Ohio Beef Newsletter

Help Support Steer Planet:


Well-known member
Jan 20, 2007
LaRue, Ohio
Basic Strategies for Buying the Right Bull - Dr. Scott P. Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, VA Tech

As we move to the heart of bull buying season, the question is often asked- "which is the best bull in the sale?" The response to such a simple question cannot be painted with a broad brush, or in a manner which fits all needs. If we consider the question in the context "which is the right bull for my operation?" we are prompted to define the important parameters that need to be considered. Successful bull selection is dependent on effective strategies that allow the right bull to be identified.

Strategy 1: Define Herd Goals and Objectives, Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Broad herd goals and objectives serve as the foundation for sire selection and provide guidance as to traits with the most economic relevance. A basic definition of the production and marketing system, along with management strategies and environment are key factors that warrant consideration:

* Will the bull be used on heifers, mature cows, or both?
* Will replacement females be retained in the herd?
* How will the calf crop be marketed (at weaning?, backgrounded?, retained ownership? sell females?)
* What are the labor and management resources available?
* What are the feed resources and environmental conditions of the operation?
* How will this sire contribute to the overall breeding system plan?
Within each of these considerations, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses will provide more details. Fundamental records are key to identifying strengths and weaknesses. Basic performance parameters such as calving percentage, weaning percentage, weaning weights, sale weights, feed usage, etc. are necessary to serve as the basis for assessing areas of strength and those needing attention.

Strategy 2: Identify Priorities and Opportunities for Improvement

Priorities should be established based on those factors which stand to have the largest impact on profitability. Remember that income is derived from performance (sale weight, % calf crop weaned, carcass merit, etc.). Performance is a function of both genetics and environment/management. Superior genetics can be negated by poor management, which emphasizes the importance of delineating the impact of management (nutrition, health program) from that of genetics when specific priorities for the herd are established. As an example, operations marketing feeder cattle have a need for optimum early growth as calves are sold around weaning. This early growth is impacted by milk production of the dam, which in turn is influenced by available feed resources. Considering both the genetic and management influences on these traits is important.

Genetic improvement in commercial herds is largely accomplished through sire selection. Simplifying sire selection by focusing on the handful of priority traits is generally more achievable than attempting to change many traits simultaneously. Establishing the few traits to focus on is the key factor.

Strategy 3: Effectively Utilize Selection Tools

Once selection priorities have been established through close examination of herd goals and current status, a number of useful tools are at the disposal of beef producers to assist in making genetic improvement. Genetic differences across breeds have been well established, and utilization of different breeds in a complimentary fashion through structured crossbreeding plans provides the opportunity for improvement in multiple traits. Most importantly, heterosis attained through crossbreeding has been shown to have significant favorable impacts on traits such as reproductive efficiency and cow longevity which are critical for herd profitability. The limited ability to select for reproductive traits in the form of EPDs further emphasizes the importance of heterosis.

Individual EPDs are available for many traits of economic importance. The introduction of economic indexes which combine several related traits and their economic values into one EPD are available to assist with simultaneous improvement in multiple traits which impact areas such as carcass merit and post-weaning profit. Again, with the large number of EPD tools available, the critical step is to determine the EPDs which are most important and establish benchmarks relative to each. Several tools can be utilized to assist in the determination of EPD specifications. EPD values for current and past sires can be used as benchmarks. With these benchmarks, EPD specifications can be set to reflect the desired increase or moderation in performance for a particular trait.

Strategy 4: Track Performance and Know Your Market

As discussed in Strategy 1, records are the key to establishing the road map of where the herd has been, current status, and plans for the future. Simple record-keeping that allows for the assessment of key performance indicators such as calf weight per cow exposed, weaning weight, and returns on per cow basis are necessary for buying the right bull.

Additionally, our beef industry continues to evolve rapidly. Staying abreast of changes and developments that will impact costs of production, marketing strategies, and profitability are important. A visionary approach will assist in establishing both short and long-term goals and objectives.

In summary, consider all strategies that will assist your operation in finding the right bull. The right bull for your operation may not be the most popular, or at the top of the sale order, but through strategizing properly a bull which will fit your needs can be successfully identified and secured- thus increasing the odds for success.

