Beef Tips

Category: Feedlot Facts

November 2017 Feedlot Facts

“Forage Analysis: What Numbers Do I Need?”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

One of the more common questions I receive with regard to analytical testing of forages and other feedstuffs is, “I have the sample, now what do I test for or what analysis package should I select?”

The basic components that nutritionists need to evaluate a feedstuff or develop a ration are dry matter or moisture, crude protein, an estimate of the energy content of the feedstuff [Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), Net Energy for Maintenance (NEm), Net Energy for gain (NEg)], and the macro minerals, Calcium and Phosphorous. These are the most basic numbers that are required but including some additional analyses in the report can give us additional insight into the quality of the feedstuff or improve our ability to predict animal performance, which is the primary reason we analyze feedstuffs. I recommend that the report include acid detergent fiber (ADF) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF). The amount of NDF in forage reflects the amount of cell wall contents (hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin) within the sample. The NDF fraction is often associated with the respective bulkiness of forage and is correlated with dry matter intake of the forage or feedstuff. Therefore, the amount of NDF may be used to estimate the expected dry matter intake associated with the forage. The ADF number represents the amount of cellulose and lignin within the forage and is correlated with the respective digestibility of the forage. In general, a higher ADF value is associated with forage that has a greater proportion of cellulose and lignin and would likely be more mature. Additionally, the ADF fraction is used to calculate the energy estimates TDN, NEm, and NEg that appear on the report. There are a number of different mathematical equations that the testing laboratory may use to calculate these numbers, based on the type of sample (corn silage, alfalfa, grass hay, etc.). If the ADF is included in the report, the nutritionist can adjust or recalculate the energy estimates if necessary.

If the forage will be fed in combination with a byproduct feed such as wet distiller’s grain, including an analysis for sulfur can be beneficial if the forage will be used in a growing or feedlot ration. Additionally, if the forage is a known nitrate accumulator (forage sorghums, sudangrass) or may have been stressed due to drought, including a nitrate analysis should always be considered, especially if the forage will be fed to pregnant cows.

Most analytical laboratories have a number of different analysis packages which encompass the most common procedures or numbers that a nutritionist or producer needs to know about their feeds. These packages will typically include the basic procedures (DM, CP, TDN) and then add on specific analyses such NDF, or the Macrominerals (Ca ,P, Mg, K, Na, Cl, S). Some laboratories may group analysis packages by the type of sample (Forage vs. mixed ration) or production purposes (dairy vs. beef).

The objective of analytical testing of forages and feedstuffs is to improve our ability to meet the animal’s nutrient requirements and ultimately predict animal performance. The unequivocal best method of evaluating the quality of a feedstuff is feeding the feedstuff to an animal and evaluating performance over a set period of time, under a specific set of conditions. Since that would not be cost effective or timely, analytically evaluating feedstuffs in a laboratory is the next best thing and although it is not perfect, it is unequivocally better than the “this looks like really good stuff” method of evaluating feedstuffs.

October 2017 Feedlot Facts

“Weaning: Help Your Calves Make the Transition”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

Weaning is our opportunity as cattle producers to prepare calves for the next phase of the beef production cycle. Weaning represents a transition and how well we prepare calves for the transition is essential to the outcome.

The goal of weaning is to produce a healthy calf that is comfortable without its dam, readily consumes feed and has successfully acclimated to a new environment. One of the essential transitions a calf has to make during weaning is the transition from mother’s milk and grazed forage to grazed forage and supplement, hay and supplement, or a ration containing novel feeds delivered in a bunk.

Feeding both cows and calves a small amount of the supplement or weaning ration prior to weaning, in the weaning pen or pasture can be used to help acclimate calves to both the feeds and the environment. Additionally, feed intake of weaned calves is often low (1 to 1.5% of bodyweight, dry basis) immediately following weaning.

Calves also have relatively high nutrient requirements. Thus, the weaning diet must be nutrient dense to meet the nutrient requirements of the calves at the expected intakes previously mentioned. Unfortunately, the dry feeds calves are often most familiar with (typically grass hays) are not necessarily nutrient dense. At the K-State Agriculture Research Center, Hays, KS, a feeding management protocol for weaning calves has been developed that works well for transitioning weaned calves to a total mixed ration.

