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:

What To Do When Calves Are Born Weak

– Michelle Arnold, DVM, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

“Weak Calf Syndrome” is a term applied to any calf born alive but is slow to stand and may or may not attempt to nurse. Calves born to dams that experience weight loss during the final 50-60 days of gestation are at high risk of being weak. An energy deficient diet fed to late gestation cows leads to prolonged labor, dystocia (difficult birth), poor quality and quantity of colostrum and decreased milk production. Many of the newborn calves presented to the UKVDL in recent weeks for necropsy have had no milk within the digestive tract. With excellent management, some weak calves will survive but most will die shortly after birth. If they survive, many experience sickness, decreased growth rates and lower weaning weights. The following is a summary of known factors involved in weak calf syndrome and how to best Continue reading

Ohio Beef School Podcasts Released

To suggest the past year has been a challenge for Ohio’s cattlemen is, at best, an understatement. The weather made it nearly impossible throughout 2018 to harvest high quality forage in a timely fashion, the constantly muddy conditions caused animals to utilize more energy than normal, and even though temperatures were moderate during much of the fall, cows with a constantly wet hair coat were expending more energy than normal. Then, as late January evolved into February, in many cases mud was matting down the winter coats of cattle reducing their hair’s insulating properties, thus causing them to utilize even more energy in cold weather.

In combination, this created potential for the “perfect storm” that reportedly is resulting in a challenging calving season in parts of Ohio, as well as concern for conception rates as we move into the subsequent breeding season.

Taking all those concerns into account, the 2019 Ohio Beef School consisted of a single ‘live’ webinar on February 5th that featured three different speakers. Collectively, the overall theme of Beef School was Winter Management of the Cow Herd to Insure a Productive 2019. Each of the Beef School’s approximately 30 minute presentations are embedded below under the Continue reading

This Winter Has Been Tough on Cows!

Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Agriculture Educator, Monroe County

To add on too the great nutrition article in last week’s newsletter, I want to mention a resource available for producers to help monitor their cow’s body condition score. An Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet may be found at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-54.

Dr. Boyles, last week, gave us all the nuts and bolts for providing the necessary energy and protein to fulfill the cow’s nutritional needs. However, we should also monitor our livestock’s body condition scores to insure the feed being provided coincides with what we see in our livestock’s physical appearance.

Timid animals may not always get enough nutrients even though we are providing them. Our calculations could be wrong also. We hear about so many 1000-1200 pound cows, but there are very few of them at my place. Of my mature cows, more will tip the scale over Continue reading

Winter Feeding Beef Cows

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

The goal is to have a winter feeding program meets the cow’s requirements and is economical. There is a biological priority for nutrients.  The needs for maintenance, growth and milk production must be met before we can optimize reproduction.

The period from approximately 60 to 90 days prior to calving is affects the calf and the subsequent reproductive performance. Fetal growth is at its maximum and fat stores will be used for lactation.  Nutrition during this time also affect colostrums quality. Underfeeding during this time period include:

  1. Lighter calf birth weights (although calving difficulty won’t be reduced).
  2. Lower calf survival.
  3. Lower milk production and calf growth.
  4. A longer period for cattle coming back into heat.

Cold Temperatures:  The only adjustment in cow rations necessitated by weather is to increase maintenance energy. Protein, mineral and vitamin requirements are not Continue reading

Managing Cattle Through Winter Weather Conditions

– Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University Extension Beef Feedlot Management Associate

Winter weather conditions often present challenges to cattle managers in the Northern Plains (and upper Midwest). Although we can’t alter the weather, there are management steps that can be taken to help maintain cattle health and performance.

Bedding: Providing bedding is the most useful tool to improve cattle comfort, especially in outside yards. Bedding helps cattle preserve body heat and mitigate the negative effects of cold stress on maintenance energy requirements.

Feeders should consider bedding sooner rather than later when extreme cold weather is expected. Waiting until cattle are exhausted before providing bedding results in calves simply “resting up” on the bed pack instead of maintaining dietary intake. This could result in diminished Continue reading

Feeding Management to Minimize Hay Waste

Stephen Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Feeding hay to cattle is expensive. Hay costs between $0.02 and $0.07 per pound of dry matter; usually more than double the cost for the same amount of nutrients from pasture. Hay is expensive because (1) it requires a large investment in equipment, (2) it requires labor to make and feed, and (3) more than 50 percent of it is wasted by either poor storage methods or improper feeding practices.  This article focuses on the last of these expenses — losses associated with feeding hay.

You wouldn’t dream of throwing away one-third of your hay.  That is what happens, though, when livestock are allowed unlimited access to hay.  Livestock trample and waste 25 to 45 percent of the hay when it is fed with Continue reading

The Winter of Mud: Consequences of the Wettest Year on Record

– Michelle Arnold, DVM, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, UKVDL

Record rainfall in 2018 has had major impacts on cattle health in KY. Despite relatively mild temperatures this winter, submissions at the UKVDL and telephone conversations with veterinarians and producers confirm cattle are losing body condition and some are dying of malnutrition. The very prolonged cloudy, wet weather with regular bouts of rain has resulted in muddy conditions that require substantially more energy in feeds just to maintain body heat. In addition, the hay quality is exceptionally poor this year as much of it was cut very ripe (late stage of maturity), rained on while curing, and baled with enough moisture to support mold growth. Many cows presented to the laboratory for necropsy (an animal “autopsy”) revealed a total absence of fat and few, if any, other problems. This indicates winter feeding programs on many farms this year are not adequate to support cattle, especially cows in late pregnancy or early lactation, or their newborn calves, even though bitter cold has not been a factor.

The body of the animal has several defenses against cold. The first is the hair coat which grows longer in winter and offers considerable help in conserving heat and repelling cold. Under winter conditions, if an animal’s coat cover is wet and muddy, then energy requirements for maintenance can easily double, particularly if the animal is not protected from the wind. Energy from intake of hay that is adequate for maintenance in normal years is falling far short of the requirement this year. Cold conditions are not too difficult for cattle but when rain and wind are added, heat loss is multiplied several times by the effects of conduction and evaporation. Under these circumstances the “wind chill factor” referred to by the weatherman has real meaning to Continue reading