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

Feeding Sprouted or Otherwise Damaged Wheat to Beef Cattle

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

In light of the delay in wheat harvest caused by the weather, last week I was asked if sprouted or otherwise damaged wheat had much feed value in a beef ration. The answer is, “Yes, it does.”

Wheat can be used to replace a part of the grain ration when protein prices are high and wheat is relatively cheap compared to other grains. As a general rule, limit mold-free wheat to 50% of the grain portion in finishing diets. However, some experienced feeders have used larger amounts of wheat. I tend to recommend lower levels to people not familiar with feeding wheat though (fast fermentation). Lower quality wheat: Limit wheat to 40% of dry matter or 50% of corn, whichever is highest. Take a longer time to build up to full feed than you would with corn. I would not recommend using wheat in high grain diets on Continue reading

Short Pastures and Supplementation Considerations

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Beef Cattle Specialists, University of Kentucky

Several county Ag Agents have reported producers asking what to do supplement-wise for grazing livestock with the slow pasture growth this spring. A lot of this is related to the fact that we are roughly 100 growing degree days less this year than the same time frame a year ago. Combine this with the wet weather leading to muddy feeding conditions, producers were happy to see cows begin to pick grass. Low hay stocks also contributed to producers pulling hay away a bit prematurely. Cooler temperatures has resulted in slow pasture forage growth and cows are nipping it off faster than it is growing. This situation has led to several questions regarding supplementing grazing cattle under these conditions and I’ll try to share a few things to consider.

1) No free lunch – Grazing energy expenditure based on research is significantly greater than the energy required to walk, stand, and other activities. A cow grazing an acre would expend more energy than simply walking that same distance. The energy to Continue reading

Early Path to Quality Beef

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

You know the role health and nutrition play in feedlot performance, carcass quality grade and profitability. Yet many readers challenge the idea that these benefits can be realized at the ranch, unless they retain ownership beyond the farm or ranch gate.

The increasingly transparent market with buyers tracking results by source underscores that producing high-quality beef takes a systematic approach no one segment can afford to ignore. Ever. The time required to influence your herd’s genetic potential is measured in years, so managing for quality is always important.

It takes four years, really: Select a superior sire, gestate for nine months and nurse the cow for another seven months. Develop heifers prior to breeding for seven months, breed those superior replacements, repeat the nine months of gestation and add Continue reading

Colostrum and the Newborn Calf

– Carla L. Huston, DVM, PhD, ACVPM, Dept. of Pathobiology and Population Medicine, Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine

The best defense against failure of passive transfer (FPT) is good colostrum management, ensuring that each calf receives an adequate amount of good quality colostrum shortly after birth.

With spring fast approaching, many of us are well into calving season. An awareness of potential post-calving complications and disorders can be helpful when preparing to deal with problems we may encounter in our beef herds. One frequent problem encountered during calving season is failure of passive transfer (FPT), which occurs when a newborn calf does not receive adequate colostrum.

The importance of colostrum: Colostrum is the first milk produced by the dam following calving. It is a rich source of immunoglobulins, fat (energy), vitamins and minerals. The major role of colostrum is to passively transfer immunity from the dam to her calf. Calves are born agammaglobulinemic, or without Continue reading

Why Your Cows Need Those Expensive Vitamins

– Jaymelynn Farney, Beef Systems Specialist, Kansas State University

Anybody who’s strolled through the feed store or co-op lately to price mineral-vitamin mixes knows that vitamins have shot up in price. A logical question then, is this: Are vitamins necessary or just an expensive luxury that the cows can get by without?

Bottom line is yes. Vitamins, especially A and E, are important around calving.

Green, growing forages are high in vitamin A. However, until forages are available for grazing, supplemental vitamins remain vital during late gestation and early lactation.

Vitamin A is vital in cow rations in the last trimester through the first couple of months of lactation. It has been found to help manage calf scours, as colostrum is high in vitamin A, and help cows to “clean” and reduce the risk of retained placenta. To minimize calf scours, intake needs to be 30,000 to 45,000 IU per day. The actual requirement of vitamin A for pregnant cows is 1,269 IU/lb. of dry feed intake and for lactating cows 1,769 IU/lb.

Many green forages such as alfalfa are high in vitamin A, so the amount to Continue reading

A Little Background May Help

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

Let’s say you weaned calves last fall but didn’t sell. Instead, you helped them cross the bridge to independent life in your dry lot pen and maybe on to a grazing program. Chances are, those “backgrounded” calves have moved on to a finishing yard or the next phase of heifer development.

You’ve got calving on your mind now, but that means weaning will surely follow this fall and some of your decisions then will be framed by decisions made this spring. So back to those pens and fields, perhaps empty now, but ready for planning.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska recently compared three backgrounding systems, and at least one of them might be Continue reading