The Cattle Connection The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification opportunities Mon, 12 Nov 2018 08:05:00 +0000 Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a national program that provides a continuing education opportunity for farmers and ranchers. BQA equips producers with production strategies and general skills to maintain and strengthen a quality, wholesome food supply.

By now, you as a beef producer realize that the beef business is a consumer-driven business. Grassroots programs, like BQA training, are the foundation to reinforcing consumer confidence and securing a bright future for cattle farms. By becoming BQA certified, a producer is not only helping secure a bright future for beef, but also refining management practices and animal handling qualities that can help improve the bottom-line.

The first question producer's ask is "What is the benefit of the certification to me?" The answer to the question is there are numerous benefits. By becoming BQA certified, a producer is directly illustrating the passion and carefulness that they display on a daily basis when caring for animals. As the consumer is further removed from farming and agriculture, it is more important to document your commitment to BQA practices. BQA also equips producers with skills and knowledge to reduce or eliminate carcass defects, carcass bruising, and animal stress. Participating in a BQA program keeps you up to date on the newest beef industry news, helps improve record keeping, opens market opportunities, and simply put… it is the right thing to do!

If you are not BQA certified or your certification is out-of-date, I encourage you to join your fellow cattle producers in becoming certified.

Click here for a list of upcoming in-person trainings.

Training is free online at

Bale Feeder Design can Reduce Hay Waste Mon, 05 Nov 2018 13:37:00 +0000

Full Article as published in the Illinois Beef magazine available here


Feeding hay ad libitum is the most popular winter feeding strategy in the Midwest. In most cases, hay is packaged into large round bales and fed in some type of feeder. Many different designs claim to reduce hay waste, thus research in this area has helped identify designs that reduce hay waste.

Low hay supplies prompt me to review this research. Many producers need to stretch the hay they have. Those looking to buy more hay this winter may find themselves paying steep premiums. Reducing hay waste can be a worthwhile investment in any year, but when hay prices are elevated it pays quickly.

I have pulled two trials that do a nice job of showing the benefits to an improved hay feeder design. First, Buskirk et al. (2003) evaluated large round bale feeder design and the subsequent effect of hay utilization and hay waste. The study compared four different hay feeder designs: cone, ring, trailer, and cradle. All feeder designs resulted in similar cow intakes. However, the amount of hay wasted was different between designs. Hay waste was least to greatest in this order: cone, ring, trailer, and then cradle. The type of hay offered in this trial was second cutting alfalfa and orchard grass. The hay tested approximately 13% CP, 53% NDF, 35% ADF on a dry matter basis. This trial shows that feeder design does impact hay waste. This trial is illustrated in Table. 1 and the feeder design is shown in Figure 1. (green feeders).

Table 1. Effect of feeder type on hay waste and cow intake (Buskirk et al., 2003)

Feeder Type







Initial cow weight, lb.






Hay disappearance, lb DM/hd/d


26.6 x

30.5 y

28.3 x y


Hay waste, lb DM/hd/d

0.9 x

1.5 y

3.5 z

4.2 z


Hay waste, %a

3.5 x

6.1 x

11.4 y

14.6 y


Hay intake, lb DM/hd/d






Intake/cow BW, %






a Hay waste as a percentage of hay disappearance

xyz Within a row, least square means without a common superscript letter differ (P< .05)

Researchers at Oklahoma State University (Lalman) also looked at hay feeder design and associated wastes. Four different feeder designs were evaluated: cone, sheet, ring, and poly. Hay waste for the feeders as listed in parenthesis: cone (5.3%), sheet (13.0%), ring (20.5%), and poly (21.0%). Costs were analyzed as well. They assumed a hay price of $116/ton or $70/bale. Assuming a producer with 30 cows will feed 180 bales in a season, the costs associated with hay waste were $667 (cone), $1,638 (sheet), $2,583 (ring), and $2,646 (poly) per season. It is easy to see that improved feeder designs like the cone-shaped hay feeder can save producers money by reducing hay waste.

