Did you know?
Cattle are not the major cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In fact, their contribution to greenhouse gases is much less than most people think. According to numbers from the Environmental Protection Agency, cattle production is not a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
- According to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011:
- Agriculture = 6.9% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Livestock = 3.1% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Methane from livestock = 2.8% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Methane from beef cattle = 1.5% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- To compare with other industries:
- Electricity Generation = 33% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Transportation = 26% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Industrial Use = 11% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Residential and Commercial Use = 8% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Managing the Fall Breeding Herd
Dr. Tom R. Troxel
For producers with a fall calving herd, December marks the middle of the breeding season. There are a number of December management decisions that can influence the success of the breeding season thus impact the pregnancy rates, weaning rates and weaning weight of the 2016 fall calf crop. The cost effectiveness of each decision should be considered before being implemented. After all, profit potential is the goal which may be more difficult to come by in 2016.
Reducing Feed Cost
Reducing feed cost without reducing cow productivity is the fastest way to reducing production cost and increasing returns. A lot of hay was harvested during the 2015 spring but due to persistent rainfall, much of the hay wasn’t harvested at the highest quality. Most of the harvested hay was over mature and, therefore, not at its peak quality in terms of protein and TDN.
Forage testing each lot of hay and buying the right kind and feeding the right amount of supplemental feed based on the forage test may be the best money spent this winter feeding period. A forage test reveals the nutrient content of hay. Knowing the nutrient composition of hay allows comparisons between hay nutrient levels and the nutrient requirements of the cattle being fed. If the animals’ needs are greater than what is provided in the hay, a least cost feed supplement can be developed. Purchasing and feeding the least cost supplemental feed based on a forage test helps insure the cattle will maintain the desired performance level.
To minimize feed costs, cattle with different nutritional requirements should be grouped separately and supplemented accordingly. Commingling cattle with different requirements (for example, nonlactating cows wintered in the same field as lactating cows) can cause either overfeeding and waste of costly supplements or underfeeding and poor cattle performance. A short (75 day) breeding and calving season ensures all cows are in the same state of production, thus having similar nutrient requirements. Knowing the nutrient composition of the forage allows feeding lower quality hay to cattle with lower nutrient requirements and feeding higher quality hay to cattle with greater requirements.
Body Condition Scores
Body condition scores (BCS) are a numerical rating given to cows to suggest the relative fatness or body composition of a cow. A 1-9 grade system is commonly used by researchers where thin cows score 1-3 and fat cows are scored in a relative sense, 6-9. The BCS can be used as a gauge to determine if the nutritional program that cows have been receiving is adequate to keep them in moderate and ideal condition. More importantly, by body condition scoring cows in the fall, BCS can be adjusted with the nutrition program. It is very important to maintain a body condition score of 5 to 6 during the fall breeding season. This is often very difficult to do if the cows didn’t calve in good body condition.
Cull Problem Cows
Cull problem cows such as cows with unsound feed or legs, bad eyes, udders, or temperament. Cull cows that may have problems calving (prolapse). Cull cows that didn’t calve during the fall calving season. Feed cost is just too high to gamble in cows that may not make it through the winter.
Tall fescue pasture has both advantages and disadvantages. One of the primary advantages of tall fescue over other cool season forages is the amount of forage produced during the fall that can be stockpiled and grazed during winter. Fescue managed for fall growth out yields sod seeded annual ryegrass or small grains during the same period. Up to one third of the annual yield of fescue is produced during the fall, and the leaves withstand damage from cold weather much better than many other types of forage. Leaves remain green after early winter freezes and retain forage quality well.
Proper grazing practices can extend the grazing period for stockpiled forages. Strip grazing is often used for stockpiled forages and can offer the highest utilization of the pasture. A single electric wire can be placed across the field to allow a strip of pasture large enough for a two to three day allotment of forage for the herd. As cattle graze down the first strip of forage, the wire can be advanced across the field providing fresh strips of forage as needed. Some producers have found that two wires work well for strip grazing. One wire holds the cattle in the strip being grazed, and the other wire is placed one strip ahead to prevent the cattle from moving across the field each time a new strip is offered.
Only one wire needs to be moved each time in a “leapfrog” fashion to provide a fresh strip of forage. The field should be grazed starting at the livestock’s water source. This reduces trampling damage to the remaining forage, because the cattle travel back across the grazed area for water. A back wire is not needed when grazing dormant stockpiled forages.
In Arkansas demonstrations, strip grazing management doubled the number of AU grazing days per acre compared to continuous grazing of the entire stockpiled pasture.
