Be Prepared for More Open Cows

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

Shew, it’s been a rough summer. On top of high fuel costs, current inflation, and high input costs, beef producers have had to deal with drought and extreme heat. Heat stress is normal for cattle in Kentucky because most of our cattle graze endophyte-infected fescue but the early onset this summer may cause some serious issues with pregnancy rates and calving rates.

Heat stress has profound impacts on many biological processes that can lead to poor reproductive rates. Prior to estrus, heat stress reduces follicle growth, hormone production, and oocyte (the egg) competency. Combined, this reduces fertilization rates. Once fertilized, heat stress also reduces the growth of the newly formed embryo. This reduction in the growth of an embryo is likely the result of increased cell death and/or a smaller corpus luteum (CL) that producers less progesterone. This reduced growth rate and increased embryonic cell death leads to more embryos lost during the first week of gestation. Unfortunately, heat stress continues to impact embryonic growth through the first 21 days which also increases the loss of these early pregnancies.

Issues with heat stress continue throughout gestation. Exposure of early pregnancies (day 24-45) to heat stress reduces fetal growth and can result in Continue reading

Residual Feed Intake (RFI) . . . a Selection Tool?

Relationships between feed efficiency, scrotal circumference and semen quality traits in yearling bulls
– Hafla, A. Lancaster, G. Carstens, D. Forrest, J. Fox, T. Forbes, Mike Davis (OSU), R. Randel, and J. Holloway
Journal of Animal Science. 2012.90:3937–3944

Residual feed intake (RFI) is a measure of feed efficiency that is independent of growth traits.  Seed stock producers are adopting technology to measure daily intake to assess feed efficiency of growing bulls and heifers.  Across all studies, bulls with low RFI phenotypes consumed 20% less dry matter DM and had 10% less backfat but had similar average daily gain, scrotal circumference and semen quality traits compared with high-RFI bulls.  Inclusion of RFI in selection indexes will enable selection for feed efficiency with Continue reading

Consequences of Long-term Commitment to Estrus Synchronization

– Dr. Pedro Fontes, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, University of Georgia

Those who stick to the technology usually observe a gradual increase in pregnancy rates to FTAI.

The use of estrus synchronization programs has substantially increased over the last few decades. These programs allow cattle producers to manipulate the estrous cycle of cows and heifers, facilitating the adoption of biotechnologies such as artificial insemination (AI). Cow-calf operations can combine estrus synchronization with fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI) and AI all cows from a given herd at a pre-determined time without the need of estrus detection. The development of these estrus synchronization protocols has significantly impacted reproductive management commercially, leading to a remarkable global increase in the use of AI by beef cattle producers. In fact, the number of beef semen straws sold yearly in the United States increased by 145% between 1990 to 2017.

Studies have repeatedly evaluated the effectiveness of estrus synchronization protocols in combination with FTAI, and pregnancy rates usually range between 40-60%. These are great numbers considering that approximately half of our females are becoming pregnant on the first day of the breeding season. Nevertheless, there is still some variation in . . .

Continue reading Consequences of Long-term Commitment to Estrus Synchronization

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 . . .

Continue reading Data That Delivers

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 . . .

Continue reading Strategically Using Pregnancy Diagnosis to Identify Nonpregnant Cows


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