The Calving Stall

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Most modern cattlemen have some type of facility for holding or restraining cattle that need assistance at calving. This stall need not be elaborate or expensive, but it should be handy and useful. This article sets forth some of the things to consider before installing such a stall or for evaluating your present facility.

The objective of a calving stall is to provide an environment that is safe and useful to you and your veterinarian when assisting at calving. This stall will generally pay for itself in short order in calves saved and cows treated properly and promptly. Some of the tasks made easier with a calving stall include performing cesarean sections, cleaning a retained placenta, assisting calves presented for birth in the wrong position, milking out cows, fostering calves and medicating cows requiring follow-up treatments. It allows the producer to quickly estimate the situation and take appropriate action on their own or with professional help.

A good calving stall should meet the following Continue reading

The economic benefits of a defined, 90 day or less, calving season

Anytime an Extension beef cattle specialist suggests a cow herd is most profitable when there is a well defined calving season as opposed to leaving the bull in and calving year around, it’s not uncommon for the response to be disbelief. During the 2020 Ohio Beef Cow/Calf Workshop, Dr. Les Anderson responded in this 4 minute clip to that debate regarding the economic benefits of a calving season of 90 days or less. The data he shares is compelling!

Semen/Nitrogen Tank Care

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator

Handle with care. The inner container is only attached to the outer container at the neck and a crack in this connection will cause the tank to quickly fail!

It is almost time to start breeding for the 2021 calf crop. Last week I talked about proper semen handling so this week I thought it was worth providing some information on care and handling of the liquid nitrogen tanks. The nitrogen tanks on our farms are likely storing semen and embryos that are very expensive to replace or maybe can’t be replaced. We need to take care of these tanks to make sure we don’t lose the contents.

Many people may be heading to the Ohio Beef Expo to pick up straws of semen and there are some things you should keep in mind.

Ideally you would have a dry shipper tank to pick up your straws. This is the small tanks they use to send semen to your farm. These are called “dry shippers” because they should not have liquid in them. They contain an absorbent material that soaks up the liquid nitrogen and can maintain a temperature close to the temperature of liquid nitrogen for 1 to 3 weeks. The problem is that these tanks will cost as much or more than your standard storage tank and you need to recharge them with liquid nitrogen before using them.

Legally you can not carry a tank containing liquid nitrogen in an Continue reading

Preserving Semen Quality

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator

If you are using artificial insemination to maximize the genetic potential of your herd, proper semen handling is critical to fertility.  Frozen semen will never be more fertile than the day it was frozen but there are many things you can do that decrease the fertility.

To help understand the importance of semen handling I will give you a brief background in the science.  Semen is frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen because nitrogen is stable and relatively safe to work with compared to alternatives.  Liquid nitrogen has a temperature of -320° F.  Originally dry ice, -109° F, was used but its ability to keep the samples cold enough was limited and liquid nitrogen provided superior results with extended storage.

It would seem like frozen is frozen so why would temperature fluctuations at Continue reading

Small Herd Sire Decisions: The Heifer Bull Dilemma

Garth Ruff OSU Extension Henry County

Bull buying season is almost upon us, and for the smaller cow-calf operators in the region, I think it time to ask the question: Do you need to buy a heifer bull? Year over year as I sit and watch bull buying decisions being made, I have observed producers faced with the dilemma of buying a calving ease “heifer bull” or a higher performance sire with a slightly higher birth weight. Part of the dilemma is the total the cost of the bull, where locally, a “heifer bull” will cost more, due to the willingness of cattlemen to pay for calving ease sires.

Before tackling this question it is important to recognize that the past quarter century, the beef industry has made tremendous strides in the area of genetic improvement, a large part of which can be attributed to the adoption and understanding of Expected Progeny Differences (EPD’s).  With a desire for calving ease, one of the most studied and most utilized EPD’s by cattlemen when purchasing bulls is Birth Weight (BW) and more recently, Calving Ease Direct (CED). Another data point to consider is the Accuracy of a Continue reading

Emergency Calf Management after Dystocia (Difficult Birth)

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Figure 1: Meconium staining (yellow color) is an indicator of calf stress during delivery. Placing the calf on the sternum (as pictured) maximizes ventilation of the lungs.

