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Beef Management Tips

Livestock Update, June 1997

Ike Eller, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

June is almost here and as I write this column in mid-May, it seems we've almost missed spring, this year. Moisture has been scarce as has been warm weather. Pasture is barely adequate as we move from spring to summer and hay crops have certainly been reduced, at least in the first cutting. The good news is cattle prices are back to a profitable level for most beef producers. Here are some thoughts on events and management:

1. 390 BULLS SELL AT TEST STATIONS AND AVERAGE $1,677 - For the 39th consecutive year, bulls have been tested and sold at central bull test stations, operated by the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association. In the 1996-97 test and sale year, 596 bulls were tested at the three test stations located at Culpeper, Red House and Wytheville. The 390 bulls which sold, represented the top two-thirds of all bulls tested. Prices in the 1997 sales averaged $305 higher than sales held in 1996 and were helped by a rising spring cattle market.

At the 39 year old Culpeper test, bulls were fed for the first time at Glenmary Farm at nearby Rapidan with good results. 241 bulls were tested of which 117 were seniors and 124 juniors. At Red House, in it's 25th year, 140 senior bulls were tested. At Wytheville, in it's 18th year, 215 bulls were tested, of which 59 were seniors and 156 juniors. Senior bulls at all three test stations were born in the fall months, September, October, November and December. Junior bulls were born in the months of January, February and March.

Bulls of six breeds were tested at the three central bull test stations including 422 Angus, 55 Polled Hereford, 34 Charolais, 53 Simmental, 30 Gelbvieh and 2 Salers. Across all bulls tested at the three test stations, the 112, 119 or 140 day test average daily gain averaged 3.41 with an average adjusted yearling weight of 1100 pounds.

A large number of breeders participated in the central bull test station program including 156 breeders of which 106 were Angus, 15 Charolais, 13 Simmental, 8 Gelbvieh and 1 Salers. 25 of these were out-of-state breeders from Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.

At the four auction sales held at the three test stations, the 390 bulls grossed $653,950 for an average price of $1,677. 71 Culpeper seniors averaged $1,280; 81 Culpeper juniors averaged $1,630; 93 Red House seniors averaged $2,095; and 145 Wytheville seniors and juniors averaged $1,628.

Across the three test stations, 282 Angus bulls averaged $1,678; 29 Polled Herefords averaged $1,082; 23 Charolais averaged $1,225; 32 Simmental averaged $1,763; 22 Gelbvieh averaged $2,869; and 2 Salers averaged $788. All bulls tested and sold were consigned by breeders who are members of the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association which is a 42 year old beef cattle improvement program that was the first state BCIA to be organized in the United States.

2. PLANS MADE FOR VA BCIA TEST STATIONS FOR 1997-98 - The Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association has plans made for testing about 600 bulls at the three central bull test stations at Culpeper, Red House and Wytheville. This year, again the Culpeper test will be conducted at Glenmary Farm owned and operated by the Tom Nixon family at Rapidan, Virginia, which is 10 miles south of Culpeper, off Rt. 522. Two groups of bulls will be tested at the Culpeper test at the Nixon Farm. A maximum of 130 seniors bulls calved September 1 to December 15, 1996 will be delivered to the Nixon farm Tuesday, July 22. These bulls will go on test August 4 & 5, will complete the 112 day test November 24 & 25 and the top two-thirds will be sold at the Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises Saturday, December 13. A maximum of 130 Culpeper junior bulls calved December 16, 1996 to March 31, 1997 will be delivered to the Nixon farm on Monday, November 10. They will be weighed on 119 day test November 24 & 26 and will come off test March 23 & 24 and the top two-thirds will sell at the Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises on Friday, April 10.

The Red House senior bull test will again be conducted for the 26th year at the Red House Bull Evaluation Center owned and operated by James Bennett's Knoll Crest Farm. Red House seniors bulls calved September 1 to December 31, 1996 will be delivered to the Red House Bull Evaluation Center on Wednesday, August 6; will begin 112 day test August 19 & 20; will complete the test December 9 & 10 and the top two-thirds will sell Saturday, January 3, 1998. This group will have a maximum of 140 bulls.

The Southwest Bull Test Station at Wytheville owned by Danny Umberger will test two groups of bulls. A maximum of 65 senior bulls calved October 1 to December 31, 1996 and a maximum of 170 junior bulls calved January 1 to March 31, 1997 will be delivered to the test station Tuesday, October 7. Both groups will go on test October 20 & 21. Senior bulls will finish 112 day test February 9 & 10. The juniors will finish 140 day test March 9 & 10 and the top two-thirds of both groups will sell Saturday, March 28, 1998.

