BeefWatch Articles from All

BeefWatch Articles from All

Winter Tick

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.

How Much Pasture do I Need and What are AUMs?

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.

Cow Nutrition Considerations at Calving and Early Lactation

This article was originally featured in Progressive Cattle.

Extension to Host Risk Management Workshop for Cattle Producers in Ord

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.

Translating and Applying Genomic EPDs

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.

Spring Annual Forages

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. 

Preparing for calving season

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.

Limit Feeding Cows Corn as an Alternative to Hay

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.

2023 Cow-Calf College Beef Seminar

The 2023 Cow-Calf College Beef Seminar is set for January 19th at the Clay County Fairgrounds in the Activities Building. Registration starts at 9:00 am with programs scheduled from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm. This year’s program is focused on strategies to manage forage resources during drought, including eastern redcedar control and adjusting pasture stocking and rental rates. The hands-on format will allow participants to engage with specialists and peers throughout the day.

TDN Translation: Understanding Energy of Forages

Total digestible nutrients (TDN) are the common energy reference for both feed content and animal requirement, so how are the two connected and what can we know to better examine TDN of feedstuffs and use energy economically?

The initial measure of energy begins with gross energy (GE), which is the term for all energy contained within a feed and consumed by the animal. By subtracting all the energy that passes through to manure from GE, you get digestible energy (DE). Digestible energy is the measure of energy converted into TDN within feedstuffs.

Summary of the Beef Heifer Replacement Forecast for 2023 Production Season

This is a summary of the sixth annual beef cow replacement value forecast for Nebraska. The entire forecast can be found at this link, and past summaries are also available on the Farm¢ents site. The information presented in the forecast is intended as a guide to modify, depending on each producer’s circumstances, expectations of future production costs, and cow and calf values.

2023 Beef Feedlot Roundtable Series

The 2023 Beef Feedlot Roundtable Series is an event that you won’t want to miss! We encourage feedlot owners, managers, employees, and allied industry to join Nebraska Extension February 7-9th as we dive into a series of timely topics covering feedlot management. Highlights from the program include the use of roller compacted concrete, implications of increasing hot carcass weight, and new requirements on implanting with speakers from UNL Extension and producers.

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health Among Producers

Agriculture is a rewarding business, but it does come with stressors – weather, cattle and grain prices, debt, etc. -- that can stack on top of each other. It’s important to recognize the value a person brings to an operation compared to the markets, number of acres you own, or the number in your bank account. Farmers and ranchers tend to struggle with a lack of routine, or lack of structure that comes with the business and having to always be flexible when dealing with the unknown. Producers tend to push through these adversities without giving themselves grace.

UNL range management specialist in the Panhandle receives Nebraska Cattlemen endowment

Dr. Mitch Stephenson, associate professor and range management specialist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln stationed at the Panhandle Research, Extension, and Education Center in Scottsbluff received the 2023 Nebraska Range & Conservation Endowment from the Nebraska Cattlemen. The endowment honors professors or instructors who are providing cutting-edge research and/or student instruction in a range management and conservation-related areas.

The Impact of Low Stocks-to-use Ratio and the Ukraine-Russia Conflict on the Distillers-to-Corn Price Ratio

Distillers’ grains play an important role in both maintaining ethanol plant profit margins and providing affordable, nutritious feed to livestock feeding operations. Distillers’ grains are produced as necessary by-products of the fuel ethanol production process and therefore rely on an input grain – most commonly corn in the United States – and fuel ethanol in their production (USDA ERS 2021).

Value of Gain on Winter Backgrounded Cattle

This article was first published by "In the Cattle Markets" on Oct. 31, 2022.

Cumulative national feeder and stocker cattle receipts are slightly lagging both 2021 and the 5-year average (2017-2021) at 12,098,700 head through Oct. 21. In 2022, more of the receipts are coming from cattle weighing less than 600 lbs. and heifers – both signals that the drought in various parts of the United States is affecting feeder and stocker cattle being sold.

Do You Have Mold and Mycotoxins in Your Silage?

We typically suggest getting forage tested to determine nutrient content such as energy and protein. But with silage, additional testing may be needed, especially when grown under stressed conditions and/or put up in less-than-ideal conditions. The presence of mold in silage can decrease the energy value, feed intake, and performance of cattle. Additionally, some molds produce harmful mycotoxins that can impact animal production and health.

