BeefWatch Articles from All
Brittle bone disease, or osteogenesis imperfecta, is a detrimental disorder in livestock. Calves with the condition commonly suffer multiple bone fractures in utero or at delivery, and if able to stand, have lax tendons. Depending on the cause, calves may also have blue coloration in what is otherwise the white of the eye and soft teeth. Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) occurs in many species where it is more highly studied. In most cases, it is attributed to a new genetic mutation that occurred in the affected individual.
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. The presence of wind increases heat loss in livestock during the winter and can penetrate the hair coat allowing cold air to reach the skin, accelerating the loss of heat. Constructing windbreaks increases protection for livestock. Installing a windbreak needs to come with the end goal in mind.
Colostrum, or first milk produced by the mother after birth, is high in nutrients and antibodies. A newborn calf lacks disease protection because antibodies do not pass across the cow’s placenta to the fetus’ circulatory system. Antibodies in colostrum provide calves with their initial protection.
Calves need about two quarts of colostrum (or at least five percent of the calf’s body weight) within four hours of birth – ideally within 30 minutes – and one gallon within 12 hours.
In beef production, we tend to overdue genetic selection with the mentality that “more is better” or “bigger is better” in efforts to increase production. In doing so, we tend to select for short-term traits such as growth and milk yield to increase calf weaning weight for the potential of increased profitability.
Low quality hay can provide management challenges for cattle producers. This presentations discusses key things to know and options to effectively utilize low quality hay.
During the past two years, I have received several tick samples removed from horses. The first week of January, I received my first sample for 2019. Yes, one tick species thrives during Nebraska winters and that is the winter tick.
What is a respectable value to pay for a beef replacement heifer for the coming 2018-2019 production season? Like many decisions, this can be complicated by many factors, but nonetheless, it is important to have a handle on to make the best production and business choices for continued success of the ranching operation.
Research findings and industry updates will be the focus of the Nebraska Extension Beef Feedlot Roundtables Feb. 12-14.
Topics were selected to benefit feedlot managers, owners, employees, and those working in the allied industry.
One issue facing all producers is the ability to attract and retain employees. Because this is the biggest issue facing our feedyards, Dr. Scott MacGregor was invited to offer some options for feedyards to enhance employee retention and management succession.
One challenge farm/ranch operators have is to accurately find where to make changes to an operation to increase profits. Many have the records and numbers but don’t know where to start. A system of financial analysis developed nearly 100 years ago by an explosive salesman for DuPont Explosives Company is a useful tool for farm/ranch managers analyzing financial performance. It is a simple system that can point managers in the right direction when looking for the correct places to make operational improvements. This avoids wasting time and effort chasing unicorns.
Moldy hay. No matter how hard you tried, last summer you baled some hay a little too wet and now you have some mold. So how do you go about feeding this moldy hay safely?
Feeding moldy hay to livestock is a tough decision. Although all hay contains some mold, when mold becomes easily noticeable the decision becomes important.
Successful beef calf producers continually search for ways to improve their operation and bottom-line. Creep feeding calves to increase their market weight is one strategy. To be profitable, the costs of the added weight gain must be less than the value of that gain.
Finding, hiring and retaining quality employees are a major challenge for agricultural producers in western Nebraska. Competition for the available workforce comes from area industries, and the labor market is tight.
For some the calving season is almost upon us, while for others, the start of the calving season is still a few months away. The following are practices to consider in preparing for the upcoming calving season.
Efficiency and sustainability are important topics to beef consumers and the future success of the beef industry. These topics are also the theme of Nebraska Extension’s Ranching for Profitability session in 2019.
In January, Ranching for Profitability will be offered as a webinar that beef producers can join from any of 13 downlink locations across Nebraska, or from their home via the internet. A list of sites and registration information follows.
In recent months, the shortened supply of distillers grains has reduced the amount many producers have access to, and increased the price of that which is available. This has led many producers to evaluate what their supplement options are.
Can I just substitute corn for distillers grains for my bred cows?
