The Do’s and Don’ts of Making High Quality Baleage

The second session of the 2021 Ohio Beef Cattle Management School was hosted via ZOOM by the Ohio State University Extension Beef Team on January 25th. During that second session, one focus of the evening was effectively utilizing plastic wrap for fermenting baled forages and making baleage. In the excerpt of that evening’s presentation that follows, Jason Hartschuh answers the question, “How much plastic wrap do I put on each bale for baleage?

In the entirety of the presentation, Hartschuh discussed harvest options, correct harvest moisture, and properly baling and wrapping wet forages. You can find that entire presentation, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Making High Quality Baleage” embedded below.

Find details of the 2021 Ohio Beef School sessions that continue each Monday evening through February 22nd linked here.

Hay Quality; What a difference a year makes, or does it?

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

We can certainly say this past year has had its challenges. However, quality of forages made in 2020 was much better for most compared to the previous two years.  Weather conditions were more favorable especially for first cutting. The late frost in May set our forages back and for many first cutting forage yields were extremely low. Second, third and four cuttings were better, but overall hay supplies are tight again for some.

Again in 2020 Extension Educators in 10 counties have collected forage samples from across the state. Chart 1 is data collected in 2019. I know we would like to forget the condition of forages in 2019, but I have included it for comparison to forage quality in chart 2 for 2020. To clarify most of these samples are not from the same producer or the same fields. This demonstration is to make a simple comparison of the overall quality of Continue reading

Analyzing Forage Quality to Meet the Nutritional Needs of the Beef Cow

The third session of the 2021 Ohio Beef Cattle Management School was hosted via ZOOM by the Ohio State University Extension Beef Team on February 1st. During that third session the focus shifted to preventing storage losses in harvested forages, analyzing harvested forage quality, and meeting the nutritional needs of the cattle being fed. To begin the first segment from that evening, OSU Extension Beef Field Specialist Garth Ruff introduced Extension Educator Ted Wiseman and his presentation found below in its entirety on forage quality analysis and meeting the nutritional needs of the cow.

Find recordings from all the 2021 Ohio Beef School sessions linked here.

Cold Stress and Beef Cows

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Factors that create stress during the winter months are cold, wind, snow, rain and mud. The primary effect on animals is due to temperature. All these factors alter the maintenance energy requirement of livestock. Maintenance requirement can be defined, as the nutrients required for keeping an animal in a state of balance so that body substance is neither gained or lost. An interesting thing to note is that while energy requirements increase, protein requirements remain the same.

Some published sources contain nutrient requirements for beef cattle that include guidelines for adjusting rations during winter weather. Even without published sources, competent livestock producers realize the need for more feed during cold weather. Make sure that water is available. If water is not supplied, cattle will reduce feed intake.

Daily dry matter intake of beef cows with respect to lower temperatures

Temp, F < 5 5-22 22-41 59-77
Intake, % Change 1.16 1.07 1.05 1.03

The metabolic response to the stimulus of cold involves practically all Continue reading

Providing Extra Energy in Bad Weather

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator

In some cases, simply offering two pounds of whole corn on frozen ground can be effective. Photo: Penrose

Winter is here! As I write this, we have had some snow and freezing temperatures along with a healthy dose of mud, but the worst is yet to come. Some grazers may still be utilizing stockpiled forages but many of us have transitioned to feeding hay, baleage, or silage. Hopefully, we know the quality of our forage and the needs of the livestock that will be consuming it. Maybe we have even planned for supplemental energy sources when needed. This is all great until mother nature throws a monkey wrench into things. Rain, snow, wind, and mud can destroy our best laid plans.

There are charts that tell us the nutrient requirements of all types of livestock during different stages of their lives. These help us know which forages are best suited to which animals and when a supplement needs to be added to maintain performance and reach genetic potential. What we sometimes forget is these tables do not account for non-typical weather conditions. A sunny day with no wind and temperatures near zero are better tolerated than a muddy 40°F day with blowing Continue reading

What Does the Increased Grain Prices Mean for Backgrounders?

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

This time of year, we receive several questions regarding supplementing cows and calves. Often, I must ask what feeds are available and prices as this is rarely included in the original request. I see a wide range in feed prices when this information comes back. However, one thing is certain, feed prices are higher in 2021. What impact will this have on the backgrounding segment?

