BeefWatch Articles from All
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?
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.
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.
Do you rent pasture? What happens if drought lowers pasture production below expectations? Specifically, what does your pasture lease say about drought?
It’s hard to think about drought in mid-winter but drought can play havoc on pasture leases. All too often, pasture leases fail to include an appropriate plan to adjust to this problem.
Current corn prices coupled with reduced perennial pasture availability have producers asking questions about the economics of using cropland to produce forage for cow/calf production. This was the subject of a webinar offered by Nebraska Extension on the evening of February 13.
Estrus synchronization optimizes labor and time, and improves the ease of using artificial insemination (AI) (Lamb et al., 2009). Use of AI allows access to superior genetics, accelerates genetic change within a herd, and is frequently less expensive than natural service (Johnson and Jones, 2004). Synchronized females 1) exhibit estrus at a controlled time, 2) have increased calf uniformity, 3) calve earlier in the season, and 4) wean calves that are older and heavier (Perry, 2004).
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.
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.
As spring approaches most producers are anxious to get cows out of the lot and make use of early spring grazing. While there are certainly some advantages to sending pairs out into fresh air and wide open spaces, there are some forage availability and diet quality considerations producers need to evaluate.
In this month's BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, the Peterson family who own and operate Plum Thicket Farms near Gordon share how they utilize annual forages as part of their diversified crop and cattle operation. Some of the topics that the Peterson family discusses in the interview include:
National Cattle Evaluation has never been static, and future changes are inevitable as science continues to advance.
Recent research has shown maternal nutrition during late gestation can have lasting impacts on calf health, growth, and performance postnatally. These impacts can include improved weaning weights, yearling weights, and marbling scores of progeny.
Since 1993, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) has produced a table of factors to adjust Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) so that the genetic merit of individual animals can be compared across breeds. These adjustment factors are needed because EPDs published by one breed are inherently not comparable to those published by another breed.
A resource reality of cattle production is that only 10-30% of the nitrogen (N) that is consumed (i.e. fed protein) is utilized by animals for growth, reproduction, milk production, and maintenance needs. Unused N is excreted, primarily in urine. Nitrogen is an essential, valuable plant nutrient, so recycling of N is highly desirable and occurs when urine and feces are applied directly onto soil in a pasture, range or other grazing scenario, or collected manure is applied to cropland.
In this month's BeefWatch Producer Perspective Podcast, Brock Terrell from Hay Springs shares how his family added a sheep enterprise to their operation. Some of the topics that Brock discusses in the interview include:
Providing the right type of mineral with diets containing distillers can alleviate potential health problems and often times be more cost effective as well.
The use of genetic selection tools by cattle breeders has resulted in significant changes within the majority of major breeds over the last 30 years. With a few exceptions, the overwhelming genetic trend for milk, weaning weight, and mature weight over that time has been for more. Without question, the use of Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) has enabled this change. The question at hand, however, is “have we selected towards that which is optimal?”
Manure has value. That value may result from improvements in soil quality, increases in yield, and replacement of commercial nutrient required for crop production.
The Nebraska Sandhills are often viewed as an ecosystem vulnerable to erosion of the sandy soil dunes following the reduction of aboveground vegetation. When vegetation is removed, the wind is free to move the sand particles, hindering vegetation recovery. The potential for this to occur is evident at a small-scale in the form of blowouts that act as a reminder of the long-term impacts of vegetation removal.
A critical component of the cow-calf business is reproduction. Getting cows or heifers pregnant comes with the cost of breeding expense. The fourth largest expense for many cow-calf operations is breeding expense.
Have you ever tested the quality of your grass hay and been disappointed at the low relative feed value? Well, maybe your worry is unnecessary. Farmers and ranchers often tell me their prairie hay or cane hay or other grass hay looks really good but when a lab tested it the relative feed value, also called RFV, was surprisingly low, maybe in the 70s or 80s. So what’s wrong with the hay?
Is twine or net wrap good feed? Obviously not, but it can cause health problems if animals eat too much of it. Feeding hay is work. To lighten the work load feeding hay, we often take short cuts and leave some twine or net wrap on the bales. Whether we want them to or not, animals eat some of that twine.
An economic analysis of annual cow costs in Nebraska shows labor together with owning and operating equipment is often the second or third largest expense to the cowherd.
There have been several inquiries from landowners in central Nebraska concerning damage to pasture and hay meadows from grubs. Affected areas have included subirrigated meadows in the Sandhills and Platte River valley and other pasture sites that are dominated by smooth bromegrass or Kentucky bluegrass.
Prior to grazing cornstalks with cattle, an estimate should be made of the amount of corn that is present in the field. The UNL Extension Circular EC 287 Grazing Crop Residues with Beef Cattle provides information on a simple method for estimating the bushels of corn that are on the ground.
As fall harvest comes to a close many cows will be turned out on cornstalks to graze the crop residue left after harvest for the winter. This can be an economical forage resource for many producers. Keeping feed costs low while maintaining production is an important part of profitability. Knowing the nutrient needs of cows is key to knowing what supplementation strategy is necessary.
Today let’s play a little game of ‘what if’. As in ‘what if it rains enough this fall for your pastures and hay meadows to green up and grow’. Should you graze?
As we progress into the fall and winter months, forage quality in dormant upland pastures will be low while nutrient requirements of spring-calving range cows will increase.
Traditional practice has been to cull an open beef female after pregnancy diagnosis to avoid additional feed and labor costs on a non-productive animal. Frequently, cull cows are sold into slaughter in the fall when cull cow inventory is highest and prices are lowest.
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.
Corn residue is an outstanding forage resource for wintering cows, but is also an option for backgrounding calves or growing heifers. Given the typical rental rates for corn residue and the cost of distillers’ grains, these two feed resources together make one of the lowest cost growing rations. To understand why distillers’ grains are such a good supplement for growing calves, one must first understand a little about how protein is used in ruminant animals.
Can manure be part of the solution for the erosion in this photo?
Previous research has shown the benefit of pregnancy diagnosis and how it adds to a producer’s bottom line. Keeping one cow over winter can cost $100-$200 in feed and supplements so removing open cows can help decrease winter feed costs.
Manure, litter or other biosolids originating from feedlots, poultry houses, municipal waste treatment systems or industry sources are often stockpiled at the edge of a field to be readily available for land application when field conditions permit entry, such as after crops have been harvested. Selecting an appropriate place to stockpile these materials is important to minimize risks to surface and ground water and to avoid potential nuisance issues for neighbors.
Previous studies have indicated heifers developed to less than 65% of mature weight have comparable reproductive performance to heifers developed in higher input systems. This study determined how heifer development system impacted subsequent growth and reproductive performance in March and May-born replacement heifers.
Cow depreciation is frequently the second or third largest expense to the cow-calf enterprise after feed. Depreciation is a non-cash expense that is often overlooked by cow-calf producers.
Depreciation for a cow is calculated as the following:
Purchase Price or Replacement Cost – Salvage Value/Productive Years in the Herd
To demonstrate how significant this expense can be, examine an example of current bred replacement heifer prices against today's cull cow values.
As livestock producers start planning for fall weaning, pregnancy observation, and vaccinations they often will apply an endectocide treatment for internal and external parasites such as cattle lice. While this practice is efficacious for most internal parasites and horn flies, it does not always completely control a cattle louse problem. Cattle lice are a cold weather insect, thriving during wintery conditions. During summer months cattle lice undergo a process called estivation (a period of dormancy) when their reproduction is reduced significantly.
Common mullein is becoming an increasing concern to grassland managers as the aggressive forb spreads from old fields, abused areas, and rights-of-way to grasslands. Woolly leaves complicate control by discouraging grazers and obstructing herbicide contact. Although seeds are not produced until the second growing season (the first year’s growth is only a vegetative rosette and does not produce a stalk or seed head), this yellowed flowered biennial is a prolific seed producer with each plant producing over 175,000 seeds and each seed remaining viable for over 100 years.
Manure increases formation of larger (macro) and more stable soil aggregates. Several benefits result for fields fertilized by manure compared to commercial fertilizer including:
An economic analysis of annual cow costs in Nebraska shows that feed cost represents approximately 40-70% of all costs when labor and depreciation are included. An economic analysis values owned pasture and raised feed at market value. The cows are asked to pay fair market value for both grazed and fed feed. When pasture, cornstalks and hay are calculated in at market value, feed costs for the cow herd can easily be north of $550 per cow.
Cow-calf producers are nearing weaning time of their 2017 calf crop, with current market and industry trends, producers should be considering and preparing for preconditioning or weaning programs. It is important to consider the best programs for the health of calves during these stressful periods and into the feeding phases.
Planning and monitoring are often underutilized tools in range and pasture management. Growing and harvesting forage with livestock is the foundation of a ranch business and development of a written plan increases your ability to effectively manage your resources. A written management plan details the steps needed to achieve specific goals and objectives you identify for your operation including the management of forage resources.
Silage time has arrived for many producers. Some producers have been forced to put up silage due to hail but many are considering silage over grain based on economical beef production when feeding silage. Here are some key considerations for beef producers to consider before and during use of silage in their operation.
Proper bunk management is the art of matching feed deliveries to the amount of feed cattle need for optimal performance. Underfeeding cattle results in poor gains and feed efficiency, longer days on feed, and reduced carcass quality.
Distillers grains are a common component in finishing diets in Nebraska. Their inclusion has resulted in improved performance while also improving cost of production. Recently, ethanol plants have been removing fiber components and corn oil, thus changing the composition of the available distillers grains.
This article is a summary of the 2012 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report “Comparison of Feeding Dry Distillers Grains in a Bunk or on the Ground to Cattle Grazing Subirrigated Meadow”. Jacqueline A. Musgrave, L. Aaron Stalker, Terry J. Klopfenstein and Jerry D. Volesky were collaborators on this research study and report. The report is summarized by Aaron Berger, Nebraska Extension Beef Educator.
The following article is a summary of research conducted by University of Nebraska meat scientists evaluating dietary impacts on ground beef shelf life and fatty acid profile. The original article can be found in the 2016 Nebraska Beef Report pages 164-166.
Distillers grains is greater in protein than corn but it is also greater in energy. When evaluating the cost of supplements for beef cows or calves, producers should be comparing the cost on a per lb of nutrient needed.