The Cattle Connection The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Colostrum: the foundation of a healthy life for calves Thu, 28 Dec 2017 12:07:00 +0000 Growing pressure from the consumer to further reduce use of antibiotics in livestock production is a hot topic. Many times in hot topic discussions, the obvious gets overlooked. I believe colostrum and managing cows to produce high quality colostrum is necessary no matter the production practice, but we should do a better job emphasizing colostrum in today's production climate.

Ensuring adequate colostrum intake is one of the single most important factors in producing healthy, profitable cattle. Calves are born essentially without antibodies to organisms that cause disease. Calves must rely on the dam to provide them with colostrum containing immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are necessary for the immune system to respond to pathogens and fight disease. Colostrum is high in energy, fat, vitamins A and D, white blood cells, and growth factors. Many veterinarians refer to colostrum as the elixir of life.

Not only is it crucial for a calf to receive colostrum, but the timing in which they receive the colostrum as well as the quality and the quantity they consume is important.

Beef calves should suck within the first 2 hours of birth. It is absolutely crucial that the calf consumes at least 2 quarts of colostrum within the first 6 hours of life and an additional 2 quarts by 12 hours of birth. The reasoning for this is that the bovine gut no longer absorbs adequate antibodies in colostrum after about 12 hours of life.

Large and lethargic calves can make meeting this timeline challenging without intervention. Calves that do not get up and suck on their own need to be tube fed colostrum within 2-4 hours of life. Calves under 75 pounds needs 2-3 quarts and calves over 75 pounds need 3-4 quarts.

A good indicator of colostrum quality is the cow's body condition score (BCS). BCS prior to calving is a good indicator of colostrum quality. Heifers should score a BCS of 6.5 to 7 and cows a BCS of 5.5-6. Colostrum quality can also be assessed with commercial kits available through your veterinarian. This can be a very useful tool for producers to ensure their cattle are producing good quality colostrum.

If a cow has inadequate quality or quantity of colostrum, one of the first things a producer can do is to administer 1 mL of oxytocin to enhance the "let down" of additional colostrum. If this does not work then a producer is left with 2 options, use frozen colostrum or purchase dry, powdered colostrum.

Freezing colostrum to have on hand is a useful practice if performed appropriately. Only take colostrum from cows and heifers that lost their calf for non-infectious reasons or take less than 500mL from multiple healthy cows at time of calving. Do not take more than 500 mL as it would be counterproductive to rob one calf to feed another. The colostrum should be frozen in plastic bags to be thawed easily.

Thawing of colostrum must be done in a manner that does not compromise the antibodies. The best way to thaw colostrum is by using warm water at a temperature of 102 degrees F. Overheating kills the antibodies so never boil to warm up. Microwaves are hard to predict and hard to measure the temperature the colostrum is being heated to. Thus, avoid microwaves as they make it easy to accidentally overheat the colostrum. Once you have killed the antibodies there is no way to go back. I find the best way is placing the plastic bag of colostrum in a warm water bath and letting it thaw.

If you believe your calves are receiving adequate quantities of colostrum but you are still fighting significant disease then you might consider testing your calves for passive transfer. Testing numerous calves to assess their immunoglobulin levels can be useful in determining how to fix calf herd health issues. At 2-10 days of age, a veterinarian can draw blood from calves to evaluate their total protein or immunoglobulin G. Research has proven that calves that do not receive appropriate levels of quality colostrum are significantly more likely to die before they reach market. They are more susceptible to calf scours, respiratory issues, and bovine respiratory disease in the feedlot setting.

Attention to colostrum can have great return to your farm. It is a vital component to producing healthy, high quality beef. Calves failing to get adequate quality or quantity of colostrum can be silently lowering your herd performance and health status. Now is a good time to have a discussion with your veterinarian or extension specialist about how you can improve your calf health.

FAQ: Cornstalk Grazing Fri, 15 Sep 2017 13:34:00 +0000 Grazing cornstalks is arguably the best cost-saving strategy Midwestern cattlemen can deploy. I wanted to share some frequently asked questions pertaining to grazing cornstalks.

Q: How long can I graze cornstalks?

