Adding Value to Cull Cows

Stephen Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the returns to a cow-calf operation are from selling cull cows in the fall. There are four factors that need to be considered to obtain profit from feeding cull cows. First, the cows have to be thin but healthy. Second, the buy/sell margin should be positive. Third, cost of gain should be relatively cheap. The odds of a profit are increased whenever these three conditions are present. The final requirement needed involves financial solvency. Only producers that can absorb financial risk should feed cull cows for short time periods.

Factor 1: Cows Should Be Thin But Healthy

Cows often lose up to 20 percent of their weight during periods of under-nutrition. Cows culled during a drought may have even greater weight losses. Thin cows offer an opportunity to add weight rapidly through compensatory gain. Healthy, thin cows gain weight faster than normal condition cows. Compensatory gain from thin cows should result in the highest conversion rate and gain, thus reducing the cost of gain.

Some thin cull cows are young and still growing. Most have weaned a calf and are thin due to the demands of lactation. However, some thin cows may not be able to return to slaughter cow composition for several reasons. Cows that have lung damage may appear thin and unthrifty. Cows with heavy Continue reading

Could early weaning increase your profits?

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator (originally published in the Ohio Farmer)

Early weaning can reduce daily forage consumption between 25 and 40%.

Over the last couple of years, making hay in a timely manner has been nearly impossible.  There just were not 3- or 4-day windows of dry weather without water standing in the fields.  The result was a lot of poor-quality hay resulting in poor body condition scores of cows coming out of the winter.  This year, hay production has started out much better for most people.  We had a couple nice dry periods in late May and early June that allowed baling of good quality hay.  The issue this year is quantity.  Many people are reporting reductions of 30 to 50% in tonnage of first cutting hay.  There are probably two factors that are causing this.  First the cold weather and numerous frost and freeze events in April and May slowed the hay down growth.  Much of the alfalfa was at a bud stage on the first of June instead of flowering.  This likely helped the quality but hurt the quantity.  The second factor is that we simply would expect less hay when it is baled at the beginning of June than the end of June.  Time will tell whether the season long hay production remains low or if second and third cuttings make up the difference.

It is never too early to plan.  There are options to consider to be sure enough forage will be available for the winter.  This comes down to either Continue reading

Supplementing to Stretch Pastures

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS Associate Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Drought continues to impact the high plains area stretching down to the pan handle of Texas. The dry conditions will continue to impact pastures potentially lowering beef cattle numbers at year’s end. The recent high temperatures and limited rain will dry out pastures and limit forage regrowth on recently cut hay fields here in the Commonwealth. As forage growth slows, supplementation may be needed to provide beef cattle adequate levels of nutrients to support target production levels and limit condition loss of lactating cows.

Fibrous coproduct feedstuffs that are low in starch but high digestible fiber work well for supplementingcattle on a high forage diet. Soybean hulls, corn gluten feed, beet pulp, distillers grains, wheat midds, and rice bran are a few commonly available feedstuffs that would be lower in starch and high digestible fiber. These feedstuffs would be higher in available energy than most pasture forages that are going or already dormant. Depending on the maturity and digestibility of the forages, supplements could provide twice as much energy on a dry weight basis. Therefore, supplementation would need to be limited and not offered free-choice to avoid over conditioning as well as to avoid digestive upsets.

Cottonseed hulls are lower in digestible energy than the supplements listed above and most cool-season forages. Cottonseed hulls would be deemed as more of a forage replacement than a supplement. The crude protein value is Continue reading

Bunk Management; Impacts Animal Performance and Health

Feedbunk management plays an important role in both animal performance and preventing acidosis in the feedyard.

During the first session of the 2020 Ohio Beef Cattle Nutrition and Management School that was hosted by the OSU Extension Beef Team,  Dr. Francis Fluharty, Ohio State University Professor Emeritus and current Professor and Head of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at The University of Georgia, focused a portion of his presentation on the significant impact that proper feed bunk management has on feed conversion, prevention of acidosis, and overall profitability. Here, in less than 8 minutes, Dr. Fluharty explains why bunk management is so important, nearly doubling the rate of gain and improving feed conversion by greater than 40% in one study.

Recordings in their entirety of the Beef School proceedings may be found under the link 2020 Ohio Beef School

Potential for Toxic Nitrate Levels in Forages

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

Plants readily take up nitrates from the soil, even under colder conditions

The recent cold and cloudy weather has raised the concern for higher nitrate levels in forages that could potentially be toxic to animals consuming those forages. It is true that any stress condition that slows plant growth and metabolism can increase the risk of higher plant nitrate levels. This article discusses factors to consider, especially given the recent cold weather we have been experiencing in Ohio and surrounding regions.

