March 7, 2014
There is no doubt that the drought of 2012 and the weather extremes of 2013 have stressed pastures. Maintaining a productive stand in your pasture is crucial for animal performance, holding feed costs down, and making the most of the productive soil you have invested in.
Frost seeding clover is a good strategy to deploy to fill in wholes and weak stand areas in pastures. Red clover is the most popular specie to add via frost seeding. Two major characteristics support it's popularity. It has very good seeding vigor and seed size is large enough it can be accurately applied via frost seeding.
White clover is also a good choice for pastures that will be grazed. It will not provide much to a hay crop as it grows closer to the ground. White clover seed is much smaller in size, thus accurately applying seed is more challenging. Mixing it with field lime or red clover will allow for better seeding rates across a pasture.
When seeding legumes it is important to take a look at soil pH. If your soils are more acidic (pH below 6) then establishing legumes will come with limited success. Many pastures that have been overgrazed, abused, or used for hay production fall into this category. Overgrazed pastures need field lime applied to bring the pH back up into a suitable window for legume establishment.
Overgrazing pastures in the fall actually helps with seed-soil contact of frost seeded legumes. Many times pastures with too much residual are poor candidates for frost seeding. I recommend harrowing these pastures to better incorporate the seed. In overgrazed pastures, the freeze-thaw of the spring weather along with some timely snows or slow rains can help incorporate the seed.
Seeding rate can vary. If you have never frost seeded clover before I would suggest 10 lbs. per acre of red clover. If you are mixing white clover in at 1 lb. per acre you can bring that down to 6 or 7 lbs of red clover per acre. If you are annually frost seeding clover 3-5 lbs per acre may be sufficient. No matter what rate you seed, be sure the soil and pasture conditions are managed to maximize your seeding.
A few tips for frost seeding legumes:
-Do not add N fertilizer (will stimulate the grass species and increase competition for the new seeding)
-Add field lime to bring soil pH up
-Incorporate the seed into the soil with a harrow or animal foot traffic (make sure to remove animals soon after)
-Apply a strong rate (at least 5 lbs/acre)
-Use inoculated seed from a reputable source
I like frost-seeding legumes for many reasons:
-Adds diversity to the stand
-A 30% legume stand can add up to 100 lbs. of N to a pasture
-Helps dilute fescue and the endophyte issues with KY31
-Fills in weak stand spots in pastures thus helping combat weed pressure
-Will be more active and productive in the summer slump than cool season grasses
February 25, 2014
The Illinois Performance Tested (IPT) Bull Sale was the lead-off event of the 2014 Illinois Beef Expo held on Feb. 20 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill. The sale had the highest overall average in the 46 year history at $3,840 on 51 lots.
"This sale has developed into one of the most reliable sources of performance bulls in the Midwest," said Travis Meteer, IPT sale manager. "During the past 46 years, the sale has sold 4,576 bulls valued at over 7.9 million dollars."
There were three breeds represented in the 2014 sale: Angus, Simmental, Polled Hereford. The high selling bull was an Angus bull consigned by Hobbs Angus, Good Hope, IL. He sold for $9,000 to Kevin Payne, Brownstown, IL.
The top selling Simmental bull was consigned by Bob Fitzpatrick, Milan, IL. He sold for $7, 000 to William Ivie, Morton, IL. White Willow Polled Herefords consigned the top selling Polled Hereford bull which sold to Charles Richardson, Jacksonville, IL at $4,000.
The University of Illinois (U of I) Extension, U of I Department of Animal Sciences, and consigning breeders sponsored the sale. Also, Vita Ferm, Merial, Zoetis, ABS, Illinois Angus Association, and Illinois Simmental Association provided support for the sale.
Producers interested in viewing a breakdown of all the prices can visit the IPT Bull Sale website at www.IPTBullSale.com. Also included on this site are the individual bull prices from the 2014 sale and the numbers and averages from the previous 45 sales.
Seed-stock breeders interested in consigning to the 2015 IPT Bull Sale should contact Travis Meteer via email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy of the rules and regulation and nomination form. Nominations need to be made by Dec.15, 2014, for the 2015 sale.
January 27, 2014
There has long been a sentiment among producers that in cold years, calf birth weights are increased. There are many inherent challenges in proving whether this is actually true. Differences in bull as well as nutrition are the biggest hurdles.
Research that evaluates this question is limiting. However, one study conducted by researchers in Nebraska during the 90's attempted to follow birth weight and dystocia as impacted by winter weather (Deutscher et al., 1999). For six years, March calving heifers (of similar breeding, similarly bred) were evaluated. The trial did show birth weights and dystocia were the greatest in the coldest years. The coldest winter during the study was an 11 degree Fahrenheit difference from normal. This resulted in an increase of 11 pounds in calf birth weight. Calving difficulty increased as well.
The theory behind this is that during cold temperatures cows shift blood flow from the extremities to major internal organs. This results in greater blood flow to the fetus. In turn, more nutrients are also delivered to the fetus... increasing birth weight.
