Plan Early for Breeding Your Beef Cattle

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

Whether breeding AI, or by natural service, it’s never too early to plan.

How many times have you heard that it’s never too early to start planning?  Look at all the things we spend a lot of time planning for that quickly go by and when the event is over, we have little to show for our efforts.  Don’t our breeding programs deserve more attention to details?  If we are not able to get live calves on the ground in a timely fashion, we miss the opportunity to earn money.

A successful breeding season will provide calves born early in the calving season. This maximizes the pounds of calf at weaning time as well as improves the likelihood that the cows will breed back early the next year.  At weaning time in today’s market, a calf that is 30 days younger will weigh about 60 pounds less.  This will amount to a lost value of around $75 to $100 per feeder calf.  The breeding season also provides the opportunity to improve the genetic base in your herd through selection of AI Sires or natural service bulls that can improve weaknesses in your herd.

Whether you start breeding in 2 months or 5 months, the time will be Continue reading

Selecting your Replacement Heifers to Meet Long-term Herd Goals

– Carolyn Ihde, Agriculture Educator for Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin Extension

Selecting replacement heifers using production records, herd goals, and available resources can ensure the correct females are staying in the herd.

As the seasons come and go, the production cycle of the beef herd also changes. Cows calve, calves grow, and replacement heifers are selected. Selecting replacement heifers using production records, herd goals, and available resources can ensure the correct females are staying in the production system.

Just as purchasing a new herd bull can directly impact genetic improvement, selecting replacement heifers that match your production goals and available resources can impact the bottom line. Production records are one tool in the selection process. Maintaining herd records on cow productivity could include; calving date, birth weights, weaning weights, calving assistance, calf survivability, cow BCS, cow characteristics, calving intervals, and temperament. Heifers born from dams needing assistance with calving and nursing because of teat or udder defects or poor temperaments should not be retained. Knowing 50% of a replacement heifer’s genetics come from the dam, analyzing the dam’s collective data before you head out to . . .

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Using Genomic Test Results for Commercial Heifer Selection

Identify genetic differences BEFORE you breed them!

Over the years, commercial cattle producers have only had visual appearance and individual measurements known as phenotypes to use for heifer selection criteria. Now producers can evaluate the genetic differences known as Molecular Breeding Values (MBVs) between heifers well before their first potential breeding season. Having genomic test results for economically important traits while selecting potential replacements allows producers to estimate heifer productivity before going through a breeding season or calving.

Read the entire article Using Genomic Test Results for Commercial Heifer Selection

Estrus Synchronization Programs for Natural Service

– Pedro L. P. Fontes, UGA Extension Beef Reproductive Physiologist; Nathan P. Eason, White County Extension Coordinator; Andy E. Carter, Lowndes County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent; Jason D. Duggin, UGA Extension Beef Specialist

Beef producers that do not utilize artificial insemination can improve their calf crop by synchronizing estrus for natural service

Estrus synchronization programs allow cattle producers to manipulate the estrous cycle of cows and heifers, facilitating the adoption of biotechnologies such as artificial insemination. Although artificial insemination is a powerful tool to incorporate superior genetics, estrus synchronization also can be utilized to increase productivity of cow-calf operations that rely solely on natural service. This bulletin provides an objective evaluation of common estrus synchronization protocols for their usefulness with natural service rather than artificial insemination.

Economic impact of early calving: Cattle producers commonly evaluate reproductive performance by determining how many cows became pregnant during the breeding season. Although pregnancy rates are important, when females become pregnant within the breeding season is a major component of cow-calf profitability. Cows that become pregnant early in the breeding season calve earlier in the calving season. Consequently, they have . . .

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Price is Only Part of the Cow-calf Revenue Story

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

This calf market is starting to run, and I can feel the excitement as I travel across Kentucky this winter and talk with cattle producers at Extension programs. Calf prices have increased by $10-$20 per cwt in a lot of Southern markets since the end of 2022 and are likely to continue to improve as we move into spring. I think we are going to see some price levels that we have not seen in 8 years, which is certainly good news. But there is also a tendency for people to get so focused on price per lb that they lose sight of the larger revenue picture. So, I wanted to talk through a couple situations where the highest price per lb is not always best.

I recall back during the spring of 2015, someone sharing with the group at one of my Extension programs that they watched a group of steer calves sell for over $3 per pound at a local market. Of course, this caught the attention of everyone in attendance that evening. I then asked about the weight of the cattle and was told they averaged 375 lbs. This led to a discussion of price slides and the importance of sale weight. The average price for a 550 lb steer in Kentucky at that time was $2.50 per lb – a considerably lower price per pound than the much lighter steers. However, those Continue reading

Over-the-Counter Antibiotics Will Require Veterinary Oversight (Rx) Beginning in June of 2023

Gustavo M. Schuenemann, DVM, MS, Ph.D., Professor, Dairy Cattle Health and Management, Veterinary Extension Specialist, Ohio State University Extension

Soon all medically important antibiotics will require a written Rx

By June of 2023, all medically important antibiotics currently available at most feed or farm supply stores will now require veterinary oversight (written Rx) to be used in animals, even if the animals are not intended for food production. Examples of affected antibiotics include injectable penicillin and oxytetracycline.  In addition, some retail suppliers who were able to sell these drugs/products in the past may no longer sell them after June of 2023.  This means that small and large animal veterinarians should be prepared for an increase in calls and visits from animal owners who previously may have purchased these drugs over the counter at their local farm supply store.  To continue using medically important antimicrobials, you may need to establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR). Consult your veterinarian for more information.