Rotational or strip grazing can allow limit grazing of winter annuals. Forage quality of winter annuals often exceeds requirements of cows. Limit grazing makes use of the high quality forage as a supplemental feed and stretches short hay supplies during late winter.
What plans are you making for feeding the beef cattle herd this winter?
Folklore enthusiasts state there were spoons in the persimmons meaning we will be shoveling snow this winter. Climate experts are predicting a strong El Nino, and for southern states, this corresponds to a cooler and wetter winter. The current winter forecast for the southern one-half of Arkansas is cooler and equal chances of a cooler, normal, or above normal temperature for northern Arkansas. As far as precipitation, the prediction for Arkansas is equal chances of above normal, normal, or below normal precipitation. According to the National Weather Service in Little Rock, the last 7 El Nino winters in Arkansas resulted in above average (+2.4ᴼF average) temperature for 5 of those events and above average precipitation (+2.6in average) for 4 of the 7 El Nino winters.
One might wonder how a warm, wet winter will affect the cow herd’s energy need. Cows with a winter hair coat will have a lower critical temperature of 32ᴼF. Sick hair types will have a greater, lower critical temperature (around 45ᴼF). If cows are wet, lower critical temperature increases to 59ᴼF. When temperature falls below the cow’s lower critical temperature, her energy needs increase. So, if El Nino results in more days with precipitation, this will increase energy needs of the herd. Based on 19 years of winter weather records for Little Rock, cows experienced, on average, 36 days of cold stress in central Arkansas. Examining the number of cold and wet days during the past 7 El Nino winters does not reveal much in terms of how many days cows in Arkansas will be exposed to average daily temperatures below their lower critical temperature. In only 2 of the past 7 El Nino winters, cows were exposed to more days of cold stress. There were also 2 of the past 7 El Nino events where cows were exposed to fewer days of cold stress.
While persimmons and climate predictions cannot tell us exactly how the herd might handle the coming winter, hay testing can provide a good picture of the diet they will have and whether or not it is capable of keeping cows in good body condition from late-gestation through late-lactation. An analysis of approximately 200 hay samples from 40 farms participating in recent winter feed meetings indicates about 46% of the hays produced this year will not meet the nutrient needs of pregnant, spring calving cows this coming winter. If that’s not alarming, 72% will not meet the nutrient needs of cows nursing calves through winter. With the anticipation of a wet 2015-16 winter, cows will likely not winter well unless forage is supplemented with an adequate amount of energy and protein. Energy deficiencies are 3 times as likely to occur in Arkansas hays compared to protein deficiencies.
The graph below shows the variation in quality observed in winter feed meeting samples. The dark square in the middle represents the average quality. Don’t take forage quality for granted and assume your hay is average quality or “good” because it was fertilized. Any plan for winter feeding should start with testing all lots of hay because it is very likely that neither your hay quality is equal to average nor is every harvest on the farm of equal quality. Hay analysis will generally cost $18-20/sample and your county Extension agent can help evaluate winter feeding needs from forage test results, herd nutritional needs, and cool-season pasture management.
Four States Cattle Conference Set for December 8
The Four States Cattle Conference once again features a lineup of speakers that you don’t want to miss. The conference is held at the Four States Fairgrounds in Texarkana and registration begins at 8 am. Topics include:
- Market Outlook (Ross Pruitt, LSU)
- What Feeders and Packers Want (Tom Brink, JBS Five Rivers Cattle, CO)
- Feeder Cattle Grading (James Ward, USDA Market News)
- Managing Hay Feeding (Dave Lalman, OSU)
- Vaccine Failure (John Richeson, TAMU)
- Herd Health (Dee Griffin, Univ. of Nebraska)
For more details, early registration, and directions, download the attached brochure 4-StatesBrochure 2015 Final
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Did you know?
Did you know that we owe a debt of gratitude to cows for our health? The word “vaccine” is derived from the Latin word “vaccinus” which means “from cows”. The term “vaccination” was first coined in 1803 by British physician Edward Jenner for the technique he devised of preventing smallpox by injecting people with the cowpox virus. At that time, smallpox was one of the deadliest diseases known to humans where approximately 30% of cases ended in death, typically in the second week of infection. Dr. Jenner came to the idea of vaccination after observing that milkmaids who had previously caught cowpox did not later catch smallpox. Cowpox is a mild illness in cattle that can be spread from a cow to humans via sores on the cows’ udders. Thanks to Dr. Jenner’s keen insight, humans and animals today are protected from horrible diseases due to timely vaccinations.
Did you know?
The voltage meter for an electric fence should be the same brand as the energizer.
- The technology an electric fence company is using to create the electric pulse is unique to that brand. Therefore, you must use the same brand voltage meter as the energizer to obtain an accurate reading.