Beef Management Tips
Livestock Update, September 1996
Ike Eller, Animal & Poultry Science
I can't believe the month of September, which signals fall of the year, is here already. September and the entire fall is a very busy season for cattle people with weaning of calves, marketing feeders and cull cows, storing silage and hay and getting prepared for winter. Here are some thoughts:
1. NEW ACROSS BREED EPDs - Some commercial producers who use bulls of several breeds have become aware of across breed EPDs that allow for doing a reasonable job of comparing EPDs across several breeds of beef cattle. EPD adjustment factors come out of the research at the USDA experiment station at Clay Center, Nebraska each year. The new adjustment factors, adjusted to an Angus base are given in the following table and are based on 1994 data. To compare EPDs of bulls of different breeds, simply add or subtract the appropriately adjustment factor for the breed in question from the EPDs of individual bulls in question. Across breed EPD adjustments are not perfect but do allow for comparing bulls of different breeds on an EPD basis in a very usable manner.
ACROSS BREED ADJUSTMENT FACTORS COMPARED TO ANGUS BASE|
1994 BASE YEAR
2. GRASS TETANY ALERT - Grass tetany is caused by the lack of magnesium in the diet or an imbalance of electrolytes including magnesium in the animals system. There are two major seasons of concern for grass tetany. One of them is in the spring and the other in the fall, generally in September & October. When fall rains come and there is an abundant supply of fresh, tender grass, tetany can strike and in most fall seasons, it does. This means that cows should be switched to a free choice mineral supplement containing magnesium during the fall season. Either use a commercial mix containing at least 12 percent magnesium or use a home made mix which may contain equal parts of trace mineralized salt, dicalcium phosphate and magnesium oxide or a mix containing equal parts of trace mineralized salt, dicalcium phosphate, magnesium oxide and finely ground shelled corn or soybean meal for palatability. Remember, cattle most apt to be affected by grass tetany will be mature cows that have recently calved.
3. TIME FOR FALL GRUB TREATMENT - September and October are the months for using systemic grubicides and lice killers on beef cattle. They come in the form of injectible, pour-on or spot-on. Some of these materials control internal parasites as well. Because of the grub situation, these materials should be used in September or October and prior to November 1. There are a number of good materials on the market. Select the one that suits your operation best.
4. PREPARE CALVES FOR WEANING AND MARKET - The largest weaning and marketing season for beef calves is September through November. Whether you plan to market calves at weaning or background them to be marketed as heavier feeders, they should be prepared ahead of weaning. Make sure bull calves are castrated. Any calf with horns should be dehorned, allowing for plenty of time for healing before weaning and marketing. Calves should be vaccinated while still on their mothers, three weeks to a month prior to weaning. This management practice lessens stress on calves at weaning time. Feeder calf sales require that vaccinations be given prior to their being delivered for sale in a prescribed manner. A month before weaning, calves should get a 7-Way Clostridial vaccine to protect them against Blackleg and other Clostridial diseases. In addition, they should get IBR, PI3, and BRSV. You may choose between modified live and killed products for these respiratory diseases. Some modified live IBR products may be given to nursing calves without fear of aborting pregnant cows. Discuss the matter with your veterinarian. Some producers who have trailer-load lots may want to wean these calves at normal weaning time and get them started on feed and plan to own them for another 30 to 60 days or longer before they are marketed. In any short term backgrounding program, calves should not be weaned early, but weaned when they should be and then fed to gain at 2 pounds per day on an economical forage based program.