Farm Program Disaster Assistance for 2022 Drought and Fire Losses

The 2022 production year presented several challenges to Nebraska producers. Widespread drought conditions and several large wildfires created loss situations with significant financial impact. This article is a quick reminder to producers of available assistance from USDA programs that may apply to their situation.

Purchased Hay: The Extra Costs

Winter is finally here and for some, dry weather has resulted in a lower than desired hay inventory.  While we can reduce demand by adjusting rations or selling animals, purchasing hay may be the best option to fill in a feed gap. 

Most of the time, purchased hay is hauled in and fed without issue.  It’s a regular occurrence for many operations and should always be an option for consideration.  While the sticker cost is typically the first factor considered why buying hay, there are additional costs that purchased hay can bring to an operation. 

A Year in Review for Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance, 2022

Another year has come and gone for the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance program, and while it was a year of successes for the program as a whole, there is still plenty of work to be done. As I sit here writing this thinking back on all the accomplishments we have achieved this year, I am happy to brag about where the program currently is and where it is going in the future.

Potential Impacts of a Long Hard Drought on the Subsequent Calving Season

Drought across the Great Plains has greatly reduced the supply of grass available this grazing season. While many cows went to market to save grass for a core herd, those cows that remain may have had access to limited, dry pastures. Grass in many areas appeared dormant as early as July. Therefore, not only was quantity limiting, but quality may have been limiting as well.

2023 – Year of the Stockman

It has been said, “Develop your communication skills because when you open your mouth, you tell the world who you are.”  This is just another way of saying that we’re known by what we produce (words, actions, etc.).  Our reputation, in other words.  Said another way: “Develop your husbandry skills, because when you handle and care for animals, you tell the world who you are.”  Stockmen have long considered their work an art form, and take pride in honing their skills with a level of devotion seldom rivaled in other professions.  In a time where the agricultural work

Measure to Manage: Exploring management strategies to cut costs, increase performance, and capture value at the Three State Beef Conference

For 38 years, the Three-State Beef Conference has provided beef cattle producers in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska an annual update on current and critical cow-calf and stocker topics affecting producers in the three-state area.

Get Perspective Before Deciding

I run across situations where one party, or both parties have decided that their estate plan isn’t fair or equitable.  I have also had recent contact with landlords that think the tenant is taking advantage of the farm lease and are not paying an appropriate cash lease rate.  Either situation is a dispute, and everyone stops listening to each other.  The parties dig in their heals and have made up their mind that they are not being treated fairly or equitably.  When that happens, the relationship between the parties is usually permanently damaged at some level.

2022 Cattlemen’s College

Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Extension will be hosting the 2022 Cattlemen’s College on December 6 at the Buffalo County Extension Building (1400 E. 34th Street, Kearney, NE). Registration, and a chance to begin viewing the graduate posters on display, will be at 12:00 p.m. The program will run from 12:30 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.

Technology in Cow-Calf Production Systems: A good or bad thing?

In the last few years, buzzwords like precision livestock management have been thrown around quite a bit. Although the official name of “precision livestock farming” debuted in a European conference in 2003, usage of technology in beef production systems isn’t a new thing. Artificial insemination began in the 1950s, use of growth implants became commercially available in 1957, and use of EPDs in bulls started in the 1970s. These 3 technologies adopted in commercial cow-calf systems would be considered precision livestock management tools.

Post-weaning Cowherd Management

To build a nutrition program for a cow-calf system, it is important to know the herd’s nutritional requirements, have set trigger points to make rapid changes in nutritional management if needed and know the quality and quantity of your forage resources. With many producers across the state starting to or already weaning calves, it’s a good time to note the body condition score (BCS) of the cowherd.

Feeding Ionophores in Mineral Supplements

Ionophores have been safely utilized in the beef industry for a long time. If fed according to the recommended rates, ionophores are considered safe and effective. Ionophores are feed additives used in cattle diets to increase feed efficiency and body weight gain. In addition, ionophores can decrease the incidence of bloat and coccidiosis.  Ionophores can be fed to cattle in several different supplemental packages from liquid feeds, cakes, pellets, and loose minerals.

