Beef Management Tips
Livestock Update, September 1998
A. L. Eller, Jr., Extension Animal Scientist Emeritus, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech
September is here and fall is again upon us. 1998 has been an unusual growing season. We had an over abundance of rain in the spring and have experienced some real dry weather during the middle of the summer. The recent mid August rains may help late season pasture and hay crops. Producers have in most areas stored enough feed for the winter but conditions are variable. 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 - Any commercial producers who use bulls of several breeds have become aware of across breed EPD's 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 July Beef Improvement Federation meeting in Canada. The new adjustment factors adjusted to an Angus base are given in the following table and are based on 1996 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 the individual bulls in question. 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).
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 Hereford bull also has an EPD of +25.0 would we expect their progeny out of a different breed of dam (example Angus) to weight about the same? No, not unless the adjustment factors are the same. In this case the across breed EPD for Charolais is +67.0 (the table adjustment factor of +42 added to the Charolais EPD of +25.0). Across breed EPD of the Hereford bull is 28.3 (the table adjustment of 3.3 added to the Hereford EPD of 25.0). In this example, calves of the Charolais bull would be expected to weigh 38.7 lbs more at weaning than the calves of the Hereford bull. (42+25)-(3.3+25)=38.7 lbs.
|ADJUSTMENT FACTORS TO ADD TO EPDs OF|
TWELVE DIFFERENT BREEDS TO ESTIMATE AB-EPDs
|Breed||Birth Wt||Weaning Wt||Yearling Wt||Milk|
2. Where to from here? Now is the time for Virginia cow-calf producers and those who produce feeder cattle to think about what is going on in the industry and plan for making maximum profit in the years ahead. Things have changed drastically in the beef industry and continue to change making it more difficult for the small producer to compete unless the right steps are chosen. In looking at the state of the industry, Topper Thorpe of Cattle-Fax, observed recently that the total number of producers and processors in the industry continue to decline. The four largest packing firms handle about 80 percent of the fed cattle marketed. 2100 feedlots with more than 1,000 head one-time capacity annually market 85 percent of the fed cattle. 800,000 cow calf producers (1992 census) are in business across the country. 92 percent of these producers have less than 100 cows. 80 percent have less than 50 cows. 25,000 producers have more than 200 head and own about one-third of the total beef cows. Changes in industry structure have increased competition within and between segments intensifying the search for ways to maximize returns and minimize costs. The situation has stimulated communication and new business arrangements and marketing approaches such as selling on a grid basis contract, formula sales, formation of coops and partnerships. 70 percent of the fed cattle sold annually are sold on a cash-negotiated basis. This gives rise to the basis for price discovery in the industry. The better cattle are sold on something other than negotiated-sale basis. This implies that the žpoorerÓcattle are available for negotiated sales. Further, if the packer already has a portion of his needed supply tied up in formula contract purchases, he need not negotiate hard for the balance and may buy them at a below average price. Negotiated prices are most often used to determine base price for formulas and average prices may be reduced overall. Formulas are grounded on negotiated price and in most cases premiums and discounts have increased over time.
There are a number of generally accepted major concerns in the beef industry which are of even greater concern to the mid-size and smaller feeder calf and yearling producers. These concerns are:
Where does this leave Virginia feeder cattle producers as they look to the future? There are several thoughts for consideration as follows:
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 animal's 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 and 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 homemade 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 incidences should be sold for beef. Wintering open cows 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 and October most cows should be treated for external parasites including grubs. There are several good grubicides in the form of pour-ons or spot-ons 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, Leptospirosis and Vibriosis. In most instances a combination vaccine with modified live respiratory disease products will be best. Consult your veterinarian if there is any doubt.