Understanding Neonatal Calf Diarrhea - Dave Sparks D.V.M., Oklahoma State University Area Extension Food-Animal Quality and Health Specialist

Neonatal calf diarrhea or CALF SCOURS generally is caused by one or more of the following disease organisms: Rota virus, Corona virus, Cryptosporidium parvum, E. coli (K99 enterotoxigenic form), or Salmonella. Understanding the impact that these disease entities have on baby calves can help cow calf managers reduce the adverse effects of calf scours. Adequate colostrum intake by the calf is important for disease protection. A vigorous baby calf nursing a properly immunized, properly fed dam, will be a first line of protection against calf scours.

The first 3 organisms on the above list usually cause diarrhea at 7 to 21 days of age, while the common E. coli strains cause diarrhea within the first few days of life. The E Coli bacteria attaches to cells in the lining of the gut and turn on the fluid pump mechanism to cause excess water secretion into the gut. (Enterotoxigenic scours. Cow vaccination is helpful with this form.) The viral scours are caused by decreased absorption of water from the gut as the virus kills the cells of the gut papilla. (Cow vaccination is available but not always effective). Cryptsporidium and salmonella are zoonotic (transferable to humans) problems. The diarrhea is the result of a combination of factors including: (1) dose (number) of organisms the calf is exposed to, (2) amount or lack of calf immunity (colostrum), and (3) stress on the calf.

When should I treat the calf? Calves running around the pasture with their tails in the air, bucking and kicking with yellow or white diarrhea may not need treatment. The main indications for treatment are (1) general disposition, (2) appetite, (3) dehydration, and (4) body temperature. If the calf is weak, depressed, or reluctant to move these are all indications that something is wrong. If the calf is not eating, the cow's udder will be distended and this is sign of trouble also. Dehydration can be evaluated easily by pulling up the skin on the side of the neck or shoulder. In a normal calf, the skin snaps back into position quickly. In a dehydrated calf, the skin remains "tented" for a period of time-the longer it remains "tented" the worse the dehydration. Also, as dehydration worsens, the eyeballs sink back away from the eyelids-this is a bad sign and fluids are indicated immediately. Normal body temperature (measured with a rectal thermometer) is 100.5° F to 102.5 ° F. Body temperatures less than 100 ° F and greater than 102.5 ° F is a sign of problems and treatment should be started.

What are the recommended treatments? The main treatment is fluid therapy. Secondary treatments are antibiotics and nursing care. Because the main problem in scouring calves is loss of body fluid and electrolytes, the primary treatment must be aimed at restoring the water balance. The calves are thirsty, but they are too sick to drink. Therefore, the first line of treatment is oral electrolyte solutions. There are a number of excellent commercial products on the market for treatment of calf scours. All of these products contain glucose or a similar material, sodium chloride (table salt), and other electrolytes. The glucose and sodium allow the animal to absorb the water they need from their digestive tract. Giving straight water does not work. Usually 2 liters (just over 2 quarts) of the oral fluid solution is given 1 to 3 times per day to the sick calf. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the appropriate oral electrolyte product for your operation.

Antibiotics are often given to scouring calves even though antibiotics do not kill most of the calf scours agents. Due to damage in the gut of scouring calves, bacteria will "leak" into the blood stream of these calves and cause further problems. Antibiotics are of value for this reason. Antibiotics may kill the normal flora bacteria in the gut and actually make the problem worse but they must be used in circulating infections. Again, consult with your veterinarian regarding the correct choice of antibiotics to give. Many of the antibiotics are not labeled for calf scours and thus require a prescription from your veterinarian and an extended withdrawal time.

When treating sick calves, always treat them after you have attended to all the normal calves. This will decrease the spread of germs from the sick calves to the younger healthy calves. Also, keep all your treatment equipment clean-including your hands and clothes, as you can easily transmit these agents.

When do I need additional help? If your treatment methods are not working, contact your veterinarian immediately for additional help. If more than 5% of your calves are scouring and require treatment, you need help. If death loss is greater than 2% due to calf scours contact your veterinarian.

Forage Focus: Are Your Cows Mud Wrestlers? - Vic Shelton, Grazing Specialist, NRCS

Winter time often seems to create unique challenges with livestock and mud being one of the worst to deal with!

Above normal rainfall in many areas last fall got us started early dealing with the frustration of mud this winter. Many counties had a very wet…well, entire year. This unfortunately often sets us up for a lot of mud and makes us happy when the ground finally freezes up; free cement!

