Beef Tips

Author: Hannah Williams

May 2019 Feedlot Facts

“Early Weaning: A Tool to Improve Cow Condition”

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

Early weaning may be one of the management tools that beef cattle producers should consider using this fall. The recent winter weather conditions have resulted in cows and replacement females that may be lacking body condition coming into the grazing season.

Yes, cows will likely pick up some body condition over the upcoming grazing season. However, it can be difficult to put condition on lactating cows, especially higher producing females, even under ideal grazing conditions. Therefore, some cows may still be lacking condition during the later months of the grazing season. One of the easiest ways to manage cow nutrient demands is by weaning the calf. This reduces the energy requirements of the cow by 25-30%. This effectively means that the nutrients consumed by the cow that were being used to sustain lactation may now be used to improve cow condition.  A study designed to evaluate preconditioning duration conducted at K-State documented that cow body condition scores improved as calf age at weaning decreased. The cows on this study remained on native grass pastures following weaning and the observed increase in body condition score in this study occurred over a 60 day period. The results of this study suggest that early weaning calves may improve body condition of cows grazing native pastures late in the grazing season.

Early weaning is a management tool, most often associated with drought. However, it may be an even more valuable management strategy to manage the nutrient demands associated with lactation and improve cow condition, especially on young cows. Additionally, early weaned calves may be managed to target a number of different value-added programs or sales.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

May 2019 Management Minute

“Hiring the Best Person”

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

Whether you are a small business with just a few employees or a larger enterprise with several employees, hiring the right person for a position is essential. Making a good hiring decision can inspire others and improve the operations productivity. The unfortunate truth is that the number of qualified applicants for most skilled position isn’t large. “Good people are truly hard to find.”  So what can you as a potential employer do to attract and hire the best person for a position? There are many thoughts on this topic.  However, most experts agree that knowing what you are looking for and clearly stating the roles and responsibilities of the position is a great place to start. Applicants want/need to know the expectations of the position. Another point of consensus on the topic is to involve others in the hiring process. Allowing the candidates to interact with others in the organization through tours, or an informal dinner, can be a great way to know whether a person is a good fit.  An informal setting often allows an employer to gather more information about the applicant than the traditional interview questions can allow. People spend a great deal of time at work, thus co-workers, colleagues and the culture of the organization is important to both parties. Additionally, different people have different perspectives on the applicants, and usually there is some degree of consensus. Lastly, be prepared to move quickly with a competitive offer. The best people will usually have multiple opportunities.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

April 2019 Feedlot Facts

“The Impacts of a Tough Winter”
By: Justin Waggoner

One of the common topics of discussion, regardless of what segment of the beef industry you operate in has been winter and the collective impacts of a winter that was wetter and colder than most of us in Kansas and to some extent the Central United States are accustomed to. Although, green is slowly replacing the brown in the pastures, the effects of this winter in the cattle industry may be felt for longer than many of us would like. The combination of wet and cold conditions increases energy expenditures and maintenance energy requirements of the animal.

In the feeding sector cattle performance, most notably feed conversion (lbs. feed: lbs. gain) increases. In the March Focus on Feedlot report, (February closeouts) the average steer feed conversion was 7.08 lbs. feed: lb. gain. In February 2018, the average steer feed conversion was 6.15, lbs. feed: lb. gain. Thus, 0.93 more lbs. of feed (15%) were required to produce a pound of live weight gain in steers marketed in February of 2019 versus 2018. More feed ultimately results in higher cost of gains and lower profit potential. Overall steer death loss was similar at 1.68% in February 2019 and 1.97 in 2018. Feed conversion will likely remain high for next two to three months and death losses could foreseeably trend upward as cattle placed on feed during the coldest months may have experienced greater health risk and cold stress early in the feeding period.

In the cow-calf sector, winter conditions have resulted in cows that may be lacking condition or replacement heifers that are lighter than they would normally be under normal conditions. Body condition and plane of nutrition drives reproductive performance, which is one, if not the, most important determinant of productivity/profitability on a cow-calf operation. It takes longer for thin cows to begin cycling, which means that thin cows are at greater risk of being open and if cows do begin cycling they will be bred toward the end of the 2019 breeding season and subsequently calve later in 2020. Later calving typically results in younger, lighter calves at weaning, which ultimately results in less pounds of sale weight and dollars being generated by those cows in the Fall of 2020.