The protocol is summarized in the table below. Essentially, high-quality grass hay and the weaning ration are offered each at 0.5% of the calves’ current bodyweight, dry basis, on the day of weaning. The weaning ration is placed in the bottom of the bunk and the hay is placed on top. The amount of the weaning ration is steadily increased, while the amount of hay offered remains constant. In addition, on day 4 the hay is placed on the bottom of the bunk. Over a period of 7-10 days the dry intake of the calves is steadily increased and should reach approximately 2.2-2.5% of the calves bodyweight by 10-14 days following weaning.

*Remove any uneaten feedstuffs before feeding current days ration For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at jwaggon@ksu.edu.

September 2017 Feedlot Facts

“Silage Harvest is Underway; Be Safe”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

 

One of the busiest, most fast paced operations that occur this time of year is silage harvest. Cutters and choppers in the fields, trucks racing from the field to the pile or bunker, multiple tractors pushing and packing silage. The speed at which we can harvest silage today is amazing, but we should never allow the speed at which one can accomplish a task to compromise safety. Below are a few things to think about during this year’s silage harvest.

  • Don’t become complacent. Stay aware of the surroundings. Let’s face it there are a lot of highly repetitive operations in putting up silage. One of the No. 1 factors that lead up to an accident is almost always complacency or lack of situational awareness.
  • Truck drivers should always slow down when approaching houses and intersections on all roads, every time. Those houses along the road belong to our neighbors and friends, some of which have children. The increased traffic on gravel roads creates dust, and the crops are tall, both of which reduce visibility at intersections. Our neighbors should not fear going to their mailbox due to our silage trucks.
  • People (especially children) should never be allowed near a drive over pile or bunker silo during fill ing. If people have to approach the area, get on the radio  to inform the drivers/operators. Those on the ground in the area should always wear a bright-colored-orange safety vest.
  • Never fill higher than the top of the bunker wall. This happens more than it should and creates a dangerous situation from the day the silage is packed until it is removed. The pack tractor cannot see the edge of the bunker well if at all. The silage does not get packed well (which leads to poor silage) and the edge of the silage is unstable and more likely to collapse. Don’t do it.
  • Be aware of steep slopes. To reduce the risk of tractor roll-over, a minimum slope of 1 in 3 on the sides and end of piles should be maintained.
  • Never inspect or make repairs to equipment near the bunker or pile. Equipment should be removed from the area as soon as possible. Repairs almost always involve people on foot and potentially people who may not be familiar with silage activities and the associated risks.

 

November 2016 Feedlot Facts

Feeding Corn to Cows this Winter”

 by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist

Although some areas received abundant rain this summer and have ample hay supplies, other regions received only marginal rains, resulting in a marginal hay crop. On the other hand, most of the corn-growing regions of the Midwest and High Plains had excellent growing and harvest conditions which have contributed to abundant grain supplies, resulting in relatively low corn prices this fall.

This combination of coinciding circumstances have raised the question, “Can I feed corn to cows instead of hay?” Well, the answer is an emphatic, “Maybe…”

Nutritionists look at a cow as essentially a rumen with legs, a mouth, and an udder. The cow has a mouth to feed the rumen—more specifically, to feed the rumen microbes, and the job of the rumen microbes is to feed the cow. For most of a cow’s life she has fed these microbes a diet primarily of cellulose in the form of grass, hay, corn stalks, wheat straw, etc. What little concentrate (grain, by-product feeds, protein supplements) she’s received has been in the form of a small amounts of supplement in addition to the forages which have been her main diet.

The rumen microbes digest the cellulose in forages best when the rumen pH remains in the range of 6.0 to 6.5; this is one (although not the only) reason cows chew their cud: the saliva produced and injected into the cud during rumination contains buffers to keep the pH above 6.0. The more grain or other concentrate feeds we provide, the more likely the rumen pH is to decline below 6.0. The other extreme would be finishing feedlot cattle consuming a high-grain diet which results in a rumen pH in the low 5’s or perhaps even the high 4’s—very acidic. This acidic pH makes for an environment unfavorable for forage digestion.

So when we begin to consider feeding more than a small amount of concentrate to cows, we need to consider that the rumen pH will likely fall below the pH which is optimum for forage digestion. For this reason it is advised that we consider feeding a diet which is either less than 25% concentrate (on a dry matter basis), or greater than 75% concentrate, and avoid feeding in between these two levels. Why? Because as we exceed 25% of the diet as concentrate, the rumen pH will decline and the nutritional value of the forages in the diet decline, resulting in wasted expense. (NOTE: this effect becomes more pronounced with increasingly low-quality forages than with high-quality forages.)

