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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Beef Management Tips

Livestock Update, November 1998

Scott Greiner, John Hall, and Bill McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientists, Virginia Tech

November Management calendar
Spring Calving Herds

Fall Calving Herds


Many Cows May Be Too Thin This Fall
This year in Virginia has been hard on pastures and cattle. Beef cows in many areas of Virginia may be the thinnest they have been in years. Even some fall calving herds, which are usually in good flesh (body condition score 6 or 7), are thinner than optimum. Cows in poor body condition at calving will take longer to re-breed and overall conception rates are lower in herds that are body condition score 4 or less. Thin cows also take more feed during the winter because they lack the insulation of fleshier cows.

Fall calving herds that are thin at calving are destine for reproductive problems. Producers should feed cows to gain body weight after calving. Even though it is harder to put weight on cows once they are lactating, research indicates a 15% to 30% increase in conception rates in thin cows that gain weight after calving compared to those that maintain or lose weight. Stockpiled fescue, if available, is an excellent feed for lactating beef cows. A producer told me the other day that he actually had some cows that bred earlier when they were grazed on stockpiled fescue than when they were fed a hay based diet.

Producers who have spring-calving herds that are thin should use the fall period to put weight on dry cows. Dry cows in mid-gestation gain weight easily on inexpensive moderate energy feeds. Stockpiled fescue or good quality hay with 3 to 4 pounds of corn are diets that will put weight on cows.

Some good energy feeds include corn, barley and corn silage. Lick tanks and molasses blocks are generally fair and expensive sources of energy. They are designed to be used as protein supplements, and are best used with corn silage or for cows grazing cornstalks. Lick tanks and blocks are convenient, but may not meet the energy needs of thin cattle. Most of our hays, aftermath hayfields, and overmature pastures in Virginia are deficient in energy while they contain adequate or nearly adequate amounts of protein. Producers should consult their extension agent or nutritionist for assistance with balancing rations. JBH

Local Cattle Association Marketing Efforts More local cattlemen's and feeder cattle associations are taking the marketing bull by the horns. On September 30, the Fredericksburg Feeder Cattle Association conducted its first Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle sale. The group marketed 447 head, of which all but 15 head were weaned and qualified for the "W" designation on the VQA tags. The steer calves averaged $3.90/cwt. or $24.13 per head over other special graded sale that week; while the heifers brought $.94/cwt. or $5.57 above other graded sales. On average the cattle sold in the sale brought $2.82/cwt. or $17.22 per head above comparative sales.

The Harrisonburg Feeder Cattle Association is offering a sale of VQA calves during their October 27 feeder cattle sale. At this writing the association has approximately 200 VQA cattle consigned that will be penned and sold separately.

In addition to their commingled VQA, telo-auction feeder cattle sales, the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association begins marketing replacement heifers this fall. At their fall membership meeting, a group of 18 open replacement heifers were auctioned off and brought an average of $550 per head. The association members have also consigned a total of 50 replacement heifers to be sold with Knoll Crest Farm during the Knoll Crest Bull sale on Saturday, January 2

On December 2 and 9, the Dublin Feeder Cattle Association will conduct their Backgrounded Heifer and Steer Calf sales, respectively. This fall will mark the fifth year of the backgrounded calf sales which follow a strict set of health and management criteria somewhat similar to the VQA "W" guidelines including an on-farm inspection of all calves. During the past four years, the Dublin backgrounded steers have brought an average of $3.50/cwt or $22.75 per head over other graded sales that week while the heifer mates have averaged $5.80/cwt or $34.50 per head advantage. BRM

1998-99 Virginia BCIA Bull Tests -- Wytheville Senior and Wytheville Junior, Southwest Bull Test Station -- Wytheville, Va.
63 Senior bulls (41 Angus, 2 Polled Hereford, 5 Charolais, 14 Simmental, and 1 Gelbvieh) and 146 Junior bulls (103 Angus, 2 Charolais, 33 Simmental, and 8 Gelbvieh) were delivered to the Southwest Bull Test Station on October 6, 1998.. Senior bulls were allocated to two pens, and junior bulls to 4 pens. After a two-week adjustment period, bulls will be weighed on test. They will be weighed and measured for frame size according to the following schedule:

On TestOct. 19 & 20Oct. 19 & 20
56-day WeightDec. 15Dec. 15
84-day WeightJan. 12Jan. 12
112-day Weight-Feb. 9
Off TestFeb. 8 & 9March 8 & 9

Senior bulls will be subjected to a 112-day gain test, and junior bulls to a 140-day test. At the completion of the test, bulls will be evaluated for muscle, soundness, and type as well as evaluated for reproductive soundness. Eligible bulls will be sold on March 27, 1999. SPG

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