The majority of fetal growth occurs 3 months prior to calving. Therefore, the temperature departure of the last three months is useful in judging if increased calf birth weights should be expected. October was pretty much normal. November was 3 degrees colder than normal, December was nearly 5 degrees colder than normal and January is 6.3 degrees below average. For perspective January 2014 ranks as the 17th coldest on record, but 1977 was 16 degrees below normal. Yikes! Can you imagine your Dad trying to calve those giraffe-legged cattle in the winter of 1977...bet it wasn't pretty.
So in summary, not much research has been conducted to answer this question. Other factors like sire selection, pelvic area, overfeeding, and body condition score likely have more of an impact on calving success. Colder temperatures will likely lead to an increase in birth weights... however the difference due to temperature will likely be subtle.
January 25, 2014
Pedigree, scrotal measurement, EPDs, accuracies, actual weights, $ values, DNA tests.... and you haven't even looked at the bull yet. There is no doubt that sire selection can be a daunting task, but economic indexes may be the tool to help simplify your selection process.
Economic indexes are a collection of EPDs that are weighted depending on their economic importance in a given scenario. The goal of these index values is to simultaneously emphasize economically-relevant traits while using a multi-trait selection approach.
Often these indexes are not fully understood and the name of the index doesn't always accurately portray the goal of the index. Read these descriptions carefully so you can accurately use these selection tools to improve the profitability of your cattle.
Weaned Calf Value ($W)
An index that is designed for cattlemen that primarily sell calves at weaning. This index also assumes that replacement heifers are retained. EPDs for birth weight, weaning weight, milk, and mature cow size are focused on. Lower birth weights, heavier weaning weights, and lower mature cow size are desirable. Milk production is weighted both positively and negatively as it directly impacts calf weaning weights, but also increases cow maintenance requirements.
Feedlot Value ($F)
This is an index that focuses on post-weaning characteristics. Yearling weight is the driving factor in this index. It is useful for cattlemen marketing fed cattle on a live basis.
Grid Value ($G)
This index puts focus on carcass traits. If you want to emphasize improving both quality and yield grade in your herd, this is useful tool.
Beef Value ($B)
This is a combination of $F and $G, but is not a simple addition of the two. $B is a terminal index. Emphasis is put on yearling weight and carcass traits. Significant selection pressure on $B index can result in selecting for a larger mature cow size. If replacement heifers are retained, you should not apply blind selection pressure to this index. $B is not a comprehensive index, which I frequently hear it misrepresented as. It is a terminal index.
Baldy Maternal Index (BMI$)
A maternal index that assumes a production system based on Hereford x Angus cross females. The index places positive weight on calving ease, scrotal circumference, and weaning weight. A slight negative weight is placed on YW in effort to promote early growth to keep cow size manageable. Positive weight is also placed on marbling, more so than REA. The index assumes cull progeny are marketed in a branded beef program. This is a maternal-focused index that also places selection pressure on carcass quality.
Certified Hereford Beef (CHB$)
A terminal index that targets the CHB market. Slight pressure is put on calving ease, positive weight is put on weaning weight, yearling weight, and carcass traits. This index is useful for ranchers producing bulls for a terminal breeding program. It also has value for selecting cattle that will be more profitable in the feedlot. No replacement females are retained in this scenario, thus no selection pressure is put on fertility.
All-Purpose Index (API)
An index that assumes bulls will be used on cows and heifers. It assumes heifers will be retained as replacements. All other progeny will be sold on a grade and yield grid based system. This index is designed to assist producers in selecting cattle that will maximize revenue from fed cattle while maintaining maternal attributes in replacement heifers.
Terminal Index (TI)
No smoke and mirrors here. This index assumes all progeny will be sold grade and yield. Used for selecting bulls to be used on cows only.
In conclusion, sire selection sets the stage for your future in the cattle business. Progeny from the bulls you choose today will determine your reputation, your profitability, and your brand. Understanding economic index values can result in more profitable cattle for your operation as well as your customer base.
January 16, 2014
Calving season is either here or fast approaching for many Illinois cattlemen. I would just like to share a few tips that I have gathered through some of our winter meetings. Perhaps the most important tip is to have a good relationship with your local veterinarian. Sometimes the difficult decisions during calving season are best made by your veterinarian.
Just a few of the basic things:
Some tips for dystocia (calving difficulty):
Most dystocia is associated with large calves or small pelvic area of the calving female. Twins or Abnormal presentation can also be the cause. It is important to identify what the cause of dystocia is before pulling the calf. You may need to re-position the calf or perform a c-section instead of using the calf puller.
Once the calf is delivered, it is important to clear mucus from its mouth/airway and stimulate breathing. Sticking a piece of straw into the nostril can help to encourage sneezing and coughing, clearing mucus from the airway. If the calf is not breathing and has had mucus cleared, bouncing it on it's rear-end can help stimulate breathing.