A schematic of the results of feeding concentrates in addition to a basal diet of forage looks something like this:

 

With that out of the way, one way to capture the value of low-cost grains and concentrate feeds this fall and winter, without placing cows on a “finishing” diet, is to consider limit-feeding a high-grain diet. By “high-grain”, we typically mean 70-75% concentrate with sufficient forage to prevent acidosis in aggressive eaters. By “limit-feeding”, we typically mean providing a level of intake of the high-energy diet which supplies a similar total daily amount of energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins, in a smaller intake amount, than we would normally expect when full-feeding a forage-based diet.

For example, you may feed a “conventional”, forage-based winter cow diet of 25 lbs of prairie hay (0.45 Mcal NEM/lb, dry matter basis) with 6 lbs of dried distiller’s grains (0.99 Mcal NEM/lb, dry matter basis), providing a total of 17.3 Mcal NEM per day. This same 17.3 Mcal NEper animal per day could be supplied from 8 lb cracked corn (1.02 Mcal/lb), 7 lb dried distiller’s grains, and 5 lb of prairie hay. If you’ve done the math, that’s a “conventional”, forage-based diet fed at 31 lbs (dry matter basis) vs. the “limit-fed high-energy” diet fed at 20 lbs. If the cows weigh an average of 1,320 lbs, that’s 2.4% of body weight vs. 1.5% of body weight. FULL DISCLOSURE: the limit-fed cows are going to be hungry and fairly aggressive every morning. Even though they’re receiving the exact same amount of daily energy supply, because they’re not physically full, they will be more than ready come breakfast time. You’ll need stout fences and at 30-36 inches of bunk space per animal in the pen.

There are certainly challenges to limit-feeding cows, most of them pertain to logistics, facilities, and equipment. But two reasons to consider the limit-fed program are: (1) potential per-head feed cost savings; and (2) the chance to reduce the drain on your winter hay stores. In addition, depending on local spot market prices in your area, you may consider inserting other by-product feeds into the high-energy, limit-fed diet, such as: soy hulls, wheat midds, and corn gluten feed, since these all have energy values close to (although not equal to) that of corn.

October 2016 Feedlot Facts

“Trying to Add Value Through Backgrounding”

by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist

The strong dollar is good for a lot of things, or so I’m told. However, the strong dollar also hurts our export markets because our product is automatically more expensive to buyers around the world simply because their currency loses its purchasing power vs. U.S. products. The U.S. beef industry saw beef exports climb out of the doldrums post-2001 and a dip after the recession in 2009 to record levels in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. This led to record prices for boxed beef, fed cattle, and subsequently, feeder calves. Heady times indeed… Conversely, the U.S. dollar began a steady climb in value vs. other global currencies in mid-2014 and has increased in value by 20-25% over the past 18 months, resulting in a significant drop in beef exports; this has placed and will continue to place downward pressure on boxed beef value, fed cattle prices, and feeder calf prices.   As expected, we are experiencing low calf prices this fall compared to recent years; we’ve already seen feeder cattle futures decline by 40% since the mid-2014 highs.

In the face of this challenge, producers can capture more value through backgrounding calves to heavier weights. While a rising tide floats all boats, the current receding tide is pulling all boats downward, and a falling yearling market next spring puts our hopes of making money backgrounding our calves in jeopardy. For example, if 575 lb steer calves are currently valued at $139/cwt (total value = $799), and 875 lb steers are valued at $109/cwt next February (total value = $953), then the price slide (or the “value of gain”) is $51/cwt ($953 – $799 ¸ 300 lbs). This $51/cwt is the value of weight put on each calf above their initial weight of 575 lbs.

Producers can only increase profit if they can feed calves for less than 51¢/lb of gain. With the current low cost of grain and abundance of forage, the feed-only cost of gain for developing calves is likely in the range of 40-50¢/lb. But once we add the costs for vaccines, implants, anti-parasiticides, morbidity treatment costs, and a risk of mortality, total cost of gain could be in the range of 60-65¢/lb of added gain. If the sale price is expected at $109/cwt, we’re looking at backgrounding as a losing proposition.

