By Bryan R. Kutz, Instructor/Youth Specialist, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
Breeding season for fall calving cows is fast approaching, and it is never too late to organize your breeding plan or make your next herd bull purchase. Underestimating the power of your bull can be a huge production error. Choosing your mating scheme and purchasing your next herd sire could be considered the most important decisions you make in your operation. Keep in mind that your bull will account for approximately 90% of the gene pool, contributing more to the genetic makeup of a herd in one breeding season than a cow contributes in her lifetime.
This investment should add efficiency and profitability to your herd for years to come. The cost of purchasing a bull may seem high at a glance; however, that expense becomes relatively small when it is spread over 3 to 5 years of calf crops. Remember that the expense of the new bull can be calculated as the difference between the purchase price of the new bull and the salvage value of the old bull. And, if you add pounds to your future calf crops through your new purchase, then you will have profitable returns on your investment.
Evaluate your current cow base and calf crop and make a decision based on your results. Your bull should complement your cows in hopes of increasing hybrid vigor and improving traits that will maximize your production goals, match target markets and improve bottom line profitability. Ask questions that pertain to your particular production situation and utilize breed associations NCE programs. Breeders should have performance EPD’s available for you. Birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight and milk values are commonly available; however, most breed association now have a plethora of EPD’s that include carcass traits as well. Advances in National Cattle Evaluation have made estimating a bull’s genetic worth more accurate than ever before. EPD’s allow valid comparisons of all bulls of the same breed and now have made available across-breed charts so comparisons can be made between two different breeds
The bull you purchase should be functionally sound resulting in herd sire longevity and ability to fulfill his breeding requirements. At most sales a Breeding Soundness Exam has been performed, but if you are buying from an individual, always request a BSE. Remember that a bull is only as good as his semen. A cow is responsible for half the genetic material in only one calf each year, while the bull is responsible for half the genetic material in 20-50 calves. The bull’s ability to locate cows in estrus and breed them is clearly vital to a successful breeding program. Other factors to consider are disposition, libido, body shape, frame size, condition and muscling.
Age, condition and length of breeding season are factors that may affect the number of cows one bull can cover. You cannot expect excessively fat or thin bulls to perform up to standard. Poor nutrition can influence semen quality and fat bulls may lack staying power or stamina. Nonetheless, a yearling bull in good breeding condition should be expected to breed 20 to 25 cows, while a mature bull could potentially breed up to 40 or more cows.
While one approach may be to apply more pressure on one or two traits, it is always best to strike a balance among various traits and avoid extremes. Purchase a bull based on the purpose of your breeding plan. This process must include those traits that are economically important and highly heritable. Your records are necessary if you are to choose a bull that will improve your cow base. Keep in mind that not every bull will fit your production scenario, but the decision you make with you purchase will influence your beef production for the next several years.
Get Ready To Plant Winter Annual Pastures
John Jennings, Professor
Winter annual pastures make great additions to a forage program. They can supplement low quality hay, fill in grazing gaps and greatly reduce purchased feed cost. The summer rain this year has produced abundant pasture and hay, but overall quality is low due to harvest delays caused by the same rains. Last fall many producers chose to rely on the good hay crop despite it’s poor quality instead of managing for fall grazing. Cattle didn’t fare well with low quality hay and a long, cold winter.
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Kelly M. Loftin, Associate Professor and Ricky F. Corder, Program Associate
Many producers are still having issues with fall army worms and horn flies, but now is the appropriate time to consider controlling another important pest, the cattle grub. Cattle grubs are the immature stages of warble or heel flies. Although two species of cattle grubs occur in the United States, the common cattle grub, Hypoderma lineatum, is the most common. Adult heel flies are nuisances, occasionally causing cattle to run wildly with their tails in the air (gadding) or to stand for long periods of time in deep shade or water. These defensive activities result in reduced milk production and/or reduced weight gains. However, the greatest impact is from the grubs (larvae) that are internal parasites of cattle.