For most people, it quickly comes at a time when there is no longer any quality or quantity of forages left to graze and it is time to start feeding hay. When you start supplemental feeding will depend on your soils, your forage base, and animal numbers.

I really like to keep animals grazing as long as possible. Grazing livestock on stockpiled forages is a great way to extend the grazing season plus keeping the tractor out of the field a little while longer. It is this time of year where a lower animal/forage base ratio is very beneficial.

On most moderately-well to well drained soils, the stockpiled forages provide a pretty good base and will "hold up" well until grazed off. This is especially true if the time period that the animals are allowed to graze is limited, such as through strip grazing. Strip grazing is the allocation of planned amounts of forage for the cows to eat and once eaten they are moved to the next allotment. This increases efficiency of the harvest and shortens the time period the cows are actually on the site. Don't overgraze it though since you still need to leave some forage base behind. The earlier you want to graze it in the spring, the more important this becomes, and the earlier you graze it hard in the fall, the fewer carbohydrates stored in the roots for spring growth.

If you have to keep the livestock on pasture during extremely wet conditions, what can you do to minimize the damage?

If you are lucky enough to have some "sand" ground, then you are a step ahead of many. Sand or sandy soils are better drained and don't get muddy as quickly as loams and heavier soils. If you have some sandy cropland that is available to be grazed in the fall that is even better, since you can rest your pasture longer adding even more growth and durability. If that crop ground is also highly erodible land (HEL), don't overgraze it to the point of removing too much residue which is needed to stay in compliance with USDA programs. So remove livestock as necessary to stay in compliance.

Next best, is utilizing a sacrifice area. This is ideally an area that can be renovated easily. Once you are able to start grazing again in the spring and are off this site; if time, conditions, and weather permit, reseed these areas, either with a temporary seeding (annual) or a perennial seeding.

I have seen many poorly chosen sites utilized for this sacrifice purpose and left in disturbed condition. When areas such as creek bottoms, woods, and erodible sloping ground are utilized for a sacrifice area, water quality is almost always adversely affected. Try and choose a stable suitable site for these areas and rotate them if possible. Sometimes, these sacrifice areas can be paddock(s) that you plan to renovate anyway.

Mud is certainly worse around feeding, watering, and other concentrated areas. One of the best solutions for these concentrated areas is to install a "heavy use protection area", i.e. feed and watering pads. These are fairly simple to construct and better yet, very economical.

Start by leveling the area, removing excess organic matter and manure, and also top soil if necessary, to get a firm foundation to build on. Geo-textile fabric is laid down and then crushed limestone, usually #53's, is applied 6-8 inches deep depending on the site and conditions. Follow by topping with a couple inches of lime. The lime makes it easier to scrape and/or clean later and a little lime spread out on the field or pasture certainly won't hurt anything.

These pads supply a firm well drained area for feeding hay in rings, feeding silage in bunkers and for areas around watering tanks. Similar designs can also be used for concentrated walking areas and lanes.

If you happen to be on softer or wetter soils, then a layer of #2 lime stone could be laid underneath for a firmer base.

Why go to all this trouble? Mud increases stress for both us and the livestock. Mud increases energy requirements and at the same time can decrease intake. Mud will also tend to increase disease problems. Bottom line is mud can cost you big bucks!

Rock and geo-textile fabric is cheaper than concrete and require less maintenance than rock alone. These feed pads can also be placed right along the outside fence line, adjacent to a road or drive. In this way, the silage, grain, or hay can easily be fed without entering the field with the tractor.

Heavy use protection areas are cost-sharable through several USDA programs. Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation office for more information.

Weekly Roberts Agricultural Commodity Market Report - Mike Roberts, Commodity Marketing Agent, Virginia Tech