Tri-State Cow/Calf Symposium will be held at the Wesleyan Church in Imperial Nebraska on February 8 with registration at 9:00 AM and the program starting at 9:30. The program was developed by Extension Educators and Specialists from Colorado State University, Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska. The emphasis of this symposium is Strategies for Success. Topics for the program include:
During the winter of 2019 Nebraska Extension will host 17 beef profitability workshops in Nebraska to help Beef Producers evaluate their operations to make them more profitable through the latest research information. Topics will vary depending on presenter and specific location. These workshops have been held across Nebraska for the past fifteen years. The cost is $15.00 but may vary from location depending on local sponsorship.
2019 Locations are as follows (no meal unless otherwise stated)
As supplementation costs continue to rise across Nebraska, producers are looking for economical ways to meet protein and energy requirements of their cattle. Hay produced on irrigated grass and subirrigated meadows can be a potential supplementation source throughout Nebraska.
For many, this is the time of year when bull purchasing decisions occur. Before you buy a bull, consider what you need to improve.
The key questions that every rancher needs to answer are:
1) What are my breeding/marketing goals?
2) What traits directly impact the profitability of my enterprise?
3) Are there environmental constraints that dictate the level of performance that is acceptable for a given trait in my enterprise?
Developing a heifer to replace a cull cow is one of the most expensive management decisions for cow-calf producers, leading to major implications on long-term herd profitability.
I just got the forage test results back from the lab and the nitrate score was 3,000. Am I in trouble?
Every year I get multiple questions similar to this one. Unfortunately, with just this information I’m unable to give a useful answer. So – the first question I ask is “Was this reported as nitrates or as nitrate nitrogen?”
By early December, weaning of spring-born calves has wrapped up for most cow-calf producers. This is a good time of year to close the books on 2018 and analyze the business to see what it cost to produce a pound of weaned calf. Unit cost of production (UCOP) is a value based on a relationship in production or manufacturing between costs and units of product made or produced.
Cornstalk residue can be an economical source of forage for beef cattle in the winter. The leftover corn, leaf and husk are the most desirable parts of the corn plant to the animal. Modern farming practices and technology have probably decreased the amount of corn left in the fields for the most part, but the digestibility of the leaf and husk are typically between 45-57% total digestible nutrients (TDN). Assuming stocking rates are moderate and intake is not limiting, research has indicated this will maintain non-lactating pregnant cows.
Year-round cattle grazing is an important management consideration in the Nebraska Sandhills and western Nebraska. With proper protein and mineral supplementation, cattle can be successfully grazed on dormant winter forage without high inputs of harvested feeds. Although, some hay may need to be fed during heavy snows or if available forage is lacking. Saving forage on pastures for use during only winter months can provide a valuable source of feed.
Fall rainfall, and even snow, is good for wheat and next year’s crops, but it does have its drawbacks. One challenge is rain’s impact on corn stalk feed quality.
Rain in the fall usually is welcomed despite the delays it causes with crop harvest. Pastures and alfalfa benefit from extra growth and winterizing capabilities. Wheat and other small grains get well established as do any new fields of alfalfa or pasture. The reserve moisture stored in the soil will get good use during next year’s growing season.
In this recent webinar, Dr. Aaron Yoder discusses an on-going project designed to improve the safety and health of cattle feedyard workers.
Integrated cow-calf production systems that utilize hoop barns, crop residues and annual forages are gaining interest in the heart of corn and soybean county. In this BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, Tyler Burkey who is part of a family farm operation near Milford, Nebraska discusses how they have built a cow-calf operation around a wide range of resources and technology.
About half of the available corn residue in Nebraska is grazed by cattle. In addition to providing a winter feed resource, this practice can be used as a management option to increase the amount and rate of corn residue breakdown. University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) research has shown that when corn residue was grazed at proper stocking rates (15% residue removal), crop production after grazing was not reduced. In fact, small, positive impacts on subsequent soybean yield has occurred.
The fall of the year is often a convenient time for those involved in cow-calf share and cash leases of spring calving cows to revisit the terms of the agreement. Market values of cattle, interest rates, pasture rental rates and feed costs can change significantly from year to year. Discussing how the share or lease is working and if adjustments need to be made is a good way to ensure the agreement is fair.