What is a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship?

A veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) is defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association as the basis for Continue reading

Truth or Fallacy: Cattle cannot digest whole shelled corn?

Jerad Jaborek, Michigan State University Extension Beef Feedlot Systems Educator

Don’t let your eyes trick you into believing whole shelled corn digestion is inefficient.

Can cattle digest whole shelled corn? To answer this question, we must first have a basic understanding of corn kernel composition and how it travels through the ruminant digestive tract. Relative to other cereal grains, corn is made up of a greater percentage of starch, which is found in the endosperm. A corn kernel contains 60 to 90% starch depending on the variety of corn. During ruminant digestion, starch is fermented into volatile fatty acids (VFA) in the rumen, and to a lesser degree in the large intestine. Starch is digested into glucose in the small intestine to provide the animal with energy. The starch granules inside the corn kernels are protected by a protein matrix and further protected by a thick multi-layered fibrous shell, called the pericarp, that surrounds the entire corn kernel. In order to access and breakdown the starch from inside the corn kernel, the rumen microbes (i.e., bacteria, protozoa, and fungi) and other digestive enzymes must be able to penetrate the fibrous pericarp and protein matrix that protects the starch contained inside of the corn kernel. For ruminal digestion of the starch from an intact corn kernel to occur, the pericarp of the corn kernel must be damaged by either chewing or some type of grain processing, including grinding, rolling, steam-flaking, ensiling, or tempering.

Research from The Ohio State University set out to answer questions about the digestion of whole shelled corn when fed to beef cattle. Published in the 2005 article, “Effect of cattle age, forage level, and corn processing on diet digestibility and feedlot performance”, by the Journal of Animal Science, the study investigated factors such as animal age, forage level in the diet, time on feed, and grain processing on . . .

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Cattle Inventory in the Southeast

– James Mitchell, Livestock Marketing Specialist, University of Arkansas and Josh Maples, Assistant Professor & Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University

The January Cattle Inventory report provides us with the most detailed view of the cattle industry we will get all year. Last week’s article reviewed the national numbers. This week’s article looks at the state-level data for Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi. For perspective, comparisons are made with the national data.

Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi were not exceptions to the general findings in the Cattle Inventory report. Another year of herd liquidation. In Arkansas, all cattle and calves inventory declined by 70 thousand head or 4.1% to a total of 1.63 million head. Total cattle inventories in Mississippi totaled 860 thousand head, a 5.5% Continue reading

Early Herd Rebuilding Could Happen Through the Bred Cow Market

– Elliott Dennis, Assistant Professor & Extension Livestock Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

The USDA Cattle Inventory report showed a 4% reduction in beef cows, a 6% decrease in heifers held back for retention, and a 5% reduction in heifers expected to calve this year (USDA-NASS 2023). Feeder cattle supplies will be reduced nationally in 2023. Continued liquidation in 2023 will depend on the profit margins producers expect to receive. Higher prices for feeder cattle are expected but higher feed costs, especially hay, and other inputs are limiting the profit potential. Some producers have already run out of hay as heavy snow has limited winter grazing and persistent drought conditions shortened the grazing season and reduced overall hay production. Much has been said about the ENSO weather patterns changing this year. If this weather pattern does materialize the change will benefit the Southern Plains with a cool and wet spring/summer whereas the Northern Plains generally stay dry in the summer before a cool/wet fall. For Northern Plains cattle producers, it may get a bit tougher before things improve from a feed perspective.

There will be producers who have feed resources and believe profits are to be had in 2023 and 2024. The quickest way for these producers to increase the feeder cattle supply is through the addition of bred cows or bred heifers. Bred heifers receive a premium over bred cows. For example, the price ratio of bred heifers to bred cows has averaged 2.5% over the last 5 years. In other words, bred heifers are on average 2.5% more expensive than bred cows. The premium is the widest in the Continue reading

What does smaller cattle inventory mean for new packers?

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

What does the smaller cattle inventory mean for the new packers that are expected to come on line in the near future?

It is important to remind readers that several large beef packing facilities are being built. Some are new ventures while others are expansions of well-established packers.

The first thought that comes to mind is that coming online when the beef cattle inventory is at its lowest level in more than 60 years and heifer retention is imminent, it is going to be a tough go of it for these operations. The reason it will be a tough go is because cattle prices are expected to increase, which means these new operations will require more capital to purchase animals and interest on that capital has increased significantly the past couple years. These large commercial packing facilities are going to be competing with established packers for a limited supply of cattle, and it will be difficult to win that price war.

This does not mean they will fail, but it will result in thin margins to start.