Confessions of a Cattleman; Lessons learned in the chicken house!

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

Can cattlemen achieve the same uniformity we see in these broilers?

Perhaps you’ve heard me say before that my ancestors settled near the banks of the Sycamore Creek in 1826. Like most back then, during their first 130+ years in Fairfield County they farmed a little bit of everything while providing for each of the several generations of Smiths that followed. They had some dairy, beef, hogs, chickens, a few sheep and whatever crops it took to feed the livestock.

Like most farms back then, they grew most of their meals. In fact, around the Smith farm as recently as the late 1950’s and early 60’s, perhaps the greatest treat one of the kids could experience was being chosen to help Grandma snare an old hen to make pan fried chicken for lunch. Much like the cattle in the dairy were then, those old leghorns were a dual-purpose critter that served us well. The extra eggs were sold to the local creamery, and the spent hens had just enough muscle to Continue reading

Heifer Development Beginning at Weaning

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

HEIFER SELECTION:  Heifers can be sold at weaning or anytime thereafter.  Select at least 20% excess and continue growing the heifers until breeding.  A second selection at yearling age is helpful.  Let the bull or artificial insemination program select the heifers you keep by maintaining a relatively short breeding season (45 days).  Pregnancy diagnosis after the breeding season provides another opportunity for culling.  A final selection can be made after heifers wean their first calf.  Weaning weight of the first calf is a fairly good, though not foolproof, indicator of future production.

EARLY GROWTH (weaning and yearling weight) AND FRAME:  The traditional method for choosing replacements is pick the big ones at weaning.  Traditional selection is simple and is not necessarily all bad.  If growth is needed, selection on size will provide it. The bigger heifers are generally older, and thus selection is from the earlier calving cows. It also may (or may not) select heifers of heavier milking cows.  Heavier and older heifers are more likely to cycle and breed early and be well on their way to having acceptable lifetime performance.

However, there are problems with the traditional method of selection.  Some of the heaviest heifers at weaning may be fat and offer the potential of poor Continue reading

Preg Checking; Vital to Greater Economic Return

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County

In order to be economically viable, a beef cow must produce and wean a calf annually. One of the first steps in determining if a female will do that in 2022 is confirming yet this year that she is, indeed, with calf. No one plans for a cow or heifer to remain open, yet we all have some that fail to breed in a timely fashion, or at all. Considering the value of cull cows and also cull bulls presently, the reproductive and ultimately the economic efficiency of a beef herd can easily be enhanced with a post breeding pregnancy examination for every cow and heifer.

During the fifth session of the 2021 Ohio Beef Cattle Management School that was hosted via ZOOM by the Ohio State University Extension Beef Team this past winter, a portion of the program included discussion on the economic significance of confirming pregnancy in beef cows and the various diagnostic methods that are available. Listen in below as OSU Extension Educator Al Gahler discusses the economic returns to the operation realized through pregnancy checking cows in a timely fashion, and the various methods it can be accomplished.

Open Heifer Options – Making Lemonade out of Lemons

– Kevin Laurent, Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

There are many events or moments throughout the year that we as beef producers look forward to with great anticipation, excitement and frankly some degree of worry. It could be the daily checks during calving season or finding out your pay weight and price for a load of yearlings you delivered to the sale barn. I think most of us would agree that the annual preg checking of the cow herd is right there towards the top of the list of management activities that can have us on pins and needles. Open cows and open heifers are part of the business. What we choose to do with open females can affect our bottom line. For the sake of brevity, I would like to limit this discussion to replacement heifers and what options we have when the vet finds her empty.

Give her another chance or cull her? It may be tempting to give open heifers another chance especially if you have both a fall and spring calving season. The problem with this option is research shows that there may be upwards of 20% reduction in conception rates on heifers that failed to conceive in the first breeding season. Ask yourself, if she was a slow breeder as a yearling, what will her chances be of breeding back as a 2 year old? If we choose to Continue reading

Fall Calving, Is It Profitable?

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

While fall calving may offer some unique challenges with regard to herd nutrition, there’s no arguing the cattle price seasonality benefit it affords!

Fall is my favorite time of the year, hay making is done, the feeder cattle are being marketed, and college football is in full swing. Last winter in a cow-calf webinar, I briefly mentioned the virtues of a fall calving system here in the Eastern Corn Belt. In this article we’ll look at how fall calving can be a viable and profitable system.

Seasonality of Cattle Prices  – As with most things in agriculture, supply and demand has a great impact on prices. Griffiths et al, 2017 from the University of Tennessee analyzed several studies comparing spring and fall calving systems. After comparing the systems on a 205-day weaning age and two separate feed resource scenarios they concluded that even though spring-calving cows had heavier calves at weaning and lower feed costs than the fall-calving cows, the higher prices of steer and heifer calves captured by fall-born calves were able to cover the higher feed expenses and lighter weaning weights by the fall-born calves.