What to know before buying protein supplement

Daily energy intake can be a limiting factor for cow performance while grazing winter range or dormant forages. As forages advance in stages of maturity, there is an inadequate supply of crude protein, which effectively limits energy intake and overall intake itself. Intake declines rapidly as forage crude protein falls below about 7%, a relationship attributed to a deficiency of nitrogen (protein) in the rumen, which inhibits activity of the rumen microbes.

Drought Risk Management Planning: PRF Insurance Signup Deadline is December 1

Pasture Rangeland Forage (PRF) insurance coverage is available on a calendar year basis with a signup deadline of December 1. For coverage in calendar year 2023, producers must sign up for PRF by December 1, 2022. At this point, many producers across the state are thinking about the impact of drought. Some may already be implementing PRF, and others may be thinking about adding it as a part of their drought risk management strategy. PRF insurance is administered by the USDA – Risk Management Agency (RMA) and is available for purchase through local crop insurance agents.

Cow Costs Higher In 2022

As the 2022 calendar year winds down, this is a good time for spring calving herds to look at what it cost them to produce a calf in the past year. What did it cost to run a cow on your operation this year? How do you calculate the costs? How do you value raised feed, labor, equipment, as well as replacement females grown on the ranch? These questions are frequently asked when the conversation of annual cow costs comes up.

Single Trait EPDs vs. EPD Indexes vs. Production Ratios

The numerous tools to aid in genetic selection allow for expedited progress toward breeding objectives. However, there are variations in how values are calculated and the units they are reported in. Single Trait Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs), EPD Indexes, and Production Ratios are typical of reported data and can provide guidance towards breeding objectives when applied as they are intended. While the bells and whistles vary across breed associations, the basics of each measurement can be applied across breeds and genetic reporting platforms.

The 2022 GSL Youth Science Field Day

Forty-seven high school students from Cherry, Grant, Hooker, and Thomas counties attended the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL) Youth Science Day on October 5. Beef Systems Extension Educator, T. L. Meyer, kicked off the event with an introduction to GSL before dividing the students into two groups for lab rotation topics. The six topics included Smart Feeder technology (Travis Mulliniks and Jacki Musgrave), beef reproduction (Rosemary Anderson), fire and range management (Ryan Benjamin), precision livestock management (Yijie Xiong and T. L.

Feeding Corn Residue in A Round Bale Feeder: Can It Meet Cow Needs?

The drought across much of the western U.S has resulted in low hay production, high hay prices and in some cases, no hay to be bought.  Some producers may be considering using corn residue bales. Corn residue has been traditionally used as a roughage source in feedlot diets and more recently mixed with more energy dense feeds and fed to cows in confinement. However, many operations may not have the ability to mix and feed diets.

Soybean Residue Value

Baling of soybean residue after harvest has gained popularity again this fall due to higher hay prices and forage shortages following drought. Further, delayed corn harvests are also slowing stalks residue baling and stalks grazing. According to the USDA AMS Nebraska Direct Hay sales report, large round cornstalks bale values are $110 per ton versus $80 per ton for large round soybean residue bales. So, the question arises, do soybean residue bale values justify raking and baling costs, reduced soil protection and nutrient removal?

Do Your Herd and Your Bank Account a Favor - Test Your Hay!

Every year I get calls for help with balancing rations and most don’t have a hay analysis. All hay of the same species is NOT created equal.  For instance, smooth bromegrass hay can range from 48 to 58% total digestible nutrients (TDN) with crude protein (CP) ranging from 6 to 11% CP. This can be the difference between a growing heifer losing 0.25 lb/d or gaining 0.37 lb/d. If you were targeting the heifer gaining 1 lb/d you would need to supplement between 1.5 and 3 lb/d of dried distillers to reach this goal.

Beef Quality Assurance During the Fall Run

It seems the year is just flying by with fall already upon us, which means it is about time for the “Fall Run”. Millions of cattle are being transported across the U.S. over many miles. A past Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) survey indicated that feeder calves traveling to Texas or Nebraska feedyards traveled 468 ± 415 miles.

Pasture Recovery from Drought

There are three critical time periods that occur during drought. These are immediately before, during, and following drought. These phases appear to be separate and are usually described as such. However, there is overlap between them that may encompass a period of six to nine months. The goal of drought planning before a drought occurs should focus on reducing the negative impacts that occur during the drought. The goal of drought planning during the drought should focus on short-term and long-term pasture recovery.

