With a dry start to the summer, is creep feeding right for your operation?

Haley Shoemaker, OSU Extension AGNR Educator, Columbiana and Mahoning Counties (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

When deciding to creep feed, consider more than just calf value.

Dry spells have a way of making even the most seasoned cattlemen second-guess their grazing and forage strategies.  With a large portion of the state experiencing moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions to start the summer grazing season, many producers are exploring their options to compensate for pastures that may not be bouncing back as quickly as needed in order to provide ample nutrition to growing calves and lactating cows.

As of June 12th, Ohio’s topsoil moisture was categorized as 35% very short and 42% short, with subsoil moisture ranked 17% and 53% respectively.  With reduced soil moisture comes reduced energy to the plant, which leads to slowed recovery of the root systems, and ultimately minimal plant growth.  Generally, allowing pastures to be grazed below 3 inches will amplify the effects of drought conditions, and will consequently make it Continue reading

Finding the Cause for Abortions and Stillbirths in Cattle- Why is it still so Difficult?

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Determining the cause of abortions and stillbirths in cattle remains a significant challenge for veterinary diagnostic laboratories, despite vast improvements in the tests used to detect infectious organisms. Most studies find that only 20-50% of abortion cases submitted are “solved”, meaning the first initiating event resulting in the death of the fetus was discovered and answered “why” the calf died. Diagnosis of the cause of an abortion is exceptionally challenging because characteristic visible clues in the fetus rarely occur, sample tissues are often rotting and unsuitable for examination, and the most important tissue for analysis, the placenta, is seldom submitted. Instead, veterinary diagnostic laboratories can often recognize the final mechanism resulting in death of a fetus or calf, such as anoxia (lack of oxygen) or trauma, that answers “how” the calf died instead of “why”. Veterinarians understand the limitations of abortion diagnostics and are best suited to help the producer determine if and when an investigation is warranted and how to collect and submit the appropriate samples. Abortion outbreaks can cause serious economic losses, so it is of value to identify potential causes and how to reduce or eliminate them. For some producers, a single pregnancy loss may trigger an investigation while for others, multiple losses need to occur before calling a veterinarian. A loss of 2% for abortions is often quoted as “acceptable” but this percentage usually does not Continue reading

Surprisingly Big Placements in the June Cattle on Feed Report

– Josh Maples, Assistant Professor & Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University

The latest Cattle on Feed report was released on Friday by USDA-NASS. June 1 total cattle on feed for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head was estimated at 11.55 million head which was 2.9 percent below June 1, 2022. This marked the ninth consecutive month that total cattle on feed was lower than the same month in 2022.

The biggest surprise from this report was the larger than expected placements of cattle into feedlots during May which were estimated at 1.96 million head. Placements were 4.6 percent (86,000 head) above May 2022 totals which was above the pre-report average expectation of a 1.7 percent increase. This was the largest Continue reading

Up Corn, Down Horn

– Matthew Diersen, Risk & Business Management Specialist, Ness School of Management & Economics, South Dakota State University

Continued dry conditions across much of the western corn belt have resulted in sharply higher new-crop corn futures prices as I write this on June 20, 2023. Old-crop futures and cash prices have risen also. There is little to no carry after the December 2023 contract, so all the buying decisions would depend on the general price level instead of any storage-related timing. The implied volatility for new-crop corn continues to creep higher as well. As a result, the prospects for higher meat prices have waned. Feeder cattle futures have been under downward pressure in recent weeks. Regionally, corn acres have areas that look quite stressed from heat and limited precipitation. There is also wide variability in conditions. Live cattle prices have been at record high levels, so the effect on feeders has been clouded or offset.

The dry conditions have locally limited the expectation for hay yields. The hay stocks situation in South Dakota was close to expectations, as winter use was in line with typical disappearance levels. With the expected 2023 hay acres, supplies would be good for the year. However, producers and Extension colleagues have already called attention to lower yields. The national picture would mirror the Continue reading

Control flies to control economic losses

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension, Perry County (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

Warm weather has arrived for the summer and so have flying biting insects. I have seen estimates that flies cost U.S. livestock producers $700,000 to $1 million dollars annually. With high livestock prices it is more important than ever to keep animal performance at an optimum.

Flies can impact livestock performance by reducing weight gains, milk production and poor feed utilization. The major flies of concern are Horn flies, Face flies and Stable flies. Other annoying pests would include horse flies, deer flies, ticks and mosquitoes.

Types of flies

Horn flies are blood sucking found on the backs of livestock feeding 20 to 40 times per day. Recommended economic levels are reached when populations exceed 200 flies per animal and often peak this time of year. The female adults only leave the hosts to lay eggs in fresh manure. The complete egg to adult life cycle can be completed in 10 to 20 days depending upon the weather.

