If you missed the 2013 Arkansas Forage & Grassland Council Fall Forage Conference or want to review the presentations here’s your chance. Click on the Vimeo link listed below. Great conference everyone!
John Jennings – Extension Forage Specialist
Scattered frost across the state can turn a good forage deadly. Late summer rains brought on a flush of johnsongrass in many pastures and it became dominant in some fields. When johnsongrass becomes stressed from drought or frost, it can produce prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid) which is very toxic to livestock. Immature plants and regrowth following haying or grazing contain the highest levels. Light frosts that occur in fall can wilt tops of the plants causing them to become toxic. Prussic acid toxicity can kill cattle quickly, often before a producer has a chance to observe that the animal is under stress. Sorhgum/sudan, greengraze, grain sorghum, and forage sorghum can also develop prussic acid after frost. Frost-damaged johnsongrass should not be grazed for at least seven days after the first killing frost. It is best to delay grazing until the frosted plants become completely dried out and paper brown colored. Do not graze it at night when frost is likely. To reduce risk even farther, don’t turn hungry cattle directly out on johnsongrass pasture. Make sure they have grazed other forages first or fill them up on hay.
Silage may contain toxic quantities of prussic acid, but it usually escapes in gaseous form while being moved and fed. If frosted forage is ensiled, allow fermentation to take place for at least six to eight weeks before feeding. Prussic acid dissipates as the plants dry out. Properly dried johnsongrass hay does not conatin prussic acid and is safe to feed.
For more information ask for FSA 3069 Prussic Acid at your county extension office.
Dr. Tom Troxel, Professor and Associate Department Head
In many parts of Arkansas, producers experienced plenty of spring and early summer rainfall. Unlike last year, hay is abundant and in many cases producers have more hay than they have cattle. With fall rains the outlook for winter pastures is optimistic and cattle are in much better body condition as compared to 2012.
The 300 Day Grazing demonstration conducted at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station near Batesville finished its fifth year. The average cow cost for the five year period was $503. Expense items included salt and mineral, veterinarian medicine, growth implants, fly control, sale commission, hauling, pregnancy testing, bull cost, fertility testing bulls, replacement cows, fertilizer, lime, purchased hay, herbicide, and miscellaneous. Overhead items and fuel, oil, labor, and other typical items were not included in the 300 Day Grazing budget. If these items were included, annual cow cost could easily be over $600.
With high cow cost, it often takes the net returns of 2 to 3 calves to pay for the cost of keeping one open cow. One can easily see keeping an open cow is a luxury most cannot afford. Often times the excuse to keeping a cow that lost a calf was; “it wasn’t her fault.” Is it worth the net returns of 2 to 3 calves to pay for a cow that lost a calf because “it wasn’t her fault?” Is that a sound management decision?
Pregnancy testing and culling open cows is a sound management decision. The first year of the 300 Day Grazing demonstration the 60 day breeding season pregnancy rate was 79%. Due to culling all open cows or cows that did not produce a live calf, the pregnancy rate improved to 97% by year 3 (29/30) and 4 (37/38). In year 5, the worst drought in modern time (2012), the pregnancy rate was 93% (37/40).
According to the 2008 USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System survey, only 18% of U.S. Cow-calf operations utilize pregnancy testing, yet 82% control internal parasites. Certainly internal parasites reduce the productivity of a cow herd, but so does feeding open cows. So why don’t more cattlemen have their cows tested for pregnancy?
What is the cost savings for pregnancy testing?
For example, if you have 40 cows and pregnancy testing is $3/cow; total cost for pregnancy testing is $120. Even for an exceptional herd, there are 3 non-pregnant cows. At $250/cow saved in wintering costs ($750 total), after subtracting $120 in pregnancy diagnoses, the savings is $630.
Once open cows are identified, an appropriate marketing strategy needs to be developed. Culled breeding animals typically represent about 20% of the gross receipts for cow-calf operations. Therefore, careful consideration should be taken to explore all management and marketing options available.
Rectal palpation is one way to determine pregnancy. Currently, rectal palpation is the easiest, fastest, cheapest method, generally accurate method to determine pregnancy. With an experienced person, palpation can be 99% accurate at determining the pregnancy status 45 days post breeding.
Blood-based pregnancy testing
New technology has been developed to rapidly test cattle for pregnancy with a simple blood test. Now ranchers can simply draw 2 cc’s of blood and ship it to a lab for analysis. The tests are 97-99% accurate, if they are taken at the right time. The test must be taken at least 30 days after breeding or 30 or more days after the bulls come out of the breeding herd. Cows that have calved and are lactating will also have the pregnancy proteins in their blood for up to 90 days after calving and will provide a false reading. Therefore, the test must be given 90 days after calving and 30 days post-breeding.
The cost of the actual lab test varies from $ 2.50 to $ 3.50 per head based on the lab. The Livestock and Poultry Commission laboratory can analysis blood for bovine pregnancy. In addition, there is the cost of the blood tubes, needles, and the cost of shipping. Some labs provide complete testing kits that have all of the supplies needed; others only provide the testing and require purchasing of supplies from a veterinary supply company.
In the 300 Day Grazing herd blood samples are collected and submitted to the Livestock and Poultry Commission laboratory for pregnancy analysis.
Pregnancy testing is one of the most cost effective management practices a cow-calf producer can use. Testing for pregnancy is a lot easier if the cows have a defined breeding and calving season hopefully of 90 days of less. Even with a longer breeding and calving season, pregnancy testing can be implemented if accurate breeding records are kept. Not only does pregnancy testing save money but it is an investment into the future by culling poor reproductive cows. Retain heifers from those cows that calve every year and not those that calve 3 times out of 5 years.
Dr. Tom Troxel Dr. Michael L. Looper
Stakeholders provide Department of Animal Science feedback
Over the summer, the Department of Animal Science at the University of Arkansas administered a survey in order to judge the perceived value of teaching, research and extension services to the Department’s stakeholders. The survey was emailed to 3,781 stakeholders using SurveyMonkey®. Based on their relationship to the Department, they were asked to choose and rate services offered within the three categories of teaching, research and extension. Questions consisted of a rating scale from 1 (not valuable at all) to 4 (Extremely valuable) and included a ‘not applicable’ option.
The overall response rate was 8.5% or 323 respondents. Participants categorized themselves as livestock producers (47.3%), current or former students in the department (35.4%), hay or forage producers (27.6%), extension personnel (16.3%), allied industry personnel (6.9%) and other government agency personnel (5.0%).
Results identified programs/services that have value as well as programs/services that have minimal exposure to stakeholders. These data will be used as background information for a departmental review and will be presented at the American Society of Animal Science Southern Section Conference in February, 2014. The summarized results are included below.
Roughly half of the respondents said they were current or former students at the U of A (not necessarily Animal Science majors) and of those, roughly 81% indicated they were alumni. The majority of current/former students (66.7%) said their major was through the Department of Animal Science. The vast majority of respondents rated the following teaching experiences, resources and activities either extremely valuable or valuable; access to and availability of professors, atmosphere of Department, hands-on experiences, scholarships, coursework, classroom instruction, advising, classrooms and facilities, student clubs and internships.
Stakeholders responding to the survey had minimal knowledge about international experiences, social media (Facebook, Twitter), and undergraduate research.
Research programs or resources rated either extremely valuable or valuable by stakeholders were beef cattle health, beef cattle nutrition, parasitology, forages, and beef cattle reproduction. Similarly, extension personnel surveyed rated beef cattle nutrition, health, reproduction, forages, parasitology and forage research programs/resources as extremely valuable and valuable.
Meats and swine management/nutrition were rated valuable and extremely valuable by the majority of stakeholders. Stakeholders responding to the survey reported minimal knowledge about swine management/nutrition, beef cattle genetics/genomics and meats research programs offered by the Department.
Results identified research programs and resources that have value, as well as programs that have minimal exposure to stakeholders.
The programs or services rated either extremely valuable or valuable by stakeholders were factsheets, forage management programs, livestock market news, beef/forage demonstrations, electronic newsletters, beef cattle management programs, county programs and field days, 4-H livestock programs and experiment station field days. The programs or services rated either extremely valuable or valuable by extension personnel were livestock market news, regional beef cattle conferences, sheep and goat programs, grassland evaluation program, electronic newsletters, the 300 day grazing program, and videos/podcasts.
Extension personnel also were asked to rate additional activities and services that involved faculty in the animal science department. The extension personnel rated availability of Department of Animal Science extension faculty for county programs, Animal Science in-service trainings, ease of access to and response from Department of Animal Science extension faculty, county agent/Animal Science advisory committee, and Animal Science webinar meetings either extremely valuable or valuable.
Staggering Efficiency Gains for both Beef and Pork
The U.S. beef industry experienced incredible production efficiency gains over time. One of the simplest ways to put into context these efficiency gains is to look at the amount of beef produced per cow. In 2012, the U. S. produced 617 pounds of beef per cow, which is a 50% increase since 1975 when production was 410 pounds of beef per cow. One of the biggest drivers of the increased production is simply due to larger weights – not only are cattle bigger today but they are also produced a higher percentage of salable product (higher dressing percentage).
The amount of pork produced per sow increased an amazing 154% since 1975 – from 1,493 lbs. per sow per year to 3,799 lbs. per sow per year in 2012. Obviously one of the biggest differences between cattle and hog production is that not only have hog carcass weights increased but the number of pigs per litter has also increased significantly over time. Pigs per litter averaged about 7 animals in 1975 and today sows average about 10 pigs per litter, a 42% increase. At the same time, hog carcass weights have increased 25% since 1975 to 2012, from 165 lbs. to 205 lbs.
The bottom line is that whether you look at beef or pork production efficiency gains over a long period of time, the net result is that consumer are able to enjoy both sources of protein at much lower prices than they would otherwise be without the production efficiency gains (Source: CattleFax).
Land Values Higher
According to a recent report from USDA, January 1, 2013 AG land values surged higher on record corn prices. Average cropland values topped $4,000/acre, up 13% over the prior year. Pasture values also increased, up to $1,200/acre, a 4.3% annual increase. Average farm real estate values reached $2,900/acres, up 9.4%. The largest land price hikes occurred in the oil/gas regions of the Northern Plains and Southern Plains, as well as the Corn Belt.
Managing an operation from a business perspective requires consideration of land value appreciation in addition to operating returns. While land appreciation is not cash in hand, it builds wealth and expands bank borrowing capacity. However, “past performance is not indicative of future behavior”. With deferred corn contracts now below $4.70/bushel, we will likely see cropland values lose some of their steam (Source: CattleFax).
Dear Friends and 4H and FFA Enthusiasts:
We apologize for late notice, but due to several other local scheduling conflicts beyond our control, we are going to reschedule the Cattle Clinic and Judging Competition to the Spring.
The Fifth Annual Hull Show Cattle/Showmaster Feed Cattle Clinic and Judging Contest is now scheduled for April 5, 2014.
We would like to thank all of our sponsors and returning supporters and particularly our major sponsors: Showmaster Feed, Arkansas Farm Credit, Andis Clippers, Arvest Bank, Belle Point Ranch, Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association, Arkansas Cattleman’s Association, Dunn Ford, Sullivan Show Supply, Trausch Farms, State of Oklahoma at Arkansas Extension Services, Coach’s Lumber, Senator Mark Allen, Pfizer, DJ’s Fundraising, and Arkansas Congressman Womack for their continued support.
Don’t miss out on this year’s clinic!!! It will be bigger and better than ever!!!
We are available to help with any of your show cattle needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have.
We look forward to seeing you all!
Chad, Chasey and Holiday Hull