Keep Cool in the Shade

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkulher, PhD, PAS, Extension Professor University of Kentucky

Temperature and humidity both contribute to heat stress.

As the summer weather has hit full stride, take some time to focus on factors that impact animal performance during these months. Stocker calf performance reflects changes in the environment, plane of nutrition, and overall health of calves. Be mindful of the how summer weather can impact these three overarching factors and consider what you might alter or maintain to minimize the impact of these elements.

Heat stress is the first environmental factor that will impact animal performance during the summer months. The effect of heat stress is exacerbated by the alkaloids produced by the wild endophyte in Kentucky 31 tall fescue. Animals compensate during heat stress with increased respiration rate, increased skin vaporization (sweating), increased peripheral blood flow, decreased appetite to reduce metabolic heat production, and more time seeking relief by standing in the shade, congregating in water or grouped up in areas where urine and feces create a wallow. Increased respiration rate leads to greater energy expended for contraction and relaxation of the diaphragm. This doesn’t Continue reading Keep Cool in the Shade

Managing Heat Stress of Beef Animals

John Yost, OSU Extension Educator, AgNR, Wayne County

We are accustomed to hearing the weatherman talk about the “actual” air temperature versus the “feels like” temperature. While we each have a “feels like” temperature where we are most comfortable, we can’t translate our comfort to the physiologic and welfare comfort of our ruminant livestock. Heat generated by the fermentation process in the rumen allows cattle to tolerate much colder temperatures than humans. Conversely, they can begin to experience heat stress at temperatures we would consider mild.


The Thermal Heat Index (THI) considers the air temperature and relative humidity to identify combinations where livestock can begin to experience heat stress (Figure 1). Critical THI values will vary depending on the type of livestock and how they are housed. Generally, cattle can begin to Continue reading Managing Heat Stress of Beef Animals

Record Keeping for a Healthy Herd

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Individual identification is critical for success of a record keeping system.

Keeping written farm records is like participating in a regular exercise program, easy to talk about but often hard to put into practice. Without good records, evaluating individual cow performance and the financial success of the beef cattle enterprise is a “guesstimation” (guess + estimation) at best. Even with handwritten records, taking that data and placing it in a system that allows for analysis is a step that is easily overlooked or forgotten. Computers have made this task easier, especially with the advent of programs designed for cow-calf producers. It is easy to see the value of knowing performance but what about health records? How important are records to maintaining a healthy herd?

Production records are invaluable to allow the beef producer not only to look at what is currently taking place within the cow herd but, more importantly, to look at how management changes impact the performance of the herd. Through analysis over the long-term, records can help to pinpoint weak areas in the management program and in identifying individual animals that fail to perform at profitable levels. With health data, it is possible to conduct a herd-specific risk assessment for a certain portion of the production cycle such as “calving season”. This “assessment” begins with a “risk analysis” which is identifying the “hazards” in your operation that contribute to sickness and death loss. For example, hazards during the calving season may be dystocia (difficult births), weak calves, scours, and environmental hazards such as Continue reading Record Keeping for a Healthy Herd

The Cow: Should She Stay, or Should She Go?

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

If she’s bred, today, is a bad udder reason for culling an otherwise healthy cow?

Fed cattle and feeder calf prices are presently ranging in the vicinity of historical highs. But then, so are cull cow prices. Knowing historically the income resulting from cull cows in a beef herd has made up roughly 20% of the beef cattle farm’s annual income, today with careful management it could be even greater.

Presently at a time when cattlemen might be trying to retain any breeding female that can produce a live and marketable calf, let’s carefully consider how we might optimize the profitability of the beef herd by employing a strategic culling plan.

Typically, when discussing culling considerations it might start by Continue reading The Cow: Should She Stay, or Should She Go?

Evaluating Stockmanship

John Yost, OSU Extension Educator, AgNR, Wayne County (originally published in Progressive Cattle)

Efficiently handling cattle requires more than just good facilities.

Over my career I have had the pleasure to work cattle with a lot of different people.  To me, there is no job more enjoyable than working a pen of cattle with a team of stockmen that I call friends.  Afterall, there are many places across the country were processing day is as much a community event as it is a cattle management task that just needs to be completed.  Familiar family, friends, and neighbors come together to help each other out.  When the time comes, each member of the group knows what their job is.  After all, they may have been filling a role for decades.  Each year, the same people show up to help, taking their position on the dance floor, and get to work with the only discussions being friendly razing about the calf that keeps avoiding the loop.  It becomes a thing of beauty and is only interrupted when the enthusiastic, younger, generation is given an opportunity to find their place in the well-orchestrated event.

I have also been on the other side of coin.  There are times when you might think that you are herding cats rather than cattle.  At some point, you begin to get frustrated and just stop, wondering “what’s the plan here”.  You may be at an unfamiliar facility, trying to learn a new setup, or there are different Continue reading Evaluating Stockmanship

Breeding, Growing, Processing and Marketing Local Beef

Find each session’s recording linked below.

Regardless if you presently are, or have an interest in the future to breed, grow, process and market local beef direct to the consumer, a review of this winter’s Virtual Beef School is a must! Each session was recorded and posted to YouTube and can be accessed and reviewed at your convenience. The presentations included:

* on January 18, 2024
Genetic Selection: What Matters; See recorded video presentation
Allen Gahler, OSU Extension Sandusky Co.
Planned Calving to Meet Demand; See recorded video presentation
Dean Kreager, OSU Extension Licking Co.