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Water for Dairy Cattle
Shane Gadberry, Associate Professor
Water intake for a dairy cow can be estimated from food consumption, feed dry matter percentage, milk production, sodium intake, protein intake and air temperature. These relationships make a lot of sense. For example, milk is one mechanism whereby cattle lose water, and daily water losses through milk are estimated to account for 26 to 34 percent of total losses. Water accounts for 56 to 81 percent of total body weight of a cow, and as her system manages acid-base balance through absorption and excretion of electrolytes, water plays an important role in providing an aqueous media for nutrient transport and elimination. During the hot days of summer, water is also important for body temperature regulation.
Common cattle grub adult.
Photograph by Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida.
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Managing Phosphorus in Pasture-Based Dairies
Dirk Philipp, Assistant Professor
Phosphorus is a macronutrient and essential for plant growth. Although not required in the same quantities as nitrogen, phosphorus is important for a variety of plant-metabolic functions. Soil-native phosphorus levels are relatively low and often cannot provide the amounts needed for the highly productive forages we use today in field cropping applications and pasturing. Forages, either grasslike or broadleaf plants, have different nutrient requirements that make site- and plant-specific fertilizer application a necessity. For more information Click Here
Response of Beef Cows Offered a Chlortetracycline-Fortified Mineral and Either Strip or Continuous Stocked to Stockpiled Fescue
(M.S. Gadberry et al., University of Arkansas)
Food and Drug Administration proposed changes to the United States feed law address judicious use of medically important anti -microbials. Cattle producers grazing Kentucky 31 tall fescue routinely feed mineral fortified with chlortetracycline.
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Effects of Injectable Trace Minerals at the Start of the Breeding Season on Attainment of Pregnancy in Commercial Beef Cows
(J. D. Arthington et al., University of Florida)
Our objective was to evaluate the effects of a single application of inject-able trace minerals (ITM; MultiMin 90, Multi-Min USA, Inc., Fort Collins, CO) on pregnancy attainment of lactating beef cows. Mature Brahman × British crossbred beef cows (n = 3,750) were enrolled from 14 separate commercial cow/calf operations in central and southern Florida.
The Effect of Good or Poor Residual Feed Intake Sires on Feedlot Heifer Performance and Carcass Characteristics
(K. M. Retallick et al., CalPoly, University of Arizona and University of Illinois)
Performance and intake data were collected for 90 days on Angus yearling bulls (n = 8) to calculate residual feed intake on these potential sires. These bulls were then used as herd sires during the fall breeding season. The Angus × Simmental heifer (n = 84) progeny of these sires were randomly allotted to pens, managed similarly and fed a common diet
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Cost Analysis of Feeding Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) or Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) Plus Rye (Secale cereale) Baleage Based on Nutrient Composition and Forage Refusal of Weaned Crossbred Beef Calves
(R. M. Martin et al., Louisiana State University)
In the Gulf Coast region, supplementation can be costly for weaned beef calves during the fallbackgrounding period due to limited forage production and quality. A study was conducted evaluating performance of weaned Angus crossbred calves fed bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) orryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and rye (Secale cereal) baleage in hay rings during a 60-day fall backgrounding period.
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300-Day Grazing Discovery Farm
(T. R. Troxel et al., University of Arkansas)
The objectives of the 300-day grazing discovery farm were to reduce hay feeding to 60 days or less, 90% net calf crop, average weaning weight of 550 lb and implement management practices common and available to cattle producers. The demonstration pastures consisted of 40 acres of common bermudagrass, two 22.5-acre pastures of toxic endophyteinfected Kentucky-31 tall fescue, 22.5 acres of Ark-Plus novel-endophyte tall fescue and 22.5 acres of Ark-Plus fescue/common crabgrass mix.
Hedonic Pricing Models for Angus Bulls Sold at Auction Following Performance Testing at Oklahoma Panhandle State University
(D. L. Stephens et al., Oklahoma Panhandle State University)
Selection of a herd sire has always been of paramount importance, given the initial financial investment and the sire’s contribution and effect on the genetic makeup of a beef herd. Data was collected from the nation’s longest consecutively run bull test conducted at the University Farm of Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
Survey of Management Practices Used in the Implementation of Artificial Insemination and Estrous Synchronization Programs in the United States
(S. K. Johnson and G. Dahlke, Kansas State and Iowa State University)
Artificial insemination and estrous synchronization remain underutilized tools by U.S. beef producers. Little information is available on actual management practices used by producers who use these technologies and the value they have within their operation. An online survey tool was developed concerning a variety of production practices, synchronization methods and available tools used with artificial insemination and estrous synchronization.