Breeders to be eligible to consign bulls to the Virginia BCIA central bull tests and sales must be member of the VA BCIA. All members will be mailed Rules & Regulations June 1. For breeders interested in testing and selling bulls at the BCIA central bull test stations, contact VA BCIA, Dept. of Animal & Poultry Sciences, VA Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 24061-0306. 540/231-9163.

3. REIMPLANT STEER CALVES AND YEARLINGS - July 4th is just about the right date for reimplanting steer calves and grazing yearling steers and heifers that are headed for the feedlot. With margins being tight and prices moderate, take advantage of the extra gain that can be gotten from a mid-summer reimplanting. If calves or yearlings have not been implanted, the first implant given in mid-summer can produce very profitable results. If an implant material such as Ralgro was used for the first implant, cattle definitely need to be implanted a second time. Nursing calves can be implanted with Ralgro, Synovex C, Component E-C or Compudose. Yearling cattle can be implanted with Ralgro, Revalor G, Synovex H for heifers or Synovex S for steers or Component E-H for heifers or Component E-S for steers.

4. DEWORM NURSING CALVES AND YEARLINGS - At the same time reimplanting is done is about the right time to deworm spring born nursing calves. This is particularly true if they are nursing young, first calf cows or if such cows are in the pasture with the main herd. There is no need, in most instances, to deworm mature mama cows in mid-summer. For grazing stocker cattle that were dewormed once at turnout, a second deworming in mid-summer will produce more gain and more pounds to sell. For those grazing yearlings, whether they be stockers or replacement heifers which may be difficult to catch in grazing boundaries with limited facilities, the use of dewormer blocks or mineral mixes containing dewormer may be effectively used. Be sure to follow directions if you plan to use one of these deworming materials.

5. MID SUMMER FLY CONTROL - Horn and face flies can take a toll in mid summer if cattle are unprotected. Many producers use insecticide impregnated ear tags to get effective fly control. Most cattle ear tags should have been done in May, however, June is not too late, and in fact, may be just about right for herds in higher elevations. Sprays, pourons and backrubbers can be economically and effectively employed. Use the system that best fits your management situation.

6. CREEP GRAZE CALVES - Creep grazing is the practice of allowing suckling calves to graze the highest quality forage available while restricting cows to pastures that are lower in quality or less abundant. Research and practical experience have demonstrated the value of this practice, particulary in mid to late summer and generally have shown an increase of 25 to 50 pounds in calf weaning weight where creep feeding is used. Creep grazing produces the most difference if the quality of the pasture available to the cow herd is lower as is the case with many pastures, including those predominantly of fescue in mid summer. Creep holes for calves generally should be 18 inches wide and 40 inches high. Creep grazing calves on aftermath meadows offers the best opportunity for most cow calf producers, however, some utilize millet or other summer annuals quite well. Consider creep grazing if it fits your operation and if the need exists. It will certainly add pounds and do it very economically. Again this year, every pound you can add economically will add to your profit picture.

7. ALLIANCES IN THE BEEF BUSINESS - The livestock media have been full of information about alliances during the last one to two years. Many cow/calf producers are considering alliances that would hopefully give them an edge in marketing their cattle. Many alliances allow cow/calf producers to maintain ownership of their cattle all the way through the feedlot phase. One of the carrots that is dangled before cow/calf producers about alliances is that data can be collected on feedlot and carcass performance that could and should be helpful in decision making for more profit. Before getting into such an alliance, many producers are testing the water by sending a sample of their calves to commercial feedlots through the Virginia Retained Ownership Program which, indeed, has furnished considerable good information to producers in the past few years. When sending cattle through an alliance, a retained ownership program or simply owning the cattle through the feedlot phase, it is the responsibility of the cattle owner to take the data provided and make use of it in his own operation. The Decatur Beef Alliance in Overland, Kansas, probably provide some of the best data in the industry to the cattle owner. This outfit uses electronic individual identification to track cattle performance through the feed yard and packing plant. Once a customers cattle are finished, individual data is laid out on the cattle from best to worst in terms of profit. The implication is that the cattle owner will market the bottom 20 percent of the calf crop and not own them through the feedlot again. The implication also is that the owner go back to the cow herd and try to figure out what is the cause for the bottom 20 percent of the cows to produce calves that are the least profitable.

A very useful alliance that many cow/calf producers are forming is an alliance with seedstock breeders. The cow/calf producer is looking for a seedstock producer that can furnish bulls with documented superiority in profitable traits in line with the needs of that producer. This makes a lot of sense. There are lots of progressive commercial producers today that are looking hard at purebred breeders programs with the idea that they will find the right breeder and the right program who will furnish them all the bulls they need in their operation.

There are all kinds of alliances available and if progressive beef producers are to survive, many of them are going to join some kind of an alliance to attempt to be masters of their own destiny.

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