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Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council Spring Forage Bus Tour on May 2

April 17, 2014

For Better Pastures, Attend the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council Spring Forage Bus Tour on May 2

Dr. John Jennings, Professor – Forages

Trying to reduce hay feeding to reach a grazing season of 300 days or more doesn’t seem possible based on the extreme weather of recent years. Yet in spite of these extreme conditions two producers were able to reach grazing seasons of 300 days or more. How did they do this when grass refused to grow? By using some of the most tested and proven forage management practices available. These farms and the methods they use will be featured on the 2014 Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council’s Spring Forage Bus Tour on Friday, May 2. The tour registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Pocahontas Livestock Auction in Pocahontas, AR and the busses will depart at 9:30 for the first farm. Registration cost is $25 per person and $10 for students and includes lunch, tour handout materials, and comfortable bus transportation to all farms. If you are interested in better grazing and less hay feeding you will want to attend this tour.


To reach the Pocahontas Livestock Auction, take HWY 67 to Pocahontas, turn onto Townsend Street (at the intersection of Hwy 67 & 304, at the T-Ricks Citgo gas station) and go west about ¼ mile to the Livestock Auction Barn.

To reserve a seat or get more information on the AFGC Spring Forage Bus Tour contact the University of Arkansas Extension office in Lawrence County at (870) 886-3741 or Randolph County at (870) 892-4504 or call John Jennings, AFGC secretary at 501-671-2350.


2014 Little Red River Beef Cattle Conference Material Available

April 14, 2014

Check out our new conference page for publications & fact sheets, PDF copy of presentations, and videos from the 2014 Little Red River Beef Cattle Conference -


You can also go to Vimeo to check out our latest videos -


Identification is Key to Record Keeping

March 27, 2014

Shane Gadberry, Associate Professor – Animal Science


The truck in the driveway has a VIN, the vaccine in the refrigerator has a lot number, but does the cow and her calf in the field have a tag?  According to the most recent NAHMS survey, cow and herd identification is least common when herd size was less than 50 cows.  Based on their survey, 41% of small farms do not have individual cows identified or have a herd identification.  The report also indicated 61% of the operations with less than 50 cows did not identify calves.  Calf identification also occurred less frequently than cow identification on farms with more than 50 cows.  Whether it’s for marketing purposes, theft prevention, or tracking productivity, individual animal and herd identification is something all cattle producers should adopt, and identification systems work best when they include a combination of permanently affixed id’s such as brands or tattoos and temporarily affixed id’s such as plastic ear tags.

With cow and calf values exceeding $1,000, Arkansas ranchers have begun to express more interest in branding as a theft deterrent and is accomplished using hot irons or cold irons.  Branding is a highly visible traditional method of permanently identifying original ranch ownership as well as individual animal identification.  Branding has been used in Arkansas markets to identify cows that were destined for slaughter during brucellosis eradication and is used today for tracking live cattle originating from countries such as Mexico and Canada.  Arkansas, unlike some states, does not require branding and branding is not very common in the state.  Before designing a ranch brand and using this method of identification, contact the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission.  Ranch brands must be unique to each ranch and must be registered.

The plastic ear tag is the most common form of highly visible individual animal identification used on Arkansas ranches.  Tags are often a simple numerical sequence for identity and require a one-piece or two-piece tag applicator gun.  Blank tags and tag markers allow for customized tagging or tags can be special ordered to meet id needs.

Other common forms of identification include metal tags, electronic id tags (EID), and tattooing.  There is a certainty when it comes to plastic ear tags and that certainty is some cows will lose them.  Adopting a secondary form of identification such as metal tags or tattoos is a good practice.  One might be surprised at how easy it is to misidentify cows that have lost tags, even in herds with less than 50 cows.

Choosing a system of id to use seems to be a lot easier than choosing the actual identifier.  For tags, the sequential numbering system is common.  Some ranches tag females sequentially as they enter the mature herd.  Some adopt the practice of tagging calves with a number that matches their dam while others tag calves sequentially at birth or during processing and use records to relate calf id with dam and sire id.  When using this format, replacement heifers will be re-assigned a number when they enter the breeding herd to prevent number duplication.

Another format incorporates a leading year value for all ids followed by a number sequence that often represents birth order.  For example id 810 may be the id of a mature cow and this also indicates she was born in 2008 and was the 10th calf born that year.  Her calf may be tagged 425 which indicates the 25th calf born in 2014.  This is a very practical method of identifying individuals and does not require id re-assignment for replacement heifers.  However, there are two concerns with using a leading number to represent ‘year’.  First, there may be duplication if any females are kept in the herd for more than 10 years. By example, 210 may be the 2-year-old or the 12-year-old.  A person could probably distinguish the one from the other when looking at the females “in the field”, but couldn’t when looking at the females “on-paper”.  A second problem that arises when using a number to represent ‘year’ is software programs may drop leading zeros.  Spreadsheets are often used to keep records and by default, a cow entered as 0100 will be saved as 100 unless the entry is formatted as text.

An alternative approach to using a leading number to represent year is to use letter designations for year.  There is an international year/letter designation for animal id.  The year 2014 is designated B and C, D, and E represent 2015, 2016, and 2017.  This system excludes letters I, O, Q, and V to avoid error.  This system helps circumvent the previously mentioned issues.  Branding individual id becomes more of an issue when incorporating up to 22 letters.  Although the system appears near perfect, records beyond 21 years could create duplication that would affect cow performance indexes such as MPPA (most probable producing ability).