A large part of managing cattle is responding to weather conditions be it a cold, wet winter or drought. Cattle feeders may adjust market endpoints and cow-calf producers may consider adjusting breeding seasons, early weaning, or other ways to add additional market value to calves. The good news is the days and nights are getting warmer, and every day brings us closer to summer.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

April 2019 Management Minute

“Leadership Styles”
By: Justin Waggoner

The most commonly recognized leadership styles are authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. However, there may be seven to twelve different leadership styles that include styles such as transformational, transactional, servant, charismatic, and situational. Although some of these leadership styles are unique, there is also some degree of similarities or overlap as well and in some cases, a leader may change their leadership styles to fit the situation (situational). The concept of situational leadership was first recognized by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard (author of the “One Minute Manager”). They recognized that successful leaders often adapted their leadership style or styles to the individual or group they were leading. Collectively these different leadership styles remind us that leadership is complicated and we still have a lot to learn about leadership. For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

March 2019 Management Minute

“Leadership”

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

What is leadership? And what makes a leader effective? The term leadership is simply defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization” or the “ability to lead other people.” History has given us a number of examples of excellent leaders who have motivated groups or organizations to accomplish tremendous acts against overwhelming odds. Pick one. Any leader of your choice. What made this individual a great leader? Could we concisely come up with a list of traits or characteristics that made this individual an excellent leader? Now pick another. Do your two leaders have anything in common? What made these leaders effective? Although leadership has been the focus of tremendous study and numerous books, we still do not understand it. However, I would contend that the one thing all great leaders share is that they helped those they were leading get better and accomplish bigger things than those individuals thought was possible. As a leader, “What are you doing to help your people get better at what they do?”

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

March 2019 Feedlot Facts

“The Basics of Mineral Nutrition”

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

Beef cattle producers recognize that mineral nutrition is important. However, a mineral program is only one component of an operation’s nutrition and management plan. An exceptional mineral program will not compensate for deficiencies in energy, protein or management. Additionally, the classic signs associated with clinical deficiency (wasting, hair loss, discoloration of hair coat, diarrhea, bone abnormalities, etc.) are not often or are rarely observed in production settings. The production and economic losses attributed to mineral nutrition in many situations are the result of sub-clinical deficiencies, toxicities and antagonisms between minerals which are often less obvious (reduced immune function, vaccine response, and sub-optimal fertility). The figure below, adapted from Wikse (1992), illustrates the effect of trace mineral deficiency on health and performance and the margin between adequate mineral status and clinical deficiency.

Seventeen minerals are required in the diets of beef cattle. However, no requirements have been established for several minerals that are considered essential (Chlorine, Chromium, Molybdenum, and Nickel). Minerals may be broken down into two categories. 1. The macrominerals whose requirements are expressed as a percent of the total diet (calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chlorine and sulfur). 2. The microminerals or trace minerals (required in trace amounts) whose requirements are expressed as parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per kilogram of dry matter consumed (chromium, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium and zinc).

Mineral status of an animal is a function of the total diet (both water and feed) and stored mineral reserves within the body. Water may be a substantial source of minerals; however, the variation in water consumption makes estimating the contribution of mineral from water sources difficult. Mineral content of forages is influenced by several factors including plant species, soil, maturity, and growing conditions. These factors, and others not mentioned, makes estimating the dietary mineral content of grazing cattle challenging. Most commercial mineral supplements are formulated to meet or exceed the requirements for a given stage of production. This ensures that deficiencies are unlikely, but providing supra-optimal levels of minerals may be unnecessary unless specific production problems exist. A mineral program does not have to be complex or expensive to be successful.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

February 2019 Management Minute

“Corporate Culture”

