Skip to content

Animal Science: Today and Tomorrow

May 27, 2014

Dr. Tom Troxel                                                                                Dr. Michael L. Looper


Spring Commencement a Big Moment for Students


On May 10, the University of Arkansas conferred degrees to those students at the spring commencement ceremony. The Department of Animal Science proudly boasted a First Ranked Senior Scholar, a Senior Scholar and two Distinguished Graduates.

Named as one of two First Ranked Senior Scholars, Jessie Hargis graduated with a 4.0 GPA after completing all of her coursework at the University of Arkansas. The daughter of Billy and Kristen Hargis of Fayetteville, Jessie was a regular on the Chancellor’s list and was a four-year recipient of the Chancellor’s scholarship. She plans to attend the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in the fall.

Claire Crews earned the distinction of being one of three Senior Scholars. The Senior Scholar awards are given to those students who have a 4.0 GPA with at least half of their coursework completed at the U of A. The daughter of Vickie Salsbury and Claiborne Crews, she was a member of the Razorback Marching Band; president of the Pre-Vet Club; and studied abroad in Belize providing free veterinary services to animals owned by low-income families. Claire will be attending Veterinary School at the University of Missouri in the fall of 2014. Claire also was a Bumpers College Honors Program Distinguished Graduate.

Rachel Cummins was a Bumpers College Honors Program Distinguished Graduate. She is the daughter of Hal and Patti Cummins; she wrote her honors thesis on the “Palatability of Teff Grass in Horses”.  She will be attending Veterinary School at the University of Missouri in the fall of 2014.

In addition, the Department presented a Doctor of Philosophy to Michelle Thomas. Five Master of Science degrees were presented to: Mohan Acharya, Elizabeth Backes, Jace Hollenback, Brandon Smith and Ashley Nicole Young.

The Department also conferred 45 Bachelor of Science degrees. Congratulations to all of our graduates!


2012 Census of Agriculture is Released

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducted the 2012 Census of Agriculture, analyzed the data, and prepared a report you can download. You can find the report at The report is 34,925 KB so it’s contains a lot of information. The census provides a comprehensive picture of American agriculture in 2012, and NASS recognizes and appreciates that many individuals and organizations contributed to the effort.

Most importantly, the success of the agriculture census depends directly on the cooperation of farmers and ranchers across the country. Recognizing that participating in the census is their responsibility and gives them a voice in their future, agricultural producers took the time to provide the information requested. NASS is grateful to every producer who participated in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Also essential were the many partners who communicated about the census and encouraged producers to respond. Farm organizations, stakeholder groups, agricultural media, community-based organizations, and land grant and other universities helped to build awareness of the census and its importance to producers, their communities, and U.S. agriculture as a whole. NASS appreciates their help in reaching all kinds of agricultural operations, thereby ensuring a comprehensive census.


United States Data

There is a lot of data in the 2012 Census of Agriculture but the data we are going to share with you is the beef cow inventory. In the US there were 727,906 farms with beef cows (2012) which were a 4.8% decline compared to the number of farms with beef cows in 2007. The beef farms in 2012 contained 28,956,553 head of beef cows which means the average herd size in the US was 40 head of beef cows.

The number of US farms with 1 to 49 head of beef cows was 81% and but only controlled 29% of the beef cows. The number of US farms with 50 to 99 head of beef cows was 10% and they controlled 16% of the beef cows. In addition, the number of US farms with 100 to 199 head of beef cows was 5% and they controlled 17% of the beef cows. The largest beef herds (200 head or more) only consisted of 3.8% of the US beef farms and but they controlled over a third (36%) of the beef cows.


Arkansas Data

In Arkansas there were 23,385 farms with beef cows (2012) which were a 7.4% decline compared to the number of farms with beef cows in 2007. The beef farms in 2012 contained 813,250 head of beef cows which means the average herd size in the Arkansas was 35 head of beef cows. The January 1, 2014 census listed Arkansas with having 882,000 beef cows so cow numbers have increased by 68,750 head since 2012. With the 2012 drought it is hard to say how many beef cattle farms are in the state in 2014. Many would speculate the number of farms have declined since 2012.

