Ohio Beef Newsletter

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Jan 20, 2007
LaRue, Ohio
Drought Strategies: Herd Inventory Decisions - Dr. Scott P. Greiner, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Virginia Tech

Producers in many regions in Virginia are evaluating strategies to cope with drought. Successfully getting through the drought challenge will best be accomplished by applying a combination of strategies such as alternative forage and pasture management practices, feeding alternative feeds, strategic cattle management practices (such as early weaning), and herd inventory reduction. Each of these strategies must be evaluated on a case by case basis, and their implementation will vary for each producer based on their feed inventory and future needs, as well as impact of drought both short and long-term on their operation.

The prospects of having to reduce cattle numbers is a harsh reality that must be considered, although a strategy that none of us like to face. Considerations involving herd reduction need to be evaluated in concert with their impact on both viability and profitability, and the severity of herd reduction will depend largely on the extent of feed and forage shortage, and cost of purchased or supplemental feed. Long-term, the immediate benefit of herd reduction vs. cost of feed/forage to maintain inventory needs to be evaluated against the cost of rebuilding the herd at a future date along with the reality that total herd income will be reduced in future years as a result of reduced cow numbers.

Should herd numbers need to be reduced, careful consideration needs to be given as to which animals to sell. The following provides steps to consider in when making these tough decisions:

1) Open Cows- The logical group for herd reduction includes open cows. Open cows (regardless of age) will not generate revenue through calf sales in the coming year, and consume forage that could be used to support other animals in the herd. Pregnancy checking the cow herd has always been an economically sound management practice. Given the tight feed supplies and cost of supplemental feed, working with a veterinarian to identify open females will provide significant return on investment and should be the first step in herd reduction.

2) Heifer Calves-While the potential replacement heifers from the current calf crop potentially represent the best genetics in the herd, heifer calves are also 18 months from production and two years from weaning their first calf and generating revenue as a cow. Forage and feed requirements to develop a growing heifer are substantial. Producers faced with having to purchase feed in order to maintain replacement heifers should consider the cost of these purchased feeds compared to opportunity to sell heifers as feeder calves and invest sale proceeds in replacements at a later date. The same consideration applies when limited feed inventories force a choice between selling mature cows vs. replacement heifers. Additionally, drought strategies which increase heifer development costs need to be evaluated closely as they may impact lifetime profitability of these females. The opportunity to keep additional heifers from future calf crops and/or buy replacements sometime in the future also need to be considered when contemplating what to do with the current heifer calves.

3) Other Females- If conditions necessitate selling productive females, candidates would be those cows which generate the lowest returns. Generally, these are cows which produce less pounds of saleable calf. Since calf value is primarily determined by calf weight, cows calving late in calving season may become candidates for herd reduction, particularly those which consistently calve late. With a good cow record keeping system, poor-producing cows and problem cows can be identified and culled when warranted. Old cows reaching the end of their productive life would also be candidates. Hopefully, one will not be forced to disperse many productive females.

4) Bulls- The limited number of bulls maintained by most operations suggests reducing herd inventory through selling bulls would have limited impact on total herd forage and feed demands. However, bulls should be closely evaluated for progeny performance and those which have not met expectations should be sold.

In summary, reductions in herd inventory may be necessary along with other strategies to cope with drought in order for operations to remain profitable and sustainable. If cattle inventories need to be reduced, decisions regarding which animals to sell should be made while considering their impact both short and long-term compared to alternative strategies.

Matching Cow Size To Ranch Resources - Jane Parish, MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

Cow size varies tremendously across and even within beef cattle operations.

Size is routinely described in terms of both weight and frame. Frame size describes the skeletal size of cattle. Terms like large frame, moderate frame, and small frame are frequently used to indicate cattle size. While frame size is often a useful selection consideration and is sometimes used in predicting expected mature body weight, it should be noted that cattle that are similar in frame size are not always similar in body weight. Body weight takes into account muscling and condition (fat cover) in addition to skeletal and organ mass. Cow body weight and body condition score are useful records for nutritional program planning.

Body Weight and Nutritional Requirements: In a practical forage-based nutritional system, as is common in the Southeastern U.S., cattle nutrient intake depends on forage availability and quality and does not exactly match cattle nutrient requirements at every given point in time. In addition, environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity continually change, and cattle progress through a production cycle (gestation, calving, lactation, weaning, rebreeding) that continually shifts nutrient needs. Thus, cattle both gain and lose weight and body condition throughout the year as nutrient intakes and demands change. Body energy reserves are stored during periods when energy intake exceeds body energy demands. In other words, cows put on body condition when intake of nutrients from forage and feed is higher than what they are using for body functions and performance. Differences in body size impact maintenance nutrient requirements.