* on February 15, 2024
Feeding to a Harvest Date; See recorded video presentation
Garth Ruff, OSU Extension, Beef Cattle Field Specialist

* on March 21, 2024
Selling Retail vs Wholesale, Yield and Added Value;  See recorded video presentation
Lyda Garcia, OSU Extension Fresh Meats Specialist

* on April 18, 2024
Producer Roundtable: What Works, What Doesn’t?; See recorded video presentation
The featured pproducers included:
Krysti Morrow – Rocky Knob Farms
Brad Berry – Berry Family Farms
Lindsey Hall – Maplecrest Meats & More
Dale Phillips – Phillips Meats

Intersection of Innovative, Intriguing, and Insanity

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, Ohio State University Extension (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

Consider spending some of the additional income dollars on improved genetics.

January through March is what we in Extension call “Meeting Season.” While in most cases I am teaching at the meetings I attend, I often learn several things about beef production from producers and other speakers that often fall into one of three categories: Innovative, Intriguing, or Insanity.

Let’s start with the innovative. Farmers are some of the most innovative people I know when it comes to creative solutions to a given problem. As they say, “necessity is the mother of Invention.” Cattle handling facilities are some of the first things that come to mind in this area, functional handmade solutions to a common issue. Discussions about whole herd management, logistics, trial and error, I really enjoy these conversations.

Intriguing – These are the things that I go back to the office and take a deeper look at. These are often statements made from other presentations at meetings that are often cutting-edge precision technology, advancements in genetics, risk management, and farm economics. These are the most Continue reading Intersection of Innovative, Intriguing, and Insanity

Growth performance, carcass traits, and feeder calf value of beef × Holstein and Holstein feedlot steers

M. Pimentel-Concepción, J. R. Jaborek, J. P. Schweihofer, A. J. Garmyn, M.-G.-S. McKendree, B. J. Bradford, A. Hentschl, and D. D. Buskirk

Applied Animal Science 2024 40:56–68

Holstein cattle are a dairy breed that represents approximately 23% of the US fed beef supply from surplus heifer and bull calves. Dairy-type cattle, especially Holstein steers, typically produce USDA Choice or better carcasses and provide a year-round supply of beef. However, dairy-type cattle can have reduced feed efficiency, muscling, and dressing percent compared with beef-type cattle. Compared with beef-type steers, dairy-type carcasses receive greater discounts due to their reduced red meat yield, and the decision of a major US packer to stop buying Holstein fed steers further decreased their value.

Recently, the use of beef sires to breed dairy dams of low genetic merit for milk production has increased substantially in the United States with the aim to increase calf value and overall economic return. From 2017 to 2023, US beef semen sales increased by almost 6.5 million units, whereas Holstein semen sales decreased by around 6.3 million units. These data support the observation that increased beef semen sales are largely attributed to the greater use of beef sires to breed dairy females.  This study was to compare Continue reading Growth performance, carcass traits, and feeder calf value of beef × Holstein and Holstein feedlot steers

Buying Feeders? How “Histophilus somni” or “Somnus” is Changing the Game

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Most KY-born calves leave the farm and enter marketing channels, usually through auction markets, into stocker and backgrounding operations. Not surprisingly, late fall and winter are difficult seasons to keep feeder calves alive in KY due to major health challenges. Weather is just one of many risk factors that play a role in Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) or “Shipping Fever” development. Most auction market calves are sold as “high risk calves”, meaning they are lightweight (≤ 500#), young (estimated 6-8 months), unweaned (or abruptly weaned on the trailer on the way to the yards), unknown health history, never or poorly vaccinated and most are trace mineral (copper and selenium) deficient. At the auction barn, they are mixed or “commingled” with similar weight calves from multiple farms then sold, allowing respiratory “bugs” to spread prior to delivery to the stocker/backgrounder facility or feedlot. After arrival and a brief rest period, these calves are usually processed through the chute and receive multiple vaccines, deworming, are implanted and the bulls are castrated. These calves will typically break with respiratory disease within the first 2 weeks after arrival and require at least one antibiotic treatment. It is estimated that 60-70% of calves marketed through sale barns are considered at high risk for disease.

Over the last few years, the bacterium Histophilus somni (formerly known as Haemophilus somnus) has emerged as the major bacterial pathogen responsible for the rapid development of disease and death in feeder operations. While Mannheimia haemolytica, often referred to as “Pasteurella”, has traditionally been the most important bacterial species in “shipping fever” bronchopneumonia, Histophilus somni (HS) can cause similar disease symptoms but is proving very difficult to Continue reading Buying Feeders? How “Histophilus somni” or “Somnus” is Changing the Game

Winter Beef School Webinars to Focus on Meeting Local Demand

This series begins on the 18th.

The Ohio State University Extension Beef Team will be hosting its annual winter webinar series in 2024 on the third Thursday of each month, January to April. This year’s series will take a deeper dive into production practices and factors that impact quality and profitability when it comes to producing beef to be marketed directly to consumers.

The session topics and speakers are as follows Continue reading Winter Beef School Webinars to Focus on Meeting Local Demand