Planning for Winter 2020 Cow Herd Feeding

Francis L. Fluharty, Ph.D. Professor and Head, Department of Animal and Dairy Science, University of Georgia

Poor quality long stem forages, reduced forage supplies, and increased feed and supplementation costs all demand that we look at nutrition management even more closely this year!

The spring and summer of 2019 have set records for rainfall throughout much of the United States, having negative impacts on corn planting and hay production. In addition, areas of the southeast have been exceptionally dry, and hay production has been limited.

Feed costs are high, and with the poor planting season, this coming winter’s grain and grain byproducts could be much higher. Current corn prices are maintaining around the $4.40 level in the eastern corn belt, with transportation costs increasing this to around $5.40 in areas of the southeast. This works out to $.079 to $.096 per pound, depending on location. Dried distillers grains are currently in the price range of $130 to $170 per ton, FOB, or $.065 to $.085 per pound, and the prices of corn gluten feed is keeping pace on an energy and protein basis, at approximately $110 to $140 per ton, or $.055 to $.07 per pound. These prices are based on last year’s corn crop. With reduced corn acres planted this year, next winter’s prices are likely to be much Continue reading

Hay Quality 2019; It’s Déjà vu All Over Again!

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

A forage probe for sampling hay might be the most valuable tool you can use in 2019!

Coming off a year where quality forages for beef cattle were in short supply throughout Ohio, now in mid-2019 we find that inventory remains critically low. With the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) estimating only 60% of Ohio’s first cutting hay harvest was completed by the first of July, it’s apparent that Ohio cattlemen will again be faced with finding ways to make “feed” from hay that was harvested way past it’s prime.

As an example of the hay quality we’re seeing, a recent forage analysis on some Fairfield County mixed grass hay that was mowed on June 25th and baled on June 29 – after also getting lightly rained on once – came back showing 6.85% protein and 38.02% TDN (total digestible nutrients) on a dry matter basis. The ADF (acid detergent fiber) was 51.63% and the NDF (neutral detergent fiber) was 65.51%.

I could tell you that’s not good, but perhaps a better way is to compare it to wheat straw. When you look up the “book values” for the feed nutrient content of straw you find that Continue reading

Forage Shortage: Considering Early Weaning

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County (originally published in Ohio’s Country Journal on-line)

Less than ideal conditions have led to forage shortages throughout the Midwest. Photo: Ohio’s Country Journal

Low hay inventory this past winter combined with poor pasture stands due to excessive moisture have led to a greater proportion of thin beef cows both across the countryside and on the cull market. As we evaluate the toll that this past winter took on forage stands, especially alfalfa, hay is projected to be in short supply as we proceed into next winter as well.

For a beef cow to be efficient and profitable, we must meet her nutritional requirements for maintenance in addition to those for reproduction and lactation. As a reminder, the hierarchy of nutrient use is as follows: Maintenance, Development, Growth, Lactation, Reproduction, Fattening. This applies to all nutrient categories, not just to energy alone. As we conclude calving season, we are entering the most challenging time in production cycle when it comes to providing adequate nutrition. If the cow does not intake enough nutrients and is in suboptimal body condition at calving (BCS < 5), reproduction is the first to fail. With that in mind, one strategy available to minimize body condition and reproductive losses when forage is in short supply is to early wean calves.

Early weaning is certainly not a new concept and is one that is often employed when Continue reading

Body Condition Score and Getting Thin Cows to Rebreed

– Travis Mulliniks, UNL Beef Cattle Nutritionist, Range Production Systems

During the production year, livestock are faced with dynamic changes in nutritional and environmental stressors that create nutritional challenges.  The last year for many livestock producer have been one of those very challenging years. Many parts of Nebraska experienced high, early spring rainfall and tremendous forage growth, resulting in early maturing and low-quality forages.  This created a situation that many cows were thinner than normal years at weaning.  We coupled that with high moisture, extreme cold, blizzards, and flooding in last few months.  The end result has been really thin cows.

