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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.

  1. 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. They are:
    1. Increase Calving Percent Weaned
    2. Increase Calf Weight Weaned and Sold
    3. Increase Value of Animals Sold
    4. Reduce Cow Maintenance Cost
    5. Business
    6. Breeding

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  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 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.
  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 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 the season.
  6. 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 veterinarian.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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