Regardless of the id system used, make use of the system.  A well planned out id system that individually identifies all inventory (cows, bulls, and calves) becomes the foundation for performance based replacement heifer selection and cow culling.

For more information on beef cattle identification, visit your local county Extension agent or download the Beef Cattle Identification factsheet from the newly designed Extension website

Animal Science: Today and Tomorrow

March 26, 2014

Dr. Tom Troxel                                                                                Dr. Michael L. Looper

Tractor Tragedies

A child dies from injuries on a farm an average of once every 3.5 days. The most common situation involves a tractor. With the coming of spring also comes the increase of spring activities on farms across the country including Arkansas. In many situations, grandparents own the farm and their children and grandchildren visit and enjoy the farm. Visiting Grandpa and Grandma’s farm is a wonderful experience for a grandchild but please consider these incidents.

• A 2 year old Texas boy died when he fell from a tractor driven by a relative.
• A 2 year old Missouri child died when he fell from a tractor and was run over.
• A 4 year old New York boy was injured in an incident involving 2 pieces of farm equipment.
• A 17 month old Colorado boy was run over and killed by a skid steer operated by his father.
• A 14 year old Georgia girl was scalped by a tractor’s PTO shaft.
• A 9 year old boy from Vermont was killed while riding in a trailer being pulled by his father’s tractor.
• A 1 year old North Dakota boy died after falling from a tractor driven by his father. His 4 year old brother survived.
• A 6 year old Minnesota boy died with his grandfather when the tractor they were riding rolled over.
• A 5 year old Kansas girl died when she fell through the windshield of a combine driven by her father.

Did you notice any trends in the stories above? When children are injured or killed by machinery, a parent or grandparent is frequently the operator. Do you have children or grandchildren? Can you imagine how you would feel in that situation? The biggest tragedy of all – these deaths were 100 percent preventable.

Allowing children to ride on a tractor is considered a tradition by many. But remember — “It’s easier to bury a tradition than a child.” (Source: Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention and Education)

Cattle Prices Higher

The Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri released its Baseline Briefing Book ( which looks long term into the future. Here are a few of highlights.

Cattle Supplies and Prices

• After reaching record annual highs in 2013, fed and feeder steer prices are expected to sharply increase again in 2014
• The record feeder steer prices will combine with a decrease in cow-calf production costs to yield average net returns of well over $200 per cow in both 2014 and 2015.
• 600 to 650 pound calf prices should peak in 2015 at approximately $185/cwt. and decline to $147/cwt. in 2020 to rebound to around $158/cwt. in 2023.
• Beef cow inventories declined during 2013 for the seventh consecutive year. Beef cow inventories will remain around the 30 to 31 million head mark from 2013 to 2023.
• This will result in a 2014 calf crop that is more than 10% below the average of the early 2000s.
• The US calf crop will increase to approximately 35.8 million head by 2018 but will decline towards 35.2 million head by 2023.
• Cow prices will peak out at $943 per head in 2015 but then start a low decline to 2020 ($737 per head).

Meat Supply

• Total meat production in 2013 was lower than the 2008 level.
• The total of U.S. beef, pork, chicken and turkey production will increase at a rate slower than the U.S. population growth for the fourth time in a row in 2014.
• As all livestock sectors adjust to the reduced input costs that have now been in effect for a few months, production growth will resume in 2015.
• Retail prices for most meat products will continue to climb in 2014, though at a slower rate than in recent years.
• Beef prices remain firm relative to other products. One pound of beef at the retail level will cost about the same as one pound of pork plus one pound of chicken in 2014.

Feed Expenses

• As input costs decline over the next couple of years, the prospects for improved profitability brighten for many operations.
• Higher feed prices have contributed most to higher livestock production costs, although higher energy prices and land values have also played a role.
• Feed expenses in 2013 were approximately $260 per head. Feed expenses are expected to decline thru 2023 and remain around $202 to $207 per head.
• The amount of corn planted is expected to decline from 95.4 million acres in 2013-2014 to 89.9 million acres in 2023-2024.
• The yield is expected to increase from 159 bushels/acre in 2013-2014 to 181 bushels/acre in 2023-2024.
• Corn prices will peak in 2013-2014 at $4.42/bushel and continue to decline thru 2023-2024 to $3.87/bushel.

For more information about cattle production, visit or or contact your county extension office.


Videos from the 2014 River Valley Beef Cattle Conference

March 17, 2014

Videos from the 2014 River Valley Beef Cattle Conference are now available online.  Check them out!


Arkansas Grazing Lands Conference 3-14-14

March 10, 2014

Do you run out of grass? Feed too much hay? Have pastures that turn brown at the first sign of drought? On Friday March 14, 2014, at the AR Grazing Lands Conference, several South Central and South East US graziers will discuss how changes in their grazing management improved soil health, increased forage production and increased profitability. The featured speaker will be Oklahoma rancher and consultant Walt Davis. The conference will be held at Lake Point Conference Center in Russellville, AR. Admission is $40 and includes a hearty lunch. For more information go to or call 501-682-2915. An untold number of years of grazing experience will be available in one location for a little more than the cost of a round bale of hay. Support funding for conference is provided by USDA-NRCS.AGLC Conference 3-14-14

River Valley Beef Cattle Conference – March 13, 2014

March 7, 2014

2014 River Valley Conference_Page_12014 River Valley Conference_Page_2


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