Obviously, none of these numbers are set in stone. You will need to work closely with your local extension professional and feed supplier to formulate diets and provide cost estimates and breakeven calculations. Also, work closely with your veterinarian when building your processing and treatment protocols.

September 2016 Feedlot Facts

“Value Equation”

 by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist

Because of abundant, low-cost feed resources throughout the Midwest, the question of what to do with open cows is not as cut-and-dried as in past years.

One option—the conventional option—is to stay the course and market those open females through conventional channels as not fitting their present environment and production system. Open cull females are in demand and have value this fall and can be a ready source of capital.

Another option, depending on the flesh status of the open females, would be to feed them for a period to add flesh and pounds to their selling weight. If feed is plentiful and inexpensive and feeding is logistically feasible, this may be a way to profitably increase the value of open cull females. One key consideration is that, like fish in your refrigerator and visiting in-laws, feeding cows have a very limited shelf-life. Thin cows can be fleshed up and convert feed to gain fairly efficiently and cost effectively for approximately 45-60 days, depending on their initial body condition; after that period, nearly all of their added gain is fat gain and conversions become very poor, very quickly.

A third option, again depending on cost and availability of feed resources—this is somewhat outside of the box—is to convert open cull females to bred cull females. Breeding open cows this fall and over-wintering them may increase their value by transforming them from likely slaughter cows into a ready-made calf supply for producers who are eager to increase their cow herd, but may not be eager to buy open cows now, feed them throughout this winter and next spring until breeding season, and then feed them through another winter before they calve the following spring.

The rather sweet situation of abundant feed supplies provides a very exciting opportunity for ranchers to consider numerous alternative feeding and marketing plans for cull females. Some options may not have been on the radar but this is not a “normal” year.

August 2016 Feedlot Facts

“Preconditioning for Profit”

 by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist

 Vaccine and antimicrobial technologies continue to improve at a breakneck pace. Yet we continue to see that calves which are unprepared for life in the feedlot and which undergo significant stress during and after weaning en route to the feedlot will have morbidity upwards of 30% and first treatment success is often only about 50%. Calves which get mild respiratory disease in the feedlot will have 0.2-0.4 lbs lower ADG and those calves requiring multiple treatments for respiratory disease will gain 0.6 lbs less for the entire feeding period. This translates to about 15 lb less carcass weight and 10-15% fewer choice carcasses. It pays to keep calves healthy.

Preconditioning can mean different things to different people, from giving calves a single vaccination prior to weaning, all the way up to 2 full rounds of vaccination, before and after weaning, weaning the calves from their dams for 45 to 60 days, and transitioning the calves onto a total mixed ration, eating from feedbunks, and drinking from waterers. As far as animal performance is concerned, the extent of preconditioning needed to minimize problems at the feedlot and maximize feedlot performance depends on the extent of stress imposed on the calf during transition.

Recent studies here at K-State suggest that single-source calves shipped 4 hours to a feedlot will benefit from pre-weaning vaccination, weaning, and feeding for at least 2 weeks before shipment to the feedlot. However, if calves are going to be shipped more than 8 hours from home, they will be commingled with other sources of calves either in transit or upon arrival at the feedlot, and are likely to experience adverse weather conditions during the transition period to the feedlot, vaccination and weaning for 6-8 weeks before shipment would be preferred.

Investing time, technology, and labor into the calf crop has very real costs for the rancher. But the high purchase price of weaned calves entering the feedlot means the financial risk of respiratory disease and the uncertainty that respiratory disease causes feedlot producers has very real costs as well. Many feedlot producers are willing to pay ranchers a premium to mitigate some of this disease risk which causes the feedlot economic uncertainty—consider it “biological risk management.” When certified preconditioned calves are sold at special preconditioned calf sales, they have the potential to bring significant premiums over non-preconditioned, “commodity” calves.

The decline in calf prices over the past year or so has drained a substantial amount of dollars from the sale value of weaned calves. Preconditioning and effective targeted marketing of your value-added calves to buyers willing to pay for this value has the potential to gain much of that lost income opportunity back.

Respiratory disease is the most costly disease in the cattle industry, and the greatest factor affecting calf performance in the feedlot. If you can prevent or control disease, you can, to a certain extent, control performance of calves. Feedlots are paying premiums for calves which are prepared for life at the feedlot. Why? Because they perform and are predictable—predictability is the opposite of risk. As a rancher, you can and should get paid for your investments of time, money, and management.