In the fall of the year, when most of the weaned spring-born calves are marketed, supply is plentiful for order buyers to fill their feedlot orders. This increased supply contributes to our annual low in Continue reading

Open and Late Calving Cows: The Conundrum

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Figuring out why we have a late calving female is important when deciding to keep or cull.

Being that most of the spring calving cow herds in Ohio and beyond have calved, and breeding season is upon us, there is a cow conundrum that we need to discuss. In the 9 or months that I have been in this position, my favorite questions to answer have quickly become “how quickly can I rebreed a late calving cow?” or “I have a spring calving cow that calved late or never calved at all, can I roll her over to the fall?”

The answers to both of those questions are yes, as I do not have the final say as to what cattlemen can or cannot do on their operations. As someone who is often asked for recommendations on this topic, the real question is should we hang onto those late calving and open females?

Open Cows

In most cases involving open cows the answer to that question is no, they should be in the cull pen. Open cows are a profit drain, no matter if we can roll them over or not. At the simplest form; Profit = Continue reading

Make Plans Now for 2021 OCA Replacement Female Sale

In 2020, 83 total lots grossed $159,025 for an overall average of $1,844

The 2021 date for the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) ninth annual Replacement Female Sale will be Friday evening, November 26. The sale will be held at the Muskingum Livestock Auction Co. in Zanesville, Ohio and will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The 2021 OCA Replacement Female Sale will provide an opportunity for both buyers and sellers to meet the need for quality replacements in the state. Consignments may include cow-calf pairs, bred cows and bred heifers. Females must be under the age of five as of January 1, 2022 and may be of registered or commercial background. Bred females must be bred to a bull with known EPD’s and calves at side of cows must be sired by a bull with known EPD’s. Pregnancy status must be verified by an accredited veterinarian through traditional palpation, ultrasound or by blood testing through a professional laboratory. Analysis must be performed within 60 days of sale. Consignments will also be Continue reading

Managing the Breeding Season and Reproductive Performance of the Beef Herd

The fourth session of this past winter’s 2021 Ohio Beef Cattle Management School was hosted via ZOOM by the Ohio State University Extension Beef Team on February 8th. During that fourth session the focus turned to genetics, reproduction and breeding management. More specifically, in the portion of the evening’s program embedded below, OSU Extension Beef Field Specialist Garth Ruff introduces Alvaro Garcia Guerra, Assistant Professor for cattle reproduction in the Department of Animal Science at Ohio State, as he discusses considerations for managing the breeding season and factors that will maximize pregnancy rates including bull management, the use of estrus synchronization programs and artificial insemination in the beef herd.

Keep an Eye on that Bull

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

Many producers with spring calving herds just turned out their bulls. In the May Off the Hoof, we reminded everyone to subject their herd bulls to a breeding soundness exam (BSE). A BSE is the best insurance we have available to ensure we don’t turn out a bull that is infertile or incapable of breeding cows. However, the BSE does not indicate if the bull is willing to breed cows. I was reminded of this very recently in the herd that I used for the “I bought a farm” YouTube video series. To get these heifers bred, we synchronized them for AI and then turned out a mature bull that had passed a BSE. When I inseminated these heifers, the weather turned very poor (middle of December) and the estrus response rate in the heifers was low, so I wasn’t expecting high conception rates to AI. Just to get an idea of how well we did, I spent some time in the pasture watching for return heats. As I expected, several heifers had return heats but what really stuck out was the bull was NOT breeding them. Some of the heifers were jumping on the bull and he seemed disinterested. I was concerned about the bull and told the owner that he needed to consider finding another bull. I could not assure him the bull was Continue reading

Profiting on Cull Cattle

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Licking County (originally published in Ohio Farmer on-line)

Teat or udder problems are just one reason for considering culling a cow.

As cattle producers we often look at ways to improve our bottom line. Where can we profit the most from our production? Is it from sales of feeder calves, breeding stock, finished cattle, freezer beef or some combination? This decision may change from year to year based on economic conditions, feed availability, and facilities.

One type of sale that sometimes gets overlooked is the sale of cull animals. National studies estimate the value of these sales amounts to 15 – 30% of the revenue for beef farms. These culls make up 20% of the beef consumed. Considering the value and importance of these animals to the supply chain we should look at ways that we can manage them to increase our profits.

Hoof or leg issues are another reason to consider culling.

There are many reasons for culling animals. Physical problems, poor performance, age, reproduction, and Continue reading