Table 2. Effect of feeder design on hay waste and cost (Lalman)

Feeder Type






Waste, % bale wt.

5.3 x

13.0 y

20.5 z

21.0 z

Total waste, lb/bale

63.6 x

156 y

246 z

252 z

Cost of waste/bale, $*

3.71 x

9.10 x

14.35 y

14.70 y

Cost of wasted hay/month, $*





Cost of wasted hay/season, $*





xyz Within a row, least square means without a common superscript letter differ (P< .05)

*Assuming $70 per 1,200 bale, feeding 180 bales per season

In summary, bale feeder design can impact hay waste. Reducing loss from hay waste can not only be a good way to stretch short hay supplies, but it can also contribute as a cost-saver to the cow/calf enterprise. Reducing waste is a component of lowering feed costs. Profitable cow/calf producers will always be focused on reducing feed costs.


Buskirk, D. D., A. J. Zanella, T. M. Harrigan, J. L. Van Lente, L. M. Gnagey and M. J. Kaercher.

2003. Large round bale feeder design affects hay utilization and beef cow behavior. J.

Anim. Sci. 81:109.

The Noble Foundation, Robert Wells and David Lalman. 2011. Hay feeder design can reduce

hay waste and cost.

views/2013/11/pdf/hay-feeder-design.pdf. (Accessed 15 August 2018.)

Cornstalks for Cow Feed is a No-brainer Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:47:00 +0000 The best way to utilize cornstalks is to graze them. Cattle graze selectively, looking for the more palatable feedstuffs. The more palatable parts of the plant are also more nutritious. Cattle first eat the remaining corn grain, then husks, then leaves, and finally the stalk.

Cattle will eat the more digestible and higher protein portions first. Therefore, a good mineral is probably the only supplementation needed for the first month unless the herd includes fall-calving cows or stocker calves. For them, a supplement will be necessary to meet nutrient demands of lactation and growth, respectively.

Using an equation developed at the University of Nebraska, a field that averages 200 bushels per acre yields 2,832 pounds of leaf and husk. Only 50 percent of the 2,832 pounds is available for the animal; the rest is trampled or lost in weathering. Thus, 1416 pounds of DM husk and leaf per acre are available as feed.

A 1300-pound cow consumes 884 pounds of DM per month. At 200 bushels an acre, approximately 2/3 acre of cornstalks are needed to feed the cow for 30 days. To feed the same cow on cornstalks for 60 days, 1.3 acres would be needed. Producers should scout fields for ear drop or down corn areas. A significant amount of grain loss in fields can cause acidosis or founder in animals. Fields with these areas will need careful management via strip grazing or completely fencing the problem areas out.

Advances in portable electric fencing technology can be your friend when grazing cornstalks. Strip grazing can be easily achieved with geared reels, step-in posts, and a solar fence charger. While strip grazing has showed to increase the utilization of cornstalks, it is important to be timely with moves. Paying attention to cow behavior will be the simplest way of knowing when to move the fence. Rain and wet weather can increase trampling and require quicker moves.

On the other hand, some technology may work against you. Many newer combines are equipped with mowers on the head to reduce residue build up. If you plan to graze the cornstalks it is recommended to turn the mowers off. Mowing reduces particle size and speeds up degradation of the cornstalk. Mowed residue will break down faster. Thus, less will be available for animals after a few weeks.

Extreme weather conditions during the growing season are worth reflecting on. Dry conditions can create accumulation of nitrates in the lower stalk. Fortunately, cattle will eat the stalk portion of the plant last. As a result, concern of nitrate poisoning is low when grazing. Best practice in this scenario is to ensure cows are not forced to eat the stalk. If baling cornstalks for feed, a nitrate test is recommended.

Foliar diseases were a challenge in many corn fields this year. Plant tissues that are affected by disease will break down more rapidly too. I suggest looking to healthy fields for the best cornstalk grazing or baling. Fields that had fungicide applied may be more suitable for grazing and baling this year.