July 2016 Feedlot Facts

“Add Value Through Preconditioning”

by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist

 The strong dollar is good for a lot of things, or so I’m told. However, the strong dollar also hurts our export markets because our product instantly becomes more expensive to buyers around the world simply because their currency loses its purchasing power vs. U.S. products. The U.S. beef industry saw beef exports climb out of the doldrums post-2001 and a dip after the recession in 2009 to record levels in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. This led to record prices for boxed beef, fed cattle, and subsequently feeder calves. Heady times indeed… Conversely, the U.S. dollar began a steady climb in value vs. other global currencies in mid-2014 and has increased in value by 20-25% over the past 18 months, resulting in a significant drop in beef exports; this has placed and will continue to place downward pressure on boxed beef value, fed cattle prices, and feeder calf prices. Therefore, we will likely experience low calf prices this fall compared to recent years; we’ve already seen feeder cattle futures decline by 40% since the mid-2014 highs.

Vaccine and antimicrobial technology continues to improve at a breakneck pace. Yet we continue to see that calves which are unprepared for the stress of transition and life in the feedlot will have morbidity upwards of 30% and first treatment success is often only 30-50%. Calves which get mild respiratory disease will gain 0.2-0.4 lbs less weight per day in the feedlot and those calves requiring multiple treatments will gain 0.6 lbs less weight per day for the entire feeding period. This translates to about 15 lb less carcass weight and 10-15% fewer choice carcasses. It pays to keep calves healthy.

Preconditioning has many different definitions for different people, ranging from simply giving calves a vaccination prior to weaning, all the way to 2 complete rounds of vaccination for respiratory viral and bacterial pathogens and clostridial pathogens, given pre- and post-weaning, weaning from their dams for 45 to 60 days, and transitioned onto a total mixed ration, feedbunks, and waterers.

As far as animal performance is concerned, the extent of preconditioning needed to minimize post-arrival problems and maximize feedlot performance depends on the extent of stress imposed on the calf during transition.

Recent studies here at K-State suggest that single-source calves shipped 4 hours to a feedlot will benefit from pre-weaning vaccination and weaning and feeding for at least 2 weeks pre-shipment. If calves will be shipped a great deal farther; if calves will be commingled with other calves from multiple sources either prior to shipment or after arrival at the feedlot; if calves may experience adverse weather conditions post-feedlot-arrival, vaccination and weaning for 6-8 weeks pre-shipment will likely be beneficial to subsequent calf health and performance.

Investing the necessary time, technology, capital, and labor into the soon-to-be-weaned calf crop has very real costs for the rancher. But the risk of respiratory disease and the financial uncertainty that respiratory disease causes for feedlot producers has real financial costs as well. Many feedlot producers are willing to pay ranchers a premium to mitigate some of this disease risk which causes them economic uncertainty—consider it “biological risk management.” When certified preconditioned calves are sold at special preconditioned calf sales, they have the potential to bring significant premiums compared to non-preconditioned calves.

Finally, do not assume that buyers at the conventional weekly calf sales will pay substantial premiums for preconditioned calves; on the contrary most buyers at conventional auctions come with the expectation of paying commodity prices for commodity calves, with prices determined mostly on lot size, sex, weight, and breed type. If you can find a special sale in your area specifically organized to market value-added, preconditioned calves, the buyers at this type of sale will come with the full expectation of finding value-added calves and are more likely expecting and willing to pay value-added prices. Some feeders and stocker producers business philosophy is to buy low, keep them alive, make them perform, and sell at the market; other feeders are looking for predictability of performance and are willing to pay for this predictability. Find these buyers and you will find a market for preconditioned calves.

Respiratory disease is the most costly disease in the cattle industry—by a significant margin, and the single greatest factor affecting calf performance in the feedlot. If you can prevent or control disease, you can, to a certain extent, control performance of calves. Feedlots are paying premiums for calves which are prepared for life at the feedlot. Why? Because they perform. As a rancher, you can and should get paid for your investments of time, money, and management. And entering a potentially down-market year, you can increase the value of your existing investment by investing a bit more and by finding buyers who recognize and are willing to pay for the extra value added by preconditioning calves.

