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December 15, 2015

What’s inside The Beef Cattle Research Update E-Newsletter?


  1. Forty-Three Percent of Food Budget Spent on Food Away From Home
  2. Using Corn Stover and Dried Distillers Grains With Solubles to Conserve Stockpiled Forages and Improve Reproductive Performance and Progeny Growth in Fall-Calving Beef Cows
  3. Evaluation of Using Half-Sibling Beef Cows to Increase Growth and Carcass Uniformity of Calf Crops
  4. Evaluation of Prior Grazing Experience on Reproductive Performance in Beef Heifers
  5. Effects of Energy Supplementation Frequency and Forage Quality on Performance, Reproductive and Physiological Responses of Replacement Beef Heifers
  6. Additive Effects of Growth-Promoting Technologies on Performance of Grazing Steers and Economics of the Wheat Pasture Enterprise
  7. The Effect of Bermudagrass Hybrid on Forage Characteristics, Animal Performance and Grazing Behavior of Beef Steers

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Beef Cattle Tips – December

December 10, 2015

beef dec

It’s December!!! Beef Cattle Tips is a monthly newsletter designed to remind you of timely production practices that could benefit your operation.  In this month’s issue,summarize herd records for the year and compare to previous year to determine the production direction of the herd. December is a good month to summarize your your financial records. Determine your cost for mineral, supplemental feed, vet medicine, fertilizer, hay, weed control, etc. Knowing your cost to maintain a cow per year is very important and will aid in marketing decisions.

Hay management:

Protect hay when feeding to reduce waste. Feed hay in rings to reduce hay waste. Unrolling hay increases hay waste unless it is done on a limit-feeding basis.

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Animal Science: Today and Tomorrow

December 7, 2015

Dr. Tom Troxel                                                           Dr. Michael L. Looper 

Does Beef Really Cause Cancer?

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat among substances considered carcinogenic while red meat was classified as probably carcinogenic. At this point it is uncertain as to what sort of demand impact the release of this report will have on red meat consumption.

There have been other reports in the past that have sought to link meat consumption and cancer but the impact on demand appeared to be relatively transitory. However, we live in a very different media landscape than even a few years ago. The consumption effects will depend largely on how the nuanced message of this report will be packaged and delivered.

“This meat causes cancer” is one of the headlines, showing a picture of sausages and bacon. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report however says that each 50 gram portion (1.8 oz) consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. The average consumer does not have an actuarial background or an inclination to model risk behaviors. However, they do have an abundance of common sense, especially when it comes to consumption of foods that are deeply rooted in tradition, across cultures, and have been shown to provide sustenance over the millennia.

One of the more interesting facts in reviewing the story is red meat is the 939th agent found by the IARC to increase the risk of cancer. Examining the inter-relationship among all these agents (which include air, work environments, etc) and understanding the true level of risk from each one is outside the scope of the work of IARC. Other agents will most surely be added to the list in the coming years as the committee continues to catalogue all and everything that could be bad for us.

In the meantime, the world population has gone from around 3.2 billion in the early 1960s to around 7.5 billion today and will likely be at 9 billion in another 25 years. The global life expectancy has gone from around 55 years in the early 1960s to well over 70 years today. Some of that improvement is certainly due to modern medicine and reductions in child mortality. It is also due to the fact that as incomes have risen across all regions of the world, it has led to better nutrition, including higher consumption of meat protein. And this is one thing that reports such as the one above do not really tell the consumer.

While eating a portion of processed meat every day could increase the risk (which may be quite low to begin with) by 18%, how does that risk change if people stop eating meat and instead seek to find nourishment from less nutritional foods? Consumers well remember all the fuss about cholesterol and fat and heart disease. This led to a dramatic change in food consumption as manufacturers tripped over each other to replace fat with sugar. Today the consumer is more obese and new science tells us that risks from fatty foods may not be as dire.

Meat consumption has been increasing, in tandem with global incomes and wellbeing. In the developing world, rising incomes have allowed consumers to substitute meat for lower quality protein, a trend that will likely continue as developing countries close the income gap. WHO reminds us of the 939 risks out there. Fair enough. But the ride is too short and precious to hide in a bunker, breathing filtrated hair and eating celery sticks (Source: CME Group).

River Valley Beef Cattle Conference

The 2016 River Valley Beef Cattle Conference is set for Feb. 16, 2016 at the I-40 Livestock Auction in Ozark.

The conference speakers are:

  • Dr. Heidi Ward, Assistant Professor and Veterinarian – University of Arkansas – “Feeding Antibiotics – The Change is Here!”
  • Dr. John Boyd, Professor – University of Arkansas, “Pasture Weed Control”
  • Mr. Jim Robb, Senior Agricultural Economist – “Cattle Market Outlook”
  • Mr. Kent Reading, I-40 Livestock Auction Owner and Operator – “Heifer Selection”

The River Valley Beef Cattle Conference is a joint educational effort by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and Farm Credit of Western Arkansas.