Maintenance nutrient requirements are defined as the amount of nutrient intake that will result in no net loss or gain of that nutrient from body tissues. Body functions comprising maintenance energy requirements, for instance, include body temperature regulation, physical activity, and metabolic processes (chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life). Maintenance energy requirements vary with body weight, breed or genotype, sex, age, season, temperature, physiological state, and previous nutrition.

With increasing research emphasis on cattle efficiency and particularly feed efficiency, differences in predicted feed intake (based on factors including body weight) and actual feed intake are worthy of consideration. Identification of and selection for efficient cattle has tremendous economic implications for beef cattle operations, many of which expend a significant and often majority of operational funds on herd nutrition. Stay tuned for research findings and applications in this area in the coming years.

Can I Feed Corn Gluten Feed Pellets like Soybean Hulls Pellets? - Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

We have had some inquiries about feeding corn gluten feed pellets to cattle and if they can be used in the same manner as soybean hull pellets. First off, let's go over how soyhulls are fed. In normal situations, I like to feed 5-8 pounds of soyhulls. But these ain't normal situations! You should probably not go higher than 1% of body weight (10-12 pellets) and have the rest of the diet comprised of hay so as to minimize bloat problems. This shouldn't kill them but don't stand behind them when they cough. If you are really stretched some producers have gone as high at 1.5% of body weight as soyhulls but you better make sure some roughage is available. You also should work cattle up on soyhulls like any feed. Phosphorus and vitamin A will need to be included in a free choice mineral supplement, if not blended in the feed. Don't expect the same feed efficiency as these high levels. That is why I prefer a somewhat lower level of feeding in normal situations.

Now, let's look at the nutritional value of Soybean Hulls and Corn Gluten Feed

100% Dry Matter basis                                Corn Gluten Feed                                Soybean Hulls
Dry matter, %                                                          90                                                      91
Crude protein, %                                                    25                                                      11.5
TDN. %                                                                    83                                                        77
Nem, Mcal/lb                                                            0.94                                                    0.85
Neg, Mcal/lb                                                            0.64                                                    0.55
Calcium, %                                                              0.36                                                    0.49
Phosphorus, %                                                        0.82                                                    0.21
Sulfur, %                                                                  0.23                                                    0.09

Notice that Corn gluten feed is higher in protein. The real problem in feeding corn gluten feed at high levels is the high amount of phosphorus in relation to calcium. We talk about cattle diets having a 1.2 to 1 or 2:1 ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus in the total diet. You will have to feed calcium levels above NRC minimum requirements if more than 1/3 of the diets is corn gluten feed and critically evaluate if you can reduce phosphorus in your mineral supplement. We can certainly feed more than 1/3 of the diet as corn gluten feed but we need to make some adjustments.

Another reason perhaps not to feed corn gluten feed free choice is that it is relatively high in sulfur (0.23%, dry matter basis). This is one of the reasons it is not recommended to feed distillers grain free choice as well. You will want to check with your supplier on the nutritional content for these particular feeds. Corn Gluten Feed an EXCELLENT feed if used correctly.

Forage Focus: Timing of Oats for Silage - Maurice Eastridge, OSU Department of Animal Sciences

I have received calls recently on the timing of harvest of oats for silage. For optimum nutrient yield and proper DM for preservation, harvest between early head and the milk stage. Beyond the milk stage, it is very difficult to obtain good fermentation due to the hollow stems in the oats. For horizontal silos, harvesting in the early head stage is preferred because a slightly lower DM is preferred. If oats are harvested prior to early head, they will yield less and will likely need to be wilted prior to chopping; otherwise, too many nutrients will be lost as seepage and there may be poor fermentation. Properly harvested oat silage may contain 2 to 4 percentage units more crude protein but be about 10% lower in energy compared to corn silage.

North Central Ohio Beef Field Day to be held September 15th

The Mansfield Correctional Institution located on the north side of Mansfield, Ohio will be hosting a beef field day on September 15th. Guided tours of the 300 cows purebred/commercial Angus based herd will begin at 10 a.m. Representatives from OSU Extension, OSU Veterinary College, and Select Sires will share information on various aspects of the beef industry. Items to be highlighted are as follows: managing pastures in the fall, winter feed considerations, sorting to maximize profits when marketing, health management for weaning calves, and developing a breeding system. The field day is scheduled to adjourn at 2 p.m.

Complimentary refreshments and lunch will be served. There will be a $5.00 per person charge if participants RSVP before September 11th. Please call OSU Extension - Morrow County at 419-947-1070 to register or ask questions concerning the field day. Money can be paid that day. Checks may be made out to OSU Extension. Walk-ins will be charged $8.00 per person.

We are hoping for a great crowd so fill the car with your family, neighbors or friends!