Science Guide Outlines New Approach for Reducing Eastern Redcedar

Nebraska rangelands lost over 419,000 tons of plant biomass production in 2019 due to woody plant encroachment1. This was determined using new monitoring technology that tracks production losses as a result of increasing tree cover since 1990. Encroachment by species like eastern redcedar can reduce forage production by up to 75% in heavily invaded locations and is among the greatest threat to Great Plains grasslands.

Nebraska Extension to Host Beefwatch Webinar Series

Nebraska Extension will host a Fall 2022 BeefWatch Webinar Series. This free webinar series is targeted to help cow/calf producers make management and feeding decisions this winter. Each session will feature industry experts and plenty of opportunity to interact to get your questions answered. More information about the BeefWatch Webinar Series can be found on our webpage:

Each webinar will begin at 8:00 PM Central Time.  

Nebraska Extension Provides New Cover Crop Grazing Conference November 1, 2022

Nebraska beef producers and corn growers can enhance their operations by attending the 2022 Cover Crop Grazing Conference. Scheduled for November 1, the conference will take place at the Eastern Nebraska Research, Extension and Education Center near Mead.

The conference kicks off with registration, refreshments, and a trade show at the August N. Christenson Building at 9:00 a.m.  Educational programs are from 10 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. and include a producer panel session and live field demonstrations.   

Preventing Baler Fires

Corn harvest is just starting and with the shortage of forages this year, several corn fields will have corn stalks baled up.  With the majority of the state being in some variation of drought, the potential of a fire occurring and spreading rapidly is a topic of concern.  Here are a few tips and reminders to prevent fires from occurring.

Tensions Surrounding US Beef Exports to China

This article was originally published by "In the Cattle Markets" in August 2022.

Flexible Stocking Rate Options for Drought Management

It is often recommended that ranchers stock at a moderate stocking rate to avoid overgrazing and to manage for dry conditions. However, during severe multiyear droughts, even moderately stocked rangelands become overstocked, and managers are forced to sell breeding stock to adapt. Depending on market conditions during and after drought, liquidating breeding stock can have significant financial impacts on the operation. Developing plans that provide for interannual variability can give producers the opportunity to take advantage of above average years and prompt action in poor years.

Cautions for Cattle Grazing Frosted Forages

When some forages are frosted, the potential for bloat, toxicity, and nitrates may increase for grazing cattle.

Minimizing Storage Losses of Round Bale Hay

Storing big round hay bales by lining them up along the fence row may be easy, but it is not economical.  Baled forage probably constitutes the highest percentage of winter feed cost we have wrapped up in a cow. The production of hay uses immense resources, and the ration quality is affected by hay quality. Storing dry hay on the ground without cover causes greater amount of spoilage when compared to other methods of storage.

Feeding Cows While Coping with Drought and High Input Costs

Drought conditions influenced forage and grain production for nearly two years.  Forage and grain yields are expected to be somewhere between 1/3 and ½ of normal.  Pasture yield is also low or already out.  Feeding and managing cows while coping with these conditions is a challenge complicated further by costs associated with feed delivery.   Cow-calf producers must incorporate three considerations that greatly affect cow feeding costs under current economic conditions:  feeding group size, energy density of feed and fuel cost.

Can Early Pregnancy Detection Help You Make Culling and Replacement Decisions This Fall?

The long, hot days of summer are a stark contrast from the cold nights of calving season.  However, now is the time to start preparing for the arrival of the 2023 calf crop.  August or September is a prime month for ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis of your cow herd.

‘Herd That!’ Conference

The Nebraska Women in Agriculture program, along with the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance Program, are excited to announce the second annual Herd That! Conference on Sept. 21, 2022, in Broken Bow, Nebraska with a pre-conference Sept. 20. The cattle handling demonstration will be one of the highlights of the program, along with the keynote speakers Courtenay Dehoff, #fancyladycowgirl, and ShayLe Stewart, DTN Livestock Analyst.

Plan Now to Purchase Your Hay Supplies

Hay production has been reported to be 50% of average or less in many areas of Nebraska. The U.S. hay supply is at a 50-year low (Table 1). Couple this information with rising costs (Figure 1) and it becomes prudent to plan fall, winter, and next spring’s hay needs sooner rather than later. Inventory your feed and hay resources now to know what you need. Checking prices and availability now will go a long way to reducing the anxiety of what we will feed our cows this fall and winter.

