an extension educator this is a time for reflection on all the work of 2022 and how I can better meet the needs of my clientele in the year ahead. As both an Agriculture extension educator and cattle feeder I have many things that keep me up at night and it’s not all sugar plumbs!

Farmers of all kinds are facing many challenges from rising feed cost, uncertain markets, crazy weather, and incredibly high input cost such as seed and fertilizer. With all these challenges the quest for cutting cost seems endless and most of all challenging. My pencil in the farm office gets shorter and shorter and my wallet gets lighter and lighter. If one of your New Years resolutions for 2023 is to cut input cost and make money, Santa Claus might be delivering it by the ton in a manure spreader rather than a sled!

Livestock producers have learned the many benefits of manure range from improving soil organic matter to providing essential Continue reading

Final Rule for the AMS Cattle Contracts Library

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

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the final rule needed to create a Cattle Contracts Library. The final rule requires packers that slaughtered an average of not less than five percent of the number of fed cattle slaughtered nationally during the immediately preceding five calendar years to submit contractual information for the purchase of cattle.

The Cattle Contracts Library Pilot Program (library) is intended to increase market transparency for cattle producers. AMS held listening sessions and conducted a pilot program, which was then used to develop a working library model. Once the final rule goes into effect on Jan. 6, 2023 the AMS will collect, maintain, and report aggregated information on contracts between packers and cattle producers for the purchase of fed cattle. The library will include different types of contracts and contract terms. Information will include schedules or premiums and discounts, delivery and transportation terms and payments, number of head purchased under contracts, appendices and agreements of financing, risk-sharing or profit sharing or other supplement information on cattle requirements. It is expected that the working Pilot will Continue reading

Higher Cutout Values and a COF Preview

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

The weekly average Choice beef cutout jumped $9.61 per cwt to $255.83 for the week ending December 16th. That marked a change from the weekly decline in value that had occurred for the last 5 weeks, since reaching $263.74 in the first week of November. All of the primal cuts increased in value except the rib.  The loin, brisket, short plate, and chuck all increased by double digits, led by the loin that increased $14.89 per cwt. over the week before.

It looks like the rib hit its seasonal peak the first week of December at $515.47.  The rib has declined almost $20 per cwt in the 2 weeks since. This primal normally hits a seasonal peak in the Fall as buying for the holidays occurs. The peak price 2 weeks ago was the highest rib value since last Fall when it peaked at over $6.00 per cwt.

The primal round averaged $198 for the week compared to Continue reading

2022 in Review

– James Mitchell, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Arkansas

This year was challenging for the livestock and poultry industries. High input prices, including agricultural chemicals, farm labor, feed, and fuel, raised the cost of production. Severe drought led to accelerated herd liquidation and poor hay production for cattle producers. Logistical and transportation issues continue to pressure agricultural supply chains. Highly pathogenic avian flu has negatively impacted poultry and egg production. Despite these challenges, U.S. red meat and poultry production is projected to reach a record 107.5 billion pounds in 2022 (Dec WASDE).

The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) estimates 2022 cash costs for cow-calf producers at $963/cow or 13% higher year over year. The largest expenditure for cattle producers is harvested forage and feed. LMIC’s 2022/2023 season-average hay price is $160/ton, an increase of 9% compared to the 2021/2022 season-average price. Poor growing conditions this summer and expensive inputs contribute to Continue reading

In Defense of Animal Agriculture

Dr. Francis Fluharty, Professor and Head of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at The University of Georgia and Ohio State University Professor Emeritus

When I read online media stories that blame animal agriculture for being a large part of the environmental problems we have, it troubles me that people are so far removed from agriculture and food production that they don’t realize how connected to nature farmers are. I’m thankful for animal agriculture, from the producers who raise the livestock, to the grain farmers who grow grains and other crops whose byproducts we feed to livestock and companion animals, to the companies who produce, and distribute byproducts, to the feed companies who formulate products so that animals receive the proper nutrition, to the companies and people involved in delivering high-quality animal-based products to consumers around the world. I have often considered speaking up in defense of animal agriculture, because globally protein-energy malnutrition is the largest cause of human deaths; and in 2020, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 149 million children under the age of five were too short for their age, and another 45 million were too thin for their height.  In fact, 45% of deaths of children under five years of age are attributed to undernutrition (

The agricultural system in the United States is the most efficient, sustainable food production system in the world, and is looked up to by developing, and developed, countries around the globe. It wasn’t, however, something that just happened! In 1862, Justin Smith Morrill’s Land-Grant Act was passed to provide affordable, accessible higher education for the children of the working class. Then, in 1887, the Hatch Act was passed to provide public funding for science-based research directed to the needs of farmers in order to provide a plentiful food supply to the burgeoning urban population. This was followed in 1890 with the Second Land-Grant Act, whose purpose was to provide a means for providing affordable, accessible higher education for African-Americans in the then-segregated Southern states. The increase in knowledge gained from research required the dissemination of information, and this was assured in 1914 with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service to disseminate the information learned in agricultural research. In the last 108 years, the Cooperative Extension Service, a branch of Land Grant University colleges of Agriculture, which now include Food and Environmental Sciences, has trained scientists and millions of farmers, young people involved in 4-H, nutritionists, and consumers in everything from vegetable and fruit production to animal production to poultry production, horticulture, plant pathology, crop and soil sciences, agricultural economics, consumer sciences, rural sociology, and agricultural education. In many states, there are county-level Extension agents in agriculture, youth development, and consumer sciences. This network of people providing training on things such as pesticide application, responsible herbicide use, animal welfare, animal production, natural resource management, and food safety is unparalleled in other parts of the world.

