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Beef Management Tips
Livestock Update, July 1996
Ike Eller, Animal & Poultry Sciences
Summer is here and cattle management is critical. Many
management tasks should be scheduled for July. The main topic on
the minds and lips of most cattle producers is the bad economic
situation which exists. Low cattle prices are part of the
puzzle, but the other part is high feed grains and associated
costs. There are no quick fixes but here are some thoughts.
- Bullets for survival in the cow/calf business
The cow/calf segment of the beef cattle industry sat
in the catbird seat from
1987 to 1993 because there was shortage of feeder cattle and an
expanding backgrounding and cattle feeding industry. The reverse
is now true and the cow/calf segment has become the whipping boy.
There are four major elements of profit in the cow/calf business.
They are calving percent weaned, average calf weaning weight,
sale price per pound and cow maintenance cost. There are a
number of management bullets that form a check list, involving
making needed management shifts in each of these important items.
- Increase Calving Percent Weaned
- Health in terms of controlling reproductive diseases
such as Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, Leptospirosis
- Calving ease on heifers-Use heifer bulls.
- Use fertile bulls-soundness and semen check at the
start of each breeding season.
- Condition score-Females at breeding should score 5 to
7 on a scale of 1-9.
- Crossbreed-Crossbreeding has it's largest effect on
- Use large scrotal circumference bulls.
- Pregnancy check and cull females.
Increase Calf Weight Weaned and Sold
- Crossbreed. Crossbreeding has it's biggest growth
promoting effect on weaning weight.
- Background calves. At least the lighter end.
- Wean later when the average age of calves is older.
- Deworm nursing calves 75-90 days pre-weaning.
- Implant all steers and all heifers going to feedlot.
- Creep graze.
- Enough milk. Control with sires and crossbreeding
- Select for more growth in sires.
Increase Value of Animals Sold
- Improve quality and uniformity of calf crop plus get
rid of extremes and non-conforming kinds.
- Improve genetics for carcass merit. Particularly
quality grade (controlled by sires and breeds.)
- Produce what buyers in your area pay the most for.
- Background and add weight to calves economically.
- Sell in load lots. Uniform as to outcome group.
- Utilize marketing methods. Get maximum competition
so as to sell at "retail", not "wholesale".
- Market cull cows & bulls to the best advantage.
Reduce Cow Maintenance Cost
- Good fleshing qualities in females.
- Moderate frame size in females.
- Cow herd must thrive on total forage program.
- Calve in synch with lowest cost feed supply.
- Utilize by-products and feedstuffs.
- Maximize use of grazing. Use controlled grazing.
- Utilize maximum standing forages, stockpiled grass
(i.e., fescue, etc.)
- Use best quality and poorest quality pasture and
feeds at right times in production cycle and to
the right class of cattle.
- Use bought supplements only where and when needed.
- Keep individual cow records. Identify cows and
- Cull cows based on reproduction and production.
- Know cost of producing a pound of weaned calf.
- Keep enterprise records. Know what makes and loses
- Prioritize cost and return items.
- BECOME A LOW COST, BUT HIGH NET INCOME PRODUCER.
- Look at equipment cost with a jaundiced eye.
- Make decisions on raising or buying replacement
females based on profit potential.
- Settle on the right breeds for your program.
- Simplify crossbreeding program for uniform results.
- Buy genetics (bulls or semen) based on EPDs.
- Find a seedstock breeder or two whose programs suit
you and buy all bulls for natural service from them
- Use high accuracy bulls A.I. if possible. If not,
use natural service bulls that are sons of these
- Females must fit your farm environment.
- Add market value with sires used.
Horkan, Pratt and Eller honored at BIF
The Beef Improvement Federation annual convention was held
in Birmingham, Alabama May
16 & 17. Over 300 people from across the United States and
Canada attended. Three Virginians were recognized for their
achievement at this important beef event. Virginia's Seedstock
Producer of the Year, George Horkan, Cleremont Farm at
Upperville, VA., was recognized as a nominee for the BIF
seedstock award. C. W. Pratt, owner of Echo Ridge Farm at
Atkins, VA., Virginia's Seedstock Producer of the Year Awardee
was recognized as a nominee by BIF Seedstock Award. A.L. "Ike"
Eller, Extension Animal Scientist along with Glen Debtor of
Horton, Alabama received BIF's Pioneer Award.
Ways to Improve Carcass Merit
There has been considerable
effort and dollar expenditure over the last thirty years to
improve carcass merit of beef cattle. Most of this effort in the
past has been for naught since producers have not been paid a
differential price based on carcass merit. It appears that this
may be changing. Value based marketing is happening and will be
even more of a factor in the future. We're finally going to see
carcass merit make a difference. Carcass merit is basically made
up of two components. One of these is cutability or yield grade
and the other is marbling or quality grade. Both are important.
With the heavy use of the exotic breeds, we have learned how to
improve leanness or yield grade, but very little progress has
been made on improving marbling or quality grade. There are two
ways to select to improve carcass merit. One is through the
breed or breeds used in a commercial herd. In most situations,
it is currently and will be in the future, important that the
program contain breeds that contribute appropriately to carcass
merit. Breeds that will add to marbling will include Angus, Red
Angus, Shorthorn, South Devon and perhaps, a few others. Breeds
that will add cutability will include Limousin, Charolais,
Simmental, Gelbvieh, Maine Anjou, Chianina and perhaps others.