The backgrounding and stocker enterprises are tight margin industries. By margin, we are referring to the difference in the value of a feeder calf at marketing and the price paid at purchase. If an 800-pound feeder is expected to bring $1,050 and was purchased for $750, the margin would be $300 to cover all costs and hopefully leave a bit of profit. If feed costs increase and all other factors remain the same, then the margin is decreased. To compensate, buyers will have to pay less for feeders if the projected sell price does not march up with the feed costs. Let’s compare two scenarios where feed cost is $180/ton versus $280/ton. I’ll use a model that includes typical enterprise budget information. I am leaving labor out, though one should value their time. Many enterprise budget tools are available, and you should find one that you like and enter your own values.

Additional inputs are necessary and include days owned or fed. Purchase date and expected marketing date to look at the feeder cattle contract closest to your marketing day along with the basis. The diet or ration to be fed and cost is a critical part of Continue reading

Matching the Cow’s Milk Production to Your Forage Resources

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist (this originally appeared in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

Genetics and cow type must match the available feed resources and herd management style

Type differences exist due to size, milk production, suitability to the environment and desirability of different types for profit. All these factors affect the amount of nutrients required by the individual. The nutrient requirements of the various types can determine different management schemes.

There are several segments of the industry that influence size of beef cattle. The packer-grocery store segment has preferred USDA Choice carcasses in the 700 to 900 lb range.  The feedlot operator is looking for calves that have an acceptable dressing percent and attain USDA Choice grade at 1100 to 1400 lbs (weights have been somewhat heavier in 2020).  Various combinations of different bulls and cows can accomplish this goal.

Size and Nutrition:  Considerable changes in outputs and requirements per animal may be induced by changes in cow size.  Table 1 illustrates the Continue reading

Don’t Quit Now!

– Les Anderson and Jeff Lehmkuhler, Beef Extension Specialists, University of Kentucky

Many things in life make sense on the surface. Mark Twain once said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”. A great example is using water to put out a fire. On the surface this makes sense but if it’s a grease fire using water is a huge mistake. Beef cattle production has several examples of this but reducing feed to late gestation cows is one of the most common.

On the surface, reducing feed to late gestation cows makes some sense; less feed, potentially smaller calf, fewer calving problems, and a smaller feed bill. Fewer calving problems means more calves, more potential revenue, and, on the surface, this strategy is logical. But, like many things in life, the logical “just ain’t so”.

Fortunately, a great deal of research is available to help us understand the issues with nutrient intake of cows during the last trimester of pregnancy. As a pregnant cow moves from the second to the third trimester, her energy and protein requirements increase. Much of this increase is due to supporting the Continue reading

Meeting Protein Requirements When Protein is Expensive

– Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

One of the things that we know for certain is what goes up must come down, and in the agriculture industry the opposite is also true. For a whole host of reasons, we see fluctuations in all our commodity prices. In the beef industry, we can sometimes use this to our advantage to cheaply feed cattle, while other times we are forced to get out the pencil and paper (or excel spreadsheet) and look at our options to try and decrease feed costs. As of last week (January 7th, 2021) the national average value of distillers dried grains was 122.99% relative to corn, compared to the 5-year average of 109%. Soybean meal prices are being pushed even higher, based on national averages distillers grains were at $8.04 per unit of protein with soybean meal coming in at $9.22 per unit of protein as of last week.

In addition to times when price alone can make an ingredient impractical, there are also times when supply becomes limited and ingredients may simply not be available. We saw this last spring at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when ethanol plants slowed production or closed all together. The question ultimately becomes, what options do we have for meeting protein requirements, when protein is expensive?

In the case of forage-based diets the first thing we need to do in Continue reading

Preparing Your Cows for A Successful Breeding Season

– Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

A successful breeding season begins with management decisions made prior to calving. As we move into the winter-feeding period for spring-calving cows, cattlemen need to review their management plan to ensure optimal rebreeding and success. Rebreeding efficiency can be optimized by focusing on body condition score (BCS), early assistance during calving difficulty, scheduling a breeding soundness exam for the herd sires, planning their herd reproductive health program, and developing a plan to regulate estrus in their first-calf heifers and late-calving cows.

Reproductive management begins with evaluation and management of BCS. Body condition score is a numerical estimation of the amount of fat on the cow’s body. Body condition score ranges from 1-9; 1 is emaciated while 9 is extremely obese. A change in a single BCS (i.e. 4-5) is usually associated with about a 75- pound change in body weight. Evaluation of BCS prior to calving and from calving to breeding is important to ensure reproductive success.

Rebreeding performance of cows is greatly influenced by BCS at calving. Cows that are thin (BCS < 5) at calving take longer to resume estrous cycles and therefore are delayed in their ability to rebreed. Research has clearly demonstrated that as precalving BCS decreases, the number of days from one calving to the next (calving interval) increases in beef cows. Females with a precalving BCS of less than 5 tend to have production cycles greater than 1 year. For example, cows with a Continue reading