Don’t Quit Now!

– Les Anderson and Jeff Lehmkuhler, Beef Extension Specialists, University of Kentucky

Many things in life make sense on the surface. Mark Twain once said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”. A great example is using water to put out a fire. On the surface this makes sense but if it’s a grease fire using water is a huge mistake. Beef cattle production has several examples of this but reducing feed to late gestation cows is one of the most common.

On the surface, reducing feed to late gestation cows makes some sense; less feed, potentially smaller calf, fewer calving problems, and a smaller feed bill. Fewer calving problems means more calves, more potential revenue, and, on the surface, this strategy is logical. But, like many things in life, the logical “just ain’t so”.

Fortunately, a great deal of research is available to help us understand the issues with nutrient intake of cows during the last trimester of pregnancy. As a pregnant cow moves from the second to the third trimester, her energy and protein requirements increase. Much of this increase is due to supporting the Continue reading

Preparing Your Cows for A Successful Breeding Season

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

A successful breeding season begins with management decisions made prior to calving. As we move into the winter-feeding period for spring-calving cows, cattlemen need to review their management plan to ensure optimal rebreeding and success. Rebreeding efficiency can be optimized by focusing on body condition score (BCS), early assistance during calving difficulty, scheduling a breeding soundness exam for the herd sires, planning their herd reproductive health program, and developing a plan to regulate estrus in their first-calf heifers and late-calving cows.

Reproductive management begins with evaluation and management of BCS. Body condition score is a numerical estimation of the amount of fat on the cow’s body. Body condition score ranges from 1-9; 1 is emaciated while 9 is extremely obese. A change in a single BCS (i.e. 4-5) is usually associated with about a 75- pound change in body weight. Evaluation of BCS prior to calving and from calving to breeding is important to ensure reproductive success.

Rebreeding performance of cows is greatly influenced by BCS at calving. Cows that are thin (BCS < 5) at calving take longer to resume estrous cycles and therefore are delayed in their ability to rebreed. Research has clearly demonstrated that as precalving BCS decreases, the number of days from one calving to the next (calving interval) increases in beef cows. Females with a precalving BCS of less than 5 tend to have production cycles greater than 1 year. For example, cows with a Continue reading

Upcoming Beef and Forage Programming Moves On-line This Winter

Cow/Calf School launches on January 18th

This winter the OSU Beef Team is offering a variety of educational programs online, beginning with Making Hay for Beef Cattle on January 18. In total, nine programs are presently scheduled focusing on everything from feed and forage management to managing the breeding season. These sessions are each being offered free of charge, but pre-registration is required. Find all the details linked here:

Also, the OSU Extension Forage Team is offering a ‘virtual’ edition of Pastures for Profit. This program launches next week on the 13th and will feature one live webinar offered monthly in January, February and March along with “work at your own pace” videos and exercises that accompany each webinar. Find details including registration information here:

Find a comprehensive listing of currently planned beef and forage related meetings and programs posted on the OSU Extension Beef Team Events/Programs page.

Preventing Calf Disease Starts with the Pregnant Cow

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Every year, the UKVDL receives calves that died suddenly in the first week of life, usually with few or no symptoms. Often the owner will describe the situation this way: “calves will nurse, be 2-3 days old and found dead” or “calf was 3-5 days old, lying around more than normal and nursing very little, found dead the next day”. At necropsy (an animal “autopsy”), the pathologist will find no milk within the calf’s digestive tract. Further laboratory testing will find bacteria can be grown (cultured) from several organs such as liver, kidney and lung. These deaths are diagnosed as “septicemia” which means the calf died from an infection in the blood (usually a Gram negative bacteria such as E. coli along with the “toxins” or poisons the bacteria produce) that damages all the major organs of a calf, resulting in death. Affected calves respond poorly to antibiotic treatment and those that survive often develop one or more swollen joints. These calves are also at greater risk for diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and meningitis in the coming months. Most grow poorly and die prior to or at weaning. The question is often asked “what should I have treated this calf with to save it” but the real question that needs to be addressed is “why did this happen in the first place and how can I prevent it?”.

Preventing septicemia and other neonatal calf diseases like scours begins long before birth of the calf. Excellent cow nutrition during and after gestation, a quick calving process, and biosecurity management factors to decrease environmental contamination all contribute to a successful start. The following list of management practices are crucial to calf health Continue reading

Having Your Cake . . .

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

My colleagues and I like to rib each other about which discipline is more important in beef production nutrition, genetics, health, or reproduction. Of course, I argue that reproductive efficiency is the most important because reproductive rate drives gross revenue. But we all know it’s not that simple. All disciplines need to be managed and blended to optimize reproductive potential.

