Beef Management Tips
Livestock Update, June 1998
A.L. Eller, Jr., Extension Animal Scientist Emeritus, Virginia Tech
June is almost here as I write this column in mid-May and indeed this spring has been a complete turnaround from last year. Moisture has been abundant. Spring pastures are as good as we ever see them and the first cutting hay crop looks like a heavy one if we can get it put up in good shape. Feeder cattle prices are in a profitable level but are being hampered a bit by a sluggish fed cattle market. Here are some thoughts on events and management.
Bulls of six breeds were tested at three central test stations including 446 Angus, 28 Polled Hereford, 25 Charolais, 66 Simmental, 31 Gelbvieh, 1 Limousin and 2 Salers. Across all bulls tested at the three test stations the 112, 119, or 140 day test average daily gain averaged 3.28 with an averaged adjusted yearling weight of 1120 pounds.
There were 162 breeders who tested and sold bulls at the central test stations of which 116 were Angus, 11 Polled Hereford, 8 Charolais, 22 Simmental, 12 Gelbvieh, 1 Salers and 1 Limousin. 27 of these breeders were out-of-state from Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland.
At the four auction sales held at the three test stations, the 399 bulls grossed $653,950 for an average price of $1701. 82 Culpeper seniors averaged $1814, 83 Culpeper juniors $1592, 93 Red House seniors $1787, and 141 Wytheville seniors and juniors $1642.
Across the three test stations 303 Angus averaged $1725, 18 Polled Hereford $1301, 10 Charolais $1510, 45 Simmental $1598, 21 Gelbvieh $2029, and 2 Salers $1500.
All bulls tested and sold were consigned by breeders who are members of the Virginia Beef Cattle Improvement Association which is a 43 year old beef cattle improvement program which was the first state BCIA to be organized in the United States.
The Southwest bull test station at Wytheville owned by Danny Umberger will test two groups of bulls. A maximum of 80 senior bulls calved October 1 to December 31, 1997 and a maximum of 160 junior bulls calved January 1 to March 31, 1998 will be delivered to the test station on Tuesday, October 6. Both groups will go on test October 19 and 20. The senior bulls will finish 112 day test on February 8 and 9 and the juniors will finish 140 day test on March 8 and 9 and the top two-thirds of both groups will sell Saturday, March 27.
Breeders to be eligible to consign bulls to the Virginia BCIA central bull tests and sales must be members of the Virginia BCIA. All members will be mailed rules and regulations June 1. For breeders interested in testing and selling bulls at the BCIA central bull test stations, contact the Virginia BCIA, Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0306, 540-231-9163.
Consignments of bred or open heifers for Staunton or Blackstone respectively can range from a minimum of 3 head up to 25 head. The Sale Manager for the Staunton and Blackstone sales will be Jim Johnson of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, P.O. Box 9, Daleville, Virginia 24083, 540-992-1009. Bulls and heifers must be consigned prior to October 1, 1998. For additional information contact the Virginia Cattlemen's Association or Virginia BCIA, Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0306, 540-231-9163.
There continues to be considerable interest in some quarters of forage testing bulls which would give an opportunity to utilize a less expensive feed source, grow bulls at a slower rate and perhaps add a bit of soundness and longevity to these bulls versus feeding them a hot ration while young.
There have been continuing arguments that if bulls are grown on high forage diets at a slower rate of gain it may be difficult to get a true expression of genetic growth rate at those lower rates of gain. Breeders who have developed marketing programs for yearling bulls with higher rates of gain and higher yearling weights, like the system and wonder if there is as much profit in growing bulls at a slower rate and selling them at an older age. It appears that most commercial cow/calf producers will pay about as much for a yearling bull as they will for a bull 18 months to 2 years of age.
In reviewing what is going on in some other states in the southern and southeastern portions of the country, where forage bull tests are fairly common, it appears that breeders and forage testing programs have been somewhat successful. There are central bull evaluation programs in South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama. In most of these evaluation and grow-out programs bulls are brought into the evaluation facility when they are 7 to 10 months of age in the fall of the year and are kept in the evaluation group through the next spring or early summer monitoring rates of gain. From that point until the time the bulls are sold in late fall, they are kept growing on grazing programs supplemented to an extent with grain. The total non-sale costs in various places looks something like this: the Edisto station in South Carolina - $870, the West Alabama test - $687, Wiregrass Alabama test - $650 and the Warsaw, North Carolina - $616. Total costs including sale expense at Edisto was $999, West Alabama - $843, Wiregrass Alabama - $750 and Warsaw, North Carolina - $735.
In each of these more southern locations, winter forages are much superior to what we have available in Virginia. This means that in Virginia most of the grazing that our breeders could take advantage of is from spring to fall during the warm summer months.
It would appear that to make maximum use of forages, bulls considered for forage test probably should be born March 1 to May 31 or even later. These bulls could be weaned and if within a central evaluation facility come in about December 15. They could be weighed on test two weeks later on December 29 and either be fed to gain 3.25 pounds per day or 2.25 pounds per day for say 119 days to come off that portion of the test on April 27. Bulls fed at the higher level would come off test weighing 1080 and at the lower level 960. At the higher level, the average 365 day weights would be in the range of 1050 to 1060 and at the 2.25 level of gain, about 940. At that point bulls under either regime would go to good pasture and would be supplemented as necessary with grain to make every daily gains of 2 pounds per day until October 12 at which time the bulls that were wintered at the higher level in winter would weigh 1415 pounds and the bulls at the lower level 1295 pounds. If these bulls were to be sold at an auction sale a month later, say November 13, the bulls wintered at the higher level would have a sale weight at 19 months of 1463 pounds and bulls fed at the lower level would have a sale weight of 1345 pounds. This is indeed a nice age to offer these bulls for sale but we now must take a look at the costs.
For bulls wintered at the higher level, we would use a winter feed cost of $238 and bulls at the lower level $180. The summer gain with appropriate supplementation of some grain and minerals would cost $299 for both groups. Let’s pencil in $12 for medical costs and $147 for labor and yardage at the rate of 50 cents per head per day while on the winter period and 40 cents per head per day during the pasture portion. Total test costs for the two groups of bulls would be $696 for the bulls fed at the higher level and $638 for the bulls fed at the lower level.
For bulls that might be sold at auction let's assume a $1600 average and a 10% of gross for sale costs which would add $160 cost to each bull. Grand total costs for bulls tested and sold at the higher level would be $856 and for the lower level $798.
All this doesn't look too bad, but we must remember that there will be some percentage of these bulls that will be culled after the winter period and there will no doubt be 5% to 10% of these bulls that will sustain injuries, will die, will fail to pass a reproductive exam or perhaps have some other problem.
The above costs are simply estimates based on other folks experience and what should happen. Some producers feeding their own bulls will get the job done more economically and others probably at a greater cost. There is no question that bulls that are sold at 18 to 22 months of age are more desirable for most commercial producers. If we had a cooperator who was willing to take a large group of bulls from purebred breeders and probably grow them out and head them for a service-age bull sale, we could perhaps have a number of these late spring born bulls tested with the use of grazing forages and have these bulls made available. It is doable.