A: This depends on stocking rate and available dry matter to graze. The quick answer is "At 150 bushels an acre, approximately 1 acre of cornstalks are needed to feed the cow for 30 days. To feed the same cow on cornstalks for 60 days, 2 acres would be needed." I think these are good numbers for budgeting. I challenge producers to continuously monitor the cattle, their behavior, and the amount of husk and leaf left in the field. Once the majority of the husk is gone, the feed value is relatively poor.

Q: How much should I pay to rent cornstalks?

A: Like all rental agreements, there are several determining factors for value. The main thing is to have some kind of agreement in writing. As for price, I would suggest starting at $0.25/hd/day for a fall grazing season with gestating cows. Factors like fence, water, length of grazing season, trucking, stocking rate, and weather challenges can all influence price.

Q: Is compaction a problem?

A: Generally, not an issue. High traffic areas around water or feeder will be more susceptible to compaction. If cows are left on cornstalks into the late winter or early spring, there is a higher risk of compaction.

Q: Do I need to supplement with additional feed or protein tubs?

A: 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. Even dry cows may need supplementation for meeting energy and protein demands after 30 days of grazing.

Q: I have a field I can't graze. Is it worth it to bale cornstalks and feed them?

A: 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.

Fertilizer value is at times hard to determine for residue 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.

Q: Will grazing cornstalks hurt my yield next year?

A: Researchers at the University of Illinois conducted a 3 year study at the Dudley Smith research farm, near Pana, IL. The study looked at yields in a continuous corn rotation. The study showed no statistical difference in yield following cornstalk grazing. The authors did note lower yields on yield maps in high-traffic areas around waterers and mineral feeders. These lower yielding spots were still not enough to cause a difference in the treatments.

A ten year study conducted by Nebraska researchers that showed soybeans planted after grazing cornstalks yielded 3 bushel more than those harvested in non-grazed fields. Overall, allowing cattle to harvest and trample a portion of the residue has limited impact on subsequent crop yield.

Start Selecting 2018 Illinois Performance Tested Bulls Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:49:00 +0000 Seedstock breeders in Illinois should be identifying bulls they plan to consign to the 2018 Illinois Performance Tested (IPT) Bull Sale. The IPT Bull Sale is the leadoff event for the annual Illinois Beef Expo. The sale is scheduled for Thursday, February 22nd at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. The sale accepts older as well as younger bulls, with a birth date range from January 1, 2016 through March 2017.

A successful 2017 sale included some of the best bulls to sell yet. "The bulls in the 2017 sale were extremely high quality bulls with good performance pedigrees. Bull buyers seek out cattle that look the part and have EPDs that will yield profitable progeny…that is what the IPT Bull Sale provides" says Travis Meteer, IPT Bull Sale manager.

The sale continues to expand its market through the use of an online bidding service. This allows the sale to continue to offer buyers several bidding options. The online bidding service is helping the sale build upon an already distinguished reputation in the state of Illinois and the Midwest.

Multi-trait economic selection indexes will be the foundation for determining qualification and sale order. The sale order will be based off of the "% Rank" for a maternal and a terminal Dollar Value Index in each breed. The two indexes used have been included in the IPT Bull Sale catalog for several years and for the respective breeds are: Angus- $Wean ($W), $Beef ($B); Simmental- All Purpose Index (API), Terminal Index (TI); Hereford- Baldy Maternal Index (BMI), Certified Hereford Beef index (CHB). These indexes are the most reliable predictor of improving profit if calves are marketed at weaning or as fed cattle. Bulls will also be required to have a calving ease EPD in the top 85th percentile.

The sale policy regarding genetic conditions is the same as last year. All Angus and Simmental bulls will be required to be tested free or free by pedigree of of AM, NH, CA. Simmentals will also be required to be tested free of OS, PHA, and TH as well. Hereford bulls will be required to be free of IE and Hypotrichosis. In regards to DD, bulls will be allowed to sell as long as they have been tested within the requirements of the breed association to determine carrier status.

Health requirements continue to be a focus of the sale. Requirements remaining the same as the previous sale include the testing of all bulls for Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) using the Persistently Infected (PI) ear notch screening system. Johne's testing must occur on the bull's dam or recipient dam or come from a herd that is Level 1 or higher for the Voluntary Johne's Certification Program. All breeding soundness exams must be conducted by a veterinarian. All bulls over 24 months of age and bulls that have been exposed to cows will be required to be tested for trich. Virgin bulls under 24 months of age will need a certificate or written statement endorsed by the bull owner indicating he has not been exposed.

The number of bulls that breeders are eligible to sell in the 2018 sale will be eight, with two of these bulls not requiring nomination fee. However, consignors selling more than six bulls will require that they index above the average for their breed at cataloging. Also, first-time consignors are limited to nominating two bulls. Open to only Illinois breeders.

All bulls consigned to the 2018 sale will be required to have genomic-enhanced EPDs. This is easily accomplished by sending a blood or hair sample into the breed-approved genetic testing lab. The sale will accept both low and high density tests to meet the requirement. The IPT Bull Sale is known for giving the bull buyer all necessary information to make positive herd progress. Genomic-enhanced EPDs are more accurate and predictable EPDs. "We are reducing the risk on these bulls. The bulls selling can be trusted more now than ever to sire true to their values." says Meteer.

Nomination deadline and fees are three tiered with the following dates and costs: November 15, $75, December 1, $100; and December 15, $125. A copy of the Rules and Regulations and Nomination Form along with the past sale information is posted on the web at The Rules and Regulation information can also be obtained by contacting Travis Meteer at (217)-430-7030 or .

Looking at 2-Step Weaning Thu, 03 Aug 2017 11:26:00 +0000
It is that time of year again when producers are preparing to wean their early born calves. Other than calving, weaning can be one of the most stressful times of the year both on the calf and the cow. Minimizing outside factors that could add more stress is key, but there are also many strategies to keep both the calf and cow healthy and content. Some of these include: traditional or abrupt weaning, within hearing distance from the cow, fence-line weaning, and two-step weaning. Today, I am going to focus on the many benefits from the two-step process.

The two-step process is a newer method, but uses some of the same ideas that go back generations. While initially more labor intensive it can prove beneficial in the long run for the producer's bottom line. Less sick calves, more time laying down and eating, and overall less stress are all reasons why this method has become more popular. Ultimately the calf's natural behaviors while in the pasture with its mom are not changing. They can still graze, drink water, have contact with their dam, and socialize with others how they normally would. The only difference is they are not able to nurse.

In a trial conducted at the University of Illinois the two-step weaning process was further investigated. Almost all the results favored the two-step weaning process. A group of abrupt weaned calves were the control group for this project while a second group went through the 2-step process for weaning. The trial went on for 42 days post weaning, and the nose inserts were put in the 2-stage calves at day -6 or 7 days before the calves were weaned. During this time period, the 2-stage calves gained less than the abrupt calves, but this was expected simply because they could not nurse from their mothers with the nose inserts in. The calves did not have access to any creep feed. On day 0, all of the calves were weaned and transported via commercial trucking company 166 miles to the on-campus feedlot. The calves in the 2-stage trial had less shrink. These calves were weighed prior to loading and then weighed again after unloading at the farm. From day 0-14 the 2-stage calves also gained more. Days 14-28 the abrupt weaned calves began to catch up to the 2-stage calves and gained more. When looking at data from day 0-42 there was no difference in calf performance. From day -6-42 the weight gain was slightly in favor of the abrupt weaned calves with their ADG being 2.73 lb. per day and the 2-stage calves were at 2.60 lb. per day. The steers in this trial were weighed again at 124 days, and from day -6 to day 124 there was no difference in ADG.

The behavior of these calves was also documented and recorded. The results supported that on day 1of the trial the 2-stage calves appeared to exhibit less stress. They had a higher percentage lying down and eating while also having a lower percentage of standing and walking and less vocalization. On day 2 it was observed that more of the abrupt weaned calves were laying down, but this is likely due to exhaustion of balling and walking on day 1. Even so, there were still more 2-stage calves eating with less vocalization on day 2.

In conclusion, the advantages for two-step weaning mostly deals with behavioral benefits. The calves involved are developed in a fairly low stress environment. They are farm raised and vaccinated pre-weaning, and are not sale barn/traded/high risk. High risk cattle may have shown more exaggerated results. Performance under these conditions showed differences in performance at certain time intervals, but performance was still similar over the 124-day period. With the benefits that the two-step method presents, there are also a few drawbacks. The biggest concern is taking the time and effort to put the devices in the calves' noses. This requires another day of getting all the cows up and processing them. However, if your operation already implements a pre-weaning vaccination program, this would be just be one more thing to add to that day. These devices may also cause irritation in the calf's nose. All in all, two-step weaning may be a strategy to help transition calves away from their mothers and can certainly help quiet down calves at weaning time.]]>
Identifying and Managing Heat Stress in Cattle Wed, 12 Jul 2017 11:00:00 +0000 As the temperatures and humidity elevate, it is important to understand and manage to prevent heat stress in your cattle herd. Heat stress can lower performance and in severe cases cause death. Here are some recommendations to keep heat stress at a minimum.

Management tips to reduce heat stress:

  • Ensure that water is clean and plentiful. Cattle will drink more water in times of extreme heat. Here is a chart to determine how much cattle will drink
  • Avoid handling, processing, or moving cattle. If any of these tasks need to be performed they should be done early in the morning and completed before 10am.
  • Provide shade to cattle. Shade is best if it is from trees or high clearance shades that allow a breeze to circulate underneath. Buildings or sheds are better than nothing, but they will be less allowing to airflow and air circulation. If cattle are in confinement or barns, ensure adequate ventilation and use fans to move air through and out of the building.
  • Prevent pests and other stress factors. Fly control can be beneficial to keeping animals cool. More energy and movement to control flies can have a negative relationship with cows keeping cool
  • Feed at coolest times of the day. This will help keep intake levels up and keep cattle from losing performance.

Heat stress symptoms:

  • Panting, Open mouths
  • Drooling
  • Elevated breathing rate
  • Restlessness, Extended periods of standing

Click here for signs of heat stress

Heat stress can not only cost you money in lost performance and increased death loss, but it can harm animal comfort and image of your farm. Pay attention to simple things and ensure that your cattle are given every opportunity to minimize heat stress.

Creep Feeding Considerations Wed, 05 Jul 2017 11:31:00 +0000 This post is authored by Kendi Sayre, University of Illinois Beef Extension intern.

When considering creep feeding your spring born calves, many factors will play a role in the decision. While it might always seem like a good idea to supplement calves to push them to heavier weaning weights, there are negatives as well. Depending on the milk production, pasture quality and quantity, and time of year creep feeding can be an advantage that allows for more profits.

First, you must decide if the additional cost of feed is worth it. If your calves can gain more weight than they could potentially be worth more money when sold as a feeder calf. However, there are instances where if a calf is too fleshy it will actually be discounted, making the added cost of creep feed an even higher risk. Management is key to the success of creep feeding calves.

There have been studies that show creep feeding calves will improve carcass quality as well. If you are able to capitalize on higher quality grades this may offset even more expenses associated with creep feed. This can be especially beneficial when ownership is retained in calves and they are fed out until harvest. This allows the producer to maximize profit.

Also, time of year and cow's milk production can have a large impact on how creep feeding will affect your calves. If a lactating cow is on lush spring pastures she is much more likely to be able to meet the nutritional requirements of her calf. This calf will also be grazing the higher protein lush grasses as well, allowing it to be more apt in meeting its requirements. However, if it is in the middle of summer and the cow is past peak lactation with an older calf at side it may be beneficial to supplement with creep as the older calf requires more intake.

Probably the most important part of creep feeding is what to feed. Many creep ration options are available for different needs. The most common are grain based diets, but there are also situations where forage diets are an option. In Illinois grain rations are the most typical as we have so many readily available grain resources. Most rations will contain between 13 and 16 percent protein. Oats, barley, and salt are the most common ingredients used in creep feeds. Salt can be especially important in higher protein diets when wanting to limit intake. Feed companies often have many varieties of rations available depending on what the producer has as a goal in creep feeding. All of these rations can be used to best benefit the needs of the producer.