Stable flies are also serious insects affecting livestock since they too are Continue reading

What are we missing out on when having a year- round breeding season?

– Pedro L. P. Fontes, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, University of Georgia

Consider the many economic advantages of a controlled breeding season.

One of the most important management practices for a cow-calf operation is the establishment of a controlled breeding season. Nevertheless, data collected by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that approximately half of the cow-calf operations in the United States do not have a controlled breeding season. There are a number of benefits that producers miss out on when they fail to adopt a controlled breeding season, benefits that will be discussed in this article.

Using a controlled breeding season can help cattle producers optimize the nutritional program of their herd. Cow-herd nutrient requirements vary greatly depending on the stage of production. For example, cows in peak lactation have greater nutrient requirements compared with cows in late lactation. Similarly, cows during late gestation have greater nutrient requirements compared with cows in mid-gestation. When herds are managed in a year-round breeding season, cows are . . .

Continue reading What are we missing out on when having a year- round breeding season?

Handling cattle, thinking like a cow, discussed during Stockmanship & Stewardship event

Steve Boyles, Ohio State University Beef Extension Specialist

When handling cattle, we need to create movement in cattle and then use position to control the movement.  Working cattle is kind of like committee work. All you really need are the people that are going to do the work. The is just one of the concepts that will be discussed in a hands on approach during Stockmanship & Stewardship at the OARDC Eastern Agricultural Research Station in Caldwell on September 29 and 30, 2023.

Cattle think of one thing at a time: If humans could do this we would not have ulcers. They focus on detail instead of larger concepts.  Keep the cattle’s attention on where you want them to go.  Get their heads or noses in the direction you want them to go.  Pick up all the trash and anything else that might distract them. Foreign objects easily distract cattle can cause cattle stop moving and pause to investigate. A shadow or a flapping shirt on a post or some other distraction can prevent smooth cattle flow. Properly designed facilities reduce their confusion and reducing fear/crowding.

Cattle want to see you: Get their attention before you start working cattle.  It is like introducing yourself.  Their initial reaction might be fear but give them a moment to calm down after you have introduced yourself.  Think about where you want to position yourself after you have gotten their attention.

If you are having trouble working cattle, look at the work through their eyes.  Animals communicate through vision.  What is the shape of a cow’s pupil? (Answer: oval to the point of being rectangular).

Boyles et al. 2002

Because of the location of their Continue reading

Margin Calls in a Rapidly Rising Market

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

The feeder cattle market has been on a tear since fall of 2022. In most markets, heavy feeders are selling for $30 to $50 per more than they were in the 4th quarter and the price improvement in calf markets has been even greater. The August CME© feeder cattle futures contract that was trading below $200 per cwt in early fall is now trading in the mid-$230’s (see chart below). There is much reason for optimism as many profit opportunities exist in the current environment. But sharp price increases can also create challenges for producers and I wanted to specifically discuss one of these challenges that came up last week as I was having lunch with a friend of mine that works in the agricultural lender sector.

While there are several price risk management strategies that can be employed by cattle producers, some of those strategies involve potential for margin calls. And a lot of margin can be needed when markets make major runs like the cattle markets have been doing. This can create a Continue reading

Cutouts Jump Higher

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

Not to be outdone by record fed cattle prices, cutout values have jumped higher.  While the cutout out is dramatically higher, it is not at record highs.  The Choice cutout hit $337.43 per cwt on June 12th, up $23 over the last week and up $30.99 since June 1st.  It is the highest value since August 2021 and just slightly below the $337.56 the on June 11th 2021.

The increase in cutout value included all primal cuts.  The rib, loin, and brisket all increased by more than $45 per cwt over the last week.  In percentage terms the brisket increased by 20 percent, the largest gains of any cut.  The Select cutout increased also, but not as much as the Choice cutout, so the Choice-Select spread increased from $20.12 to $27.19 since the first of June.

The cow boxed beef cutout is also increasing.  It has climbed steadily from about $194 per cwt in January to $227 per cwt in early June.  Beef cow slaughter is Continue reading

Beefenomics: Cattle Market Update, Resilient Beef Demand

– William Secor, Ph.D., UGA Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics

Grilling season has begun in earnest. Beef price data suggests beef demand is strong during this important sales period. Retail prices for the month of May jumped by three percent compared to last month, are five percent above last year, and well above the previous 5-year average. Recent weekly beef cutout values are also at historically high levels, approaching levels similar to summer 2021. This suggests that demand strength has continued into June.

These higher prices at the wholesale and retail level support higher live cattle, feeder cattle, and calf prices. Over the last month, all of these prices have Continue reading