LIVE CATTLE in Chicago on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) finished up mostly lower on Monday. APR'07LC futures closed at $102.025/cwt, up $0.575/cwt and higher than last week at this time by $4.525.cwt. This contract set a fresh high and is the highest level for a lead contract in over three years. The JUNE'07LC closed off $0.175/cwt at $98.425/cwt but higher than last Monday by $3.00/cwt. Unwinding bear spreads and active index fund rolling normally weigh on the nearby contract and support the June but the unusually large amount of traders in short positions getting out of the April contract caused the contract to be bid up. Floor sources stated that more traders were willing to compete with fund rolling in the wake of strong cash markets and falling corn prices. The CME placed estimated volume at 23,000 April contracts and 26,000 June contracts. The April contract was considered in overbought condition with the 14-day Relative Strength Index (RSI) at 71.50. This seemed to have little effect on that contract. An RSI over 70 is considered overbought and subject to price correction as chartists trade the technical signals. The market was supported by strong cash cattle markets. The Five Area Weekly Weighted Average Price showed $4.00/cwt-$5.00/cwt higher than last week. Some cash cattle sold for as much as $101/cwt-$103/cwt as packers bid up prices for market ready cattle supplies that have been reduced by winter storms. Packer margins were brought back into the black last week following the rise in wholesale choice boxed beef levels not seen in almost two years. USDA put the choice beef cutout at $162.86/cwt, up $2.98/cwt. According to HedgersEdge.com, the average beef plant margin for Monday was at a positive $15.35/head, $2.50/head better than last Friday and up $25.75/head from one week ago. Expect these higher cash prices and lower corn futures to create fresh demand for replacement feeders. Cash sellers should consider holding onto cattle a little bit; selling heavier weights on what could be a market uptick over the next two weeks. Now would be a really good time for corn users to price more corn.

FEEDER CATTLE at the CME closed mixed on Monday with the three nearby contracts up and later months mostly lower. The MAR'07FC contract finished at $105.775/cwt, up $0.625/cwt and $2.000cwt higher than last Monday. The APR'07FC contract closed up $0.500/cwt at $107.125/cwt and $2.100/cwt higher than last week at this time. Feeder cattle were supported by lower corn futures, fund buying and bear spread unwinding. The latest CME feeder cattle index for March 8 was placed at $101.37/cwt, up $0.57/cwt. Cash sellers should think about putting put more weight on feeder cattle for another couple of weeks, while pricing another portion of feed inputs at this time.

CORN on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) closed down on Monday. The MAR'07 contract finished at $3.996/bu, off 8.4¢/bu and 17.6¢/bu lower than this time last week. The DEC'07 contract finished at $4.026/bu, down 5.0¢/bu and 6.0¢/bu lower than last Monday's close. DEC'08 futures finished off 3.4¢/bu at $3.864/bu but 7.0¢/bu higher than this time last week. Corn was driven lower by expectations for more corn acreage and a $1/barrel slide in crude oil prices to $59/barrell. This led to fund selling, soybean/corn spreading, and sell-stops in the market. Funds sold between 8,000 and 9,000 contracts amid an estimated volume in CBOT corn of 246,872 corn futures and 68,093 options. These futures markets will remain volatile as companies release their estimates for U.S. corn and soybean acres. Trying to meet surging corn demand, producers are expected to plant the largest amount of U.S. corn acres seeded in 60 years. Last year 78.3 million acres of corn was planted. USDA has pegged the U.S. crop at 87.0 million while an elevator survey by Daniels Midland shows an increase in 2007 U.S. corn acres to a huge 88.5 million acres. All eyes are watching for the USDA Prospective Plantings report that will be released on Friday morning, March 30. Exports were fairly quiet. South Korea is reportedly seeking food-grade-only corn this week while other world-market buyers are expected to take a break from corn purchases. Unexplainably, producers remain sell-shy waiting on higher prices … despite the fact that corn futures prices continue near 10-year highs. Friday's CFTC Commitments of Traders report for futures and options combined last Tuesday placed large speculators in long positions at 372,338 contracts, off 31,405 lots and those in short positions at 66,631 lots, up 8,935 contracts. Funds in long positions were pegged at 372,705 lots, up 1,501 from the previous week, while those in short positions shifted down 23 lots to 9,461 contracts. The APR'07 ethanol contract finished at $2.33/gal, up 0.050¢/gal. Primary support for the DEC'07 corn contract is placed at $3.992/bu with secondary support at $3.893/bu. DEC'07 corn could break out to the down side measuring objective of $3.665/bu filling the gap established January 12th if more bearish planting news is put out March 30, exports remain quiet, and South American corn gets good crop news. Hopefully cash sellers have forward contracted up to 50% of new crop corn by now. Hedgers should consider short positions in DEC'07 corn in the $3.95/bu range. This market shows signs of losing steam, at least through late March and early April, on declining crude prices and increasing crop acres.