Goals for Your Cow Herd in 2020

By: Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Henry County

Each year I like to look evaluate any upcoming opportunities and set goals for the New Year in an effort to better myself both professionally and personally. I prefer to call them goals rather than New Years Resolutions because many people tend to let resolutions fall through the cracks. When developing goals, the key is to write them down! Call them whatever you want, in just a few minutes of looking back and reflecting on some observations made in the last year I was able to come up with a few goals focused on improving profitability and the quality of calves marketed in 2020.

Sharpen the Pencil. Do you have a projected budget for the year? How much does it really cost you to feed a cow for the year? Put together an enterprise budget to use as a decision making tool. There are many templates available online from various universities and institutions, chose one that’s geographically relevant and considers the variables that affect your operation (find the OSU Farm Budgets linked here). Be realistic in valuing feed, labor, and livestock values. Knowing cost of production and breakeven points are useful in making cattle marketing decisions as well. Continue reading

Have You Prepared Your Barn for Lambing?

Dr. Gary E. Ricketts, University of Illinois, Department of Animal Sciences Emeritus Professor
(Previously published with University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Livestock Trail, Sheep and Goats: January 29, 1999)

Although this piece was originally published over 20 years ago, it still holds a lot of valuable information. As we enter the new year, lambs will be soon arriving and with the business of life it’s easy to forget some of the basics. No worries though, this piece will be sure to assist!

Having the barn ready before the first lambs arrive is one way to get the lambing season off to a good start. Not all ewes have a 150-day gestation period. There is considerable variation in gestation length and it may range from 143 days on the short side to 157 days on the long side. Gestation length is affected by many things such as breed, age, season of the year, and number of lambs, just to mention a few. A good rule of thumb is to have the barn ready by at least 140 days after the ram was turned in or the first ewe was marked. Consider the following in getting your barn ready: Continue reading

Ohio Beef Expo set for March 19-22

Ohio Cattlemen’s Association

The Ohio Beef Expo to showcase Ohio’s beef industry is set for March 19-22 at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus. This annual event, coordinated by the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, includes a kickoff social; breed sales, shows and displays; beef quality assurance sessions; a multi-day trade show; and a highly competitive junior show.

The Ohio Beef Expo kicks off with the opening of the trade show at 3 p.m. March 19. This is the second year for the Expo to open on Thursday, allowing more time for attendees — especially those who exhibit cattle at the Expo — to visit with vendors in the Voinovich building. Continue reading

Barn Cameras: A Shepherd’s Saving Grace

By: Jacci Smith, OSU Extension Educator ANR/4-H, Delaware County

Just imagine: It’s the middle of February, minus 4 degrees outside, and 3:00 am. You roll out of bed, put on your coveralls and boots. Open the door to go check that ewe that wasn’t acting quite right at chore time. That bitter cold hits you in the face and boom you are wide-awake. Once you get to the barn, you look around and there is no lambing action. So you trek back to the house, take off your winter gear and try, and fail, to get back to sleep.

This is why the invention of barn cameras was so vital. Lambing season is a time of year that we all need to be on the top of our game. When you are run down without the proper sleep, this might not be the case. Barn cameras can be an amazing tool that shepherds can have if the right steps are taken. Continue reading

Winter Dairy Calf Management

By: Jason Hartschuh, Extension Educator, Crawford County, Ohio State University Extension

Winter roared in this year way before most of us were ready with corn still in the field, barn doors not dug out and winter calf supplies still in the back corner of the barn. Even though we know winter is coming, it never seems like we are ready when the first blast of winter comes.

Calves are most comfortable when the outside temperatures are between 50 to 68 degrees F, which is a calf’s thermoneutral zone. When temperatures are below the lower critical temperature of 50 degrees F, calves need extra energy to stay warm. At times during winter, this can be a challenge since 50 degrees F at night can have highs of 70 degrees F during the day. Usually calves deep bedded with straw manage this variation by nesting with their legs covered at least to the middle of the back leg when lying down. Continue reading

Be on the Lookout for Mycotoxins in Livestock Feed

By: Jennifer Shike, previously published by Farm Journal’s Pork online

Producers need to be diligent about monitoring for mycotoxins in livestock feed this winter on the heels of weather conditions that promoted their growth this fall.

Kansas State toxicologist Steve Ensley says Kansas’ summer drought conditions led to a heightened risk of aflatoxin in the state’s grain crop, while wet conditions during the 2018 harvest also made that grain susceptible to fumonisin.

“This year we have already had some death losses associated with mycotoxins in pigs and horses and so we’ve measured just a very few samples of corn and found very high concentrations of fumonisin and aflatoxin,” Ensley says. “I’m very concerned that it may be a bigger health issue statewide than the localized cases we’ve seen so far.” Continue reading

How Much Hay Will A Cow Consume?

By: Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist. (Previously published by Drovers online)

Estimating forage usage by cows is an important part of the task of calculating winter feed needs.  Hay or standing forage intake must be estimated in order to make the calculations.  Forage quality will be a determining factor in the amount of forage consumed.  Higher quality forages contain larger concentrations of important nutrients so animals consuming these forages should be more likely to meet their nutrient needs from the forages.  Also cows can consume a larger quantity of higher quality forages. Continue reading

Consider By-product Feeds in Rations This Winter

By: Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator, Jefferson & Harrison Counties (originally published in The Ohio Farmer)

By-products such as distillers grains, gluten or soyhulls can serve as lower cost feed alternatives.

The last two years made it challenging for many producers to find good quality, let alone a good quantity of, feed for livestock. Spoilage and high costs for subpar hay and grain can be discouraging. Health issues associated with poor quality feed may range from starvation-like symptoms due to lacking nutritional value of feed to death from contamination. Producers may want to consider supplementing other types of feeds into winter rations to make up for the loss in nutritional value of traditional feeds and to help off-set costs. Continue reading

Do Sheep Really Need Hay?

By: Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team, Dr. Ale Relling, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University, Clif Little, OSU Extension Educator, Guernsey County

This question has been commonplace this year, especially with the inability of many producers to make hay at a reasonable time. However, this isn’t to say that there isn’t hay to be purchased, because there is, but rather that hay of acceptable quality at a reasonable price is nearly non-existent.

With this in mind, we challenge you to think about how generations before us fed low quality hay. It was simple right? Feed more of the lower quality material and allow the animals to choose which parts of the bale are the best. Then once they have eaten what they want, pitch the rest of it on the ground for bedding. This may be true, but what happens when we aren’t feeding enough of the ‘good stuff’? Continue reading

Ohio Beef Winter Programs; Save the Dates!

By: Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Sandusky County. Originally published in Ohio Beef Letter

Dr. Francis Fluharty returns to Ohio in January to teach during the first sessions of the Ohio Beef Cattle Nutrition and Management School.

Mark your calendars now for the Ohio Beef Cattle Nutrition and Management School, to be held in 2 locations, with 2 sessions at each locale.  Session 1 will focus on utilizing small grains in the diets of all ages and production groups of beef cattle, utilizing alternative forages, and managing your herd or feedlot with lower quality feedstuffs.  This discussion will be led by our former OSU research nutritionist and current University of Georgia Department of Animal Sciences Chair, Dr. Francis Fluharty.  Session 1 will take place from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Sandusky County (location to be determined) on January 29th, and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the OSU Newark Campus in Licking County on January 30th. Continue reading