Commercial feeder cattle for high carcass quality programs should
be all or mostly British breeding. For those programs that
require a balance between carcass quality and cutability will
include at least half of a high marbling British breed and half
of a moderate size meat or duel-purpose breed. In a few breeds,
there is enough data today to select bulls for marbling and get
results. There is today, more data on Angus cattle perhaps, than
most other breeds. Sire's that have a marbling EPD of plus .2 or
above will make marked improvement in their progeny. Those that
are plus .4 on marbling or above, with fairly high accuracy will
really make a difference. There are some of these bulls
available. They're being underutilized. The commercial producer
should not give up reproduction and growth traits nor convenience
and adaptability traits but within sires that fit the
specifications, in these regards, those with high carcass merit,
particularly marbling, should get a preference. If you haven't
studied sire summaries lately from the standpoint of carcass
traits, do so.
July Implanting and Re-Implanting
Both nursing steer calves
and grazing yearling cattle other
than replacement heifers should
be re-implanted in most programs in July. They should get the
second implant around ninety to one hundred days prior to weaning
or marketing. If yearling cattle were implanted with material's
such as Ralgro, Synovex, ImPlus S or ImPlus H, they should be
re-implanted if they are going to be grazed full season. Steer
calves that were implanted at an early age will generally profit
from a second implant in July. On nursing heifer calves both
Ralgro, Synovex C and ImPlus C are cleared for use even if
heifer's are going to be kept for replacement. Our
recommendation on nursing heifer calves is to implant all of
those that are not to be used as replacement, exactly the same
way as steer calves are implanted. If pregnancy rate is
important on replacements, either implant one time between one
month of age and weaning with Ralgro or Synovex C, or do not
implant replacement heifers at all. Of course, bull calves that
are to be used for breeding should never be implanted with any
product. In many instances, re-implanting and deworming
yearlings can be done at the same time. Re-implanting and
deworming nursing spring born calves can also be done with a
single trip down the chute.
July Deworming and Pasture Rotation
whether they are replacement heifers or stocker steers or heifers
will generally become parasitized and their gain reduced in mid
to late summer unless they are dewormed using a sequential early
season treatment plan which is highly recommended. For cattle
that were dewormed at turnout time, three weeks later and six
weeks later with most conventional deworming materials or those
that were treated at turnout time and 5 weeks later with Ivomec,
no additional deworming in July should be needed. If cattle were
only dewormed at turnout time, regardless of the material used,
they will generally benefit in a cost effective way from a
deworming in July. If cattle are re-implanted in July, they can
be dewormed at the same time. Spring born nursing calves should
be dewormed in July or 70 to 90 days prior to weaning. Positive
results in terms of added weaning weight can generally be
expected from deworming suckling calves at this time. There is
probably no great advantage to deworming mature cows at this
time, so is generally not recommended. If conditions permit,
cattle should be dewormed and moved to clean pasture, preferably
a pasture that has had a cutting of hay taken from it earlier in
Calfhood vaccinate heifer calves
Virginia is Bangs free and
we want to keep it that way. Remember, heifer calves that are to
be vaccinated for Brucellosis should be vaccinated with Strain 19
between the ages of 4 and 12 months and preferably between the
ages of 6 and 12 months. Heifers that are to be kept for
replacements or those that are to be sold as replacements to
other producers, certainly should be vaccinated. Put this task
on your calendar and schedule an appointment with your
Summer fly control
Most producers get in a hurry about
starting fly control programs in April & May, probably earlier
than is absolutely necessary but many cattle do not have adequate
protection from these pests in mid to late summer, which can rob
calves of 20 or more pounds of weaning weight each. Many cattle
get fly tagged in April, which is 1 or 2 months earlier than fly
populations are apparent in most areas. Those who have made no
provision for fly control prior to July still have the
opportunity to reap most of the benefits by putting a fly control
program in effect in July and run through September. Fly control
ear tags have been popular but many times less effective than
desirable because flies have built up immunity to certain
chemicals. Most producers who have continued to use fly tags
have rotated brands of fly tags containing different chemicals
from year to year. One group of chemicals are synthetic
Pyrethroids and the other are Organophosphates. Some fly tags
contain both classes of chemicals. The message is, it is not too
late to begin a program using fly tags in the ears of cattle as
late as early July. Backrubbers can be effective if kept
properly charged. Dust bags are still one of the more effective
means of fly control using the right chemicals and positioning
them where cattle will use them daily. In addition, sprays using
some of the better materials available certainly can be utilized.
More information on recommended chemicals can be obtained from
your county extension agent and from many farm supply and cattle
health suppliers or veterinarians.
Creep graze for more weaning weight
Late summer, during the
hottest part of the season, is the time to cash in on creep
grazing of calves. You will not believe how much weight can be
added to a set of calves creep grazing on lush grasses and
legumes in meadows unless you've tried it. If you have aftermath
hay fields of high quality material adjacent to summer pastures
with permanent pasture varieties such as fescue and orchard
grass, plan to creep graze this season. Creep holes can be put
in an existing fence or in a gate way and should be 40 inches
high and 18 inches wide. Adding weight to a calf crop this year
will be extremely important to your bottom line. Creep grazing
might just fit your program.
This year, sell more weight
Price for feeder calves this
fall does not look too rosy so it appears that they way to add
value to calves in the present calf crop is to somehow sell more
weight. You may want to consider weaning later if this will fit
into a marketing program. For spring calves, you may not want to
sell them in early October, but if you've got an outlet, wean
them later and sell them in November, for example. Background
the lighter calves if possible. Those light weight heifer calves
and even light weight steer calves are the ones that will get
murdered in terms of total dollars received. Background at least
the lighter weight ones and market them later with more weight on
them. Another proven way to add weight is to deworm nursing
spring calves in July. Implanting is one of the best paybacks in
the business. Every calf, other than heifers to be kept for
replacement should be implanted.
Virginia Cooperative Extension