Feed costs make up the largest expense in a cow-calf operation. While hay is often used to feed cows through the winter, current prices make corn a competitive option to feeding hay. Considering 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 $3.30/bushel ($118/ton) equates to approximately $0.08 per pound of total digestible nutrients (TDN) while hay priced at $100/ton is nearly $0.11 per pound of TDN.
Ammoniation can be used to make low quality forages, like corn residue, have digestibility and protein content that is the equivalent of, or slightly better than, grass hay.
The Process of Ammoniation
Ammoniation of corn residue is relatively easy (although working with anhydrous ammonia can be dangerous and proper safety precautions must be taken). To ammoniate residue, the bales will be stacked together and the outside covered with plastic.
BeefWatch, an electronic monthly newsletter that provides beef producers with timely, research-based information on beef production issues as well as current issues and timely topics for consumers, is expanding to reach Hispanics working in the cattle industry. One to two articles will be translated each month into Spanish, appearing both on the beef.unl.edu website and the Podcast version of BeefWatch.
In this webinar, Rob Eirich discusses the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program including why and how to become BQA certified.
In this month’s BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, John Maddux who is part of a diversified cattle operation near Imperial, shares how his family grazes cornstalks through the fall and winter with spring calving cow-calf pairs.
If you haven’t experienced a freeze yet this fall, you soon will. And remember, a freeze can cause hazards for using some forages.
When plants freeze, changes occur in their metabolism and composition that can poison livestock. But you can prevent problems.
Sorghum-related plants, like cane, sudangrass, shattercane, and milo can be highly toxic for a few days after frost. Freezing breaks plant cell membranes. This breakage allows the chemicals that form prussic acid, which is also called cyanide, to mix together and release this poisonous compound rapidly.
This summer western Nebraska has been blessed with rain. Unfortunately, these rains have often been accompanied by hail. As a result, some once promising corn crops have been harvested for corn silage increasing the availability of this energy source in areas where it is not typically abundant. Several producers have had questions about the value of corn silage compared with sugar beet pulp, a more familiar commodity in western Nebraska for growing cattle.
Roughage is a necessary component in finishing diets for beef cattle as it helps maintain rumen function and reduces digestive upset. However, roughages are bulky, somewhat expensive for feedlots to acquire and store, and increase the volume in the feed truck, which increases the number of loads it takes to feed cattle thereby increasing the cost of feeding. Therefore, if the amount of roughage fed could be reduced without negatively impacting feedlot performance, efficiency of production could be improved.
Immune and nutritional status as well as management of newly received cattle influence their adaptability to the feedlot environment. Based on the information available relative to the history of a group of cattle, it is appropriate to classify the group within a certain health risk level and manage them accordingly. Genetics, age, source, vaccination program, length of transportation, and weather conditions are just some of the factors taken into consideration when designating cattle as low or high-risk.
Current market conditions for raw, whole soybeans are making them price competitive in parts of Nebraska with other protein sources such as distillers grains and alfalfa hay to be used as a protein supplement for cows as well as weaned calves.
The State of Beef Conference will be held November 7-8, 2018 at the Sandhills Convention Center in North Platte. The theme this year is “Increasing Production Efficiency”. There will be two producer panel discussions this year. One is on production efficiency and one is on alternative profit centers for the ranch. There will be a presentation on the market outlook as well as genetics, reproduction, and nutrition. This will also be an opportunity to visit with industry personnel about products available for the ranching operation.
This year, wet weather has many producers putting up hay much later in the season than normal. A late harvest date means grasses have already produced seed heads and are rapidly declining in forage nutrient value. While having even low quality hay on hand for winter feed is better than none, producers will need to consider the challenges of meeting cattle nutrient requirements this winter.
This article is a summary of the 2018 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report “Late Summer Planted Oat-Brassica Forage Quality Changes during Winter Grazing.” Mary E. Lenz, Jordan L. Cox, Kristen E. Hales, Hannah C. Wilson, and Mary E. Drewnoski were collaborators on this research study and report. The report is summarized by Aaron Berger, Nebraska Extension Beef Educator.
The first step in dealing with hail damage is to contact your insurance agent, so that you know what is required to meet obligations for hail or revenue insurance.
