May 25, 2012
Tall fescue is a grass specie that dominates many pastures in the state of Illinois, especially the southern half. When talking to producers about pasture management, many times management of tall fescue is a major component. There seems to be a love/hate relationship with tall fescue. As producers, we love the early spring yields, the stockpiling potential in the fall, and the hardiness of the grass. However, we hate the effect of the fungal endophyte that resides in tall fescue. The endophyte is responsible for lower gains, poorer conception rates, fescue toxicosis, and fescue foot.
Proper management of tall fescue can greatly decrease the negative effects seen with the grass specie. The extreme in terms of management is to replace fescue with a different forage specie. Not all of us want to totally rid our pastures of tall fescue so there are other options. Interseeding other grasses and legumes can be used as a tool to dilute a stand of tall fescue. This strategy can increase grass diversity and in most cases add nutritive value to your pasture. Because legumes have the bacteria needed to fix nitrogen from the air, they also add value in terms of soil fertility. Another management strategy is to keep the plant vegetative. By managing the plant maturity either with stocking rate or mechanically, we can help reduce negative effects. Ergot alkaloids that cause negative effects in cattle are most concentrated in seed heads. Using rotational grazing systems and clipping pastures are the two most commonly used practices in Illinois.
Be aware if you fail to manage your tall fescue pastures, pregnancy rates can be reduced to as low as 60% in highly infected animals and average daily gain (ADG) of weaned calves can be reduced to only 1lb/day (Browning Jr., Tennesee State U). With the mild winter we experienced this year tall fescue has been headed out for a few weeks. Now may be the perfect time to clip pastures and get rid of those seed heads. Proper management always pays.
For more information on Tall Fescue: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/oardc/downloads/43363.pdf
May 21, 2012
This past week's weather was dry, sunny, and low humidity. You couldn't ask for much better weather for "makin' hay." The dry weather has been abnormal for an Illinois spring, but then again, what hasn't been abnormal about the weather this year. Hay work hasn't been near as challenging as it usually is in early spring. We have the dry weather to thank for that. We also must realize that yields have been lower and the yo-yo temperatures had this grass as confused as we were. As you make your hay, remember that hay storage becomes vitally important to reducing loss.
Storing hay is more important than most of us think. Have you ever seen hay bales stacked east to west under a tree line? That plan can result in 40% or more storage loss. Here are a few tips for proper hay storage:
Proper hay storage can result in saving up to 40% of your hay. We all know that hay has been, and is likely to continue to be a hot commodity. If you are producing Good Mix or Good Grass hay you could expect to receive $100/ton for it at auction in central IL (USDA). At that price, a 40% loss comes at a cost of $30/bale (assuming a 1500lb bale). Numbers rarely lie; a little planning and thought could save some valuable hay or money.
May 10, 2012
When I was a kid, the barber shop in town was "walk-ins only." Some days you would get lucky and get directly in the chair. Other days were not nearly as fortunate (weekends before holidays were brutal). As the barber got older, he decided to switch to "appointments only." Some customers fought the change, but guess what I never ended up spending the whole afternoon waiting in line anymore. The process of getting a haircut became much more efficient.
So now what does that have to do with AI'ing cows? The two big factors that keep producers from implementing Artificial Insemination (AI) are time and labor. The time commitment has certainly been a kink in the chain. If you're a cattlemen in the Midwest, you are also likely dedicating time to a row-cop operation which only compounds the time issue.
What if I told you that you can breed cows by appointment? Time and labor of heat checking cows is no longer an issue. Synchronization protocols that synch-up the time of ovulation give a producer the option of Timed AI (TAI). TAI is breeding by appointment!
There are several protocols that are listed under "Fixed-Time AI." These protocols, if followed meticulously, will result in similar conception rates to estrus detection based protocols. It is important to follow the protocol exactly and use only approved protocols found on the heifer and cow protocol sheets. Heifer and cow protocols are, in most cases, not the same.
Along with sky high prices for commercial bulls this year, the opportunity to front-end load your calf crop, decrease your calving season, and improve your genetics are just a few reason's AI can pay.
Check out "Fixed-Time AI" protocols on the Cow and Heifer Synchronization Protocol sheets - http://web.extension.illinois.edu/oardc/genetics.html
May 9, 2012
Wow! We sure have seen some high prices paid for commercial bulls this year. The cattle market as a whole is pretty good, but prices for breeding stock seem to be pushing top dollar. With these higher prices, I think it is worth looking at the value of Artificial Insemination (AI). It is a must-use practice for the seedstock guys, but the commercial cattlemen can find value in it too.
This article written by Dr, Les Anderson, UK Beef Extension Specialist, does a great job at putting the pencil to the paper when considering the value of AI vs. Natural service in a commercial operation. Take a look at this economic evaluation... It might just open your eyes!
May 8, 2012
The ability to accurately Body Condition Score (BCS) cows is one of the most valuable skills a producer can acquire. As we enter breeding season, BCS of the cows will be a large determinant in achieving desired conception and pregnancy rates. Numerous studies (Selk et. Al., 1988; Pruit & Momont, 1990; Houghton et al., 1990) have shown that BCS plays a role in subsequent pregnancy rates. Cows in better condition (BCS >5) have a greater probability of breeding early and a greater chance at becoming pregnant in a 60 day breeding season. The more ideal conditioned cows (BCS 5-7) have fewer days open or a lower post-partum interval. Fewer open cow days has become a top focus of many commercial herds due to high feed costs.
If cows are thinner, we have a better chance at getting them bred if they are gaining weight. If thin cows are putting on weight, as much as a 30% boost in pregnancy rates can be seen versus a cow of same BCS losing weight. There are virtually no costs associated with learning to BCS or taking the time to appraise your cows. Taking time to access and BCS cows can be a cost-free strategy to improving profitability.
To view pictures/videos and the BCS scale visit http://www.cowbcs.info/photogallery.html
May 2, 2012
Hello! My name is Travis Meteer. I joined University of Illinois as a Beef Extension Educator this past year. I am working out of the Orr Beef Research Center.
The Orr Center is located in Pike County in western Illinois. Orr is home to a herd of SimAngus cows that fluctuates from 160 to 200 head of momma cows depending on research needs. Orr is part of a cooperative research effort between the University's off-campus research stations and the on-campus research facilities.
I intend to use "The Cattle Connection" as a tool to disseminate the latest research, hot topic news, beef industry happenings, and general observations of a beef producer.