If you do not have the capability to graze cornstalks, they can be baled. Baling cornstalks will add costs to the feed in the form of fuel, labor, equipment costs, and fertilizer replacement costs. Even with these costs, it can still be an economical feed. Hauling manure back to the harvested fields will displace some fertilizer costs associated with cornstalk removal.

Generally, fertilizer value of a 1200-pound round bale of cornstalks is around $12. Remember harvesting costs such as fuel, labor, transportation, and equipment wear are all real costs to evaluate.

As an aside, less wheat acres in some areas of the country translates to a shorter supply of straw. Current prices for straw are strong. So, if you need bedding, consider baling cornstalks. It will be more cost effective than buying straw.

All in all, utilize cornstalks to fill a forage gap and for bedding needs. Just like poor hay, baled cornstalks will need supplemented. Grazing cornstalks is a no-brainer. Use clean, healthy fields for the best results. Cornstalks can be great alternative forage and an opportunity to hold costs down on your cattle farm.]]>
CRP Hay: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:06:00 +0000 Many cattle producers are still looking for economical forage to use as winter feed for beef cows. Cornstalks, bean-stubble, wheat straw, and CRP hay are a few of the low-quality forages that are being considered by farmers. Some areas that experienced drought conditions this summer had CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) acres released for haying. Thus, questions are coming in about CRP hay. CRP hay is not something cattle producers use annually and many may be unfamiliar with its characteristics. Thus, I will discuss my thoughts on CRP hay… The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good – we have forage for cattle to consume. Without a base forage, you may have had to resort to limit-feeding high concentrate diets. Those definitely are not an easy transition from grass and the cows tend to bawl and pressure fences. Likely, CRP hay was economical to put-up or purchase. The Good is simply that we have something for cows to keep their bellies full and provide a base forage to their diet.

The Bad – CRP hay is poor quality forage. It should be viewed as a feed ingredient, not the entire diet. Hay from CRP will be low to moderate in protein (8-10%CP) and low energy (<50% TDN). Cattlemen need to supplement this forage with protein and energy. Co-products, grains, or other supplements are needed to meet nutrient requirements of the cow. In many cases, this forage will be mature and long stemmed. Consequently, the rumen will have to work harder to digest this forage. Supplemental protein will be needed to help feed the rumen microbes and ensure proper digestion. Bottom line, test your CRP hay and supplement it accordingly.

The Ugly – Something we may not immediately think about is the potential of CRP hay to contain a large amount of weeds and more importantly weed seeds. These weed seeds are likely to end up in the manure of cows that are fed this hay. Where this manure is deposited or spread is important to controlling future weed populations. If you are feeding CRP hay on pastures, be aware that you may be introducing numerous weeds to your pasture.

All in all, cattle can utilize poor quality forages. Hay made from CRP acres will likely need supplemented to meet the nutrient requirements of beef cows. Thus, it is important to test this forage and utilize co-product feeds and/or grains to supplement protein and energy. Be aware that weed seed may be of higher inclusion in this hay. As a result, feeding areas may need to be managed for higher weed pressure in the future.
Orr Beef Research Center’s 2018 Field Day scheduled for September 5th Tue, 28 Aug 2018 09:40:00 +0000 BAYLIS, Ill. – The annual Orr Beef Research Center Field Day will take place at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5. The meeting will be held at the John Wood Ag Center located on State Highway 104 in Baylis. Speakers from the University of Illinois will lead discussions that will address research, current topics, and situations producers are facing on-farm. A meal will be provided to those who take part in the discussions and tour.

The program includes Dan Shike, U of I Department of Animal Sciences professor and cow/calf researcher, and U of I graduate research assistants who will update attendees on the latest research at the university.

Topics will include:

  • Research evaluating the influence of dried distillers grains with solubles on bull development and reproductive traits
  • Preliminary research on the effect of heifer development system on heifer performance and reproductive traits
  • Research results on an evaluation of parasite resistance in cattle treated with LongRangeTM

Travis Meteer, Illinois Extension Beef Specialist, will discuss stretching a short hay supply and extended housing of cows in a drylot system. He will also talk about current and future research projects at the Orr Research Center.