Weaning season is right around the corner for producers. However, some producers do not think about how their management techniques can affect calves when entering the feedlot. These techniques can affect how calves are managed when received at the feedlot and subsequently, can determine the number of head in a pen during receiving. This article will review the difference in bunk space requirements between calves that are weaned and shipped immediately to a different location compared to calves that are preconditioned before entering the feedlot.
Advantages to Windrow Grazing
Harvested feed costs can be one of the largest expenses to cattle producers. Windrow grazing, sometimes called swath grazing, is a management practice that can significantly reduce harvesting and feeding costs. Swathing the crop and leaving the windrows in the field provides several advantages.
• Eliminates the costs of baling and hauling bales off the field.
• Reduces labor and equipment costs associated with feeding.
Roughly half of all neighbor complaints of livestock odors originate from land application of manure. A weather forecast and a little knowledge of odor dilution can be a powerful tool for keeping your neighbors happy, or at least avoiding those irate phone calls. This article summarizes those weather conditions that should be considered when planning manure application.
Transportation plays an important role in cattle production. The majority of cattle in the United States have been transported with a stock trailer or semi cattle truck at least once in their life time.
Data on transportation was collected in the 2016 National Beef Quality Audits for both fed cattle and market cows/bulls being moved to harvest facilities.
Recent findings published from the Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Highlights 2017-2018 indicate changes in cow-calf and stocker monthly rental rates were mixed when compared to 2017 (Table 1). Nebraska monthly grazing rates represent a typical fee for one month of grazing during the summer. Many leases run for a five-month grazing season subject to annual weather conditions.
Artificial insemination (AI) provides the opportunity for cow-calf producers to use elite genetics. In this BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, Shannon Sims who is part of a family ranch operation from McFadden, Wyoming, discusses how they utilize AI in their cowherd.
Proper management during the receiving phase is critical to overall health and long-term performance of cattle in the feedlot. Newly weaned calves are faced with the stress of separation from the cow, deprivation of feed and water during transportation, and adaptation to the feedlot environment. Whether calves are being introduced into a backgrounding or finishing program, implementing low-stress management practices to ensure this is a smooth transition for incoming calves becomes a major priority.
As cattlemen enter the summer months, they need to understand and deal with heat and humidity. We need to consider some guidelines to help us reduce additional stress on cattle during these events and incorporate some of the following practices into our management practices.
The 2018 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) meetings were recently held in Loveland, CO, with over 600 people in attendance. This year’s meeting marked the 50th anniversary of BIF. With this milestone came an opportunity to reflect back on accomplishments made and given thought relative to the direction of activities going forward. One opportunity that was raised throughout several talks during the meeting was the need to collect phenotypes that are economically relevant but have largely only been collected in research settings.
How should you graze regrowth in pastures that had tall growth trampled during a previous grazing? I don’t know but I have some ideas.
Grass growth got away from many of us Nebraskans this spring. For some reason the rainfall and temperatures and sunshine all combined to quickly produce so much tall grass that cattle couldn’t eat fast enough.
August to early September is a time when some producers are planting various annual forages or cover crop mixtures for fall forage. This typically includes non-winter hardy small grain cereals such as oats and spring varieties of triticale, barley, or wheat. Brassicas such as turnips, rape, or kale can be mixed with these small grain cereal grasses. Most brassicas have high energy content even when mature and tend to maintain their quality later into the winter than the small grain cereal grasses.
The new US tax bill is in full effect. While we wait for the IRS to provide a full interpretation, we do have more information on some sections. One in particular that has some tax preparers nervous for their clients is federal withholding. With the higher standard deduction and changes in child credits, taxpayers may need to reconsider how much to withhold for federal taxes in each pay period.
Livestock producers have many of the same risk management insurance needs as crop producers. Price and market uncertainties pose a significant risk to cattle producers with a substantial amount of money invested in breeding livestock, land, and other infrastructure. Price protection through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) futures contracts can introduce financial burdens in the form of margin calls and may not be a good option for many smaller-scale producers.
