BeefWatch Articles from February 2023
Cold stress increases a cow’s energy requirement and can pull down her body condition. Thin cows can result in weak calves being born in the spring and/or poor breed up. Winter storms have already swept across the Plains, giving indications this could be a long, cold winter for cows already thin due to summer drought stress.
Shelter for livestock during the winter months can influence the success of calving and a livestock operation. Protection from the wind and snow is not always readily available from natural topography or living windbreaks such as tree lines or shrub rows.
Plans for calving season should include how to identify and manage cold stress in newborns. In the 2007 National Animal Health Monitoring System report, 25.6% of operations reported weather as the main cause for death in calves less than 3 weeks old. Preventing hypothermia is vital to survival in the newborn.
Expected progeny differences (EPDs) are a widely utilized tool in making genetic decisions centered around breeding objectives. With the progression of DNA technology, the industry has been able to incorporate genomics into the numbers that are used to calculate EPDs. Prior to inclusion of genomic information, we relied on pedigree-based relationships that operate on the averages. This assumes a 50% contribution from the dam and 50% contribution from the sire to the breeding value of the offspring.
With spring not far off, it is time to start planning and thinking about any spring annual forages that we might plant. Part of the process may be anticipating a need for extra feed or booking seed early.
1. Pay attention to nutrition needs of bred heifers or cows prior to calving.
Adequate body condition at the time of calving for young females and mature cows is important as it impacts stamina during delivery of the calf, colostrum quality, calf vigor, and also impacts subsequent rebreeding.
Due to demand, a second webinar series on calculating annual cow costs will be offered starting in late February and running through early April. Being able to calculate and know total cow costs is foundational for evaluating and making management decisions that can improve profitability for a cow-calf enterprise. Significant increases in input costs are challenging producers to examine cost of production and identify where there may be opportunities to adjust the production system.
The lack of forage due to drought and current hay prices have producers considering alternative options for feeding cows this winter. One competitive option to consider is replacing some hay in the diet with corn. Since corn has a higher energy content than hay, the cost of feeding hay is often higher than corn on a price per pound of energy basis. For example, corn priced at $6.76/bushel ($241/ton) with a total digestible nutrients (TDN) value of 88% equates to approximately $0.16 per pound of TDN while hay priced at $205/ton with a TDN value of 52% is nearly $0.22 per pound of TDN.
Given bull sale season is underway, addressing a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) might prove helpful as you begin to consider what bull(s) to buy this spring and the tools you use to select them.
1. I keep my own replacement heifers but also retain ownership on cattle through the feedyard. How can I keep cow weight down but ensure that hot carcass weights do not go down?
Winter has been much colder than last year. The colder temperatures enhance “Winter Tick” survival. Yes, we do have a tick species in Nebraska that is very active during winter, and it can impact livestock. Over the last 10 years I have received numerous tick specimens in January, February, and March. All specimens were removed from horses. Now is the time to carefully examine horses for the winter tick.
Determining how much pasture is needed for summer grazing can be difficult. There are many factors that affect pasture productivity including current year precipitation amounts and timing and previous year growing season’s conditions. The drought conditions that much of the U.S. experienced last year limited the amount of energy plants were able to store, especially if they were heavily grazed. It is important to consider this when developing a grazing plan for this year. This will aide in understanding how to set stocking rates and prevent further damage.
This article was originally featured in Progressive Cattle.
Nebraska Extension will host a price risk management workshop for cattle producers in Ord from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, at the Valley County Extension Office, 801 "S" Street, Suite 1, on the fairgrounds. Cattle producers will learn strategies designed to reduce risk exposure to achieve a profitable outcome in uncertain times.
Current issues facing the cattle industry will be discussed to help producers to make more informed decisions facing the industry.