A tour of the Orr Center will be given immediately following the presentations. Producers will have the opportunity to view facilities, cattle, and pastures. Updated dry-lot pens and pasture renovation projects will be available for viewing.

This field day will equip producers with the newest research findings, applicable management strategies, and practical knowledge to help increase profits in their cattle operation. Speakers will be glad to address any producer questions during the evening.

More information on the field day is available at or contact Travis Meteer at 217-236-4961 or

Still Time to Grow Forage Thu, 23 Aug 2018 08:20:00 +0000 Limited hay supplies have cattle producers looking at opportunities to grow more forage yet this fall. An early maturing crop is going to open the door for use of row crop acres to grow more forage.

Many producers have already identified the opportunity to put Oats, Cereal Rye, Turnips, or other forage crops in this fall. As a result, expect to see shortages in seed supplies, higher priced seed, and some delay if seed is not in stock. However, don't let this keep you from consulting your seed salesman. They will have options for you.

I feel cover crops may be as good of an option as ever. The ability to grow more forage will be very valuable this year. Hay prices continue to be elevated and burdensome on ration costs. Forage produced from fall covers could prove to be an extremely wise investment.

A few questions that are common when discussing fall cover crops are:

Q1: What timeline do I have to get fall forages planted?

A1: Oats and Turnips: Prior to September 1st; Annual Ryegrass: August 15th through September 30th; Cereal Rye or Triticale between September 1st and October 15th – Normal growing period is 60 to 75 days. If you find yourself after October 15th, Cereal Rye is your best option.

Q2: What are the seeding rates?

A2: I like the mixture of 2 bu./acre Oats and 4 lbs./acre of forage turnip. Also, 1.5 bu./acre Oats and 1.5 bu./acre of Cereal Rye for grazing in the fall and early spring. If seeded alone: Drill Annual ryegrass at 20 lbs./acre, Cereal rye at 90 lbs./acre, Oats at 3 bu./acre

Q3: How much rainfall do I need to have a successful seeding and somewhat normal yields?

A3: It is nice to recieve ½ to 1 inch within 10 days of planting and another inch of rain in the next 20 days. If cover crops are aerial seeded, two good rains are needed. The first for incorporation of the seed and the second to feed the germinating plant. If cover crops are drilled, the first rain is not as important, because the seed is already in the ground.

Q4: What about herbicide carry-over?

A4: It can be an issue. Luckily most parts of Illinois have received adequate rainfall, however some herbicides have a longer residual than others. Idle wheat acres should be safe. Planting on corn silage acres or after corn should spur investigation into the herbicide package used on those acres before planting. Check the herbicides used or do a bio-assay. You can grab some soil from different spots in the field, plant your seeds, water for a week or two and see what you get. Normally, if there has been over 1 pound of Atrazine applied problems are likely.

Q5: Are any crops less sensitive to herbicide carry-over?

A5: Annual, Italian, and Perennial Ryegrass are less sensitive than the brassica plants

Q6: What is the best specie for forage production?

A6: Oats are the best for fall tonnage. Cereal Rye is the best for spring tonnage. Triticale is great for spring-harvested forage and doesn't mature as fast as rye. Brassicas are a great protein source, but best in grazing situations. I would recommend a blend of cover crops. Blends will be better for grazing for sure. Consult your seed salesman or Extension specialist to help put a blend together for hay or grazing.

Capitalizing on the opportunity to grow more forage in 2018 should be a focus of profit-minded cattlemen. Fall forage opportunities are very good this year given some rainfall. They may provide the extra feed and grazing days that we greatly need this year.

Inventory Stored Feeds Thu, 16 Aug 2018 10:26:00 +0000 Currently, low hay supplies and overstocked pastures are commonplace in the Midwest. Limited forage availability is still a challenge for cattlemen. As a result, it is vital for cattle producers to inventory feeds. An inventory of what is on-farm will help producers budget purchased feeds.