5. PLAN TO BACKGROUND CALVES - Backgrounding or stockering calves to be sold later as heavier feeders is not for every producer, but where this enterprise fits, it can be a money maker. This is particularly true when feeder cattle are bringing a lower price and particularly where lighter weight calves are bringing less per pound than heavier weight feeders. In most cow herds, it will be paying proposition to consider backgrounding the lighter end of the calf crop for later sale. If buying calves, they should suit your feed and marketing program. Many cattle producers will be buying calves for backgrounding and grazing programs in the next 2 to 3 months. If you're buying calves to winter for sale next spring, summer or fall, after being wintered and grazed, consider your feed supply in terms of quality and quantity as a first consideration and secondarily, what these cattle will be in terms of weight and quality at expected market time. It is extremely important, particularly if you plan to sell trailer load lots, that you buy a set of uniform calves to start with so the load of cattle will be uniform in breeding, quality and weight and salable at market time. If you are wintering light weight calves, it will take better quality feed than if your wintering heavier weight calves. Forages must be of excellent quality for calves and particularly the lighter weight kinds. Make maximum use of high quality grazing on backgrounding programs this fall. If calves are to be wintered and sold next spring as stockers for grazing programs, they need to gain 100 to 150 pounds during the winter. If they are going to be sold as feedlot replacements, however, they need to gain at least 2 pounds per day or 200 to 300 pounds or more during the winter. Many producers will buy calves through local livestock markets which requires that the buyer be skilled in putting together groups of cattle that will be in demand at the time they are scheduled for market. Think about weight, sex, breed and coat color as well as feeder grade or quality that you will want in these cattle at marketing time. Remember, if you're shipping trailer load lots, 47 to 50,000 pounds will constitute a load. Marketing trailer load lots gives considerable flexibility at market time and allows the use of the telo-auction system, private treaty or in-barn graded feeder sales. The key to making backgrounding programs work will be holding feed costs as low as possible, while getting desired gains.
6. SELECTION FOR MARBLING WORKS - According to research recently reported by scientists at The University of Nebraska, selection of bulls for marbling based on marbling EPDs works. This finding is based on a 2 year study where 6 high marbling Angus bulls with marbling EPDs above .4 and 6 low marbling bulls with EPDs below - .16, when bred to crossbred cows which were 1/4 Hereford, 1/4 Simmental, 1/4 Angus and 1/4 Gelbvieh, produced significant marbling differences and thus, quality grade differences in their progeny. Calves from the high marbling EPDs bulls graded 74% choice versus 47% choice for calves sired by the low marbling bulls. Between the high and low marbling groups, there was no difference in fat thickness, USDA yield grade, carcass weight, daily gain or feed efficiency. This research would indicate that sire selection for marbling and thus carcass quality grade can be quite effective.
7. CONSUMER PER CAPITA SPENDING FOR BEEF, PORK AND CHICKEN - According to reports of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the per capita spending for various meats for the year 1995 is as follows: Beef, $194.50; Pork, $102.02; Chicken, $101.81, total, $398.33. Of the total, 48.8% was spend for Beef which was an increase over 1994. Dollars spent for both pork and chicken were down slightly from 1994.
8. PER CAPITA CONSUMPTION OF MEATS - Estimates made by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association for the year 1996, based on retail weight for all meats combined is 231.5 pounds per capita in the United States. Total red meat accounts for 122.5 pounds with beef 67.6 pounds, veal 1.0 pounds, pork 52.9 pounds and lamb, 1.0 pounds. 94 pounds is the total for poultry with 74 pounds being chicken and 18.5 pounds being turkey. Per capita fish consumption is 15.0 pounds.
9. 42 PERCENT OF US LAND AREA IS GRAZING LAND - Of the 1.9 billion acres in the 48 contiguous states in the US, 42.3% is grazing land, 20.8% crop land, 21.9% forest land and 15.0% other which would include marshes, desert, urban, parks, etc. The 801 million acres of grazing land includes 589 million acres of grassland, pasture and range, 67 million acres of crop land used for pasture and 145 million acres of forest land that is grazed. Grassland, pasture and range are the predominant use of land in the mountain and southern states regions and other areas. Some 170 million acres of land being grazed are owned by the federal government. Grazing land in the US is a tremendous resource that can only be turned into edible food for humans by ruminant livestock, largely cattle.
10. LARGEST CATTLE OPERATIONS IN US - According to figures printed in the July 1996 National Cattlemen's Association Directions issue of the National Cattlemen, the largest seedstock commercial cow/calf cattle feeding operations and beef packing operations were listed as follows:
Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension