Managing in Mud

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

Trudging through mud that’s only dew claw deep can reduce animal performance by as much as 7%

As most of Ohio quickly approaches the record for the wettest year in history, cattlemen continue to deal with the ramifications caused when it gets wet in February, stays wet throughout the spring, and summer, and continues wet into winter. The result is more than just a forage quality issue . . . it results in MUD! Whatever happened to the adage, “One extreme follows another.” We’ve certainly got to be due for a stretch of “extremely dry!”

While mud is, at best, an inconvenience when it comes to managing most any aspect of a farm – especially a beef cattle farm – it also can easily evolve into a livestock health and nutrition issue. In an article on Feedlot Mud Management that OSU Extension Specialist Steve Boyles published here a few years ago he suggests that Continue reading

Hay Quality: Trash versus Treasure

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, OSU Extension Noble County (originally published in The Ohio Farmer on-line)

That saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” usually does not apply to hay, but with as difficult as haymaking was in Ohio this year, it may be true.

Is your 2018 hay crop trash or treasure? There’s really only one way to know! Photo By: Brooke Beam, AgNR, Educator, Highland Co.

The “man” mentioned could be yourself in 2017 versus yourself in 2018. Based on what is available this year, you may be inclined to lower your standards of hay quality to make it through the winter.

But, how low is too low when it comes to hay quality? The answer depends on your class of livestock, their nutritional needs, and your access to supplemental feed.

Without knowing the actual nutritive value of the hay, all recommendations are relative and subject to error. The only way to confidently adjust your feeding program in relation to hay quality is to have hay analyzed by a laboratory.

Characteristics like Continue reading

Hay Buying Help, and Preparation for Next Year

– Garth Ruff, ANR Extension Educator, OSU Henry County Extension

With last week’s rain showers leaving much of the area saturated, there were limited opportunities for farming or even yardwork. I took advantage of the soggy conditions here in NW Ohio and headed south on Friday to a fairly productive couple of days in Morgan County. We had a good chance to winterize and store all of the hay equipment and tractors that we typically don’t use during winter time.

Regarding hay implement storage, we make an effort blow off the chaff, seeds, and dust with a leaf blower shortly after use and then pressure wash the piece prior to pulling in to the machinery shed for the down season. Once everything is cleaned off, each machine is greased and gear boxes are checked for fluid levels. Any major repairs or maintenance such as changing mowing knives can be done during the winter months as time allows. Given the unpredictability of the weather the past few years, it is nice to be able to pull the hay equipment out of storage, hook up to a tractor and head directly to the field. This eliminates the need of Continue reading

Too Much, Too Early

– Justin Sexten, Ph.D., Director, CAB Supply Development

Fall- and spring-calving herd managers don’t often find themselves facing the same decision as those who buy calves for backgrounding, but this is one of those times. Should you implant the calves and if so, what product should be used? Answers will vary, of course.

It’s simple if increasing gain is the singular goal. Given adequate nutrition, the return on investment to growth-promoting implants makes it one of the best dollars you can spend. But let’s examine that given: are there adequate dietary resources to support the implant? Data suggests calves need enough nutrition to gain at least a pound per day to make any implant pay. Few operations plan for gains lower than that, but for those who try to hold calves back to change marketing windows, this may be a consideration.

Another reason implants may not make sense is a contradiction with your marketing plans, such as those who sell natural or non-hormone treated calves (NHTC) at a premium. Implanting would limit marketing to conventional outlets, where facts may not support perceptions. I hear of ranchers forgoing the calf performance from implants because they think non-implanted calves bring more in the everyday market, but there’s evidence to the contrary. Calves that are verified Natural or NHTC may Continue reading

The Real Cost of Limiting Nutrients

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

Fall is rapidly approaching and all cow-calf producers need to access the body condition score (BCS) of their herd. Spring-calving cows are nearing weaning time and the fall is the most economical time to put weight back on. Now is also a key time to manage BCS score in fall-calving cows. Most realize the link between body condition score and reproductive rate but what is the economic impact of allowing BCS to decline? Each year producers faced the decision of how much money should I put into my cows? Can I afford to feed them? So, what is the cost of letting your cows get thin? What is more cost effective; reducing costs by limiting nutrition to your cows and living with reduced reproductive performance or feeding your cows to perform?

Let’s use a real world example. The farm we will discuss had 100 fall-calving cows. The average body weight of these cows was about 1300 lbs. at a BCS of 5. These cows calved in good condition, averaging a BCS of a nearly 6. However, lack of rain resulted in limited pastures and the producer began to feed hay approximately September 1st, which coincided with the onset of calving. The hay was below average in quality (TDN of 48, CP of 7%). Money was tight for this operation so they made the decision NOT to supplement these cows. Making the assumption that these cows were average lactating cows and that they would consume about 27 pounds of hay (as fed) daily, the hay provided only 82% of their maintenance energy needs and would result in a loss of one BCS in about 57 days. This producer decided to synchronize and AI his cows. On November 21st when the timed AI was performed, the average BCS had decreased, as predicted above, averaging a strong 4. Remember each BCS equals about 75 pounds so these cows were losing weight rapidly. After the insemination, the Continue reading

