Beef Management Tips
Livestock Update, September 1997
Ike Eller, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech
It's hard to believe that September is here and fall is upon us. 1997 has been a spotty growing season, but hopefully we've made enough feed for cattle, though some producers will have an abundance and others will be tight because of drought conditions. Fall is a busy time of year with harvesting, cattle marketing, cattle buying and preparation for winter. Here are some thoughts:
1. NEW ACROSS-BREED EPDS - Many 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 cattle. EPD adjustment factors come out of the research at the USDA experiment station at Clay Center, Nebraska and were presented at the May Beef Improvement Federation Meeting in North Dakota. The new adjustment factors adjusted to an Angus base are given in the following table and are based on 1995 data. To compare EPDs of bulls of different breeds, simply add or subtract the appropriate adjustment factor for the breed in question from the EPDs of individual bulls in questions. 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. (See Table)
ADJUSTMENT FACTORS TO ADD TO EPDS OF TWELVE BREEDS TO ESTIMATE ACROSS-BREED EPDS
| BIRTH |
| WEANING |
| YEARLING |
For bulls of different breeds, the Table adjustment factors can be used to make a fair comparison. For example, if a Charolais bull has an EPD for weaning weight of +25.0 and a Shorthorn bull also has an EPD of +25.0, would we expect their progeny out of a different breed of dam (example Angus) to weigh about the same? No, not unless the adjustment factors are the same. In this case, the across-breed EPD for the Charolais is +64.0 (the Table Adjustment Factor of +39 added to the Charolais EPD of +25.0.) The across-breed EPD of the Shorthorn bull is 50.8 (the table adjustment of +25.8 added to the Shorthorn EPD of +25.0.) In this example, calves of the Charolais bull would be expected to weigh an average of 13.2 pounds more at weaning than calves of the Shorthorn bull (39.0 + 25.0) - (25.8 + 25.0) = 13.2 pound.
2. SERVANT ROLE FOR THE SEEDSTOCK BREEDER - Many times the seedstock breeder has been held up as the architect of the beef cattle industry and has been depicted as being in an elite role. There was a time that if a bull for use in a commercial herd had a registration certificate, he was something special. In more recent times, the bull to be used in a commercial herd with a registration certificate which included EPDs was thought to be something special.
Today it is a given that bulls produced by purebred breeders have a registration certificate and one that contains complete EPDs and production data. This information will not be enough to make the seedstock breeder a success as we move into the next millennium.
Today, commercial cow/calf producers who expect their operations to be profitable are very much concerned about producing cattle that will be in demand by the cattle feeder, the packer and the consumer. Consistency and uniformity are very much a part of the package he expects in each year's calf crop. The commercial cow/calf producer who is a business man, is today, sorting through and selecting the best possible source for seedstock bulls. He is looking for a purebred breeder who will furnish the genetic input he is looking for on a continual basis and one that will stand firmly behind the bulls he sells. The successful purebred breeder will see himself as one who supplies a production input and he will expect to service what he sells just the same as a successful farm implement dealer. Thus, he will be thrust firmly into a servant role as a genetic supplier. In many instances a seedstock breeder will be part of an alliance with his commercial customers. Seedstock breeders not willing to take on a servant role in the years to come may find the market for their bulls under pressure.
3. 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.
4. CHUTE COWS THIS FALL - After calves have been weaned, cows should get a trip down the chute. This is the time to have a veterinarian or qualified technician pregnancy check each cow. Open cows, in most instances, should be sold for beef. Wintering open calves can be a very expensive item. While cows are in the chute, they should be checked thoroughly for condition of teeth, eyes, udders, feet and legs. Unsound and old cows need to be put on the cull list. In the months of September & October, most cows should be treated for external parasites including grubs. There are several good grubicides in the form of pour-on or spot-on on the market. For fall calving cows, their trip down the chute should be after they calve to be inoculated against various respiratory and other diseases before being bred again. They should be vaccinated against IBR, PI3, BVD, Lepto Spirosis and Vibrosis. In most instances, a combination vaccine with modified live respiratory disease products will be best. Consult your veterinarian if there is any doubt.
5. 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 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 and reduces potential sickness. 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 BVD. 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 60 to 90 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 2 pounds per day on an economical forage based program.
6. PLAN TO BACKGROUND CALVES - We will probably not see another year soon where backgrounding and stockering calves paid as handsomely as was the case this past year. Those calves that were backgrounded this past year hit a homerun in almost every instance. Backgrounding and stockering is not for every producer, but where this enterprise fits, it can be a money maker in most years. This is particularly true with the lighter weight calves in a herd. In most cow herds, it will be a 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 marketing 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 that the load of cattle will be uniform in breeding, quality and weight and will be salable at market time. If you are wintering light weight calves, it will take better quality feed than if your wintering heavier 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 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.
7. PER CAPITA CONSUMPTION FOR BEEF, PORK, AND CHICKEN - 1996 - Based on retail weight for all meats combined was 209.3 pounds. Of this total, 67.6 pounds was Beef; 1.2 pounds was Veal; 49.1 pounds Pork; 1.0 pounds Lamb; 72.9 pounds Chicken; and 18.4 pounds Turkey. The total for red meats was 118.9 pounds and the total for poultry was 90.4 pounds.
8. CONSUMER PER CAPITA SPENDING: BEEF, PORK AND CHICKEN - For the year 1996 Americans spend $424.26 for meat. Of this, $189.99 was spend for beef, $108.85 for pork and $125.42 for chicken.
9. LARGEST CATTLE OPERATIONS IN US - According to figures printed in the July 1997 National Cattlemen's Beef Association Directions issue of the National Cattlemen, the largest seedstock, commercial cow/calf, cattle feeding operations and beef packing operations were listed as follows:
25 LARGEST SEEDSTOCK OPERATIONS BASED ON 1996 CALVES REGISTERED
TOP 25 COW/CALF OPERATIONS BASED ON NUMBER OF COWS
25 LARGEST CATTLE FEEDING OPERATIONS BASED ON CAPACITY
12 LARGEST BEEF PACKING OPERATIONS BASED ON DAILY KILL CAPACITY