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Reducing Winter Feeding Needs in Southern Arkansas Through the Use of Best Management Grazing Principles
(B. Stewart et al., University of Arkansas)
Research is being conducted at the University of Arkansas Southwest Research and Extension Center in Hope, Arkansas, to determine the impact of best management principles on production and winter feed requirements of spring calving cows (n = 72, body weight = 1,206 lb) grazing warm-season based pastures (n = 9, 10.6-acre pastures).
Bale Diameter and Feeder Design Effects on Hay Waste
(D. Tomczak et al., University of Missouri)
Forty-eight mid-gestation spring-calving cows were stratified by body weight (1,286 lb), body condition score (5.4) and age (5.6 years) into six pens to evaluate influence of bale diameter and feeder design on hay waste. Tall fescue round hay bales (85.5% DM, 8.22% CP, 66% NDF, 60 inches height) were classified as small (51 inches), medium (93 inches) or large (74 inches) diameter and placed in hay feeders equipped with a cradle chain or without in a 3 × 2 factorial design randomly assigned to a 6 × 6 Latin square.
Tips for Spring Calving Herds:
- Cow herd performance is an opportunity to use production data to aid in replacement heifer selection or cull cows due to poor performance. A herd performance test involves weighing cows and calves, frame and muscle scoring calves and body condition cows.
- Walk through your cattle working facilities and take note of repairs and maintenance before fall weaning. Test all weak spots. These are supposed to be “working” facilities not “work-out” facilities. Facilities should be maintained for your safety and well as safety for your cattle.
- Start making plans for weaning calves. Retained ownership can often increase gross income, but to be profitable, cost of feed cannot be too excessive. Hay and supplement based programs are more costly than pasture and supplement programs, so good fall pasture management is important.
- Consider fence line weaning suckling calves. This reduces stress on the cows and calves. In addition calves continue to gain weight and respiratory disease is greatly reduced compared to conventional weaning. Training cattle to respect electric fencing prior to weaning can facilitate the weaning process. Fenceline weaning also allows high-quality pastures to be used as weaning facilities in place of dusty drylots.
- Implement a precondition program. Precondition programs include weaning calves at least 45 days to sale or according to the requirements of the specific preconditioning program, castrating bull calves, dehorning if necessary and a vaccination program. Preconditioned calves will sell for higher selling price. Remember to follow BQA guidelines when giving vaccinations.
- Pregnancy tests all cows. Cull all open cows and cull all cows with physical problems such as bad eyes, poor udders, lameness, missing teeth, etc.
- Select replacements heifers based on pre-weaning performance and phenotypic expression. Also select heifers that were born early in the calving season.
- Vaccinate heifers for brucellosis.
- Forage test and plan for winter feeding program.
Tips for Fall Calving Herds:
- Cows should be calving. Check cows often throughout the calving season. Check first calf heifers more often.
- Vaccinate replacement heifers 30 to 60 days before the breeding season.
- Evaluate and select sires for breeding season.
- Take care of newborn calves; dip navel, ear tag, castrate bull calves, etc.
- Forage test and plan for winter feeding program.
- Be on the alert for prussic acid poisoning.
Forage/Grazing Management Tips:
Planting of winter annual grass forages
- Plant small grains such as rye, wheat, or oats. Provide forage for grazing between November and March.
Establishment of winter annual legume forages
- Legumes such as crimson clover, arrowleaf clover, and hairy vetch potentially provide multiple benefits, including grazing and improving soil fertility.
- Planting in middle to late September, in southern Arkansas until middle of October.
- Legumes can be no-till drilled into warm-season grass stubble (bermudagrass).
- No-till drills need to be kept clean and in good working order to plant at consistent depth and seeding rates.
Plant forage brassicas: turnip, turnip hybrids, or rape:
- Plant between August 25 – mid September.
- Seeding rate: 2-3 lbs/ac if planting with ryegrass or small grains; 5 lbs/ac for pure stands.
- Grazing turn-in 14-16″; if regrowth is desired rotate livestock out at 6-8″.
- Stockpile fescue for winter grazing.
- Clip or graze fescue pastures to 4″ stubble by September 1 and fertilize with 50-60 lbs/acre of nitrogen.
- Defer grazing until December 1.
- Strip-grazing will yield twice as many grazing days as will giving access to the whole pasture.
Bermudagrass Winter Pasture
- Prepare bermudagrass pastures for interseeding ryegrass or small grains to use as winter pasture.
- Graze bermuda to a 2-3″ height in September.
- Plant winter annuals with no-till drill or broadcast/drag in early October.
- Plant small grain at 100 lbs/acre. Plant ryegrass at 20 lbs/acre.
Dr. Tom Troxel Dr. Michael L. Looper
So you can graze 300 days in Arkansas!
The 300 day grazing demonstration was a statewide educational effort demonstrating how to plan and manage forage production in seasonal blocks of summer, fall, winter, and spring to match the nutrient demands for livestock. The statewide education was complemented with a 300 day grazing discovery farm established at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station near Batesville, AR. The goals of the discovery farm were to 1) demonstrate rotational and strip-grazing management to improve the utilization of complimentary cool- and warm-season forages, 2) demonstrate targeted fertilizer use and reduction of fertilizer through legume establishment, 3) reduce hay feeding to 60 d or less, 4) manage for a 90% net calf crop 5) manage for an average weaning weight of 550 lbs. and 6) to implement management practices that are common and available to all cattle producers. The objective of this case study was to describe the adopted management practices and report production outcomes measured at the 300 day grazing discovery farm from 2008 through 2014.
Here are some results from the 6 year project:
-The time frame of the demonstration was July 1 to June 30 for the following years:
Year 1 = 2008 to 2009
Year 2 = 2009 to 2010
Year 3 = 2010 to 2011
Year 4 = 2011 to 2012
Year 5 = 2012 to 2013
Year 6 = 2013 to 2014
-Forage base was 45 acres of toxic endophyte-infected Kentucky-31 tall fescue, 22 acres of Ark-Plus tall fescue, 22 acres of Ark-Plus fescue/annual grass mix and 40 acres bermudagrass.
-Year 1 the cow herd was 38 predominately Balancer females bred to Balancer bulls with a fall calving season. Thirty-eight cows were chosen because that is the average herd size in Arkansas.
-The breeding season for all 6 years was approximately November 28 to January 28. After year 1, 2 horned Hereford bulls were fertility tested before each breeding season and in years 4, 5 and 6, also were tested for trichomoniasis. The calving season averaged 60 days.
-Calf crop percentages for the cows ranged from 84% (year 1) to 100% (year 3) with an overall average of 91%. Only one year (year 3) was a 100% calf crop achieved because a cow had twins that compensated for a cow that lost a calf.
-The cow percent diagnosed pregnant ranged from 79% (year 1) to 100% (year 2). The improvement beyond year 1 may be attributed to initially culling cows with poor reproductive performance and improving body condition score over the course of the demonstration. The average percent diagnosed pregnant across all 6 yr was 94%.
-One goal of the program was a 90% net calf crop. The cow net calf crop percentages for yr 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 was 66%, 95%, 97%, 89% and 79%, respectively. Net calf crop was determined by multiplying the calf crop and percent diagnosed pregnant times 100. If year 1 was considered the benchmark year, a 90% net calf crop was obtained in yr 2 (95%) and 3 (97%) and almost obtained in yr 4 (89%). The average cow net calf crop for yr 2, 3, 4 and 5 was 90% which was 24 percentage points better than year 1. The cows for year 6 are now calving, therefore, are not included in this dataset.
-The overall adj. 205-day weight increased from year 1 (419 lbs.) to years 3, 4, and 5 (496, 490, and 514, respectively). The greatest steer adj. 205-day weight was in year 5 (549 lbs.). The heifer adj. 205-day weight increased from year 1 (406 lbs.) and was not different in yr 3, 4, and 5. The improvement in adj. 205-day weight was due to heterosis and improved grazing management.
-The weaning weight of year 1 was 470 lbs. The average weaning weight goal was achieved for yr 2, 3 and 5 and was 562, 602 and 571 lbs., respectively.
-For all 6 years, it was decided to retain the calves for a short grazing period. The grazing period ranged from 42 (year 3) to 71 (year 2) days with an average of 60 days. The factors determining the length of the post-weaning grazing were weather, pasture condition, and market trends. The calves and cows were grazed in a leader-follower grazing program with the calves grazing the higher quality bermudagrass and the cows followed to uniformly graze the bermudagrass. All 6 years the post-weaning grazing resulted in a positive return. The greatest and least return came in year 6 ($378 per head) and 4 ($30 per head), respectively, with an average return per calf of $118.
Weaned 300 day grazing calves in July 2014
-By using a seasonal forage plan, grazing seasons exceeding 300 days were achieved for 5 of the 6 years. Grazing seasons for year 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were 337, 311, 326, 323, 279 and 308 days, respectively. As a result, the number of days hay was fed for year 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were 28, 54, 39, 42, 86 and 57 days, respectively.
Cow-calf producers will continue to face increasing production costs for feed, fuel and fertilizer. As a result, the input cost of harvested forage (hay) will continue to climb and erode producer’s profits. The 300 day grazing demonstrated the value in using science based management practices to utilize existing forages, strategic fertilization (based on soil testing) and proper grazing principles (rotational grazing and/or strip grazing) to extend the grazing season. In addition, science based cattle management practices were implemented to improved cow reproduction, calf performance and economic return. By using these sound management practices both pasture and cattle production goals were achieved with a systems approach while strengthening farm sustainability.
By Jeremy Powell, Professor & Veterinarian, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
When you gather your calves to sell this fall, make an effort to give your calves a healthy start by adding a preconditioning program. Preconditioning programs are designed to minimize the likelihood of disease throughout the rest of a calf’s life. By keeping illness to a minimum, we can improve gain performance, carcass value and most importantly, the lifelong health and wellbeing of the animal.
A calf’s health can be directly affected by stress factors such as a naïve immune system, poor nutrition and parasite burdens. A University of Arkansas summary of data collected during 11 years of the Arkansas Steer Feedout Program (Table 1) clearly demonstrates that sickness from bovine respiratory disease (BRD) can directly affect calf performance and profitability in the feedlot. The data summary identified that cattle that were treated for BRD demonstrated a reduction in daily weight gain of 0.13 lb/day. Sick cattle also had an increased days on feed in the feedlot, and they also exhibited poorer USDA quality grades at slaughter. Disease treatment medication costs averaged $18.49 for the calves that were sick.
Recent University of Arkansas research quantified the benefit in the selling price for calves marketed as preconditioned through Arkansas salebarns. Their report referenced data that was accumulated from 38,346 calves sold through Arkansas livestock auction barns. Calves marketed as preconditioned brought on average $6.84/cwt. more than calves that were not preconditioned. These preconditioned calves are more desirable to calf buyers due to their potential for improved health and increased gain performance.
Calves not preconditioned may leave the farm of origin healthy; however, this may easily become compromised by stress caused by weaning, inclement weather, commingling, transportation, poor nutrition and parasites. Preconditioning the calves would incorporate vaccination, deworming, castration, balanced nutrition, and weaning calves on the ranch for 45 days. Improved health and performance can be expected when calves leave the farm as preconditioned. This is not only an opportunity for producers to maximize the price they receive for their calves, but also in the best interest of the future welfare of the cattle.