With Hay Quality Lacking, Determine Your Supplementation Needs

Jeff Fisher, Chris Bruynis, Jeff Moore, and Steve Boyles, Ohio State University Extension

Similar to 2015, rain in the spring extending through early summer delayed hay harvest in many areas of the state. Additionally there were some high temperatures that caused an increase in the rate of maturity of forages before they could be harvested. For example alfalfa grown at 63°F may take 52 days to reach early bloom but only 21 days at 90°F. As forages mature, there is an increase in cell wall content and a decrease in the digestibility of the cell wall. So for some producers, all these factors came together to create the perfect storm that led to significantly lowered forage quality.

In 2015 a group of Extension Educators in Pike, Ross and Gallia counties worked with forty-seven livestock producers in obtaining hay samples for nutritional analysis that fall. There were a total of eighty-one hay samples collected. Suspecting we will see similar quality when this year’s forage sampling is done, the following are a subset of those 2015 samples with example diets to meet beef cow dietary requirements for late pregnancy and lactation.

The following diets are for a 1300-pound cow in the last trimester of pregnancy. The table includes Continue reading

Consistency is Key to Proper Feed Bunk Management

– Erin Laborie, University of Nebraska Extension

The overall goal of feed bunk management is to maintain consistency within the feeding system. Photo by Troy Walz, University of Nebraska Extension

Proper bunk management is the art of matching feed deliveries to the amount of feed cattle need for optimal performance. Underfeeding cattle results in poor gains and feed efficiency, longer days on feed, and reduced carcass quality. On the other hand, putting more feed in front of cattle than they can handle leads to digestive upsets, crashes in intake, and wasted feed (Pritchard et al., 2003). Considering an improvement of 0.1 pound in feed to gain (F/G) is worth $10 per head at the feedlot, proper bunk management should not be Continue reading

You Finally Got the Hay Made, How Good is It?

Mark Landefeld, ANR Educator, Monroe County

“You gotta make hay while the sun shines”. How many times have you heard that said throughout the years? We’ve had some sunshine this spring/summer, but making first cutting “dry” hay has really been challenging for most farmers this year. Getting two or more days in a row without rain has been rare in the spring of 2018.

Making timely first cutting dry hay in Ohio always has challenges with weather it seems, but this year it definitely has been more than usual. Extremely good, high quality hay is made from young leafy forage at boot stage, not fully mature long brown stems with dried up seed heads like we have been seeing everywhere now in July. The combination of maximum yield and highly digestible dry matter is usually obtained at the late boot, to early head stage of maturity for grasses and in the mid-to-late bud stage of maturity for our legumes. Forages that can be harvested at that time, most often meet nutrient requirements of beef cattle, but accomplishing that this year has really been the exception, not the rule for most producers.

Beef cows do not require the same level of nutrition dairy cows need to maximize production. However, this year is going to be challenging to have enough nutrients in most beef producers first cutting hay to maintain the cow’s minimum requirements without Continue reading

Heat Stress in Feedlot Cattle

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist (This article derived from: Kevin F. Sullivan and Terry L. Mader. June 2018. Managing heat stress episodes in confined cattle. Vet Clin Food Anim 34: 325–339 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749072018300161)

Feedlot cattle consuming large amounts of feed and gaining rapidly generate significant amounts of metabolic heat begin to challenge and animals ability to handle heat stress. An animal can endure high ambient temperatures if heat gain during the daytime hours is balanced with heat loss during the nighttime hours. If nighttime ambient temperatures remain high, especially if the relative humidity is also high, there is no time for recovery.

Assessing Heat Stress in Feedlot Cattle

The ability to predict a heat stress event allows for preparation and mitigation of the effects on animal well-being and animal performance. Temperature-Humidity Indexes have been used for more than 40 years to assess heat stress in cattle. There are also Heat Load Indexes for cattle. Such indexes exits in Continue reading

Water; Vital to Beating Summer Heat

– Aerica Bjurstrom, UW-Extension Kewaunee County

Water is the most important nutrient an animal requires and consumes daily. Depending on weight, production stage, and environmental temperature, cattle require varying amounts of water. A University of Georgia publication suggests for cattle in 90 °F temperatures, a growing animal or a lactating cow needs two gallons of water per 100 pounds of body weight. A nonlactating cow or bull needs one gallon of water per 100 pounds of body weight. Using these figures, a single cow/calf pair can require roughly 25 to 40 gallons of water daily. A nursing calf with have a portion of its daily water needs from its dam’s milk. Providing multiple water sources or tanks in the pasture will increase consumption and decrease competition and fighting at the water tank.

Water quality is just as important as water volume intake. Compromised quality can reduce water intake, which can lead to illness and metabolic issues. Testing water for salinity, nitrates, and sulfates is recommended. Cattle prefer water that contains small amounts of salt, however, water that contains high amounts of total dissolved salts (TDS) can result in reduced performance. Guidelines suggest that water containing Continue reading