10 Tips for Managing High Feed Prices

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

We have all heard the phrase, “it’s the little things”. The saying applies to the beef industry as well. There is no single management practice, feed ration, or genetic trait that drives profitability. Profitability is really a summation of lots of little things coming together to create a profitable system. Whenever profitability is challenged whether from greater input prices like we are seeing now, or lower calf prices, I start to get questions about decreasing feed costs. This should come as no surprise, as feed costs are one of the biggest expenses facing beef cattle operations. Below is a list of some of those little things, that can really add up!

1) Preg checking: Our cows should be working for the operation. Thus, an open cow is one that is not pulling her weight on a cow-calf operation. Today producers have more options than ever before for preg checking their herds. New chute side blood tests can be completed right on the farm in about 10 minutes, there are also commercial labs that will run blood tests giving you results in just a couple of days, and of course there is always ultrasound which gives you a real time answer but does depend on scheduling and availability. Culling open cows not only decreases purchased feed costs but can also make our available forage resources go farther as well.

2) Buy in bulk: The ability to buy purchased feeds in bulk can allow producers to take advantage of bulk discounts offered by many feed retailers. Also having the ability to Continue reading

The Cheapest Mineral Isn’t Really Cheap

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

The major nutritional requirements are: water, energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In many cases, beef producers do a good job of providing adequate water, energy, and protein. However, many beef producers buy ‘cheap’ minerals, ignoring the fact that the availability of the minerals in the oxide form in many of these mixes are only 10 to 20% as absorbable by the animal in the sulfate, chloride, organic, or chelated forms (when minerals are metals bound to an organic compound such as an amino acid in zinc methionine or organic selenium in selenomethionine; Spears, 2003) in more expensive mineral mixes. The advantage of more available forms of minerals are seen when stress increases. Consider the fact that weather can be a stress, whether it’s extreme heat or cold, and that working cattle at breeding, vaccination, and weaning can be stressors. So, why do so many producers buy minerals that don’t provide the best nutrition to the animal when they need it most, and buy the cheapest mineral instead? In many cases, it’s because we think in terms of tons rather than days, and a ton of mineral seems expensive relative to a ton of hay, but not when you consider that a ton of mineral with an anticipated intake of 4 oz per day will provide feed for 8,000 animal days. I can’t imagine a beef producer going to their truck dealership and asking for the truck with the least power when it’s under a load, or asking for the truck with the weakest transmission, but we do this same thing when we buy minerals with the poorest absorption during times of stress, then we buy additional hay, or grain, or treat sick newborn calves, or blame the . . .

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Weather and Climate, and the Impact on Beef Cattle Performance

The second session of the 2022 Ohio State University Extension Beef Team’s Virtual Beef School was hosted via ZOOM on February 23rd. During that second session the focus was squarely on the weather and climate including recent trends, speculation on what our weather in the coming years might look like, how the performance of our cattle are impacted by the mud we’ve experienced in recent winters, and considerations for managing those weather related performance concerns. Featured speakers for the evening were Dr. Aaron Wilson who serves as the OSU Extension Climatologist, and OSU Animal Sciences’ PhD candidate Kirsten Nickles.

What follows below is that evenings’ presentations in their entirety.

Beef Cow Nutritional Strategies During the Last Trimester

On February 9, 2022, OSU Extension Beef Specialist Dr. Steve Boyles was guest presenter for the beef subgroup of Cornell Cooperative Extension Livestock Program Work Team. Dr. Boyles focused his presentation on strategies for efficiently feeding beef cows during their third trimester of gestation. That presentation in its entirety can be found linked here.

Why are my cattle bloating?

Jerad Jaborek, Michigan State University Extension Beef Feedlot Systems Educator

An example of an animal with a severe case of bloat from a Veterinary Clinics: Food Animal Practice article by Meyer and Bryant.

Bloat is a digestive disorder that results from the accumulation of excessive gas within the rumen and can lead to death of the animal by asphyxiation. Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are normal by-products produced during microbial fermentation of feed stuffs. The gases produced in the rumen can either be absorbed through the rumen wall, travel through reticulum and the remaining digestive tract, or predominately, they are eructated or belched out through the esophagus. Eructation of gas from the rumen through the esophagus is done by a series of muscular contractions that is initiated by the accumulation of gas within the rumen to signal for its release. However, proper rumen function and motility can be impaired by large amounts of acids produced during ruminal fermentation. If normal rumen contractions are prevented or if the esophagus is obstructed, bloat can . . .

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More on the Impact of Bunk Management on Animal Performance and Health

As Dr. Jaborek mentions in the previous article, 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.

Make Sure to Remove All the Net Wrap

Richard Purdin, OSU Extension, Adams County ANR/CD Educator

Remove ALL the woven net wrap on frozen corn stalk bales

January is in the books and February has arrived. The beginning of February brings two things to my mind, first winter is halfway complete (I hope) and will that durn ground hog better not see his shadow! As I write this article there is officially 48 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes until spring but who’s counting. One thing is for certain January was a halfway normal January for southern Ohio with wild weather swings and weather fronts bringing just about every type of weather you can think of. From rains, ice, sleet, and snow, we had it all. Through all this I was still able to keep livestock alive, but it was anything but easy. About 60% of my hay is made in large round bales and out of that 60% about 80% is stored outside and 100% of those round bales are net wrapped. In the last 20 years many producers have switched from sisal or plastic twine to woven net wrap to preserve and hold large round bales together. While it does present an increase cost in baling dry hay, it has much value in Continue reading

(Even) More Reasons to Love Red Clover

– Dr. Jimmy Henning, Extension Professor, Forage Specialist, University of Kentucky

Small amounts of red clover in the diet have large effects when grazing fescue.

Clover has been cool in Kentucky for a long time. Clover has long been known to benefit ruminant producers because of its high yields, high yields, biological nitrogen fixation, summer time production and dilution of the negative effects of tall fescue. New research from the USDA-ARS Food Animal Production Research Unit embedded in the UK College of Agriculture Food and Environment is adding even more reasons to love red clover.

Red clover directly counteracts the vasoconstriction caused by the toxic endophyte of tall fescue. The constriction of the exterior blood vessels makes ruminants much less able to regulate their body temperatures, causing heat stress in summer and cold stress in winter. Red clover has been found to contain a natural compound that actually causes these constricted blood vessels to dilate, restoring blood flow and relieving temperature stress. These compounds, called isoflavones, are also present in white clover and alfalfa, but at lower levels than red clover.

Surprisingly small amounts of red clover in the diet have large effects. Research by USDA-ARS group found that Continue reading

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 Continue reading

The Top Ten New Years’ Resolutions for Cow/Calf Producers

Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

We have all heard this phrase, often attributed to Albert Einstein, and it certainly applies when it comes to the health and care of cattle. If you want to improve health and prevent as many problems as possible, think of adopting one or more of the following resolutions.

In 2022, I resolve to . . Continue reading