A registration fee of $20 will be collected at the door. The conference is from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Foreign Attachés Learn about Arkansas Agriculture

On August 30, agricultural attachés from around the world gathered at the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center for dinner and to learn more about agricultural programs at the University of Arkansas. Dinner was prepared for the group by the Arkansas Cattlemen and Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture, Wes Ward.

The group of 27, which was part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s annual foreign attaché tour, traveled to both Arkansas and Louisiana for an in-depth look at each state’s agricultural business.

They toured farms, processing and shipping plants and universities/research institutions. Jason Apple, Animal Science Professor, spoke to the delegates about the Department’s research and future research opportunities.

The European Union, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and a few individual European countries all had delegates present. 2015 marks the second time that the tour has traveled to Arkansas, and the Arkansas Cattlemen provided dinner for the group.


The Arkansas Cattlemen and Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture, Wes Ward cook dinner for a group of agricultural attaches from around the world.

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


Utilizing Cool-Season Annual Grasses

December 3, 2015

Utilizing Cool-Season Annual Grasses

Paul Beck


Cool season annual grasses provide high quality forage at a time that warm season forages are dormant, low in crude protein, and high in fiber. Although tall fescue grows at the same time of year as most of our small grains, forage intake and animal performance of tall fescue is much lower than with annuals because of the toxicity of tall fescue in most of the acreage in Arkansas (unless novel endophyte tall fescue has been planted!). Small grains, such as rye (cereal rye not annual ryegrass) and wheat grow well in the fall and early winter and are extremely productive in the spring. Annual ryegrass is not as productive in the fall and winter but is also extremely productive in the spring. Oats are very productive but are not cold tolerant and can have stand losses due to freeze damage most years in northern Arkansas and some years in southern Arkansas. Cool season annuals provide excellent forage for growing stocker calves and developing replacement heifers and can be an excellent supplement for mature cows by limit grazing a few hours a day or for several hours on alternating days.

Our recommendations are to plant a mixture of 100 to 120 pounds of small grain (cereal rye or wheat) and 20 to 25 pounds of annual ryegrass in the fall. This should be done in early to mid-September in crop fields or in early to mid-October when interseeding into warm-season grass sod. After cool-season annuals are planted, cattle should be kept off the pastures until the annuals are at least 6 to 8 inches tall, which is about 1200 to 1600 pounds of forage dry matter per acre. In most years interseeded cool season annuals have enough forage growth for grazing to start in late November or early December, while cool season annuals planted in crop fields can be grazed in late October or early November. This is enough forage for about 2 pounds of gain per day with ¾ to 1 calf per acre stocking rate until mid-February or early March, when spring growth patterns begin. When spring forage growth patterns begin, stocking rate can be increase to 2 calves per acre until mid-May. In this system small grains provide forage from November to May, while the annual ryegrass will provide forage from March to mid-May (or sometimes early June). If forage is intended for use by spring calving mature cows, later planting dates can be considered because the high quality forage is not necessary until later in the year (late January or early February depending on when calving season starts).

Every year dry conditions in the fall give producers pause when considering where to plant cool season annual or not. There is risk involved, but by using a no-till drill that can penetrate hard soils and place seeds at least ½ inch deep beneath the sod, the Stocker Unit at the Southwest Research & Extension Center at Hope has been very successful in getting stands of small grains and ryegrass in these harsh conditions. This year bermudagrass pastures at the SWREC were interseeded with a mixture of rye and annual ryegrass from October 1 to October 20. When the rains came finally on October 24th the cool-season annual seedlings began to emerge by October the 28th and very good stands of grass was evident by November 1. With the late emergence, pastures were not (quite) ready to graze by Thanksgiving, but were ready to graze before Christmas.

For this system to work, fertilizer needs to be supplied to these pastures to drive forage growth. Soil test results should be used to determine the optimal rate of phosphorus and potassium and nitrogen fertilizer should be supplied in the fall at a rate of about 50 pound of actual nitrogen per acre. Clover, vetch or other legumes may be helpful for spring grazing but should not be relied on to supply nitrogen for fall growth. Although, production expenses (total pasture cost of $150 per acre) may be considerable the productivity of these annual pastures provide for gains costing around $0.35 per pound.

Did you know?

November 9, 2015

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

November 5, 2015

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.

Stockpiled Forages

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.



Strip Grazing

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.

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




What plans are you making for feeding the beef cattle herd this winter?

October 30, 2015

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.


This figure illustrates the protein (CP%) and energy (TDN%) levels among 2015 winter feed meeting samples. The dark square indicates the average CP% and TDN% among samples which illustrates the fact that producer hays often differ from ‘average’.



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