2022 Southeast Nebraska Alfalfa and Wheat Expo – September 1

Southeast Nebraska farmers can sharpen their management strategies for the third and fourth most grown crops at the second annual Southeast Nebraska Alfalfa and Wheat Expo. Hosts and southeast Nebraska Water & Integrating Cropping Systems Extension Educator, Nathan Mueller, and southeast Nebraska Beef Systems Extension Educators, Wayde Pickinpaugh and Connor Biehler advocate for more diverse crop rotations that are both underutilized and undervalued.

Utilizing Wheat in Feedlot Diets

Grain Source

The United States produced 1.65 billion bushels of wheat in 2020, with wheat ranking as the third largest produced grain after corn and soybeans. As grain prices increase, dependent on availability, utilizing wheat may be an option for producers to implement in their feeding program.

Late Season Pasture Fly Control

Late August and September usually signal pasture fly season should be ending. However, over the last few years our fall seasons have remained warm, sometimes well into early November and flies persist at problematic levels longer than typical. This upcoming fall season may be no different based on several meteorology forecasts. If these predictions hold true, pasture fly control efforts may be required through late fall.

Strategic Culling for Cowherds to Cope with Drought or High Feed Costs

The US drought monitor is indicating that drought conditions for central states, including Nebraska, remain in 2022.  Seasonal outlook for the remainder of summer in Nebraska and western states is characterized as drought tendent.  Persistent drought pressured forage and grain prices and deteriorated pasture conditions.  Concurrently, the January US beef cow inventory declined from a peak in 2017 of 31.2 million cows to 30.1 million cows in January of this year.  Implications of lower beef cow inventory on supply of feeder calves are already evident in the marketplace: f

Without Trust, How Does a Family Function?

Many of us that work with farm families hear stories like this: the son is home from college to start his career on the farm. He visits with his parents on a change during action or management. The son identifies a field to be converted to “no-till,” and while he goes into town for parts, his father starts disking the field. In cases like this, the son will feel like he has not been trusted to make decisions. Lack of trust among family members can be a huge issue for any family moving forward, especially if they are working on farm/ranch succession plans.

Managing Early Weaned Calves

The current map from the U.S. drought monitor (Current Map | U.S. Drought Monitor ( has all but a small corner of Nebraska listed as abnormally dry to extreme drought. This ongoing drought has been affecting parts of the state since 2020, forcing beef cattle producers to make drought related management decisions. One of the options often proposed to help reduce pressure on drought stricken pastures is early weaning.

Manure Application Following Silage

With silage harvest coming up quickly, manure application will soon follow. Because silage is often the first crop to come off the field, it allows for earlier manure application and thus an earlier cleanout of pens before winter. As that manure application plan develops, include best stewardship practices for optimum rates and preferred application methods in final decisions. But, wait, what do those things mean?

Flexible Leases, Price Risk Management Can Offer Relief Amid Poor, Expensive Pasture Conditions

May marked the beginning that pasture and range conditions are released by USDA-AMS in their weekly crop progress reports by state. This gives the industry its first barometer of how bad the drought could be this year across the United States to the overall industry and to specific geographic areas. The USDA-AMS reports pasture and range conditions in five categories: very poor, poor, fair, good, and excellent.

Supplementing pairs on drought-stressed pastures

Lactating cows grazing limited forage resources may struggle to select a diet that will also support rebreeding. Cows calving in April and May must be bred in July and August. When rainfall is adequate and proper stocking density is used, the grass in July and August is typically adequate to support the needs of the lactating and cycling cow. However, in a severe drought, not only is there risk of overgrazing and damaging the pastures, there is also a risk of having a high percentage of open cows when cows are checked in the fall.

Impact of Production on the Final Product

Quality is a prediction of the expected palatability of a carcass. Quality grade is based off animal maturity and marbling. In addition to these factors, other characteristics such as color, texture and firmness of the final product are considered by those making purchasing decisions. Differences in these characteristics can be impacted by several different things and often tie back to the life of the animal. It is often noted that the combination of genetics and environment can impact the phenotype, or physical characteristics, of an animal.