June 2016 Feedlot Facts

“Antimicrobial Resistance”

 by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist

 A very smart scientist once said, “Anyone who claims they fully understand antimicrobial resistance simply hasn’t studied it enough yet!” Development of antimicrobial resistance by bacteria is a very complex issue that even the brightest in the human health and animal health communities do not fully comprehend, let alone can unequivocally say it’s an issue for which they have identified definitive causes and solutions. So if a lay person, a talking head, or a blogger claims to have all the answers, we’re best off to take their opinion with a grain of salt and keep searching.

That said, there are few issues with so broad a gap between the potential future human and animal health ramifications and our collective impotence at devising truly effective control practices. We know that unchecked growth in resistance could be disastrous, yet none of the smart people who study this and who I trust can say with any degree of certainty that any of the proposed measures—including complete abolition of use—will have any significant impact on resistance.

In light of that uncertainty, some argue for a “stay the course” approach until science and understanding can provide some sure solutions. Others suggest a “precautionary principle”, choosing instead to err on the side of logic, even if that logic is unproven, hoping that some action is better than none at all.

So (1) we lack comprehensive understanding of the underlying science behind the issue, (2) we lack a consensus among reasonable and influential parties as to practical and useful solutions, and (3) we lack an even remote illusion that we can control what happens in other parts of the world in which there is less robust oversight of antimicrobial use in humans and animals and of food production practices in general, and oftentimes greater and more widespread prevalence of infectious diseases which encourages the use and often abuse of any available antimicrobials.

The point is that if use and abuse of antibiotics do in fact perpetuate growth in bacterial resistance to antimicrobials, there is concern regarding the current inability of some countries or regions of the world, due to insufficient funding and infrastructure, to police any future policy designed to limit use in order to control the growth of resistance.

H.L. Mencken, another smart person, said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” I paraphrase and shorten this to, “Complex problems have no simple solutions.” We’ve got to do the seriously heavy lifting to get to meaningful outcomes. Einstein is credited for saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I doubt Alexander Fleming in 1928 knew the next-level challenges that would arise nearly 100 years after his discovery of penicillin.

The good news is that the debate continues, and the smart, reasonable-thinking, people are at the table, here and abroad, trying to hammer out solutions which are not clear or simple but which hopefully will be right long-term for human health and for food production, which will be forever inextricably linked.

May 2016 Feedlot Facts

“Shade for Developing Bulls”

by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist 

When feeding young bulls for sale, a compromise must be made between absolute maximum performance and long-term health of the bulls.

If only short-term performance were the goal, we’d feed a finishing diet and short-term ADG would be maximized; however, we would suffer a significant number of losses due to laminitis and other acidosis-related ailments. Therefore, we try to strike a balance by including in the diet an abundance of good quality forage in addition to grain and grain by-products, in order to maintain a healthy rumen and minimize if not even eliminate the risk of acidosis and laminitis. Bulls with good genetics for intake will often gain near if not equal to their maximum genetic potential on a well-balanced forage-and-concentrate diet.

However, in certain parts of the U.S., summer heat combined with humidity and lack of wind can make for uncomfortable conditions throughout the middle of the day, from late morning until early evening. This added external heat load discourages maximum consumption by the bulls and hurts performance. Anything the producer can do during the summer months to encourage feed consumption will enhance ADG without increasing the risk of acidosis and foot problems. In addition, if feeding conditions can be made more comfortable during midday, there may be a reduced risk that cattle will come to the bunk in the evening hours hungry after several hours of not eating because of heat.

Placing shade near or directly over the feed bunk area is one way that cattle—especially black-hided cattle—can be made more comfortable, resulting in increased feed intake and better ADG during the hottest summer conditions.

When constructing shade structures, there should be a minimum of 20 ft2 of shaded area per animal in the pen; more shaded area is better to provide more shaded loafing space for cattle when they’re not eating. If the shaded area is on dirt, the shade should be oriented longitudinally north-and-south so that the shaded area moves west-to-east with the juxtaposition of the sun. This will allow the moisture in the shaded area to dry, preventing accumulation of mud in the shaded area. However, if the shaded area is strictly on the concrete feed bunk pad, this consideration is not critical.

Performance of developing bulls is a function of total daily nutrient intake. If we’ve done a good job of balancing the needs for energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, and good quality and quantity of forage, the only x-factor left in the equation is consumption of the diet. By enhancing the comfort of cattle during times of hot, humid weather, we may be able to enhance short-term rate of gain without risking the long-term health of the bulls.