Overall, creep feeding has many benefits, but producers must be aware of disadvantages that accompany these positives. Every operation is different, and what works for one beef producer may not work for the next. You must pay attention to what your own end goal is and if it will be beneficial to add expenses initially to ultimately maximize overall profits.


Hubbard feeds

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Beef

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex3478

Avoiding Generalized Genetic Mishap Wed, 24 May 2017 22:02:00 +0000 "One of the greatest gifts to agriculture was the plow. Perfected by many, the plow turned the earth and gave way to farming as we know it. However, the plow also contributed to the great Dust Bowl of the 1930's. This illustrates that technology is only as good as those that implement it.

One of the most exciting technologies in the cattle industry today is the expanded use of genomics. The ability to explain a portion of an animal's genetic potential can lead to great leaps in selection and improvement of cattle genetics.

This technology can give breeders the ability to make genetic progress much more rapidly than in the past. However, with more speed comes less room for error. If the technology is not utilized to make advancement in the right direction, correcting mistakes may be more costly than ever.

Current trends for mature cow size and milk production in the Angus breed lead me to believe some producers are chasing percentile rank regardless of the meaning. After all, you never see anyone advertise "In the 50th percentile for milk"… huh, that's just breed average. However, bigger is not always better. In the case of mature cow size and milk production, these traits come with an economic price tag. That price tag is most easily explained by feed costs. In general, cows that weigh more and produce more milk require higher inputs and simply… more feed.

With heavy use of genomics in cattle selection on the horizon, cattlemen need to be aware that the best percentile rank may not equate to the most profit. Most breed EPDs are heavy on output traits. In the future more values will help quantify and select for better input traits. Once we have reliable values for intake, fertility, and longevity, profit can start to be more clearly represented and selected for.

Until these values are mainstream, producers must be intuitive and realize that traits such as milk production have an economic threshold. The ability for cattlemen to keep these traits within that threshold and still improve carcass, performance, and fertility will result in a more efficient, higher quality end product.

This new technology has the opportunity to take the cattle industry to new levels in efficiency, consistency, and profitability. Users of the technology have to approach its use with sound, common sense decision making. If used incorrectly or chasing percentiles regardless of meaning, beef cattle sustainability could just dry up and blow away."

I wrote the above portion in July, 2013. Overall, my feelings and thoughts still remain. Genomic testing is helping explain more of the variation in cattle breeding values. One of the best things to come of this is increased EPD accuracy on young and unproven animals. Another positive is these tests are pushing breed associations to develop input based EPDs. As a result, more EPD measures for input traits are present and can help give insight into the cost side. The American Angus Association now has a Dry Matter Intake (DMI) EPD which offers some prediction into the input side of things. They also have a dollar index that helps predict cow energy requirements alluding to a difference in feed energy expenses ($EN). Genomic tests and more input breeding values are available and being developed in numerous breeds, not just Angus.

I think many have come to the realization that feet, legs, functional soundness, and libido were taken for granted in cattle. Huge emphasis on a single trait or EPDs alone has given birth to some really lazy, bad footed cattle. Most seedstock breeders I talk with are watching these trait very closely and are guarding these must-have traits closely in their breeding decisions. There is much room for improvement, but the attention being given to the lower half of the bull is encouraging.

Now, there are a few things that make me nervous. I do have some reservations about what number will get taken too far next. For instance, DMI. What if we breed cattle to eat less and gain more? While this seems like a win-win in the feedyard, will the females be able to thrive on poor quality forage with longevity? What if too much selection pressure is put on cattle that eat less? Will that negatively impact the ability of cows to flesh and breed back? These are questions that are being asked as producers decide how to utilize new EPDs, genomic tests, and other input identifiers.

It is important to keep in perspective that cows were put on Earth to consume forages and they are equipped with a rumen for that purpose. Losing sight of this simple fact would result in a "Going out of Business" sign for sure. Above all, I would stress that breeders and commercial bull buyers need to purchase genetics that are adapted to their environment. The old adage "You can buy someone's genetics, but you cannot buy their management" is so very true.

In summary, the technology is readily available to assist cattle breeders in making quick, accurate change. As a cattle breeder myself, I am excited by the possibilities that exist. I hope that breeding decisions, based on these new numbers, will be made to make cattle better, not just marketable.]]>