Ohio Beef Newsletter

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Well-known member
Jan 20, 2007
LaRue, Ohio
Calves = Very Valuable; Bulls Deemed "Satisfactory Potential Breeders" = Priceless! - Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension, Fairfield County

Yes, you likely do recognize that same title from previous years in this publication but, I think it bares repeating. Sounds simple enough - purchase bull; put bull with cows; calves appear in ~ 283 days; collect calves 205 days later; sell calves for good prices! Well maybe it should be that simple, but . . . I think most Ohio cattlemen will agree it isn't!

One requirement of bulls which are offered annually at the Ohio Seedstock Improvement Sales is that they be examined for breeding soundness and meet the requirements to be deemed "Satisfactory Potential Breeders." During preparations for last weekend's OSI Sale in Hillsboro, more than 20% - 7 of 33 bulls - that had been consigned FAILED their breeding soundness examinations and were removed from the sale. Four failed due to infections, others from lack of motile sperm and/or insufficient volume of collectable semen.

Another case in point came about during preparations for the 2004 Ohio Performance Tested bull sale. After weighing off test that year, 9 of the 84 bulls evaluated failed the examination to allow them to be deemed Satisfactory Potential Breeders and did not participate in the sale. Admittedly, they were all relatively young bulls (12-15 months old) that could continue to mature and possibly become satisfactory breeders at some point. Fact is, if the ones that failed needed to cover 15-20 cows immediately after the sale, they likely couldn't have done it in a timely fashion.

If you purchase a higher priced bull, or a more mature bull, is he likely to be potentially a better settler of cows? Maybe - however, a two year old purebred that was sold at the 2004 Ohio Beef Expo for $5000 failed his breeding soundness examination shortly after the sale was completed. He had no live or motile sperm! In recent years, breeding soundness examinations have been conducted on bulls for commercial cattlemen at the sale barns in Zanesville and Hillsboro. As many as 10% of the mature bulls in any given year have failed their evaluations.

Regardless of where you purchase a bull, or if you're using the same one as last year, be certain he has the ability to settle the females he's exposed to in a timely fashion. The following article suggests that delaying conception for even one 21 day cycle could easily cost a cattleman $50+/- per calf on the day that his 2008 calf crop is marketed.

It's not too late to have your veterinarian evaluate your bulls for soundness before breeding season. The cost may be as little as the amount gained from settling one cow, one cycle earlier. Considering the value of feeder calves, sound beef bulls are a valuable commodity . . . but, getting live calves on the ground in a timely fashion next spring will likely still be priceless!

EDITOR's NOTE: You will find several articles on beef bull management and breeding soundness examinations, including the publication Integrated Bull Management: Critical Success Factors, in the OSU Extension Beef Team web Library.

What's the Cost of a Missed Breeding Cycle? - Stan Smith, PA, OSU Extension, Fairfield County

This time of year, many Extension beef cattle educators like to talk about the importance of short breeding seasons where most of the cows and heifers conceive on the first service. Certainly a number of issues can affect how long it takes to get the entire herd settled. Regardless, one obvious advantage of a tight breeding season is the opportunity to manage and market the resulting calves as one consistent group. However, have you ever considered the direct 'economic' benefit of cows that conceive on the first cycle?

Assuming adequate nutrition is available, a good calf is likely gaining about 2.25+/- pounds a day at weaning time. As a result, if he was born 21 days later than his counterpart, he could easily weigh 40 to 50 pounds less when he goes to market as a feeder calf in the fall of 2008. If feeder calves are worth $1.20 per pound next Fall, one missed breeding cycle could cost $50 to $60 for each calf that is born only one cycle late. For a cow that's two cycles late, you need to double those numbers!

Herd health (vaccinations, etc.), cow body condition (nutrition), bull (breeding) power, bull breeding soundness and estrus synchronization programs are all factors that equate to getting cows settled early in the breeding season. Now is the time to consider the economic impact of each of these management opportunities as it relates to the harvest of your 2008 calf crop.

Forage Focus: Spring Pasture Management - Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Educator, Monroe County

This is the time of year when keeping grass plants in a vegetative state can be the hardest for grass managers. Managing pasture growth early in the growing season is important to maintain high quality and high quantity forage production throughout the spring, summer and fall. A "spring flush" occurs in cool season grasses because the optimum temperature for growth occurs and the most important nutrient, water, is readily available. Growth distribution of cool season grasses and most legumes are greatest in the spring when air temperatures are 70-85 degrees.

Start moving animals through your first paddocks when soil conditions permit and the plants are a few inches tall. Rotate livestock through paddocks or fields at a pace which gives them just enough time to graze the tops off the forage. Move on to the next field and let livestock graze the same way. This will help stagger forage growth, keep more plants in a vegetative state and reduce seedhead formation as the season progresses. This is a good strategy, but being able to keep ahead of grass growth when the temperatures warm and the growth explosion occurs is easier to say than it is to do.