“Dystocia” is defined as a difficult or prolonged calving, whether or not human assistance was necessary for delivery of the calf. Factors known to cause dystocia include a mismatch between small pelvic size of the dam and large calf size, abnormal calf presentation (for example, backwards or head turned back), and maternal factors such as weak labor, insufficient dilation of the cervix, or a uterine twist or torsion. Thin cows often experience prolonged labor and calves are born weak and slow to stand and nurse. Inappropriate timing of intervention or excessive force applied during delivery may cause additional stress and injury to an already weakened calf. Following dystocia, a calf is 6 times more likely to get sick than a calf born normally, with most deaths occurring within 96 hours of birth.

The key event in the transition from life inside the uterus to an independent existence is Continue reading

Match EPDs to Your Ideal Grazing Management Style

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

As we move into January the grazing season is over for most and ended long ago for many, such as me, thanks to a dry fall.  Now is the time to start putting some thought into breeding decisions.  Is this the year to purchase a new bull?  What semen do I need to order so it will be in my tank when the cows come in heat?

In cattle, EPDs are the expected progeny differences in performance between offspring of different sires.  Sheep have a similar system of EBVs (estimated breeding values) but they are not as commonly used.  EPDs are available for a large number of production, maternal, and carcass traits.  The use of EPDs gained value with the first national cattle summary which was published in 1971.  The value of this data has improved with time.  Breeds have improved data collection and DNA evaluations have become common so that now the value of EPD’s is greater than ever.  These DNA enhanced EPDs can provide results equivalent to 10 to 36 calves for many traits but sometimes all these numbers get confusing.

Since this is a grazing column, let’s look at a few of the EPDs that are related to grazing Continue reading

The Art and Science of Developing Heifers

– Les Anderson, Ph.D., Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

The older I get the more I realize that heifer development is as much art as science. The art is understanding what type of female best fits your operation and your marketing scheme. What size cow best fits your management system? Which cows will produce the best replacements?

The science is understanding the principles enabling the “right” heifers to succeed. The first week of January is an extremely important “check-point” in spring heifer development programs.

Regardless of management system, one key factor dictating cow productivity is a heifer’s ability to breed early in her first breeding season. Data from many studies ranging back to the 1960’s clearly demonstrate the key to cow productivity is timing of her first breeding as a heifer. Heifers that breed early in their first breeding season wean heavier calves, breed back more quickly, and become more productive cows. So the key, then, is to optimize Continue reading

Geez, what a mess!

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

Have you ever looked at your cow-calf operation and had the thought “Geez, what a mess?!” Even if we don’t want to admit it, often our lack of organization and planning sometimes really hinder our opportunity to succeed especially in our cattle operations.

An example; it’s September. Have you pulled your bull? If a bull pen is not available, is your breeding season over? The first step in becoming an efficient, profit-possible operation is controlling the calving season.

How do we transform the calving season? A great example of controlling the calving season occurred on a farm enrolled in the UK Farm Program. This producer had huge Limousin-cross cows (1700-1800 pounds), calved all year long (see table The Beginning), 16 of 17 cows calved and 13 calves were weaned from 2015 calvings. This producer wanted to move to a fall-calving herd because of his time commitments to his grain enterprise.

Steps taken: Continue reading

Breeding Beef Cows Back after a Tough Winter

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension AgNR Educator, Licking County (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

How do you avoid getting stuck in a rut? Take a different path. There was a real shortage of high quality or even medium quality hay made last year. Forage analysis results that I reviewed last fall were all lower quality than expected. As a result, many cowherds were much thinner at the beginning of the spring calving season this year. The problem with having thin cows at calving time is that they are likely to be even thinner at breeding time.

When a cow eats, her use of nutrients is prioritized. First is maintenance for survival, followed by lactation and growth, which includes weight gain, and finally, reproduction. While reproduction is the number one priority trait for profitability, it is not at the top of the list when the body of the cow is deciding how to use its nutrient resources.

Years of research have established that thin cows are often difficult to get bred. Results often show around a 30% decrease in the number of cows displaying estrus by 60 days post-calving on a cow with a body condition score at calving of 4 vs 6. Similar results are seen when comparing pregnancy rates within a Continue reading