Determining Value of Beef Through Grading

When a beef animal is harvested, the value of the carcass and the resulting cuts are determined based on the grades of the carcass. Quality grading and yield grading is monitored by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS). Unlike inspection, which monitors food safety and is mandatory for meat products being sold in the United States, grading is a voluntary program and is used to determine the marketability of the product.

Weighing Risk and Reward of Annual Forages

This planting season, early dry conditions followed by late wet conditions in some areas have caused some fields to be designated prevented planting acres. To go along with this, high feed and forage prices and less than ideal pasture conditions due to previous years’ drought are allowing the opportunity for producers to think outside the box. After all, an influx of prevented plant acres provides freedom to produce annual cover crops to counter-balance current forage prices.

Keep Summer Cattle Marketing Current

Feedlot managers understand that heat stress reduces intake.  This effect is more marked in cattle that are closer to their finishing weight, and during the first heat event of the season as cattle are not acclimated to heat yet. 

Technical Note: Where are my cattle at? – Part II: Virtual Fencing

In recent years, a modern technology, “virtual fencing,” has emerged into the market and has been gaining growing interest from the livestock producers, particularly in the cattle sector. Virtual fencing technology has been studied in some European countries and Australia where grazing beef and dairy cows are predominant. More research is currently being conducted in the USA to better understand how virtual fencing might fit within cow-calf and yearling operations as a tool for grazing management.

2022 Nebraska Grazing Conference

The 2022 Nebraska Grazing Conference will be held August 9 and 10 at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney, NE with a program bridging grazing lands conservation and management.

What to Expect from Alternatives to Corn Silage

Drought has limited pasture availability and forced many producers into feeding total mixed rations (TMR) to cows. Including silage in a TMR can reduce ration cost, improve the energy content of the diet, and add moisture, which can serve as a ration conditioner. However, high commodity prices have encouraged many grain farmers to plant corn for grain rather than silage. Silage can also be made from small grains such as rye, wheat, oats, triticale, or barley, or from summer annual forages such as forage sorghum, sorghum-sudan or pearl millet.

Adequate Nutrition for Breeding Season Success

We ask a lot from our cows come breeding season. We expect her to be providing adequate nutrients for calf growth (lactating), we expect her reproductive tract to repair and return to estrus prior to the start of breeding. All these expectations are within 90 days after calving to maintain a yearly calving interval.

Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory Open House

The 23rd annual University of Nebraska–Lincoln Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL) Open House will be held on Wednesday, August 24, 2022. This year’s Open House will be a hybrid format with our traditional in-person event held at GSL along with being live streamed online webinar.

Supplementing Yearlings in the Summer Grazing Season: Is it Worth it?

Forage quality and yearling rate of gain decline throughout the summer, particularly in cool season grasses. Strategically supplementing yearlings with dry distillers grains in the second half of the summer as the grass quality declines will increase average daily gain (ADG), but will it increase returns?    

Strategic Deployment of Heat Abatement Strategies

The following is a list of strategies to reduce the impact of heat stress on cattle in the feedlot with suggestions for sequential deployment. Strategies listed under preparation are intended to be deployed early within 10 to 14 days of the initial heat event forecast. Strategies listed under remediation are intended to be deployed as the heat event proceeds.

2022 Summer Stocker/Yearling Meeting and Tour June 23 in Imperial

Nebraska Extension will host a stocker/yearling systems summer meeting and tour Thursday, June 23 in Imperial, Nebraska. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. MDT and the program will kick off at 9:00 a.m. MDT at the Crossroads Wesleyan Church, Imperial.  Lunch is sponsored by Merck Animal Health, followed by a tour of Wine Glass Ranch in the afternoon.

Two Programs Offered for Sheep, Goat, and Beef Producers in June

SDSU Extension, Kansas State Research and Extension and Nebraska Extension will host a series of Diversifying with Small Ruminants workshops June 7 in Salina, KS, June 8 in O'Neill, NE and June 9 in Chamberlain, SD. The program will go from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and lunch will be provided.

This program was developed due to interest by cattle producers looking at adding sheep to their beef operation.  We will discuss things to consider when looking at such a move and producers will discuss what they have learned from adding sheep.

Tools for Adjusting Stocking Rates during Drought

While areas across Nebraska have received some precipitation, much of the state remains in moderate to extreme drought. Following recommended trigger dates for necessary management changes, now is the time assess current precipitation accumulation, cool-season forage growth, and seasonal forecasts.

Feeder Cattle Interest Rates, Grazing Land Values Pose Hurdles for Producers

This article was first published by "In the Cattle Markets" on May 9, 2022.

Is Plant ID Necessary for Grassland Management?

Livestock feed is often the greatest annual cost to producers, making grasslands and grassland management an important component of the livestock industry. Profitable and effective grassland livestock management begins with understanding the forage resource, including identifying the plants in the pasture. To manage grassland profitably, managers must be able to identify what plants are there, understand their nutritional value, what plants livestock prefer to graze, and how grazing and other factors impact each plant.

Increasing Labor and Equipment Costs are Pressuring Cow-Calf Cost of Production

In working with cow-calf producers and discussing unit cost of production, labor and equipment costs are often the second largest expense category identified after grazed and harvested feed. Expenses related to labor and equipment have increased dramatically over the last several years and especially in the last 18 months. Competition for labor is high and those with the necessary work ethic and skills frequently find industries outside of agriculture offering wages and benefits difficult to compete with and be profitable.

Technical Note: Where are my cattle at? – Part I: GPS Sensors

Global positioning system (GPS) technology has been implemented into the agriculture world in numerous ways. It is a satellite navigation system based on real-time geolocation and time information. GPS data can be a useful tool to maximize production, manage more efficiently, and reduce costs. Farmers have proven the positive benefits of integrating GPS technology in their operations, such as tractor guidance, planting, application rates, and yield mapping.

Coping with Effects of High Feed Prices and Possible Drought in 2022

Presently, despite timely rains in certain areas of Nebraska, the threat of drought for the summer of 2022 is not dissipated.  Prediction models of precipitation for May to July place most of Nebraska counties at leaning below normal probability with probability of temperatures likely above normal.  Weather conditions and continued high grain and forage prices will result in greater annual cow costs in 2022.  

Meeting Water Needs of Cattle in the Feedlot

Various factors affect water intake; but temperature, humidity and feed intake are the main drivers. Additionally, the first heat events of the season (late May and early June) are the most stressful on cattle: cattle are generally reaching finishing weight and condition, they are not acclimated to heat, and they have not shed their winter coat. This transition also catches managers and staff off guard as they are focused on late-winter yard management.

Preparing for the Breeding Season

Calving season is wrapping up and transitioning into breeding season. Like any other segment of beef production, breeding protocols require decisions and preparation to ensure we meet the goals of the operation.  

Pushing the Boundary: New Collaboration Aims to Increase Ranch Resilience in the Great Plains

Today’s farms and ranches require decisions to be made throughout periods of elevated risk and uncertainty. Managing operational efficiency, grass banking, and destocking herds are all commonly used to stabilize returns during drought conditions and market extremes.

However, the compounding effects of extreme weather, market volatility, and rising input costs have re-focused attention on management alternatives that offer a broader set of resources to use when developing or implementing grazing management plans.

Protecting Farms & Ranches from Wildfires

Wildfires affect America’s farm and ranches, damaging and destroying homes, barns, agriculture production facilities, crops and livestock.  Recently we have dealt with a major fire in Furnas and Gosper counties.  Below are some tips to help avoid or minimize fire damage to your property.

Aminopyralids: Restrictions for Grazing, Compost and Manure

The prices of synthetic fertilizers have increased significantly over the last year, leaving growers and even homeowners facing the decision of finding alternative sources of nutrients.

Limit Feeding with a Bale Feeder, Bunk and a Bucket

Drought conditions are challenging producers to be creative as they think about options for maintaining the cowherd through the summer with limited summer pasture forage projected to be available.  Several research studies conducted at the University of Nebraska have shown that cows can be managed effectively utilizing a limit fed ration. In a limit fed ration, the nutrient requirements of cattle are met with a diet that is less than the actual amount of dry matter that the cattle would eat if they had full access to all they could eat.

What are my Options when I Am Out of Grass?

As the drought that has plagued the western Great Plains for over a year spreads across the Midwest, producers are making hard decisions about cowherd management. Drought is no stranger to most cow-calf producers so most have a plan for culling decisions related to about 20% of the cow herd. When drought threatens the grazing resources for the other 80%, difficult decisions have to be made. The first question that must be answered is should I feed them or sell them.