Weaning can clearly be a stressful period for calves that can subsequently affect post-weaning weight gain. Fenceline weaning has been utilized to help reduce weaning stress. Fenceline weaning allows calves to remain in sight of and in close proximity to their mothers. This technique can also allow high-quality pastures to be used as the weaning facilities in place of dusty drylots. A recent study conducted at the University of Arkansas Livestock and Forestry Research Station near Batesville compared calves that were weaned either by abrupt separation or by fenceline weaning. The average daily gain during weaning period was greater for fenceline weaned calves compared with traditionally weaned calves. The fenceline weaned calves gaining 2.55 lb/day and traditionally weaned calves gaining 1.6 lb/day.
Development of disease immunity before calves leave the farm begins with preparing the calf through a preconditioning program. Vaccination, parasite control, early castration and proper nutrition can lower risk of future disease. Cattlemen should be doing what we can to properly prepare calves for a healthy start. By doing so, we can improve animal wellbeing, reduce antibiotic use and improve consumer confidence in our product. For more information about beef cattle management, visit your county Extension office.
Nitrogen is the most limiting plant nutrient in agriculture due to the rapid turnover of nitrogenous compounds by soil microbial communities and limited storage availability within the soil matrix. With other macro-nutrients in check, the amount of nitrogen in the soil solution will determine seasonal forage dry matter production and thus beef production. Similar to field crop systems, producers and scientists alike have trouble to make forage crops take up even half of the applied N and convert it to plant protein. Nitrogen fertilizer is also very expensive to produce and it is unlikely that prices will come down anytime in the future. With these constraints in mind, what are feasible ways of improving the N-use efficiency in beef production systems?
There’s no simple answer, but a good start might be to reevaluate the entire production systems to achieve a certain goal. Slight changes of a single component will affect outcome and performance of the entire system. From a soil perspective, pH and fertility need to be optimized with regard to the desired forages grown. Improved forage varieties only function well in a narrow range of soil fertility. The time of fertilizer application also influences N utilization by plants. Annual and perennial forages have distinct seasonal growing curves, so N rates need to be adjusted for that.
All forages will readily respond to high N rates, but some forage crops are more frugal than others. Perennial forages are adapted to persist for several years with ever changing temperatures, solar radiation, and soil water status, and might be less sensitive to occasionally skipped N applications. Annual forages however, especially summer annuals such as pearl millet and sorghum varieties, are clearly more sensitive to low soil N and will not deliver their full yield potential if producers try to skimp with N fertilizer. In these cases, the overall inputs required for establishing summer annuals, including tillage, managing and harvesting them must not be limited by shortcomings in the fertilizer budget. Again, it is important to keep all other macro- (and micro-) nutrients in check to ensure optimum N uptake and utilization by plants.
With regard to forage legumes, they may or may not be the answer to increase N use efficiency in a beef production system or supply “cost-free” nitrogen. In general, N uptake by plants from decaying legume biomass or cattle feces is governed by the same biochemical principles and processes as the use of synthetic fertilizer. N compounds have to find their way into the soil nutrient solution before they can be taken up by other non-leguminous plants. Because of that, beef production systems containing forage legumes may not be any better in terms of N use efficiency than conventional systems, because the timing of N mineralization of legume biomass is difficult to manage. More importantly, the quantity of N accumulated in legume forage mass does not relate directly to the same hypothetical amount of synthetic N fertilizer applied and therefore cost-savings calculations are futile at best.
Grazing management is an area that can be constantly improved and adjusted, even in the presence of underlying natural laws of soil, plant, and animal biochemistry and behavior. Optimizing forage utilization in a grazing system with relatively high inputs in form of N fertilizer can be regulated with appropriate stocking methods. While rotational stocking allows for higher forage utilization than continuous stocking, it is not the only grazing method by any means with which the overall grazing system could be improved. Strip grazing is an excellent example that allows for high degrees of forage utilization such as required under the situation of stockpiled forage. Because most of the plant nitrogen taken up by cattle is excreted, stocking methods influence the distribution of feces and urine patches as well. Continuous stocking is the least advantageous here as animal will have more opportunities to congregate around water access points, shade areas, and feeding banks placed in a single pasture.
Dr. Dirk Philipp
Department of Animal Science, University of Arkansas—Fayetteville