Impact of early calving replacement heifers on cow-herd production and longevity

When females become pregnant within the breeding season is a key component of cow-calf profitability.

Cattle producers commonly evaluate reproductive performance by determining how many cows became pregnant during the breeding season. Although pregnancy rates are important, when females become pregnant within the breeding season is also a key component of cow-calf profitability.

In the short article linked below, Dr. Fontes, Assistant Professor and Beef Extension Specialist at the University of Georgia, discusses the production implication of getting heifers pregnant early in the breeding season.

Impact of early calving replacement heifers on cow-herd production and longevity

Data That Delivers

– Jason Duggin, Beef Cattle Specialist, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences – University of Georgia

Imagine a business that didn’t track its inputs or its outputs. Obviously, that would be a bad scenario. The demand for information is rapidly increasing when it comes to all sectors of the beef chain from commercial cow-calf to retail. The digital age we currently live in combined with genomic testing has streamlined selection and marketing to a speed that even now seems almost fictional. Inputs and outputs are the future of the industry and for all progressive cattle producers.

Retailers of all sizes are delving into marketing that connects consumers to the farm. As you may expect, large retailers can already scan a bag of lettuce and tell what farm it came from. If the thought of that makes you nervous, I don’t blame you. However, the pros may outweigh the cons for most. Some leaders in the retail segment are looking ahead to a time when consumers can scan a QR code on a package of ribeye steaks to learn about the ranch or farm that it originated from. At least as of this writing, people will pay for that kind of story. Restaurants are increasingly promoting premium known-source menu items. You may also hear the term Blockchain which is a digital record of transactions from start to finish.

If scenarios like this seem too far-fetched, that is understandable, but regardless of how far we take our marketing, the information we provide to the next person in the beef chain can make . . .

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Plan Now for Tenth Annual OCA Replacement Female Sale

This year’s sale will be held on November 25 in Zanesville

The 2022 date for the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) tenth annual Replacement Female Sale will be Friday evening, November 25. The sale will be held at the Muskingum Livestock Auction Co. in Zanesville, Ohio and will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The tenth edition of 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, 2023 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 fulfilling of specific health requirements.

Why discuss a sale that is several months away? The middle of the Continue reading

A vaccination strategy for newborns, and calves under 4 months of age

Many health challenges on the farm can be avoided with a proper herd health management program. During the third session of the 2022 Virtual Beef School held on Monday, March 21st Dr. Justin Kieffer, Clinical Veterinarian for the Department of Animal Sciences at OSU, offered a beef herd health management update.

More specifically, Dr. Kieffer spent a few minutes that evening discussing vaccination and health protocols for newborn and young calves. Embedded below is what Dr. Kieffer had to say about the health management of calves from birth through four months of age.

To view Dr. Kieffer’s herd health presentation from the 21st in its entirety, visit this YouTube link:

Why Invest in Pregnancy Determination?

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

A recent question that crossed my path was, what is the biggest cost in a cow-calf operation?

The typical answer is the cost of feeding animals including pasture, hay, and supplemental feed. However, this question that has been asked several times throughout my years at the University, made me do a little more thinking. What is one of largest costs for an individual animal?

The answer to that is failure to wean and market a calf. This may come in the form of failure to conceive, abortion, or calf dying prior to marketing. Regardless of the reason, failure to market a calf out of a cow every 12 months can become expensive and will cost more this year than last year as prices continue to increase. This is an important topic as the spring calving season will soon begin and as the breeding season for fall calving cows is ending.

Producers should consider investing in pregnancy determination and marketing females that fail to calve.

Another question, can a Continue reading

Strategically Using Pregnancy Diagnosis to Identify Nonpregnant Cows

– Pedro L. P. Fontes, Extension Beef Reproductive Physiologist, UGA Department of Animal and Dairy Science; A. Lee Jones, Associate Professor, UGA College of Veterinary Medicine; Tammy W. Cheely, Glascock, Hancock and Warren Counties Extension Coordinator, UGA Extension Office; Savannah Tanner, Emmanuel County Agriculture & Natural Resource Agent

Reproductive tract of a pregnant (left) and open (right) cow.