The number of Arkansas farms with 1 to 49 head of beef cows was 81% and controlled 40% of the beef cows. The number of AR farms with 50 to 99 head of beef cows was 12% and they controlled 23% of the beef cows. In addition, the number of AR farms with 100 to 199 head of beef cows was 5% and they controlled 18% of the beef cows. The largest beef herds (200 head or more) only consisted of 2% of the AR beef farms but they controlled a fifth (20%) of the beef cows.



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

Livestock owners need to be alert for ‘hardware disease’

April 30, 2014

Fast facts

  • Livestock owners should scout fields for post-storm debris to prevent ‘hardware disease’
  • Blackleg a threat to cattle following flooding



Livestock owners need to be alert for ‘hardware disease’

LITTLE ROCK – Livestock owners need to scan their pastures for storm debris that could prove fatal to their cattle, goats and horses, said Tom Troxel, Associate Department Head, Animal Science, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.


After the storm has passed, the effects of tornadic winds and floods remain for grazing animals.


“Tornadoes and other storm events with strong winds and flooding can spread debris over a large area,” Troxel said. “This sets the stage for grazing animals to be affected by ‘hardware disease.”


Cattle, sheep, goat and horse owners should take extra time and caution to inspect hay meadows and pastures for debris especially metal objects.


“Cattle grazing may not notice debris such as wood splinters, metal shards or construction items such as screws and nails,” Troxel said. “And sometimes, in fields that have old, rusting fences or bailing wire or where grazing occurs near construction foreign objects wind up bailed in hay.”


Internal injuries

Items such as nails or wire snippets, go directly into the cow’s digestive tract. Contractions that move food along can cause nails and other items to puncture the walls of the digestive tract.


Perforations can cause partially digested foods and bacteria to leak into the abdominal cavity causing infections and scarring.


Symptoms may include:

  • Decrease in fecal output,
  • Mild rise in rectal temperature
  • Heart rate may be normal or slightly elevated, and respiration is usually shallow and rapid.


“Initially, animals will arch their backs, show an anxious expression or be reluctant to move, using an uneasy, careful gait,” Troxel said. “Forced sudden movements as well as defecating, urinating, lying down, getting up, and stepping over barriers may be accompanied by groaning.”


In chronic cases, the animal may not want to eat and it isn’t defecating in its usual volume. In certain animals, milk production remains low. If you see any symptoms related to hardware disease, be sure to contact your veterinarian. Treatment of the typical case seen early in its course may be surgical or medical. Either approach improves the chances of recovery from approximately 60 percent in untreated cases to 80-90 percent in treated cases.



In addition to sweeping potentially dangerous items into fields and pastures, flooding can also increase the danger of blackleg, a fatal disease caused by the Clostridium chauvoei bacterium.


“Blackleg is a soil-borne bacterium infection and any disturbance to the soil such as a flood may increase the exposure of the bacterium to the cattle,” he said. “Blackleg is seasonal with most cases occurring in the warm months of the year – which is coming up. Excavation of soil or soil disturbance is also a concern.”


Blackleg symptoms include: lameness, depression, fever but most of the time sudden death – meaning treatment is useless. However, blackleg vaccine is one of the cheapest vaccines to purchase for cattle.  It is recommended vaccinating all calves and also vaccinating the cows to ensure good maternal transfer for the next calf.


For more information about forage production, visit extension’s Web site,,  or contact your county extension agent.


The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

CANCELLED / Arkansas Forage & Grassland Council’s 2014 Forage Bus Tour

April 29, 2014
Due to severe storm damage in central and northeast Arkansas, the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council Spring Forage Bus Tour scheduled in Lawrence and Randolph Counties for Friday May 2 is cancelled.
Please pass on this notice to your producers, related agencies, and other interested persons.
John Jennings 
Professor – Extension Forage Specialist 
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture 
2301 S. University Ave. 
Little Rock, AR 72204 
Office: 501-671-2350

Summer annual forages help close gaps

April 28, 2014

By Dr. Dirk Philipp, Department of Animal Science, University of Arkansas—Fayetteville


Good forage management involves keeping forage supply matched up with animal needs during that time. Summer annual forages provide hay and pasturing at times when cool-season forages such as tall fescue cease growth during the hot summer months.

We have been working with pearl millet, sorghum sudan, and teff grass for some years now, and all of them have advantages and disadvantages. All of them require relatively warm soil and air temperatures for establishment and a fair amount of soil preparation to grow them successfully and achieve maximum yields. Some producers have had success by drilling summer annual forages into dormant tall fescue, but we were unable to see good results by trying this on our research farm. While there is merit in pursuing a no-till strategy, it also comes with disadvantages. Among these are seeding rates that have to be increased, delayed planting time as fescue dormancy may not occur until July, and likely lower yields compared with tillage-based establishment.

Establishment success of summer annuals can be vastly improved by preparing a firm, well-settled seedbed using a disk plow followed by culti-packing or rolling. As always, having a soil test report on hand is mandatory for good forage management and the report for the selected field should not be older than 1 to 2 years. Keeping the pH in the optimum range between 6.5 to 7.0 is helpful too because that will save a lot of headaches later on if the field is rotated to other crops such as legumes that are sensitive to soil acidity.

Soghum-sudan, pearl millet, and teff showed very different amounts of dry matter production during a study we conducted last year at the Fayetteville location. Sorghum-sudan (~7,500 lb/acre) out-yielded pearl millet (~5,200 lb/acre) and teff (~3,100 lb/acre) by far. But the entire story tells us much more than just the yield. We harvested twice, on July 31 and September 5, after having planted all grasses around June 15. While the amount of regrowth for sorghum-sudan was similar to the first harvest, both pearl millet and teff accumulated twice as much biomass between July 31 and Sep 5 as they did between the planting date and the first harvest. All grasses were harvested at the recommended heights of 4 inches for teff and 6 inches for the other grasses. There was little rain between the planting date and the first harvest end of July, so it is possible that the increased biomass accumulation was primarily caused by increased precipitation. This also means that in years with average amounts of rainfall during spring, it is wise to plant these grasses as early as possible, provided that soil temperature is at least 55 to 60 degrees F. Because these grasses are annuals and grow rapidly to reach the reproductive phase quickly, the regrowth potential is high and cutting or grazing cycles should be kept as tight as possible. Another benefit of harvesting on schedule is weed control, especially with teff. The harvested area was virtually weed-free, while another strip we did not harvest was completely overrun with weeds, among them pigweed and yellow nutsedge. Weed control in sorghum-sudan and pearl millet is usually not a big problem as these forage crops shade the soil enough to prevent major weed development.

There is obviously the danger of nitrate accumulation, especially in pearl millet and sorghum-sudan, and in addition prussic acid accumulation in the latter. With careful management and applying simple rules, such as leaving at least 6-inch stubble after harvest or grazing, the danger can be minimized. These summer annuals can also be part of rotations followed or preceded by winter annual forages such as legumes. In that case, some of the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer needed may be offset by the added legume biomass during the tillage process.

Livestock and Forestry Research Station Field Day Presentations Posted

April 21, 2014

Video recordings and copies of the presentations delivered at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station are now posted.  Topics covered at the field day included

  • Research results for a chlortetracycline fortified mineral supplement delivered to cows grazing stockpiled fescue
  • Research results for growth promoting technologies utilized in the beef industry
  • 300 Days Grazing demonstration – 5-year summary
  • Fenceline weaning and AM vs PM weaning research results
  • Growth promoting implants for low weight heifers research results
  • Internal parasites and research results on products to control them

To view the videos or download presentation PDF files, visit the station’s website  and select the Livestock Management Field Day Videos link.

The winter of 2013-14 was tough on cattle producers

April 21, 2014

T. R. Troxel and M. S. Gadberry


According to the national weather service, the average monthly temperatures were colder than normal beginning in November 2013 and this pattern continued through March 2014, making the winter of 2013 – 14 one of the longest winter hay feeding periods in recent memory. In addition to colder than normal temperatures, many cattle producers across the state had to manage through ice and snow storms. Many mornings and throughout the day, cattle producers had to break ice just so cattle had fresh water to drink.


On the positive note, Arkansas cattle producers were fortunate because they produced a large hay crop during the spring and early summer of 2013. Following the record breaking drought of 2012, spring rains returned in 2013 and many cattle producers harvested their largest hay crop in a number of years. Therefore, cattle producers had the hay supplies to begin feeding early and continue feeding hay into April. Currently most cattle producers are running out of hay, spring grass is late, and threats of freeze are lingering into mid-April.


Even though cattle producers fed extra hay and supplemental feed this past winter, many fall and spring calving cows are not in as desirable body condition.  Hopefully, the fall calving cows are already bred, but ranchers may find getting spring calving cows bred back a difficult task over the next few months. There are a couple of intervention strategies that may help jump start the estrous cycle for these cows and hopefully improve conception for next year’s calf crop.


Weaning the calf at an early age reduces the cow’s nutritional requirement, making it easier to maintain or accumulate body condition.  The last thing a beef cow needs, especially a thin cow, is to be in a negative energy balance going into the breeding season. Once the decision to wean early has been determined, the next question asked is, “What do I do with the calf?” Two basic options for managing the weaned calf are (1) sell the calf immediately and (2) background the calf until normal weaning or longer.


Selling the calf immediately eliminates risk. There is a lot of talk among cattlemen about the number of three weight calves currently being sold, so it appears that many are already taking this approach.  Currently a 350lb steer calf is selling for approximately $242 per cwt. or $847 per head. Despite bringing a higher price per pound, the value of the early weaned calf is less than its value if weaned at the typical age of 6 to 7 months.  Selling the calf will eliminate the additional labor required for managing the calf until marketing later.


Backgrounding the calf can provided additional value from the weight gained from early weaning until normal weaning time.  This option will require fencing that is capable of keeping young calves separated from their mothers. During this period, care must be taken to vaccinate, control internal and external parasites, and provide a diet that will result in positive weight gains.


Most likely, early weaned calves will be managed in a drylot setting until there is sufficient spring and early summer grass. The diet of the early weaned calf will be dependent upon the age at weaning. Very young cattle (less than 3 months of age) have not developed a functional rumen. The diet of these cattle should focus on supplying a higher level of concentrate and low level of fiber. This management is common in the dairy industry where calves are commonly started early on calf developer feed and weaned from bottles by one month of age.  Beef cattle producers are most comfortable weaning older calves (4 months of age) as they will have a rumen that is capable of handling a higher percentage of forage.  Unfortunately, by this age, cows are half way through the breeding season, therefore the net impact of early weaning on reproduction may be less than if calves were weaned at an earlier age.  Weaning at 2 to 3 months of age may be necessary for herd with a 90 day breeding season.  Early weaning may require weaning in phases to avoid weaning extremely young calves that will be more of a challenge to manage nutritionally.


It is important that forages included in the calf’s diet are very good quality. Young calves will require at least a 16 to 20 percent protein diet and anticipate the calves eating 3% of their body weight  in combined forage and concentrate dry matter.  Rations should be formulated for the desired performance while considering cost of ingredients and physiological capabilities of the calf.  Keep in mind that crossbred calves often gain 2 to 2.25 pounds per day from birth to weaning at 6 to 7 months of age. Healthy calves fed a moderately low fiber diet will have a very good feed conversion. As long as the cost to put on a pound of gain is less than the value of added weight gain, these calves can be retained and developed to a heavier weight.


Another option to consider is 48 hour calf removal for cows that are moderately thin to moderate  body condition (body condition score 4 to 5).  One time 48 hour calf removal at the start of breeding has shown mixed results on pregnancy rate.  A recent Florida study demonstrated using 48h removal at 20 day intervals, instead of a one time event, throughout a 90 day breeding season increased pregnancy rate.  While the calves were separated in this study, they had access to hay, water, and supplemental feed.  A calf developer feed should be sufficient during this period.


Since breeding season is upon us, this suggestion is a little behind, but even fenceline bull exposure prior to the breeding season could also provide an additional stimulus worth trying.  Just make sure its a really good fence.



Animal Science: Today and Tomorrow

April 18, 2014

Dr. Tom Troxel                                                                                Dr. Michael L. Looper


University of Arkansas Animal Science hosts the 2014 Arkansas State Beef Quiz Bowl 


The University Of Arkansas Department Of Animal Science hosted the annual Beef Quiz Bowl this year in Fayetteville at the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center.  This program is sponsored by the Arkansas Beef Council.  This activity provides students an incentive to learn more about beef cattle management, food safety, forage nutrition, quality assurance and the end product.  Educational material was provided for County Extension Agents and Vocational Agriculture Instructors to further the learning process beyond that of their beef 4-H and FFA projects.


Students were quizzed on many levels of question difficulties.  The questions were compiled by Animal Science faculty and judging team students and covered all aspects of beef production.  Four students made up a team and competed in a double elimination tournament.


Twenty-five teams participated this year.  Preparation for this contest allowed students to sharpen their knowledge about beef cattle production.  Additionally, students improved communication, goal setting, critical thinking and team building skills and ultimately enhanced their interest in beef cattle.   This program has a great impact on educating students and encouraging a broadened perspective about their role in beef production, food safety and consumer acceptance.  These efforts will be continued through the University of Arkansas Animal Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas Beef Council and Agriculture teachers across the state.



1st Sebastian County 4-H From left to right Matthew Beshears, William Howard, Cody Nena,  Kyle Russell, Travis Justice, Beef Council

1st Place – Sebastian County 4-H
From left to right Matthew Beshears, William Howard, Cody Nena,
Kyle Russell, Travis Justice, Beef Council


2ndWashington County Beef Cakes From left to right Johnny Gunsaulis, Coach, Mesa Kutz,  Allyson Morlan, Dawson Robinson, Jacob Norsworthy,  Travis Justice, Beef Council

2nd Place – Washington County Beef Cakes
From left to right Johnny Gunsaulis, Coach, Mesa Kutz,
Allyson Morlan, Dawson Robinson, Jacob Norsworthy,
Travis Justice, Beef Council


3rdPope County 4-H Livestock  From left to right Marty McDaniel, Coach, Steve Mosher, Coach,   Colte Mosher, Wyatt Mosher, Miller Dixon, John McDaniel,  Travis Justice, Beef Council

3rd Place – Pope County 4-H Livestock
From left to right Marty McDaniel, Coach, Steve Mosher, Coach,
Colte Mosher, Wyatt Mosher, Miller Dixon, John McDaniel,
Travis Justice, Beef Council


USDA release preliminary 2012 census data


USDA released some interesting data from the 2012 Agricultural census. The complete 2012 census is scheduled to be released in May.


  • Number of farms – A farm is “any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year.”


o   In 2012, the United States had 2.1 million farms – down 4.3% from the last agricultural Census in 2007. This continues a long-term trend of fewer farms.

o   Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the United States declined from 922 million acres to 915 million acres.

o   In 2012, the average farm size was 434 acres. This was a 3.8% increase over 2007, when the average farm was 418 acres.

o   Middle-sized farms declined in number between 2007 and 2012. The number of large (1,000 plus acres) and very small (1 to 9 acres) farms did not change significantly in that time


  • Value of Agricultural Sales


o   U.S. farms sold nearly $395 billion in agricultural products in 2012. This was 33% – $97.4 billion – more than agricultural sales in 2007.

o   Crop sales were $68.7 billion more in 2012 than 2007 (a 48% increase) and livestock sales were up $28.6 billion (a 19% increase).

o   In 2012, crop sales exceeded livestock sales for only the second time in Census history; the other occurrence was in the 1974 Census.

o   Per farm agricultural sales averaged $187,000 in 2012. This was an increase of more than $52,000 (or 39%) over 2007.

o   From 2007 to 2012, the percent of farms with sales and government payments of $1 million or more increased. But most farms in the United States are small – 75 percent had sales and government payments of less than $50,000 in 2012.


The 2012 Census Preliminary Report focuses on principal operators (the person primarily responsible for the day-to-day operation of the farm). Among 2.1 million principal farm operators in 2012:


  • 92% non-Hispanic white, 8% minority
  • 86% men, 14% women
  • 78% in current operation 10 years or more, 22% in operation less than 10 years
  • 75% had 2012 agricultural sales and government payments of less than $50,000; 25% had sales and payments of $50,000 or more
  • 48% called farming their primary occupation, 52% had a different primary occupation
  • 6% under 35 years old, 61% 35 to 64 years, and 33% 65 years and older


In 2012, the average age of principal farm operators was 58.3 years, up 1.2 years since 2007, and continuing a 30-year trend of steady increase. The older age groups all increased in number between 2007 and 2012. In 2012, the number of beginning farmers – on their current operation less than 10 years – was down 20% from 2007. Nearly 172,000 farmers were on their current operation less than 5 years. One million operators considered farming their primary occupation in 2012. The number who identified something other than farming as their primary occupation was 9% lower in 2012 than 2007 (Source: USDA NASS, 2012 Census of Agriculture, Preliminary Report).


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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 337 other followers