Plants readily take up nitrates from the soil, even under colder conditions, and especially since we have plentiful soil moisture to facilitate uptake. Once in the plant, nitrate is converted to nitrite, then ammonia, and finally into amino acids and plant protein. Any environmental stress that significantly slows down plant photosynthesis and metabolism can lead to excessive nitrate levels in the plant because the nitrate uptake from the soil will be faster than its metabolism into plant protein. Such stresses include frost, extended cold weather, cloudy conditions, hail damage, or . . .

Continue reading Potential for Toxic Nitrate Levels in Forages

Backgrounding rates of gain effect carcass characteristics

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

People are currently investigating methods to control rate of gain. Anna R. Taylor  and Robbi H. Pritchard, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD; and Kelly W. Bruns , University of Nebraska-Linclon, West Central Research & Extension Center, North Platte, NE, looked at backgrounding rate of gain on carcass characteristics.  Steer calves weighing an average of 690 pounds were backgrounded until they weighed an average of 880 pounds. The 3 rates of gain were compared.  Calves were fed a corn silage based diet and the targeted average daily gain (ADG) was achieved by limiting feed intake.  At the end of each backgrounding treatment, calves were fed the same finishing ration and harvested at a common backfat thickness.

Calves with a lower backgrounding rate of gain were fed for more days to reach the common backfat thickness. Calves had increased ADG during the finishing period when the backgrounding ADG was lower.  Hot carcass weights were also heavier when backgrounding ADG was lower.  However, the researchers commented that marbling appears to be best when calves are not grown to slow or too fast and this data set identified Continue reading

What’s in your Baleage? – Inadequate fermentation may lead to Botulism

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Botulism is a disease caused by one of the most potent toxins known to man. This toxin is produced by Clostridium botulinum, a Gram-positive bacterium from the Clostridia family. This bacterium survives in the environment as a “spore” and contaminates plant material during harvest. For the bacteria to multiply and produce toxin, an anaerobic (“without oxygen”) environment must be maintained. Under certain conditions, round bale silage (or “baleage”) can provide the correct place for botulism toxin to form. In the absence of oxygen (as is found in wrapped hay) and a pH greater than 4.5 (poor fermentation), the spores enter a vegetative state, multiply and produce toxin. This toxin, once consumed and absorbed into the blood stream, blocks transmission of nerve impulses to the adjacent muscles. Two forms of the toxin, Types B and C, occur most frequently in KY cattle. Type B is associated with improperly fermented forage while Type C occurs from the accidental feeding of dead birds, dogs, cats or poultry litter contaminated with dead Continue reading

Considerations for slowing feedlot cattle growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic

– published by William Halfman, WI Beef Information Center, written by: University of Wisconsin Extension Livestock Program Educators, University of Wisconsin Department of Animal Science Faculty, and Iowa State University Extension Beef Specialists

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt cattle markets. Cash sales for the week of April 13-17 were depressed as packing plants operated at reduced capacity or shuttered their doors due to labor issues spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic. Having a market that will take finished cattle at a suitable date has become a concern. In addition, the current live market prices, and limited sale opportunities for fat steers have left many cattle feeders searching for solutions to reduce their economic loss.

In times of depressed markets many cattle feeders lean towards the “hold and hope” method of selling fed cattle, where they retain their cattle longer than is ideal with the hope of waiting out the down turn in the market.

The strategy to hold cattle longer will depend on the goals of the operation and the stage of feeding of the cattle. The good news is that cattle are adaptable to a variety of feeding systems and programs, and their growth can be programmed in a very predictable way through changing the net energy of the ration or using “programmed feeding”.

For cattle ready or near ready for market it may be best to . . .

Continue reading Considerations for slowing feedlot cattle growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic

“If you have high ash content in your forages, you’re feeding dirt”

According to Ted Wiseman, Ohio State University Extension Educator in Perry County, “If you have high ash content in your forages, you’re feeding dirt.” And, the feed conversion on dirt is not good!

During the second session of the 2020 Ohio Beef Cattle Nutrition and Management School that was hosted by the Ohio State University Extension Beef Team, Wiseman discussed the value of analyzing the nutrient content of forages. Included in that presentation was an explanation regarding ash content, what it results from, and why it’s a concern. In this brief excerpt from his presentation, he explains, in part, how 5 pounds of a forage with 18% ash content is equivalent to feeding a pound of dirt to the animal, and offers some thoughts on preventing high ash content in our forages.