As companies are switching to more food items made without animal products, I can’t help but think that with fewer Americans involved in food production at the farm level, we are increasing our Continue reading

Don’t let the performance of your cattle get stuck in the mud

Jerad Jaborek, Michigan State University Extension Beef Feedlot Systems Educator

Muddy conditions can decrease performance by increasing energy demands. Photo credit: Kirsten Nickles

Tis the season! No, not that season, mud season. For many cattle producers across the United States the spring and fall months often brings about the dread of muddy pens or lots. This is especially true in parts of the U.S. that receive greater levels of precipitation in the form of rain and/or snowmelt. In addition, animal stocking density, soil type, and ground drainage also influence the severity of mud challenges. Many of us can relate to the struggles of walking through the mud and trying not to lose our rubber boots to the suctioning force that challenges us with each step. What about the cows and calves? What kind of stress does mud have on cattle?

The combination of mud and manure accumulation presents a list of potential problems for cattle producers. Extra energy is required by the animals to walk through mud, whether to the feed bunk, water tank, or bedding pack. This extra energy demand can impact cattle behavior and their willingness to move throughout different areas of the pen.

Increased mud and manure affect animal cleanliness and the insulative properties of their hair coat, which then require additional energy to stay warm. For fed cattle being raised for beef, this presents potential . . .

Continue reading Don’t let the performance of your cattle get stuck in the mud

Reproductive Failure in Cattle-Frequently Asked Questions about Leptospirosis

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

“Reproductive failure” is an all-encompassing term if a cow loses a calf during pregnancy or if she fails to get pregnant. Causes of reproductive failure are often divided into infectious and non-infectious categories. Examples of “non-infectious” include poor cow nutrition (lack of energy and micronutrients such as selenium/Vitamin E); bull infertility, disease, and injury; breeding season management (shortened breeding season, insufficient bull-to-cow ratios); genetic and some congenital abnormalities that result in fetal death; and toxic agents such as nitrates, phytoestrogens, and drugs including steroids and prostaglandins. “Infectious” causes are bacteria, viruses, protozoal and fungal agents that directly or indirectly damage the placenta and/or the fetus. Examples include the BVD virus, IBR virus, the protozoan Neospora caninum and many species of the bacterium Leptospira, among many others. This series of articles will explore the most common infectious causes of abortion and reproductive failure in cattle and available options for control and prevention.

What is Leptospirosis or “Lepto”? Leptospirosis is a complicated bacterial disease commonly associated with abortions, stillbirths, premature births, and infertility in cattle. However, this bacterium also causes sickness and death in cattle, dogs, sheep, and horses worldwide and is an important zoonotic disease affecting an estimated 1 million humans annually. Farmers, veterinarians, and those working in meat processing facilities are at highest risk to contract the disease.

What causes leptospirosis? The disease is caused by a unique, highly coiled, Gram-negative bacterium known as a “spirochete” belonging to the genus Leptospira. These “leptospires” are highly motile due to their spiral shape and, once inside a host animal, they enter the bloodstream and replicate in many different organs including the liver, kidney, spleen, reproductive tract, eyes and central nervous system. The immune system will produce antibodies that usually Continue reading

The Seasonality of Calf Prices and Factors Unique to 2022 / 2023

– Dr. Kenny Burdine, Extension Professor, Livestock Marketing, University of Kentucky

High grain prices have been the focus of much discussion in 2022. As I write this, CME© corn futures are trading in the mid-$6 per bushel range through next summer. This story is likely best told by looking at the chart below, which summarizes feed cost per lb of gain from Kansas State’s Focus on Feedlots data. The most recent feed cost of gain estimate from participating feed yards exceeds $1.35 per lb. And projected cost of gain is even higher for cattle that are currently being placed. As a comparison, the average feed cost per lb of gain was about $0.79 from 2016 to 2020. High cost of gain incentivizes the placement of heavier feeder cattle into finishing programs. Current feed prices don’t make the placement of light cattle on feed very attractive, which is preventing calf markets from reaching price levels they would reach in a more normal feed cost environment.

I want to use this as a backdrop to discuss how feed price levels impact seasonal price patterns in calf markets. In most years, calf markets reach their highs in the spring as light weight calves are being placed into grazing programs. The lower cost of gain from grazing results in Continue reading

Don’t Restrict Energy This Winter

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Are you having trouble keeping body condition on grazing livestock? Do you have heifers or ewe lambs that struggle getting rebred? If so, there is a good chance that a lack on available energy in your pasture or ration may be the culprit.

I have these types of discussions with producers fairly often, and usually (not always) supplementing additional energy into the diet seems to aid in rectifying the situation.

As managers we must remember that livestock utilize nutrients in waste not, want not hierarchy. Think of an order of operations where Maintenance > Development > Growth > Lactation > Reproduction > Fattening.

Therefore, an animal that is not maintaining body condition is less likely to reproduce. That first calf heifer that is thin at weaning, still has a requirement for growth and development before we ever think about getting her to a point where she will breed back in a timely fashion.

How do we address this lack of energy in a pasture-based system? Supplementation in some form or fashion is the Continue reading