Don’t Forget a Breeding Soundness Exam

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

The spring breeding season is here and hopefully your herd is prepared. One key management tool we can use to reduce the risk of pregnancy failures is getting a breeding soundness examination on your bulls.

A breeding soundness examination is done by a veterinarian, costs $50-100, and is a producer’s only method to assess the breeding capability of their herd sire(s). Breeding soundness exams accurately determine bulls who cannot produce normal sperm cells and bulls who are no longer capable of breeding cows due to injury or a physical ailment.

Breeding soundness exams should be Continue reading

Matching Nutrient Intake to the Production Cycle of Beef Cows

Allen Gahler, Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources, OSU Extension-Sandusky County (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

Could we reduce our total feed needs by more correctly matching the breeding season to our feed resources?

Whether you are jumping into or preparing for breeding season, or you calve in the fall and have recently turned out mid gestation cows, you certainly have had a lower feed bill on your mind as the winter feeding period comes to an end. That lower feed bill is usually a welcome beginning to a new growing season, and the worry of making it through another winter is replaced by the worry of making the right breeding decisions and weaning off a profitable calf crop.  But perhaps we could alleviate some of those other worries by focusing more on the timing of the breeding season as it relates to what we are feeding them, rather than which bull matches better with each group of cows and which bull is truly heifer safe.

What I am talking about is stepping back and taking a good hard look at when we calve and comparing it to the quality of our available feed at Continue reading

The energy requirements for an Angus beef cow throughout her annual production cycle

– Kirsten Nickles, Graduate Research Associate and Anthony J. Parker, Associate Chair and Associate Professor. Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University.

The nutritional requirements for beef cows change daily throughout their annual production cycle. The frequent change in requirements is caused by varying stages of production and environmental factors that affect the cow’s behavior and energy use. To give an example, a spring calving beef cow gestating throughout winter will have energy requirements for maintenance and gestation, and there may be further requirements for cold stress if winter climatic conditions place the cow outside her zone of thermal comfort. To appreciate how great the total net energy cost of a beef cow can be we have included the net energy requirements in Mcal/day throughout the annual production cycle of a mature 1200 lb Angus cow with a peak milk yield (PMY) of 18 pounds (Figure 1).  We included the requirements for maintenance, lactation, and gestation and assume this all occurs without any cold or heat stress on the cow. It is noteworthy to consider that thermal stress can elevate the requirement for maintenance substantially.

Figure 1. The energy requirements (Mcal/day) for an Angus beef cow throughout her annual production cycle.

Many beef cattle producers would agree that the Continue reading

Considerations When Making Beef Cow Culling Decisions

The sixth and final session of the 2021 Ohio Beef Cattle Management School was hosted via ZOOM by the Ohio State University Extension Beef Team on February 22nd. During that session the attention turned to cow longevity, and factors involved in making culling decisions. In the presentation embedded below we join OSU Extension Educator Dean Kreager as he explores the range of considerations involved including pregnancy status, body condition, soundness, feed resources and the seasonal market environment for culls.

Find recordings from all the 2021 Ohio Beef School sessions linked here.

Pregnancy Checking; the Economics and Alternative Methods for Beef Cows

If you’re breeding for January calves, the time when you might begin to confirm pregnancy in those cows is approaching. 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 was focused on managing reproductive efficiencies in the beef herd and 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.

Breeding for Cow Longevity and Utilizing Available Tools to Accomplish a Productive Beef Cow Herd

The fourth session of the 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 this portion of the evening’s program OSU Extension Beef Field Specialist Garth Ruff introduces John Grimes, OSU Extension Associate Professor Emeritus and owner of Maplecrest Farms in Hillsboro, Ohio, as he offers insight into genetic selection considerations that result in a genetically sound and productive beef cow herd.

Find recordings from all the 2021 Ohio Beef School sessions linked here.

Taking the Bull from the Sale Ring or Winter Storage, Making Him the Athlete He Needs to Be

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

Bulls need to be transitioned from their winter diet to grass carefully before turn out.

Recently we visited in this publication about the value in having a bull that’s passed a breeding soundness exam (BSE) and is ready to go to work when called upon. One thing we’ve perhaps yet to discuss is what needs to happen after the bull has passed his BSE, or is purchased, and until he goes to the breeding pasture. While a bull might have been a “potentially satisfactory breeder” on the day of his BSE, it is important that the time that passes from then until the day he must go to work are spent in a way that allows him to remain sound while also transitioning to the pasture he’ll be working.

For those of you who this season will be using young bulls, or even mature bulls that maybe have yet to be properly transitioned from winter ‘storage,’ OSU Extension Beef Specialist Dr. Stephen Boyles offers the following suggestions from his publication “Bull Nutrition and Management” regarding the pre-breeding season management of yearling bulls.

Post-purchase Management of Yearling Bulls: The yearling bull deserves some special Continue reading

Minerals for Beef Cattle

Proper mineral and vitamin nutrition contributes to strong immune systems, reproductive performance, and calf weight gain. However, when it comes to selecting mineral supplementation to use for your beef herd it can often be a confusing decision as not all mineral mixtures are the same.

To help better understand what minerals are needed for beef cattle, OSU Extension in Coshocton County offered a webinar titled “Minerals for Beef Cattle” on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. During the session, participants learned the ball-park levels for mineral supplements for beef cows on forage-based diets, and discussed macro minerals, trace minerals, and best practices for mineral supplementation. Sample mineral tags were reviewed, and participants learned what to look for and how to fine tune mineral supplementation based on their hay sample analysis.

The program featured Dr. Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist, and Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Field Specialist for Beef Cattle, and is embedded below.

Beef Sire Selection for the Dairy Herd

Creating half blood bull calves with sexed beef bull semen can increase profitability on the dairy farm.

By some estimates, fed cattle that include dairy genetics make up something in the neighborhood of 25% of the U. S. beef supply. With improvements in the utilization of male sexed beef bull semen, many dairymen are choosing to utilize beef genetics to add value to their calf crop.

On March 10th Al Gahler, Ag and Natural Resources Educator in Sandusky County, presented via zoom during the OSU Extension Beef Team’s 2021 winter beef school series on making beef cattle sire decisions for the dairy herd. Al covered EPD’s and traits to consider in order to maximize the value and marketability of crossbred beef on dairy calves.

The session begins as OSU Extension Beef Field Specialist Garth Ruff introduces Al Gahler to discuss effectively utilizing beef sires to add value to the dairy based calf crop.

Is your bull ready for work?

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Licking County

Should a person wait until the hay is mowed before looking at the rake and baler to fix any problems that carried over from last year? Would they head out on a cross country drive without at least checking the oil and tires? If most people answered no to these questions, then why do so many people just turn their bull in with the cows without first being sure that he is ready to do his job. A cow/calf producer’s income comes from having calves in a timely manner and half of that is up to the bull. A breeding soundness evaluation (BSE) is an often-overlooked way to avoid some potentially major problems in this year’s breeding season. Typical prices are in the $50-$100 range and some facilities will establish days in the spring when producers can bring their bulls to a central location for testing.

A BSE is a test performed by a trained veterinarian to estimate the readiness of the bull to settle cows. This evaluation concentrates on 3 aspects: 1) Physical soundness, 2) Reproductive soundness, 3) Semen quality.

Physical soundness includes evaluation of feet and legs, body condition, eyes and any other condition that could affect the bull’s ability to breed cows. Soundness of feet and legs are extremely important as the bulls increase steps taken while walking with the cow herd, but they must also be able to Continue reading