Beef Management Tips
Livestock Update, July 1997
Ike Eller, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech
As I write this column in early June, we are barely into spring which should have come in April. Instead, cold and dry weather have characterized this spring season. Hay crops and pasture have been cut short. As always with a spring like this, there is concern about a dry season. The good news is, cattle prices have been much improved this spring and the hope is that better prices will continue throughout 1997. Summer is a busy season. Here are some thoughts:
1. WEHRMANN & McCLUNG GET BIF SEEDSTOCK AWARD - Nick Wehrmann owner and Richard McClung managing partner of Wehrmann Angus at New Market, Virginia were awarded the 1997 Beef Improvement Federation Seedstock Producer of the Year Award at the annual convention in Dickinson, North Dakota. For the first time ever, two seedstock producers of the year were recognized. The other was Thomas Angus Ranch in Oregon. Wehrmann & McClung were recognized in February as the Virginia Seedstock Producer of the Year. Virginians are extremely proud that Wehrmann Angus brings this prestigious award back to Virginia for this year.
2. BROCKETT HONORED AT BIF CONVENTION - Bill Brockett owner of Virginia Beef Corporation at Haymarket, Virginia was honored at the 1997 Beef Improvement Federation convention at Dickinson, North Dakota in May as a nominee for the Commercial Producer of the Year Award. Brockett was earlier recognized as Virginia's Commercial Producer of the Year Award at the Beef Industry Convention held at Hot Springs in February. The BIF Commercial Producer of the Year Award went to Merlin Anderson of Dresden, Kansas.
3. INCREASE POUNDS SOLD FROM COW HERDS - Although the price of calves is currently in the $90 per hundred weight bracket, and up most of $30 a hundred weight from a year ago, producers should strive to sell as many pounds of calf from their cow herds this year as possible. When we think about selling more pounds from a cow herd, we generally think about increasing average weaning weight. This is certainly important, but there are other factors as follows:
A. Keep them alive - the calf crop that will be marketed this year is already on the ground, but the goal should be to keep every calf alive until marketing time. Scours, injury, disease and predators account for most of the death loss in calves after the first few weeks of life.
B. Implant all steer calves and heifer calves that are definitely going to feedlots - Every steer calf should be implanted, and although there are products cleared for implanting of heifer calves to be kept for replacement, the practice is questionable. If calves were implanted early in life with a product such as Ralgro, a second implant 60 to 100 days before weaning will pay dividend.
C. Deworm suckling calves - Use any one of a number of good deworming materials on spring born calves, 75 to 90 days prior to weaning which will be, in most instances, in July. Research has proven mid-season deworming adds weight and makes money.
D. Creep Graze - In the middle of summer and particularly if pastures are largely fescue, creep grazing onto aftermath growth in hay meadows or summer annuals such as dwarf pearl millet can add weight very economically.
E. Creep feed a grain ration - If pasture is good, creep feeding a grain ration probably will not be a paying proposition. If pasture, on the other hand is poor and grain prices are reasonable, creep feeding may be profitable. Certainly, it will add weight. You can expect feed efficiency of about 5 pounds of creep ration per pound of additional gain, so put the pencil to it.
F. Wean later - There is no problem with weaning commercial calves up to 9 months of age. If weaning later fits the marketing plan and if pasture is plentiful, later weaning can add weaning weight and selling weight.
G. Backgrounding - After normal weaning time, backgrounding for 45 to 90 days either on pasture or economical grain ration can certainly add sale weight and dollars of gross income. The calves that will profit most from adding weight by backgrounding are the lighter weight calves. A backgrounding program should be designed to get an average daily gain of 2 pounds per day on calves. There are a number of ways to add weight at market time. Employ the ones that are right for your situation.
4. 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 a second implant around 90 to 100 days prior to weaning or marketing. If yearling cattle were implanted with materials such as Ralgro, Synovex, Component E-H or Component E-S 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. In nursing heifer calves, both Ralgro, Synovex C and Component E-C are cleared for use, even if heifers are going to be kept for replacement. Our recommendation on nursing heifer calves is to implant all of those that are not going to be used as replacements exactly as the same way as steer calves are implanted. If heifers to be kept for replacement are to be implanted, either implant one time between one month of age and weaning with Ralgro, Component E-C or Synovex C. 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.
5. JULY DEWORMING AND PASTURE ROTATION - Yearling cattle, 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 were dewormed using a sequential early season treatment plan which is highly recommended. For cattle that were dewormed at turnout time, three weeks later or six weeks later with most conventional deworming materials or those that were treated at turnout time and five weeks later with Ivomec or Dectomax, 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 it 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 the season.
6. CALFHOOD VACCINATE HEIFERS 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 by a veterinarian 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 veterinarian.
7. SUMMER FLY CONTROL - Many producers get started with their fly control programs in April and 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 to 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 are 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 pyrethroides 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. Sprays using some of the better materials available certainly can be utilized effectively. More information on recommended chemicals can be obtained from your county extension agent and from many farm supply and cattle health suppliers or veterinarians.
8. SAVE HAY - The first cutting of hay in most of Virginia was reduced in tonnage because of the dry, cool spring. This means we may put up less total tonnage of hay in Virginia this year than in some other years where spring is more normal. In any event, producers need to work hard at preventing hay loss in the hay they have stored or will store for the winter. The very best method of hay storage is in a barn. Most of the round hay bales will be stored outside and a number of things can be done to reduce spoilage. The bale yard should be on a piece of ground that is extremely well drained. Many producers will put down a thick layer of gravel to break ground contact. Utilizing pallets, old tires or other methods to break ground contact is very helpful in preventing hay loss. Covering hay bales with plastic sleeves or wraps does a good job as well. On round hay bales stored outside, we should shoot for limiting hay loss to 10 to 20 percent. The average where hay bales are unprotected is probably in excess of 30 percent.
9. 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 gateway and should be 40 inches high and 18 inches high. Adding weight to calves, this economical method will almost invariably be a paying proposition. Creep grazing might just fit your program.