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Topics of Interest

Beef Cow Efficiency

Perhaps the greatest single factor affecting your profitability as a beef producer.

Body Condition Scoring

Use body condition scores (BCS) to improve herd nutrition and efficiency.


Feeding & Feedstuffs

Maximize pasture utilization and optimize feeding of harvested forages and supplements to efficiently meet the nutritional needs
of your herd.



Angus Productions Inc.

September 20, 2010


Boosting Poor-Quality Hay

Distillers' byproduct grain boosts hay with poor nutrient quality.

Byproduct feeds from ethanol plants offer beef herd owners a way to supplement poor-quality hay being baled for winter feed this year.

"Distillers' grains can pick up the slack when the hay quality falls short," said Chris Zumbrunnen, University of Missouri (MU) Extension regional livestock specialist, Milan, Mo., who spoke at field days at the MU Forage Systems Research Center Aug. 3 and the Greenley Research Center Aug. 10.

"There is a tremendous amount of high-quality product available," Zumbrunnen said. There will also be plenty of poor-quality hay that was harvested late and rained on during haymaking. Dried distillers' grain (DDG) offers around 30% protein, lots of fat and lots of energy, Zumbrunnen said. There are several products available that require different handling methods. Read more.

Baling Cornstalks?

Kansas State University research shows cornstalk round bale processing method does not influence feeding characteristics or feed refusals.

In mid-October 2009, a portion of a cornstalk field in northeast Kansas was cut with a flail shredder and raked on a single day. Cornstalks were either conventionally baled or precut and baled. Precut bales were harvested using a round baler equipped with serrated knives that cut the forage into 3- to 8-in. sections as packer fingers moved the forage from the header to the baling chamber. The treatments were: (1) 54-foot (ft.) conventionally baled cornstalks, (2) 5 4-ft. precut cornstalks, and (3) 5 4-ft. conventionally baled cornstalks that were later tub ground. Rations were prepared with a horizontal mixer and fed at an average of 2.45% of body weight (dry-matter basis) over the 15-day evaluation period. Plastic containers (12 in. 9 in. 6 in.) were placed at the first, middle and last third of the bunk line for collection of discharge location samples. Particle length was determined, and bale cores, discharge location samples, and feed refusals were analyzed for concentrations of dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber.

Chemical analysis revealed no (P>0.32) mixer discharge site bale type interactions. Different discharge locations from each of the different cornstalk treatments had similar (P>0.11) dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber. Feed refusals were similar (P>0.25) among all three treatments. Chemical analysis of the refusals revealed similar (P>0.12) levels of dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber among mixed rations made from forages processed by different methods.

Bottom line — Precutting cornstalks while baling results in responses similar to those for conventionally baled cornstalks at the dietary inclusion levels and conditions of this experiment. View the complete research report at For more information, contact Joel DeRouchey (785-532-2280) or Justin Waggoner (620-275-9164).

Prepare for Low-Stress Weaning

Gentle handling and advance preparation are keys to weaning success.

For spring-calving herds, fall is the time producers turn their attention to the calf, and a gentle touch can help avoid illness and maintain health.

"At weaning, we are most concerned about respiratory disease," says Mike Smith of Liberty Ranch in Plainville, Kan. "The weather conditions in our area influence the frequency of disease a great deal — depending on if we are in a dry, dusty fall or if it's a wet season. No matter what the season, what's becoming more important to us is being conscious about low-stress handling, good vaccinations and deworming to help take a little stress off those calves."

The foundation of his weaning protocol is a respiratory vaccination program. Read more.

Rick Rasby

Rick Rasby

Ridin’ Herd

How cow weight, milk affect revenue

Last month we discussed the impact of mature weight and milk production on nutrient needs of the beef cow. Depending on the operation, feed costs are usually between 40% and 60% of annual cow costs. From a cost standpoint, continual focus on feed cost results in the greatest opportunity to increase profit potential of the cow-calf enterprise.

Growing trend

Again, breed sire summaries indicate the genetic trends for growth traits, carcass weight and milk production have increased over the years. It's hard to see how milk production and mature weight of commercial cow herds could not have continued to increase over time as well. In addition, it is hard to see how nutrient needs of the commercial cow herd wouldn't have increased over time, too. Read more.

Time Injectable Minerals Month Before Stressor

Consumption of minerals provided free-choice as an oral supplement can be varied, with some animals consuming too much and others not enough. Also, other aspects of the diet may hinder mineral absorption. Because of this variability, some stockmen choose to individually dose their animals by drench, bolus or injection. Providing important trace minerals (selenium, copper, zinc and manganese) by injection can ensure cattle receive them.