Across the Great Plains the end of summer generally brings hot and dry conditions to the region. Both warm and cool season grasses begin to mature and decline in forage quality by late July and August. This decrease in diet quality can present challenges for the May calving heifer, who is still growing and nursing her first calf. The breeding season for May calving cows starts in late July and August.
Open cattle feedlots combined with hot and drier summer conditions can often times lead to periods of increased dust issues that can become a nuisance. Observations suggest that the worst time for dust to develop is during the late afternoon and at dusk when the temperature begins to drop and wind speed decreases. This is when cattle that have been resting during the hotter part of the day, become more active. This activity creates increased dust that hangs in the cooler evening air.
The University of Nebraska has conducted several years of cow-calf research examining and comparing the potential for different production systems in Nebraska. Recent research has examined grazing summer born calves on cornstalks with their dams and compared that to feeding pairs in a dry lot.
Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) is a concept to identify potentially invasive species prior to or just as the establishment of the invasive is taking place. An Integrated Pest Management plan (IPM) can be developed to manage, contain and eradicate the invasive species before it can spread further. This will avoid costly, long-term control efforts.
The high rainfalls experienced in recent weeks have left many feedlot holding ponds full and operators looking for irrigation options for applying animal manure during the growing season. This article focuses on important considerations for application of open lot holding pond effluent and diluted manures during the growing season without damaging the crop. Three take home messages from this article include:
Rained-on hay plagues all of us eventually. This year maybe more than usual. The 'windrow disease' that often follows presents lingering problems.
Windrow disease — that’s the name I give to the striped appearance in fields where alfalfa windrows remained so long that regrowth was delayed. Usually it’s due to rained on hay and sometimes, insects.
The game of “what-if” can be tricky. What if the corn crop becomes drought damaged this year? Am I prepared to utilize this forage? Drought-stressed corn will start to wilt and roll its leaves. If drought occurs for four days during the silking and pollination period, the early reproductive stages of the corn plant, as much as 40-50% drop in yield can occur. Cattle producers looking to make use of the drought-stressed corn may harvest it for forage but it should be done with a few considerations.
Field peas are a popular crop included in wheat rotations in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming and Colorado because they contribute nitrogen to the soil and naturally break up weed and pest cycles. Field peas are normally sold for human consumption and utilized in the pet food industry. However, when they are rejected for human consumption and the pet food market is saturated, the field pea grower needs to find an alternative market for the crop.
Nebraska is the epicenter of the beef cattle community. Nebraska beef cattle producers are the Nation’s leaders and produce top quality beef for today’s consumers. When it comes to running a strong cattle operation, they do things the right way. Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is here to help with the training and certification to build more value into your operation.
Progressive ranchers and farmers committed to lifelong learning often find podcasts as a way to expand their knowledge base while using time effectively. For a majority of people involved in production agriculture, a significant amount of time is spent behind the wheel of a vehicle or piece of equipment. This “drive time” can be an opportunity to listen to podcasts through using smartphone technology.
Cow-calf producers have the option of preconditioning calves at weaning to improve health status and ultimately add value to their calf crop. Preconditioning programs can vary greatly from one operation to another but share the common goal of preparing calves for the next phase of production. The preconditioning period is typically a minimum of 45 days and includes a nutritional program, health protocol, and series of management strategies designed to minimize stress and boost the immune system of the newly weaned calf.
In this month's BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, Alex Wiese, who is part of a family owned and operated farm near Newman Grove, shares how he has started a cow-calf enterprise as part of his family's operation. In the podcast Alex shares management practices and techniques he is using to dry lot cow-calf pairs through the summer.
The Sandhills have a “new” invasive weed — absinth wormwood. This weed is on Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota’s noxious weed list. However, absinth wormwood was absent in Nebraska until a few years ago. Now absinth wormwood has been identified in over 15 counties in Nebraska, including several counties in the Sandhills.
This is a review of two research studies conducted at the University of Nebraska that evaluated the impact of initial implant program on performance and carcass characteristics of calf-fed steers.
Research continues to demonstrate the impact of maternal nutrition on the developing fetus in beef cattle. A recent study at North Dakota State University with yearling beef heifers in early pregnancy examined and compared two groups of heifers that were managed the same prior to breeding, but after breeding were assigned to different levels of nutrition.