Body condition scoring (BCS) is an effective management tool to estimate the energy reserves of a cow.  If monitored multiple times across the production year, BCS is a good indicator of direction of body weight change.  Body condition score of beef cows at the time of calving has the greatest impact on subsequent rebreeding performance (Table 1). Traditional recommendations suggest cows need to be nutritionally managed at a BCS 5 or greater at breeding for optimal reproductive performance. However, the response is not absolute; some cows are capable of Continue reading

Pre-breeding Nutrition Considerations for Cows That Have Struggled This Winter

– Katy Lippolis, Iowa State Extension Cow-calf Specialist

While spring may finally be here, harsh weather conditions over the winter, and cold and wet spring storms have taken a toll on late gestation and early lactation cows. Some have depleted body stores to make up for the cold weather, so making sure those cows bounce back prior to breeding is crucial to maintaining pregnancy rates.

There are many considerations and management strategies we can utilize to Continue reading

The Great 2019 Hay Debate . . . Quality or Quantity?

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

If there was ever a year to focus on hay quality over quantity, weather permitting, this has to be it! Most of the reasons should be obvious. Perhaps a few are less so. However, with some aggressive planning and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, perhaps we can have both quality and quantity this year. Following are some points to consider.

Generally speaking, we’re out of quality hay in Ohio. The condition of our cows confirms it, the prices of hay at auction markets confirm it, and laboratory forage analysis confirms it. Not only was 2018 a challenging year for forage harvest, but we started that year with less inventory. Last spring in their hay stocks report, USDA NASS reported hay inventory on Ohio farms on May 1, 2018 was down 33% from that same time in 2017.

As we’re now nearing the end of April, cows need feed and to add insult to injury, forages have been slow to get started this spring. It’s safe to assume first cutting hay will likely be short due to a late spring start of growth. Regardless, hay needs to come off in a timely fashion this year.

The first reason is Continue reading

Time for Some “Defensive Driving”

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

The term “defensive driving” may seem like an odd choice of words to start an article about beef cattle. Stay with me on this one. When I think about defensive driving, I think about watching out for factors such as the surrounding traffic, weather conditions, time of day, driver fatigue, etc. and how they may affect your ability to travel safely from point A to point B. How does this concept relate to beef cattle production?

As we are in the midst of changing both weather and production seasons, now is the time to be analyzing your animals and the environmental conditions around them to make important management decisions that can impact your operation for the short- and long-term. Most of you are painfully aware that the beef herd has faced many challenges through the winter of 2018-2019. As we move into spring with green grass and warmer temperatures, do not get lulled into a false sense of security that any problems that we have been experiencing are going to magically disappear.

We fully realize the current situation. We have experienced months of cold, wet conditions that have resulted in excessive amounts of mud. Unless you have had a laboratory analysis of the forages fed your herd through the winter, we have to assume that forage quality of hay supplies is sub-par. Excessive moisture in the spring and early summer of 2018 simply did not allow for the timely harvest of forages to generate high quality feed. Based on my observations and conversations I have had with producers, veterinarians, and other industry representatives, the weather and feed quality has resulted in large numbers of Continue reading

Is Creep Feeding Beef Calves Profitable?

– Devin Broadhead And Matt Stockton, University Of Nebraska Extension

For creep feeding to be profitable, the costs of the added weight gain must be less than the value of that gain. (Wyatt Bechtel)

Successful beef calf producers continually search for ways to improve their operation and bottom-line. Creep feeding calves to increase their market weight is one strategy. To be profitable, the costs of the added weight gain must be less than the value of that gain. Many factors contribute to a calf’s weaning weight, i.e. nutrition, genetics, age at weaning, environmental conditions and so forth. A three-year study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL) using spring calving cows tested the effects of creep feeding on calf weaning weight and productivity. This report uses biological information in an economic analysis to determine profitability during the time of the study.

Conceptually, creep feeding provides increased nutrition to growing calves, which increases their weight at weaning. More pounds of calf to sell at weaning increases revenue, but does it increase profit? Past research has shown that supplementation (creep feeding) directly to growing calves significantly effects their Continue reading

The Impact of Nutrition on Reproduction

During the Ohio Beef School webinar last month, Dr. Alvaro Garcia Guerra discussed the challenges of getting cows and heifers bred, regardless if by artificial insemination or natural service. In particular Dr. Guerra offered insight into the impacts of nutrition on heifer development and conception rates of heifers, as well as the impact nutrition has on days to return to estrus and conception rates of lactating females.

That presentation, The Impact of Nutrition on Reproduction, is embedded below: