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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.

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.



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