Selection Criteria for Home Raised Beef

Many rural consumers are switching from multiple trips to the grocery store or local butcher shop to bringing their own cattle in for custom processing. Provided the consumer has access to large areas of available freezer space as well as the ability to afford the upfront cost, this may be an economic way to supply a family with high-quality protein. Following is a guide to selecting the proper animal to feed out for harvesting freezer beef.

Nebraska Range Short Course June 20 - 23, 2022

The Nebraska Range Short Course is scheduled for June 20 to 23, 2022 on the campus of Chadron State College. The short course is sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Chadron State College, and the Nebraska Section of the Society for Range Management. It is designed to provide individuals who have a background in ranch, natural resource, or wildlife management an opportunity to increase their knowledge in many topics associated with the field of range management.

Feed Availability on Cost of Gain and Manure as a Source of Feedlot Revenue and Crop Fertilizer

This article was first published by "In the Cattle Markets" on April 5, 2022.

AI Season is Just Around the Corner

Some spring calving herds are starting to gear up for the breeding season by utilizing either natural service, artificial insemination (AI), or a combination of both.  According to a recent NAHMS survey, 84.85% of operations utilize natural service only and 10.3% utilizing AI and exposure to bulls. The implementation of estrous synchronization has the potential to shorten your calving window, concentrates labor, allows for more uniform management of cows, and can create a more uniform calf crop.

Protein is not Protein is not Protein

Protein is often the first limiting requirement when selecting diets and designing supplementation strategies for cows and growing cattle. Age and stage of production impact how much protein an animal requires. Understanding the different types of protein can help tailor supplements to meet protein requirements economically and effectively.               

Pastures and Drought: Response and Impact

Few producers will complain about dry weather during calving.  Not having to worry about wet calves or fight the mud is definitely a blessing.  However, with a dry fall and open winter for much of Nebraska, the threat of drought going into the 2022 growing season may be cause to dust off and reevaluate our operation’s drought plan.

How Much Copper Do You Need in Your Mineral?

Copper (Cu) deficiency in cow/calf herds has been associated with increased rates of diarrhea and reduced calf growth.  Forages do not provide enough copper to meet the needs of beef cows and calves, thus supplementation is needed. However, it is important to note that both under and over supplementation can have negative effects on calf performance.

Protein Supplementation in Corn Silage-Based Diets – A Review

This article is a summary of the 2022 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report, Impact of Urea on Corn Silage Growing Cattle Diets.

With current feed prices and the majority of the state experiencing dry conditions, producers may be evaluating alternative feed options for this year. Understanding differences in protein content and degradability of various feeds is important when determining the most cost-effective option while meeting cattle nutrient requirements.

Considerations for Beef Producers When Adding Small Ruminants to Their Operation

Beef producers may need to consider several items before adding small ruminants to their operation. Producers adding small ruminants to their operation have found that they could follow an old recommendation of adding a ewe or doe per cow without adjusting their stocking rate while improving their pasture utilization by 10-20%. Below are considerations when adding sheep or goats to a beef operation.

Matching Price Risk Management Tools to Market Situations

Much work has been done on illustrating the benefits and performance of price risk management tools available to livestock producers. These tools include futures and options available through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), video/cash contracts, basis contracts, and more recently Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) insurance offered through USDA’s Risk Management Agency (USDA-RMA).

Corn Costs and Cattle Placement Weights

This article was first published by "In the Cattle Markets" on March 2, 2022.

Farmer/Rancher Generational Transition Workshop April 21 in Whitman and April 22 in Ainsworth

Family-owned operations make up 98% of U. S. agriculture. Transitioning the ranch from one generation to the next, or even from one operator to another can be complicated. Research from Oklahoma State University1 evaluated the probability of success for various agricultural transition plans. Family-owned businesses successfully transferred from the first generation to the second generation 30% of the time. However, success rates declined in subsequent generations.

How Valu-Bull are Breeding Soundness Exams?

We may be finishing the calving season, but it is never too early to be thinking about the breeding season. With the breeding season comes getting those bulls scheduled for their breeding soundness exam (BSE) and ensuring your bull battery are satisfactory breeders.

What You Need to Know to be a Bottle Calf’s Mama

In the beef industry, the goal is to have each newborn calf paired up with a good cow who has adequate milk and plenty of maternal instincts. Unfortunately, there are times a calf ends up without a mother and becomes a bottle calf.