At the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) meeting this summer, Stephanie Hansen of Iowa State University presented findings on how injectable minerals are absorbed and metabolized.

"Once you've injected the animal, mineral levels in the bloodstream increase and reach a peak within 8 to 10 hours," Lourens Havenga, Multimin USA, relays. "Most of the mineral that the animal doesn't utilize is stored in the liver, while some is excreted by the kidneys. High blood level is maintained for about 24 hours and then drops."

The body doesn't want high levels of trace minerals in the blood, Havenga explains, so to get rid of it, the body stores excesses in the liver, or gets rid of it.

"In the first 24 hours after injection, we see significant increase in liver levels of these minerals," he notes. "We only ran this study for 15 days, and found that storage levels were high for the full 15 days. We later did some other studies at Texas A&M that showed the product actually lasts (stored in the liver) for about two to three months, depending on mineral status prior to injection."

The ISU research also found that enzyme response starts immediately, but by 14 days after injection, significant changes were confirmed.

"This is why we recommend that producers use this product in advance of stresses, calving or breeding, especially for enhancing reproductive performance," Havenga says, recommending producers inject cows about a month before the stress to get optimum benefit.

Getting to the Bottom of Open Cows
at Preg-Checking Time

Open cows can cost cattle producers in fewer calves to sell the next year. When checking cows for pregnancy, it can be disheartening when a percentage of the herd is not pregnant. Confusion over how and why this happened can plague producers, but it is important to come up with a definitive diagnosis to identify these unknowns and prevent the same problem in the future.

"Several factors can contribute to open cows," says Joe Campbell, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. professional services veterinarian. "Your first step is to decide whether this hurdle is caused by an infectious or a noninfectious problem." Read more.

Early Weaning Helps Your Cows

Weaning calves while pasture is still good in late summer or early fall is often the best thing you can do for your cows, and it allows you to save winter feed costs as well. Fall is the most economical time to improve cow condition for spring calvers, say Kansas State University (K-State) Extension livestock specialists. Grass is still available and cold stress is not a factor in cows' nutritional needs.

Cows that are still milking on mature grass pastures lose weight in late summer and fall, since lactation requires 50% more feed, 70% more energy, and twice as much protein as pregnancy. One Extension research project showed that cows on unsupplemented pasture that continue nursing calves until December lose about 150 pounds (lb.) and 1.5 points in body condition score (BCS) by next calving. If calves are left on cows this late, they must be supplemented with energy and protein to keep from losing weight.

Extension livestock specialists at K-State a few years ago did an economic analysis of weaning dates, looking at body condition scores at calving, calf prices and calf weaning weights. Keeping calves on cows improved weaning weights, but the economic toll came later. When cows were pulled down to calve at a BCS of 4 or less, next year's calf crop percentage was lowered (more weak or sick calves, and greater chance for calf losses) and rates of open and culled cows the next year were increased.

Young cows lose the most weight during first lactation. The 2-year-old is growing, milking, hopefully pregnant again, and shedding the last of her baby teeth, which may make eating more difficult. If you can wean her calf early, it gives her a better chance to do justice to her next calf and be in adequate body condition to rebreed. Weaning calves off 2- and 3-year-old cows early is often the most effective management tool to ensure these young cows stay in the herd and don't come up open.

Feed costs generally make up more than half a cow's total expense, but you can save money by early weaning to take advantage of natural feeds early enough in the season to put weight back on cows before winter. Then cows can "coast" through winter on lesser amounts of expensive feeds (hay, supplements) than if you have to feed the weight back on. The postweaning period, when cows have the lowest nutritional requirements of their production year, is the best time to cut feed costs. They can utilize poorer-quality roughages, crop residues and byproducts, allowing you numerous ways to reduce their feed bill.

Vaccinate Horses for Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Four people have died in Florida this year (as of Sept. 15) from eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a mosquito-borne illness more commonly associated with horses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year a small number of human deaths are caused by EEE. The disease causes brain inflammation and kills about one-third of the people who contract it. There is no human vaccine.

But an animal scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says it's important that horse owners take precautions to protect their animals from this deadly disease. Cindy McCall says there is little reason for a horse to contract the disease because a safe and inexpensive vaccine is available. Read more.

Cattle Diseases: Common Conditions/Terms

Click here for a list of common conditions and terms related to beef cattle diseases, such as anaplasmosis, brucellosis, BVD, E. coli, IBR and others.

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