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

Corporate or organizational culture is one of “buzzwords” in today’s business community. Although it is not a new term by any means (originating in the 1960s), it has undoubtedly received more attention, as tech giants have created unconventional employee centered environments. So what does corporate or organizational culture mean, and what is the role of a leader or manager in an organization’s culture? Many different sources define corporate culture as the shared beliefs, values, standards, systems, policies and perceptions held by employees. Informally the culture of company may be characterized by asking the company’s employees a few questions. What words best describe the organization? What behaviors or efforts are rewarded? What is the company’s No. 1 priority? In some cases, two very different cultures may exist within an organization: a formal corporate culture, i.e. mission statements, core values statements and an informal corporate culture (views of the employees). Corporate culture is generally thought of as progressing from the top down, where leadership initiates and stewards the corporate culture by hiring and promoting individuals who represent/embrace the corporate culture. More importantly, managers and leaders must model the corporate culture in their interactions with both customers and employees. Corporate culture may be healthy or unhealthy. Is the culture of your organization positively contributing to the business? As a manager, does the corporate culture align with your values and beliefs? Are you incentivizing and rewarding employees for doing the right thing?

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu

February 2019 Feedlot Facts

“Body Condition Scoring: A Herd Management Tool”

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 producers 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 don’t 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 over-conditioned 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 condition 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.

K-State has several resources on body condition scoring available on the web that may be accessed at https://www.asi.k-state.edu/research-and-extension/beef/feedandwater.html, including the quick reference guide to body condition scoring shown below.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

 

January 2019 Management Minute

“What’s Your Mission?”

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

Have you ever given any thought to what your organization, farm, feedlot or operation is really about? Do you have a mission statement, a set of core values that you believe your organization or operation embodies? Previously, I used to think that mission statements and core value statements were idealistic and a waste of thought. However, my attitude has changed. These statements provide the organization with a foundation, a clear objective that serves to guide the organization as it makes decisions that hopefully move the organization forward into the future. Regardless of the size of the enterprise, putting some thought into what an organization or business is really about has value. These statements do not have to be long or dramatic. I recently visited a family livestock operation in which the sign on the front lawn (along a major highway) simply said “Our Family Feeding Yours.” This simple statement tells everyone that drives by that this is a family operation that is foremost engaged in the process of sustaining not only themselves but other people. So challenge yourself a bit and ask yourself, “Why do you (or your business) do what you do?” What is your mission?

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

January 2019 Feedlot Facts

“Supplementing Cows During Cold Weather”

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

The New Year often brings with it some of the coldest months of the year. Most cattle producers know and appreciate that cold weather increases nutrient requirements. However, the real question is what should producers feed or supplement when the wind blows and the mercury barely registers on the thermometer. Cattle are most comfortable within the thermonuetral zone when temperatures are neither too warm nor cold. During the winter months cattle experience cold stress anytime the effective ambient temperature, which takes into account wind chill, humidity, etc., drops below the lower critical temperature. The lower critical temperature is influenced by both environmental and animal factors including hair coat and tissue insulation (body condition). The table below lists the estimated lower critical temperatures of cattle in good body condition with different hair coats. In wet conditions cattle can begin experiencing cold stress at 59°F, which would be a relatively mild winter day. However, if cattle have time to develop a sufficient winter coat the estimated lower critical temperature under dry conditions is 18°F.

Cold stress increases maintenance energy requirements but does not impact protein, mineral or vitamin requirements. The general rule of thumb (for a cow in good body condition, BCS = 5 or greater) is to increase the energy density of the ration by 1% for each degree (Fahrenheit) below the lower critical temperature. The classic response to cold stress in confinement situations is an increase in voluntary intake. However, it has been documented that grazing beef cows may spend less time grazing as temperatures decline below freezing, which reduces forage intake, and makes the challenge of meeting the cow’s nutrient requirements even greater. In many cases, feeding a greater amount of low-quality hay will replace grazed forages but may not provide sufficient energy. Therefore providing additional energy by feeding a relatively higher-quality hay or fiber-based supplement (DDGS, Corn gluten feed, or Soybean Hulls) may be required. If fiber-based energy sources are not available, small amounts (2-3 lbs) starch-based concentrates may also be used as energy supplements.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.