To Crack or Not to Crack, A Common Question

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

As grain and commodity prices shoot up, beef producers begin to look for other feedstuffs to find bargains. In many cases, there are no bargains to be found as commodity brokers know the value of the feeds they market. However, occasional opportunities do present themselves from plant shutdowns, shipping issues, and other various reasons. Yet, many folks look past the common feeds available such as corn, oats, wheat, distillers grains and other local feedstuffs hoping to save a few dollars. Corn is a constant in our area and should always be considered as an energy source in ruminant diets.

One of the first questions I get when I start talking about feeding corn to beef cattle producers is whether it has to be cracked or ground. Seems like an easy question with a simple answer. However, the impact of grain processing has been studied for decades and continues to be researched. The hammer mill was invented in 1840 to process grains for feeding. Flaking of corn was developed in 1962 to gelatinize starch and increase efficiency. Reviews on grain processing were presented in papers dating back almost 50 years by the National Research Council. Yet today, research continues to investigate the impact of grain processing on cattle performance.

A review paper on grain processing published around 25 years ago summarized research of finishing cattle and the impact of grain processing. Similar daily gains were noted when corn was fed whole or cracked. Intakes were slightly lower improving feed efficiency when grain was left whole. Ohio researchers published a paper in 2020 in which dry rolled corn was Continue reading

Value of Baler Preservative Applicator

Baler mounted liquid preservative applicators may be more affordable than you think. Photo credit: CropCare (Used with permission)

Do you think baler preservative applicators are too expensive or too complicated? They are more affordable and simpler than you may think. With the challenges that come with making dry hay, it may be a change you can’t afford not to make.

Anyone that bales dry hay has had to chase a field of hay in before the rain comes. Many times the hay is almost fit to bale but it is a little tough and you bale it and hope it doesn’t mold. These are the times you think, if I only had a preservative applicator on the baler, I could bale this and shouldn’t have any problems. Then you think, they are too expensive for me as I only bale a couple thousand small square bales a year. Think again!

You can buy a basic 25-gallon baler liquid applicator for around . . .

Continue reading Value of Baler Preservative Applicator

Meeting Cow Nutrient Requirements in the Winter Starts in the Spring

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

When the weather forecast calls for a few days of clear skies this time of year, it is a safe bet that many producers are hitting the hay fields to get hay put up to feed their herd this winter. When thinking about the hay requirements for a herd, I often hear discussions about the number of bales required. However, focusing on the number of bales alone is like only looking at half of the picture. Cattle have nutrient (energy and protein) requirements, not a bale requirement. So really, at the end of the day, it won’t be a certain number of bales that maintain the cowherd at a BCS 5 or greater. Instead, supplying enough pounds of total digestible nutrients (TDN) or energy and pounds of crude protein will meet the cow’s nutrient requirements. The exact amount of TDN and crude protein required depends on several factors such as stage of production, environmental factors, and mature cow size, to name a few.

The single most significant factor that impacts forage quality or the nutrient content and digestibility of the forage is the stage of maturity at harvest. As the plant matures, the leaf to stem ratio decreases, which means a greater concentration of fiber (a portion of which is undigestible) and decreased protein concentrations. Unfortunately, when cool-season forages are rapidly growing in the spring, it can be easy to miss the optimal stage of maturity to capitalize on forage quality. Weather can also have a significant 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

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

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

Rotational Grazing and Water Quality

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Maintaining forage cover and using it for pasture or hay production should meet conservation compliance demands. A diverse group of people representing the local cattle organization, feed store, auction facility, fence building business, veterinary clinic, and the soil and water conservation district cooperated on a grazing project. The primary objective was to observe nitrates levels in surface water run-off from grazed and ungrazed sites. This information could be used to evaluate if rotational grazing is compatible with surface water quality requirements.

An intensive rotational grazing project was initiated within the Indian Lake Water Shed.  The land was seeded to orchardgrass, timothy and red clover. The soil was a Napponee St. Clair silt/loam with 6-12% slopes which is typical of Logan County, Ohio. There were not any trees within or adjacent to the grazing site.

The 40 acre area was divided into four sections. Perimeter fence was high tensile fence (5 strands, 3 electrified) on wood posts. Internal fence separating sections was 1 strand of electric wire on wood posts. However Continue reading

Feed Your Cows and Your Forage

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

The highest energy demand of the cow arrives approximately 60 days post calving.

Spring has arrived, a successful Ohio Beef Expo is in the rear view, and for many Ohio beef producers, there are calves on the ground. This is a critical time in the beef and forage production cycle for many producers, especially those with spring calving herds.

As we come into the forage growing season and wrap up much of the cold weather hay feeding, now is an important time to consider nutrition, not only for the cow herd but for our forage crops as well.

The highest energy demand of the cow is during peak lactation, approximately 60 days post calving. During this time in the production cycle, we also are asking that cow to return to estrous and be rebred in a timely manner. To maintain a 365-day calving interval, we have roughly 85 days between calving and getting that female rebred in which we need to supply Continue reading

The energy requirements for an Angus beef cow throughout her annual production cycle

– Kirsten Nickles, Graduate Research Associate and Anthony J. Parker, Associate Chair and Associate Professor. Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University.

The nutritional requirements for beef cows change daily throughout their annual production cycle. The frequent change in requirements is caused by varying stages of production and environmental factors that affect the cow’s behavior and energy use. To give an example, a spring calving beef cow gestating throughout winter will have energy requirements for maintenance and gestation, and there may be further requirements for cold stress if winter climatic conditions place the cow outside her zone of thermal comfort. To appreciate how great the total net energy cost of a beef cow can be we have included the net energy requirements in Mcal/day throughout the annual production cycle of a mature 1200 lb Angus cow with a peak milk yield (PMY) of 18 pounds (Figure 1).  We included the requirements for maintenance, lactation, and gestation and assume this all occurs without any cold or heat stress on the cow. It is noteworthy to consider that thermal stress can elevate the requirement for maintenance substantially.

Figure 1. The energy requirements (Mcal/day) for an Angus beef cow throughout her annual production cycle.

Many beef cattle producers would agree that the Continue reading