In the first rotation each spring livestock preferences are not very noticeable, but as grasses and legumes grow livestock preferences for certain forages begin to show and uneven grazing patterns appear. Problems arise in many paddocks across Ohio because fescue is mixed with orchardgrass, bluegrass, ryegrass and clover. If allowed, cattle will eat other grasses and clovers to the ground and leave the fescue standing. Using heavy stocking density on small paddocks at this time may help, but moving livestock frequently will be necessary to make this approach work. After the first or second week of May, in our area, if you have fescue plants that have been refused to this point, they will not likely be grazed in the next rotation or in the remainder of the summer rotations. If large amounts of un-grazed fescue persist in the paddock, clipping or bush-hogging should be considered as an option. This will stop seed-head production, reduce shading of other plants and may allow more favorable grass/legume growth in the paddock. Remember, taking proper care of the forage plants is the key to high quantity and high quality forage production.

Soil that is too wet can complicate grazing management too. Plugging the soil occurs when livestock walk on water soaked ground. Care should be taken so plugging does not take place over large portions of your grazing area. Severe plugging can decrease growth for weeks maybe months, so fencing livestock onto a heavy use pad or using a sacrifice area to feed the hay in, if conditions like this exist, may be the best option. Paddocks that are well drained or those that are predominantly fescue are good choices to use early too. If minor plugging occurs, plant production will not decline very much. It may even boost production of clovers because opening the soil can stimulate new plant growth if viable clover seeds are present.

Forages in early spring pastures are extremely lush. Plant material is only about 15% dry matter while crude protein is generally high, possibly 25-30%. Hay or supplemental feed should still be provided during the early rotations to be sure adequate dry matter is in the animal's diet. Cattle producers, be sure to supply free choice mineral mixtures with adequate amounts of magnesium (12-14% Mg in the mineral mix) at this time of year and move the minerals along to each new paddock too. This reduces chances of grass tetany in livestock that are grazing grass-dominate paddocks.

As rotations continue into mid and late May, more volume of forage should be growing in each paddock. Cool season grasses attempt to reproduce in the spring by shooting seedheads. If plants are allowed to flower and set seed, the quality of forage and production may be greatly decreased the remainder of the growing season. Regulating livestock consumption in each paddock to keep grass in a vegetative state, again is the managers objective.

If legumes are the predominant species in a paddock, do not turn livestock into the forage while plants are wet. Bloat may occur. Wait until the surface moisture dries and feed hay before entering these paddocks to reduce chances of bloat.

It is important look ahead and monitor growth in your paddocks. Often, livestock cannot utilize grass production in all paddocks; therefore as a manager we must make decisions of how to handle the excess grass growth. What should we do if we have extra grass in the other paddocks? Selected paddocks could be made into hay and those paddocks brought back into the rotation later, but the grass should really be cut no later than the boot stage to keep the plants in a vegetative growing stage. The problem with this strategy is, if we mow paddocks when we should to keep maximum vegetative production, (mid May) we usually cannot get the grass dry to make hay. So, many managers leave the paddocks grow until haymaking weather arrives, usually June, and hay is then made from the forage that could not be grazed at the proper time. Be careful not to set aside too many paddocks where you make hay because you may find yourself in a deficit situation for forage the correct height for grazing in late June. Re-growth from set aside fields may not be ready to graze again until mid July depending on temperature and moisture availability. Clipping or bush-hogging some paddocks a few days apart in early May could be advantageous, even if dry hay cannot be made. This will keep plants vegetative and highly productive so uninterrupted rotations can continue the next time around.

Wise use of fertilizer in the spring is an important part of pasture growth management. Do not heavily fertilize all of your pastures early in the spring. If you need more pasture, only fertilize a few of your paddocks. Late May or early June is a better time for fertilization. This will have several benefits. First, you are not adding to the excess growth problem most managers have in the spring. Second, you will be feeding the forage plants at a time before warmer and dryer weather is about to begin. The plants can use the nutrients at this time to maximize productivity before the "summer slump" occurs in July and August. This provides additional growth at a time when it will be needed by the livestock and quality of this forage should still be very high. The type of forage and amount of forage produced in your paddocks is directly related to your pasture management practices.

Look at your paddocks and project in your mind what you think they will look like 2-3 weeks in the future based on the growing conditions. Then match your projections with what you observe. Doing this on a regular basis throughout different stages of the growing season helps one become a better grass manager.

Summary: If we use our livestock to harvest the forage we want them to harvest, at the time it needs to be harvested, better forage quality will be produced and greater quantity will be generated. The plants, the animals and you will be rewarded for properly managing the "spring flush".

Frost Injury to Alfalfa - Issues and Concerns - Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

The early alfalfa growth from late March has been killed back by the frigid early April temperatures across most of the state. Some fields still show green leaf material in the lower canopy, but the taller stems have collapsed from the cold injury.

I really don't expect that we will see permanent damage to established, healthy alfalfa stands from this late freeze. Back in 1992 we had similar conditions of alfalfa breaking dormancy early in March, followed by cold temperatures that killed the shoots back to the crown. Alfalfa re-initiated growth that year and first-cutting yields were near normal, although the first harvest was delayed by 7 to 15 days.

