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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Beef Management Tips

Livestock Update, December 1997

Ike Eller, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

As I write this column in mid-November, we are in the grip of a record cold spell for this time of year. Most predictions are that this winter will be a colder than normal one with some unusual weather because of El Nino. We will have to wait to see. We do know that because of summer drought the feed situation on many farms is fairly critical. Winter feeding has begun earlier than usual. Now is the time to get ready for real winter time. Winter management is always critical. Here are some thoughts.

  1. 178 bulls sell at BCIA test stations in December and January - A top set of bulls will be available at auction at two Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association central bull test stations within the next month. 84 Culpeper Senior bulls will be sold at the Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises at Culpeper, Virginia, on Saturday, December 13, 1997 at 12:00 noon. These include 73 Angus, 3 Polled Hereford, 2 Charolais and 6 Simmentals. These bulls represent the top performing two thirds of the 125 bulls tested in the senior group at Glenmary Farm at Rapidan 94 Red House Senior bulls representing the top two thirds of the 140 tested at the Red House Bull Evaluation Center will sell there on Saturday, January 3, 1998 at 12:00 noon. These will include 67 Angus, 5 Polled Hereford, 5 Charolais, 3 Simmental and 14 Gelbvieh. Bulls in both sales will sell with complete performance records including EPDs. For information contact the Virginia BCIA, Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0306, (540) 231-9163. For catalogs write or call Sale Manager, Virginia Sale Services, Route 2 Box 446, Staunton, VA 24401-9432, (540) 337-3001.

  2. Brucellosis and TB - Virginia has been Brucellosis free for a number of years and regained its free TB status just recently. Both diseases need to be guarded against in beef cattle and dairy cattle herds. Be sure replacement heifers are vaccinated against Brucellosis with strain 19 when between the ages of 4 and 12 months. Purebred breeders particularly should plan to have their herds Brucellosis certified and TB accredited. To get this job done the requirement is to have two negative tests within a 12 month period and then have an annual negative test for both diseases. Get your vet lined up for vaccination and the testing you want to do. For producers who are purchasing females for their herds, insist that they be calfhood vaccinated for Brucellosis and/or have a negative Brucellosis test and a negative TB test.

  3. Feed at night, calve in daylight - It has been well proven that cows or heifers during calving season which are fed late in the day (about dark) will tend not to calve during the night but will generally calve the next morning after daylight. This is an excellent management tool particularly on first calf heifers. Most producers have historically fed cattle early in the morning and have had lots of calves born during hours of darkness. If you are interested in calving most of them in daylight, alter your feeding program and feed at night.

  4. Feed stockers for desired winter gains - All stocker cattle being backgrounded definitely do not need to be wintered to gain at the same rate. Backgrounded feeders to be sold in late winter or spring to go directly to feed lots, need to gain at a level of 2 pounds per day or gain at least 200 pounds during the winter. Many of our good producers on the larger frame kinds will put closer to 300 pounds on them during the winter. Feeder cattle to be marketed to go direct to feed lots should not be fat, but should be in good average condition. Heifers and steers to be sold in the spring should be weighing 650 to 800 pounds when marketed as a general rule. If calves are to be wintered to go back on grass on the spring and sold in mid to late summer, then gains of 75 to 150 pounds for the winter is about right. About 2 to a pound per day will hit the mark. If you start with 400 pound calves and plan for them to go to pasture next spring, they will need to be weighing 500 to 550 pounds at turn out time.

  5. Treat for lice New Years Day - Cattle lice are not tuned into New Years Day as we are but about that time of year is the right time for cattle producers to treat for lice. If cattle have had a grubicide pour on or other treatment that is recommended for lice in the fall, they can be treated in January with materials that will kill both lice and grubs. If they have not been treated for grubs a material should be used that does not kill grubs but only lice. After about mid-February however there is no danger from using a systemic that will kill both grubs and lice. Lice rob profits and cause infested cattle to require more feed for maintenance. This is not a winter to harbor lice on your cattle.

  6. Properly grow out replacement heifers - Heifers that are to be bred for the first time to calve as two year olds should weigh a minimum of about two thirds of what they are expected to weigh as mature cows. This means heifers that will weigh 1000 pounds at maturity should weigh a minimum of 665 pounds at breeding time. If the maturity weight is expected to be 1200 pounds then they should weigh a minimum of 800 pounds when breeding season starts. In most instances heifers need to gain 1 to 2 pounds per day from the time they are weaned to the time they are bred at 13 to 15 months of age. At breeding time they definitely should be in good body condition which on a body condition score of 1 to 9 means they should score in the range of 5 to 7 where 5 is average body condition. As heifers progress through the winter watch condition and don't let them get thin. Most replacement heifers are wintered on hay of varying quality. If the quality of hay is excellent they may need no supplemental grain or protein. However, if hay is average quality or below they will need some supplement in the form of grain and protein supplement on a daily basis to ensure they gain properly and maintain at least average or better condition. Generally speaking three to five pounds of corn or barley and a pound of protein supplement per head per day will do the trick.

  7. Virginia Beef Industry Convention - 1998 Convention will be held at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia on February 19, 20 and 21, 1998. Mark these dates on your calendar. Programs will be printed in the Virginia Cattleman and other publications and will be available from the Virginia Cattlemen's Association, P.O. Box 176, Daleville, VA 24083, (540) 992-1009. All three days of the convention will be important. If you can only attend one day it would have to be Friday, February 20. Purebred Breed Associations and Virginia BCIA will have their annual meetings and programs on Saturday, February 21.

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