Simply counting round bales, feet of silage bags, and carefully estimating remaining grazing days is a good place to start. While getting an accurate count of stored feeds is important, understanding how far the stored feeds will go is necessary.


A cow will eat 2.5% of her body weight in hay. That means a 1300 lb. cow will eat 32.5 lbs. of hay. When offered free choice, waste can be 25% or more. That means she will use ~40 lbs. of hay per day. A month of hay for that cow would be close to 1200 lbs... Thus, the old rule of thumb is one big round bale per cow per month.

Supplemental energy and protein

The amount of supplement required is directly linked to the quality of the forage. If you have stockpiled fescue to graze or good quality hay, then supplement needs may be fairly small. However, hay that is over-mature, baled late, or has been rained-on could need supplemented to meet cow requirements. It is always best to sample your hay and have it tested for a nutrient analysis.

Table 1 and 2 show the amount of corn or Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) needed to supply energy at maintenance requirement for a 1400 lb. cow with average milk production. It is assumed she is calving in the middle of the 150 day feeding period, eating 2% of her body weight in hay, and not in need of increased diet energy for cold stress, increased mud, or long distance to travel to water or feed.

Table 1. Amount of corn needed to meet maintenance energy requirement, per cow for 150 day feeding period


Corn, lbs. (as-is)







Table 2. Amount of DDGS needed to meet maintenance energy requirement, per cow for 150 day feeding period


DDGS supplement, lbs.







The tables show there can be quite a difference in additional supplementation needed to reach cow energy requirements only because of difference in hay quality. Using Table 2., the amount of DDGS needed for a 60 cow herd eating 54 TDN hay would be 35,700 lbs. The amount of DDGS needed for a 60 cow herd eating 46 TDN hay would be 55,140 lbs.

Very poor quality hay may cause lower intakes, which would result in more supplement needed. For example, if hay TDN is 46% and the cow only eats 1.5% of her BW, then the budget for DDGS needs to increase to 1384 lbs. per cow for the 150 day feeding period. That would equate to 83,040 lbs. of DDGS needed for a 60 cow herd. If your cows are thin or heavier in weight or do not have shelter then you will need to allocate more supplement for added energy requirements.

Remember, it is recommended that corn not be fed over 0.5% of a cow's body weight to avoid acidosis and negative associative effects. If hay is of such poor quality that cows will require over 0.5% of their body weight in supplement, a co-product or blend of fiber-based supplements should be used. Corn gluten feed, soybean hulls, distiller's grains, and wheat midds are likely candidates for a mix.


After you have a feed inventory, it is important to identify what feeds fit different stages of production. Utilize poor quality forages like cornstalks and rained-on hay when cows are at their lowest nutrient requirements (mid-gestation, dry). By simply matching your feeds with the nutrient requirements of the cow you can avoid paying for high priced supplement.

At the same time, save your good quality forages like your better hay and corn silage for closer to calving. These higher quality forages will offer more nutrition. They are also more palatable and thus higher intakes help achieve proper nutrient requirements.


Sometimes feed budgets are like hitting a moving target. Waste and shrink associated with the feeds that are being inventoried is often a hard number to predict. It is also a hard number to stomach. The wastes associated with hay can be quite large when stored outside and fed ad libitum. Shrink in grains, co-products and silages also needs considered. Shrink for grains should be around 2%, yet wet feeds and silages are generally around 10% shrink. Minimizing shrink should be a focus of the profit-minded cattlemen.


All in all, cow/calf producers need to be aware of their stored feed needs. As always, extending the time a cow spends grazing and harvesting her own feed will reduce costs. However, when the time comes to supply harvested feeds to meet the cow's nutrition requirements… producers need to be prepared. Take inventory, test forages, and make sure you have adequate supplies of the ingredients needed to formulate a balanced ration for your cowherd.