Pregnancy diagnosis is an important part of reproductive management in productive beef cow–calf operations. Keeping a nonpregnant cow on the farm for an entire year has negative economic implications because she accrues the same cost of a pregnant cow, but without generating income. With the move toward more efficient operations and inclusion of artificial insemination (AI) and other reproductive technologies in cattle production, abstaining from pregnancy diagnosis may no longer be economically viable or practical. Establishing a pregnancy diagnosis program allows for the detection of cows that are not pregnant and allows producers to make management decisions to increase reproductive efficiency, such as culling of infertile females or resynchronizing females that are open.

Open cows decrease profitability as they use similar resources as pregnant cows without producing a marketable calf to justify these costs. In a hypothetical well–managed beef cattle operation with 100 brood cows exposed to a 75–day breeding season, we can expect pregnancy rates at the end of the breeding season to range between 85 and 95%. If we consider cow cost in this operation to be $700 per cow per year, and final pregnancy rates to be 90%, this operation is spending an extra . . .

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Estrous Synchronization in Natural Cattle Breeding Programs

Brooks Warner, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension

Calves born in a shortened calving season will be heavier, and more uniform in size and weight.

Estrus synchronization often is used in the artificial insemination industry.

Typically, we do not talk about synchronization with natural service operations. However, it still can be a very useful management technique in natural service situations.

A common question is “can my bull effectively breed each cow or heifer when everyone comes into heat at once?”. The answer is yes. Bulls should have experience, about 3+ years, have a BCS of at least 6, and have a scrotal circumference of at least 34cm. The bull should have also been through a breeding soundness exam. If the bull has each of these characteristics, he will be able to breed eleven cows per day.

The economic implications of synchronization can be seen when you bring a pot load of calves to market. Larger groups of like type and like size cattle bring more money. The value difference in pot load-sized groups of calves versus smaller groups can be seen nearly daily in sales across the state and the U.S.. The table above shows the potential of different sized calves born to cows that were not synchronized and outlines calf weights between calves born in the first cycle vs. calves born in subsequent cycles. Obviously, calves born in a Continue reading

Selecting Your Next Herd Sire

Brooks Warner, OSU Extension Educator, Scioto County

We are in bull sale season and many of you are looking for a new herd sire.

Before making sire selections, I encourage you to ask yourself, “What are my operation’s goals?” and select your next herd sires with your operation goals in mind. Operations should buy the bulls you need and not the bulls you want.

Wanting to go for the stylish bull, the thickest bull and/or the biggest weaning and yearling weights is easy. However, beauty is (sometimes) only hide deep, and single-trait selection is never a good idea.

For most operations, the main goal is profitability, and a few different aspects come together to help you achieve a profitable beef herd. Some of the most important aspects of the profitable beef herd equation are:

  • Live calves
  • Fertile, easy keeping, productive cows
  • Optimal performance at the farm and ranch, in the feed yard, on the rail and on the consumer’s plate

Sire selection should be a combination of Continue reading

Beef Cow Nutritional Strategies During the Last Trimester

On February 9, 2022, OSU Extension Beef Specialist Dr. Steve Boyles was guest presenter for the beef subgroup of Cornell Cooperative Extension Livestock Program Work Team. Dr. Boyles focused his presentation on strategies for efficiently feeding beef cows during their third trimester of gestation. That presentation in its entirety can be found linked here.

Artificial Insemination with a Small Beef Herd

Dean Kreager, OSU Extension Ag and Natural Resources Educator, Licking County

Going 100% A.I. is possible but takes dedication to details.

With only 10% of beef herds in the United States utilizing Artificial Insemination (A.I.), from time to time the discussion arises on whether it is worth doing on small beef farms.  In some situations, this is an easy answer while in other situations it is not so clear cut.  Some herds are operated with the goal of producing superior offspring.  Others are trying to get income from land that is not suitable for other purposes, and they want to do it with minimal labor.  Both are worthy goals but the use of A.I. only fits one of the two situations.

Why use A.I.?

There are many possible reasons, but I will just discuss three here.

The first is genetic improvement.  Whether you are raising purebred cattle and tracking EPD’s or raising show cattle and looking at phenotype, A.I. opens the door to using the top genetics in the country.  For $20 to $50 per straw you can purchase semen on nearly any bull.  You also have the option to purchase semen from a variety of sires to improve your genetic diversity.  Can you afford more than one Continue reading