Financial, Management Benefits of Pregnancy Diagnosis

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

We are entering an exciting time of the year for cow-calf producers. They have started or soon will be weaning their spring-born calves. Weaning is an excellent time to prepare the calf crop to become herd replacements or for future marketing opportunities by implementing health programs and transitioning to feed rations. It is also a great time to determine the pregnancy status of the breeding herd. Management practices for both these groups can go a long way to determine the ultimate profitability of herd.

The factor that should ultimately sort a female to the keep or cull pen is pregnancy status. The three primary methods used in pregnancy diagnosis are rectal palpation, ultrasound evaluation, or blood testing. Each of these methods can effectively diagnose the female’s pregnancy status when properly implemented. Obviously the preferred result is for the female to be pregnant. Pregnancy diagnosis is relatively inexpensive, especially when Continue reading

Flip this Cow: Adding Value by Reconditioning Cull Cows

– Matt Hersom, University of Florida Extension

Culling cows from the herd is a normal part of annual ranch management. How and when cull cows are marketed represents your last opportunity to generate revenue from each cow. There is an opportunity to add value to cull cows to generate some additional revenue for a cattle enterprise. Just as there are options to be compared before marketing weaned calves, producers should weigh their options before marketing cull cows.

There are a number of reasons for a cow to be culled from the herd. A primary reason is that the cow is open (not pregnant) when the herd is pregnancy tested. Without the prospect of a calf to sell, the open cow becomes an expense. Secondary to pregnancy status is age, as older cows are less productive or have greater risk of health and structural issues. Other reasons to cull a cow include disposition, not weaning a calf, overall poor performance, poor body condition, sickness, or injury. Certainly cows with active sickness/disease or that have not yet cleared withdrawal dates for animal health products should not enter market channels. Cattle producers may have an interest in adding value to their own cull cows, or in creating another potential revenue stream, there is opportunity for improving the value of culls cows.

Adding Value to Cull Cows

Figure 1. Example of the before and after of cull cow 931. (Gainesville FL, Photo credit Matt Hersom).

Before embarking on the process of adding value to cull cows, you need to identify your goals and what resources you have available. Many cull cows are in poor body condition and will require a higher plain of nutrition to add weight. A primary consideration then for adding value to cull cows are economical feed resources. If pastures will be used to provide the base nutrition for reconditioning cows, make sure there is enough extra so that the main herd will not be impacted. Any supplemental feed-stuffs used must provide the opportunity for a low cost of gain. Often these supplemental feeds might be Continue reading

Beef AGRI NEWS Today, the July Podcast

In this month’s podcast of Beef AGRI NEWS Today, show host Duane Rigsby visits with OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes about the winding down of breeding season, pregnancy checking, culling considerations, and late summer forage and hay management options.

“Preg” Check and Cull Replacement Heifers Early

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University

Many ranchers choose to breed the replacement heifers about a month ahead of the mature cows in the herd. In addition, they like to use a shortened 45 to 60-day breeding season for the replacement heifers. The next logical step is to determine which of these heifers failed to conceive in their first breeding season. This is more important today than ever before.

As the bulls are being removed from the replacement heifers, this would be an ideal time to call and make arrangements with your local veterinarian to have those heifers evaluated for pregnancy in about 60 days. In two months, experienced palpaters should have no difficulty identifying which heifers are pregnant and which heifers are not pregnant (open). Those heifers that are Continue reading

The Cost of Keeping One Open Cow Can Pay to Have the Herd Pregnancy Checked

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

Recently the topic of pregnancy checking was discussed. There are several producers who use palpation, ultrasound, or blood test to determine the pregnancy status of cows in the herd. However, there are more producers who use either the eye test or fail to pregnancy check at all.

Regardless of what one may think, every producer is faced with the cost of pregnancy diagnosis. On average, pregnancy diagnosis immediately following the breeding season using palpation, ultrasound, or blood test will cost Continue reading

Beef AGRI NEWS Today, the May Podcast

In this month’s podcast of Beef AGRI NEWS Today, show host Duane Rigsby visits with OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes about breeding season and the multitude of management considerations that come into play this time of year. (FYI, there’s likely an audio glitch that begins about 5 minutes into the podcast. Slide past it and the audio resumes properly for the balance of the recording.)

Expression of Estrus Before Fixed-time AI Affects Conception Rates

– B. Richardson, S. Hill, J. Stevenson, G. Djira, and G. Perry (summarized by Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist)

Expression of estrus after Prostaglandin administration and before fixed-time AI has been reported to change the uterine environment, increase accessory sperm numbers, fertilization rates, and overall embryo survival. Thus, expression of estrus can strongly impact overall pregnancy success. Because of variation in percentage of beef females detected in estrus and number of animals per study, it can be difficult to detect a significant effect of estrus on pregnancy success. Thus, a meta-analysis was conducted using data from 10,116 beef females in 22 studies that utilized variations of the 5 most common fixed-time AI protocols (CO-Synch, 7-day CO-Synch + CIDR, 5-day CIDR, PG 6-day CIDR, and the 14-day CIDR protocols) to examine the effect of detection in standing estrus on subsequent fixed-time AI pregnancy success.

Overall there was a positive effect of estrus on conception rates with Continue reading

On Day 21 Following Bull Turnout, 60 Percent of Cows Bred

– Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension

Are the cows ready to breed, and will 60 percent conceive a calf within 21 days following bull turnout?

In reality, cattle never should be out of shape for breeding. Weather and feed supplies always should be managed so animals are in good condition. The important point, however, is to know where the cattle operation is at, avoiding unforeseen disappointments next fall.

Let’s talk about cows. Typical 1,300-pound cows consume 25 to 30-plus pounds of dry matter a day, depending on the stage of pregnancy and milk production. Dry, pregnant cows will be at the lower end of total feed needs. Lactating cows may very well exceed the upper end.

Remember, as cows climb the body weight ladder, to 1,500 to 1,600 pounds, they are going to need Continue reading

Breeding Season: Stretch It Out Then Cut It Short

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

A few years ago, I wrote an article relating to shortening the breeding season titled “Utilize the K.I.S.S. Method!” The acronym used in the title of that article referred to my preference for the appropriate length of the beef cattle calving season and imminent breeding season. In this situation, K.I.S.S. refers to “Keep It Short and Sweet!” In this article, I want to remind you of the primary advantages of a shorter breeding season. I also want to discuss a potential marketing advantage of actually lengthening the breeding season.

There can be compelling arguments to make when choosing the best calving season for a particular operation. It is my experience that there is no single best choice for a calving season for all operations. Each operation is unique as to the assets available to devote to the cattle operation including labor, facilities, feedstuffs, etc. Ultimately, the selection of your particular calving season should be determined by Continue reading

Optimizing Efficiency with Estrous Synchronization and Sexed Semen

– Dr. Les Anderson, University of Kentucky

The easiest road to maximum breeding efficiency in the beef cow-calf industry is through estrous synchronization and AI (ESAI). Estrous synchronization helps shorten the calving season, increases herd pregnancy rates, and helps increase calf uniformity and weight (calves are typically older).

Use of ESAI can improve productivity and revenue. Recent research from Dr. Cliff Lamb examined the short-term economic impact of a breeding system that included FTAI + natural service or just natural service in about 1,200 females on 8 different farms (Table 1).[1] The breeding seasons began and ended on the same day in both groups on all farms. A partial budget was used to compare the positive economic impact (added revenue, reduced costs) with the negative Continue reading