Beef Tips

Author: Hannah Williams

Heat Stress Resources for Cattle Producers

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

The first weeks of June often bring summer-like temperatures to the southern Great Plains and with those first hot, humid days comes heat stress. Recent market conditions have created a scenario when there are greater inventories of heavier cattle on feed in many feedyards. The convergence of these two factors prompted our KSU Beef Extension Team to host a webinar highlighting the current weather outlook and how to prepare for heat stress events. The webinar was recorded and may be accessed Continue reading “Heat Stress Resources for Cattle Producers”

Do’s and Don’ts Upon Returning to Work

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

Many businesses and organizations are now beginning to reopen after several weeks of modified operations or closures. A recent article – – highlighted several items that both employees and managers should consider when returning to work. Continue reading “Do’s and Don’ts Upon Returning to Work”

May 2020 Feedlot Facts

“Protein Sources for Growing Cattle”

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

One of the outcomes of the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that unexpectedly affected many cattle feeding operations throughout Kansas and the Midwest was a sudden reduction in the availability of distiller’s grains. As many Americans heeded “stay at home” orders, demand for fuel, oil, and ultimately ethanol fell resulting in price declines that forced many ethanol plants to scale back production. The cattle feeding industry has relied heavily on distiller’s grains as the primary source of protein in both growing and finishing rations for many years. Distiller’s grains comprise 10-30% of many cattle rations depending upon the nutrient composition and price of other commodities. The reduced supply of distiller’s grains forced many cattle producers to look at traditional sources of protein, such as soybean meal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa and urea that many producers had not used for at least a decade. The prices of several common commodity protein sources (central, KS; obtained 4/28/2020) on a per ton and a cost per unit of protein basis are shown below. It is essential that producers evaluate protein sources on a cost per unit of protein prior to making purchasing decision. All of the traditional protein sources in the table were comparably priced on a cost per unit of protein basis ($0.44-0.49 /lb CP) with the exception of urea. However, urea must be used with caution, should not comprise more than 0.5 to 1.0% of the total diet on a dry matter basis, and it is generally recommended that urea be added into the ration using a premix or liquid to ensure that urea is appropriately mixed in the ration.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

May 2020 Management Minute

“Return to Normal”

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

The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States has affected the workplace in many different ways over the past few weeks. As many states and counties begin to ease restrictions, many employers in KS are now beginning to consider the necessary steps to “return to normal”. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has several resources for businesses posted on its website ( The resources on this page range from details on the current plan to re-open the state to how to properly clean and disinfect your business. As we transition back into the workplace, our “return to normal” will likely not be the normal we once knew and will likely create anxiety for both employers and employees. Experts suggest that one of the most important things employers can do to ease the transition is communication. Employers must communicate social distancing and cleaning protocols, as well as expectations regarding working remotely. Some employees may have safety concerns, especially if they or a family member falls within a high-risk category. Employers will likely have to make reasonable accommodations on an individual basis, which is challenging. However, there have been many challenges associated with this situation and most organizations/employers have demonstrated that they are more resilient than they ever imagined and that we will “return to normal” even if normal looks a little different.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

Cowherd Mineral Supplement Selection Tips: Phosphorus

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist, Garden City, KS

Cattle producers are anxiously preparing for the upcoming grazing season. Among those preparations is selecting a mineral supplement. It can be challenging to select a mineral program, as there are many different products and mineral formulations currently available. When evaluating mineral supplements, the phosphorous concentration may be used as a guide to determine if the mineral fits the production stage of the herd and forage base. Continue reading “Cowherd Mineral Supplement Selection Tips: Phosphorus”

Circumstances and Assumptions

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist, Garden City, KS

The recent outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in the United States has affected the workplace in many different ways. The current situation has many of us, like myself, working from makeshift workstations located in spaces formerly known as dining rooms, living rooms, or bedrooms. These unforeseen circumstances have come with many challenges and made us appreciate items like our desks and office chairs designed for optimum functionality and long-term use. As humans, we often erroneously assume that everyone’s resources/environment (circumstances) are similar to our own. In this “new” work environment, that we find ourselves we cannot assume that people have the same resources available in their homes as they would have had at their former workstations. Continue reading “Circumstances and Assumptions”

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