Have you ever baked a cake? I am not a baker, but to make a great cake one needs to have eggs, sugar, flour, butter, milk, and flavorings (chocolate is my favorite). These ingredients mixed in the proper proportions can make an incredible product; a moist, flavorful cake. Adjust or ignore any of the key ingredients and the ability to make a delicious cake is greatly impacted. No flour, no cake. No sugar, and the cake tastes awful. No flavoring and, again, a cake that is not satisfying. Alter any of the ingredients or even the amount used, and the cake can be unsatisfying. To make a GREAT cake, it takes the right ingredients, mixed in the correct amount by a careful practitioner.

If you think about it, reproduction or reproductive rate is the cake and genetics, nutrition, the health program, etc are all essential ingredients. One of the most essential ingredients is Continue reading

Effect of Energy and Protein Supplementation on Body Condition Score and Reproduction

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Feeding a balanced diet to beef females in the last trimester of pregnancy through the breeding season is critical. Nutritional demands increase from early gestation to lactation. Reproduction has low priority among partitioning of nutrients for the subsequent pregnancy. Consequently, thin cows at calving typically remain thin because excess energy in the diet is directed to milk production first.

The common theme is, at least for spring-calving cows, body condition score at calving is related to postpartum interval and rebreeding performance. Plane of nutrition the last 50 to 60 days before calving affects postpartum interval.  It is a challenge to increase body condition after calving or elicit a reproductive response to high energy intake in postpartum beef females.

Excessive protein and energy in the diet of beef females can result in reduced conception rates and increased feed costs. Excessive dietary nutrients during the last trimester of pregnancy may negatively influence Continue reading

Body Condition Scoring, Beef Cow Nutrition and Reproduction

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Net calf crop or number of calves weaned per cow exposed is an important calculation for commercial cow-calf producers.  A 9-point system is commonly used to condition score beef cows. The importance of body condition at calving on subsequent reproductive performance has been documented extensively.   Cows should have an optimum Body Condition Score (BCS) of 5 to 6 at calving that should be maintained through breeding to ensure optimal reproductive performance. The most important factor influencing pregnancy rate in beef females is body energy reserves at calving.  In addition, low energy intake before calving appears to be the major culprit to reduced reproductive performance during the subsequent breeding season.   Body condition score is a better indicator of the nutritional program than is body weight.

Calving Interval and Profitability: One of the major constraints in the improvement of reproductive efficiency of beef cows is the postpartum interval (PPI), defined as the period from calving until cows resume estrus activity. Calving interval, defined as the period between the birth of one calf until the birth of the next calf, is significantly affected by the postpartum interval. If a cow is to calve on a 365-day interval, with a 283-day gestation length, she has to conceive within 82 days of calving. It takes approximately 40 days for the uterus of a well managed cow to recover after calving, and this leaves a 42-day window in which to conceive. Cows that Continue reading

OCA Replacement Female Sale Catalogues 84 Lots

John F. Grimes, OCA Replacement Female Sale Manager

84 quality replacement females sell this Friday, November 27

This is the final reminder to attend the eighth annual Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Replacement Female Sale.  The sale will be held this Friday, November 27, at the Muskingum Livestock facility located at 944 Malinda Street in Zanesville and will begin at 6:00 p.m. This sale represents an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to add quality young replacement females to their herd.

There will be approximately 84 lots selling in the sale consisting of bred heifers, bred cows, and a cow-calf pair.  Breeds represented include Angus, Hereford, Limousin, Maine, Red Angus and Simmental. All females selling are less than five years of age at sale time.  A detailed listing of the cattle selling with complete breeding information and videos of the cattle have been Continue reading

Valuing Bred Beef Heifers

– Dr. Andrew Griffith, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee

Several weeks ago, there was a discussion on rules of thumb for valuing bred beef heifers. This led to a question this week about rules of thumb related to valuing bred cows and their appreciation and depreciation.

There are no rules of thumb, but there was some research performed at Oklahoma State University that can be helpful in determining bred cow value. The study found several factors including animal age, weight, overall quality, stage of gestation, hide color, and time of year influence price. Based on the study findings, bred heifers and three year old animals have the highest value, but bred cows hold their value fairly well until age six. Bred cow values increases the longer bred an animal is and the heavier she is.

There are some rather useful details in the study that can be used to Continue reading

The Process of Artificially Inseminating a Cow

Clif Little, OSU Extension Guernsey County

What are some logical steps in utilizing artificial insemination (AI) on the farm?  We will assume cows and heifers are good candidates for a synchronization program.  However, months prior to AI implementation review the desired cow and heifer physiological condition and factors that influence response to AI.  As with any new venture, it is beneficial to first observe the AI process.  There are many steps to the process, and the timing and flow of work are of utmost importance to the success of AI.

The best way to visualize the proper workflow is to see the process in action on a farm utilizing the protocol which one intends to implement. Ask the local Extension Educator for examples of farms utilizing AI, and if possible, visit and or assist in the process as a guest. This experience will provide a more complete image of how to adopt AI to one’s unique facility.  Attend an AI school.  Semen providers and some universities provide excellent AI courses.  Practice AI on beef cattle reproductive tracts prior to attempting on live animals, AI schools should provide this opportunity.  Seek the Continue reading