The Annual Forage Insurance Plan offers an opportunity to manage precipitation risk.
The American Simmental Association (ASA) recently released a new genetic evaluation that includes multiple changes that seedstock and commercial producers alike should be aware of. Although there were changes to the entire suite of EPD, examples of key changes are listed below.
Research has shown that calves from cows that shed their winter hair coat earlier tend to weigh more at weaning.
To prevent damaging forage production, grass needs a head start to grow leaves and replace the resources used to grow leaves before grazing.
As the beef cattle industry focuses on stewardship in animal health and antimicrobial use, we are continually reminded to follow FDA Labels on all animal products. We understand the importance of strong vaccination programs, proper diagnosis and treatment, and the good stockmanship when handling livestock.
Allocating costs is a tool used to assist in financial and managerial decision making within your operation.
As branding season approaches, consider using calfhood implants as a management strategy to maximize returns.
Creep feeding must be carefully appraised in view of economics of cost of gain, potential market, and the influence on sale price of the calves.
As grass leases continue to get harder to find and more expensive to acquire, and drought continues to threaten the Great Plains, cow/calf producers are showing more and more interest in feeding pairs in a confinement system.
As part of the National Cattlemens' Beef Association webinar series, the eBEEF team conducted four webinars in the spring of 2018 focused on genetic selection tools available to beef cattle producers and how to put them into practice. The first webinar, "Fake News: EPDs don't work", focused on the fundamental principles of EPDs and common misconceptions. Examples include the differences between birth weight and calving ease EPD, what "milk" EPD really is, and the perception that "more is better".
In this month's BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, Dr. Danny Klinefelter who is a retired agricultural economics and professor from Texas A&M University shares about The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) which is a designed for ag business owners and managers looking to develop their skills.
Topics discussed include:
As drought conditions worsen through a large portion of the Great Plains, many beef cattle producers are starting to evaluate ways to stretch forage resources potentially in jeopardy.
A common conversation I have with producers usually goes something like this, “I’m renting out 50 acres to my neighbor who wants to run 30 cows on it, does that sound about right to you?” This is a perfectly legitimate question, however, more details are needed on both the cattle and the pasture to fully answer this question.
Many producers provide a free-choice trace mineral to grazing cattle throughout the year. Trace minerals have been shown to have an essential role in reproduction. When a free-choice trace mineral supplement is provided, some individual animals will consume more than the recommended amount, while others may consume none at all.
Pasture fly season is approaching and now is the time to evaluate your horn fly management plan for the 2018 grazing season. First, re-evaluate last year’s plan. Did it provide adequate fly control?
Planting perennial grasses on marginal dryland cropping areas has long been recommended as a sound conservation practice. Planting perennial grasses for conservation also may provide opportunities to increase livestock production.
The start of the growing season will be here soon and it is time to finish up grazing and forage plans for the upcoming year. In 2017, many areas in the state experienced dry conditions during the month of June and some areas were very dry during both June and July.
Manure is often viewed by many as an environmental liability. However, if manure is applied at rates equal to or less than the nitrogen (N) requirement of a crop, can manure produce environmental benefits over commercial fertilizer?
The cool spring followed by a quick warm up could make for the perfect storm. Grass tetany usually occurs in the spring when cool weather is followed by a warm period. It is typically seen in early lactation cows grazing cool-season grasses during cool, cloudy, and rainy weather.
The University of Nebraska is conducting research around the idea of integrating cattle and cropping systems to best use the resources in Eastern Nebraska. Recently, a field day was held at ENREC (formerly ARDC) near Mead to showcase this work. The proceedings for the field day are available at https://go.unl.edu/2018capturingvalueresources.
In this month's BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, Brian Sprenger who is part of a family owned and operated ranch near Sidney shares how his family utilizes annual forages as grazing resource. Some of the topics that Brian discusses in the interview include:
Producers who aggressively controlled costs while producing more pounds of calf to sell per cow than their competitors were the most profitable.
Estrus synchronization can lead to an increased proportion of females conceiving earlier in the calving season and will wean older and larger calves at weaning.