Beef Tips

March 2020 Feedlot Facts

“Body Condition Scoring: It’s About More than the Score”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Body condition scoring is one of the most valuable management tools at the disposal of the cattle manager. This one number gives us a direct indication of an individual cow’s previous plane of nutrition and future reproductive capability. Although the individual body condition scores are important, we do not necessarily manage individual cows, we manage groups of cows. Thus, it is important for us to look beyond the individual scores and look at the distribution of body condition scores within the herd.

If we have a herd (Herd 1) with an average body condition score of 5 that is essentially characterized by the classic bell curve, with a few thin cows (3.5’s), the bulk of cows in the middle (4’s and 5’s) and few overconditioned cows (7’s) everything is good. Alternatively, we could have a herd (Herd 2) with an average body condition score of 5 that is essentially the result of a few thin cows (3’s) and some over conditioned cows (6’s and 7’s). Body conditioning scoring also has more value when it is done on the same group of cows at multiple times during the production year. If Herd 2 was scored at calving and had been previously scored at weaning and had an essentially normal distribution (similar to Herd 1), we need to ask ourselves what happened. Did we change anything? Although these examples are somewhat extreme, they illustrate that we have to look beyond the individual body condition scores of cows at one point during the production year to get the most of body condition scoring.

A quick reference guide to body condition scoring may be accessed and downloaded at

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

March 2020 Management Minute

“It’s not Always about the Money”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

If you have an employee who seems to continually be bothering you about not being paid enough, there are usually two possibilities: 1) You are a tightwad and you’re not paying them enough; or 2) the person is disgruntled about their role in the organization. To find out if the answer is No. 1, make a few phone calls to managers you trust in your general geography and find out what your neighbors are paying for similar jobs in your industry. If you’re within 50¢ or so per hour, then move on to answer No. 2. Some people are just better employees than others. If this person is worth more than the ‘scale’, you had better pay more to keep them.

But “pay” can come in many forms. You can “buy” an employee’s loyalty and general job satisfaction with many perks other than another few cents or bucks per hour. Make sure your insurance, savings investment, and/or profit sharing plans are at least in line with the industry. This is especially important if this person has a family to look after. Non-monetary benefits include things like flexible time off. Those early mornings and long days are a lot easier to take if a person knows they can take Thursday afternoons off for a child’s ball game or whatever.

What about goals? Have you asked your employee what they want out of this position? They may want to move up in the organization or have opportunities for a management role elsewhere. You can be selfish about this or you can take on the role of mentor and teacher. By taking care of your employee and training them for a leadership role they will most certainly be a better employee, and will have a harder time leaving for a different job. And even if they do leave for a different opportunity, they will give such a glowing report on your leadership and team approach, you can be certain to find a good, young person to replace them.

The question you need to ask yourself is “Do you really want this person around for the long haul?” If you DO, take some time to privately evaluate your plans, and then take some more time one-on-one with this employee to find out their long-term needs and goals. If you DON’T want this person to remain in the organization, you still need to get your plans in order because after you inform this person they are not what your organization needs, you had better have a pretty good plan set up to attract a quality person to replace them.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at


February 2020 Feedlot Facts

“Cow Nutrition: Protein, Energy and Forage Availability”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Protein supplementation is important, but there is more to cow nutrition than simply ensuring that the cow’s protein requirements are met and that we have supplied the rumen microbes with sufficient nitrogen to digest the low-quality forages that sustain our cows through the winter months. Most cattle producers know and appreciate the value of protein supplementation, but often overlook energy. Although, protein supplementation does impact energy status by enhancing digestibility and intake of low-quality forages.

The benefits of protein supplementation are not fully realized by the cow if forage availability (supply) is limited. Both protein and energy requirements steadily increase during gestation and post-calving. Thus, there are many production scenarios, where both protein and energy may become limiting or where energy becomes more limiting than protein, minerals or vitamins.

I have found that producers often attribute negative production outcomes, such as higher percentage of open cows, with their previous protein supplementation protocols or mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Protein, minerals and vitamins are important components of cow nutrition, but in many cases energy deficiency may be the more likely cause. Energy status of grazing beef cows is essentially a function of forage availability in most situations.