Established stands of adapted varieties will initiate new growth with the warming temperatures, especially if the fields have good drainage and adequate fertility. If fertility is below optimum, make corrective applications as soon as soils are firm and dry enough to support traffic.

For late summer 2006 seedings, the frost injury may cause more significant problems depending on extent of seedling establishment and growth achieved last fall. Plantings made in late July to early August 2006 will likely have less long-term damage than those made in late August to September. Plant roots should be observed later this week. If the inner root tissue is soft, spongy, and possibly discolored, then severe injury has occurred. Those plants will or already have died. In contrast, healthy root tissue will be firm and white.

Weak stands, especially those under waterlogging stress, will likely have a more difficult recovery this spring and yield levels will be lower than normal. Keep a close eye on fields in that condition during the next two weeks.

I've been asked three questions related to managing frost-injured alfalfa: Should the frosted alfalfa growth be cut? If not clipped, won't the dead alfalfa stems interfere with new shoot development? Will forage quality at the first cutting be harmed by the dead alfalfa stems?

My answer to all three questions is "No". I say this even though reports are circulating from other regions that cutting is recommended if more than one-third of the top growth has been wilted by frost. But I think cutting at this stage will be an added stress that will further drain the vigor of the plants and do more harm than good. In addition, any surviving stems in the lower canopy could get clipped off, setting the plants even further behind.

The frost-killed stems will have negligible or no effect on the growth of new shoots. The dead stems will also have negligible effect on forage quality at first cutting. They probably won't even be picked up during harvesting operations, and will be decomposing by that time. Because most of the frosted material has already collapsed to the ground, I doubt a mower would even do much good at this point in time. Furthermore, soils are wet and soft, and the risk of crown damage from equipment traffic is high. So I think we should save the fuel and be patient for the plants to recover on their own.

My best guess is that we will have to delay our first harvest by 7 to 15 days this spring. We will know more as the crop develops. A delayed first harvest will give the crop time to recover and produce higher yields. Forage quality should follow the normal changes in relation to crop maturity.

The delay in first harvest this year will mean that only three cuttings will be possible for stands where four cuttings are normally taken. Later this summer, the alfalfa should also be allowed to mature to 40 to 50% bloom stage, which will help the stand regain full vigor.

Despite the potential for one less cutting (3 rather than 4 cuts) this year, overall yields could still be near normal provided weather conditions favor good alfalfa growth the rest of the growing season. Research has shown that alfalfa cut three times is often higher yielding than when four cuts are made. Forage quality is usually lower with three cuttings as compared with four; however, it is usually acceptable for dairy animals, provided the stand is pure alfalfa and not mixed with grass.

For mixed grass-alfalfa stands, the tricky management issue may be that the grass will recover more rapidly and be ready for harvest much sooner than the alfalfa. So should grass-alfalfa mixtures be clipped to slow down the grass growth? Again, I don't think so. By the time one could get on the field to clip them, some young alfalfa shoots may be growing again. Removing those stems could do more harm than good to the alfalfa.

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

LIVE CATTLE on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) finished up on Monday. APR'07LC futures closed at $97.30/cwt, up $.250/cwt but $3.600/cwt lower than last week at this time. The JUNE'07LC closed at $92.90/cwt up $0.20/cwt on the day but $3.80/bu lower than last Monday. Short covering provided some support late in the day as futures recovered somewhat from last week's losses. Cash cattle are viewed as steady for this week and are expected to keep futures in a narrow trading range. Boxed beef prices lost ground but can be expected to gain back some as spring grilling picks up. Cash cattle traded lower last week with USDA placing the 5-area-weekly-weighted-cattle-price at $99.97/cwt, up over $4.00/cwt from the previous week. Prices reached highs not seen in 3 ½ years slowing cash sales toward the end of last week. USDA put the choice beef cutout at $169.18/cwt, off $0.49/cwt. According to HedgersEdge.com, the average beef plant margin for Monday was estimated $12.45/head lower at $18.95/head but $5.35/head better than a week ago. Also supportive of prices are early estimates that cattle on feed numbers will be down 1.9%-3.6% of last year when USDA's Cattle on Feed report comes out on Friday. March placements are expected to range from 100.9%-112% of a year ago while marketings are expected to range from 95.5% -100% of a year ago. Lower corn futures provided support for fat cattle. The latest CME Feeder Cattle Index, for April 12, was off $0.49/cwt at $108.73/cwt. Cash sellers are still encouraged to push sales this week. Additionally, it is still a very good idea to forward price feed grain inputs this week.

FEEDER CATTLE at the CME finished up on Monday. Recovering from two week lows just posted, the APR'07FC contract closed up $.475/cwt at $107.725/cwt but $4.175/cwt lower than last week at this time. The MAY'07 contract closed at $108.050/cwt, up $0.800/cwt and it too was $4.70/cwt lower than last Monday's close. Feeder cattle futures found buyers among funds and other large speculators during the day on lower corn futures and the discount to the CME Feeder Cattle Index. The latest CME Feeder Cattle Index for April 12 was $108.73/cwt. Cash sellers should keep feeder cattle sales current. As previously stated, it is a very good idea to forward price feed grain inputs this week.