The most basic way to think about forage availability is to ask yourself “Does each cow have all she can eat in the pasture or field?” If the answer to that question is “No” then energy is likely the most limiting factor in your production system. There are many ways to address situations where energy has become limiting. Feeding hay to replace grazed forage, moving to a new pasture or field of stalks or feeding combination supplements that provide both protein and energy are all strategies that may used to increase energy status.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

February 2020 Management Minute


By:Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Leadership and management are evaluated by an organization or operation’s successes. However, the path to success often involves failure. Everyone hates to fail. However, failure is an excellent teacher and the simple truth is that we learn more from our failures than we do our successes. One of the traits many successful people possess is that they did not let fear of failure exceed their desire to succeed. History is full of leaders who were quite familiar with failure. However, when they made a mistake, they learned from it, moved on and didn’t let it happen again. Additionally, great leaders in the business world recognize that department or unit managers don’t always succeed and that failure is an unfortunate, but necessary component of empowering and cultivating good managers within the organization.

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” – Robert Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”- Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

Livestock Field Day to be held in North Central Kansas

Make plans to attend the 2nd annual Stock Growers Field Day on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.  The event will be highlighted by beef reproduction economics and a market outlook along with an AI demonstration from industry and K-State Research and Extension experts in their field!  The field day, held in Beloit, KS, is a collaboration with K-State Research and Extension and the Kansas Bull Test. Continue reading “Livestock Field Day to be held in North Central Kansas”

Evaluating Rules of Thumb for Grazing Management – Part 2

 by Keith Harmoney, Range Scientist, Hays

Over the years, I’ve heard rangeland managers develop rules of thumb, or short phrases, to try to help them simplify decisions that need to be made to manage their pastures.  Some of these rules of thumb have merit and scientific or economic data to support the rules of thumb; however, some rules of thumb may be unfounded and lack informational support.   In the previous Beef Tips Newsletter, I listed some common rules of thumb, along with an explanation of whether or not the rule of thumb has any merit or basis of support.  You can go back and read the first four Rules of Thumb in the January Beef Tips.  This month, another four Rules of Thumb are listed, Continue reading “Evaluating Rules of Thumb for Grazing Management – Part 2”

Estrus Synchronization Planner Makes AI Planning Easier

By Sandy Johnson, Extension Beef Specialist, Colby

Increasingly producers are taking advantage of the benefits of artificial insemination (AI) made more successful and more convenient to apply with the current protocols available for synchronization of estrus and ovulation.  Optimal reproductive performance relies on good year-round management.  However, the best managed cows won’t respond if errors are made in implementing a synchronization system.  A tool called the Estrus Synchronization Planner was designed to help producers correctly execute synchronization protocols to achieve the best possible response.

The Estrus Synchronization Planner is an Excel based program that steps users through protocol selection based on inputs of the type of cattle, amount of heat detection desired and the breeding date and time.  Continue reading “Estrus Synchronization Planner Makes AI Planning Easier”

Beef Longissimus Lumborum Steak pH Affects External Bioelectrical Impedance Assessment

Objective: To use external bioelectrical impedance analysis to assess postmortem chemical changes in normal- and high-pH beef longissimus lumborum steaks during simulated retail display.

Study Description: Beef strip loins (n = 20; postmortem age = 14 d) obtained from a commercial processor were sorted into two treatments, normal-pH (5.61–5.64; n =11) and high-pH (6.2–7.0; n = 9). Loins were fabricated into five 1-inch thick steaks (n = 100), and randomly assigned to one of five display days: 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Continue reading “Beef Longissimus Lumborum Steak pH Affects External Bioelectrical Impedance Assessment”

Evaluating Stocker Steer Gains on Tallgrass Native Range with Two Burn Dates and Spices in Mineral

Objective: The overall objective of this study was to evaluate management practices that may impact stocker steer gains on a 90-day double stocking grazing system in tallgrass native range. Specific objectives include evaluating the timing of burning, addition of spices in a complete free-choice mineral, and determination if the effects are additive.

Study Description: Two pasture burning times (March or April) and free-choice mineral with or without addition of spices were evaluated using 281 head of stocker steers on eight pastures of tallgrass native range. The spices included garlic oil in powder form and Solace (Wildcat Feeds LLC). Continue reading “Evaluating Stocker Steer Gains on Tallgrass Native Range with Two Burn Dates and Spices in Mineral”

Smartamine M Supplementation Reduces Inflammation but Does Not Affect Performance in Receiving Beef Heifers

Objective: This study was conducted to evaluate the ability of supplemental methio­nine to improve health, inflammation status, and performance of receiving cattle.

Study Description: A group of 384 crossbred heifers (initial weight 489 lb) of Tennessee origin were used in a 45-day receiving trial with limit-feeding to evalu­ate the effects of supplemental methionine (Smartamine M; Adisseo, Alpharetta, GA) on health, inflammation, and performance. Continue reading “Smartamine M Supplementation Reduces Inflammation but Does Not Affect Performance in Receiving Beef Heifers”