Beef Tips

January 2018 Feedlot Facts

“What’s Your Cost of Production?”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

I can assure you that Henry Ford knew exactly how long and how much it cost to produce the Model T. Although it may seem difficult to make comparisons between the automotive industry and modern day beef production, many cow-calf operations are business enterprises…large business enterprises. Yet financial benchmarking and accurately documenting production costs are not necessarily high on the “to do” list of most cattle producers. One of the best reasons to know what it costs to produce a calf or what your total feed and non-feed costs are, is that it allows you to quickly evaluate emerging opportunities such as grazing a neighbor’s cover crop, or an additional circle of corn stalks. Thus, if you don’t know your production costs, I would encourage you to think about them. Tax time is a great time to take a good look at your business and calculate your production costs. If you would like to get a better idea of what it costs to produce a calf in Kansas, the Kansas Farm Management Association (KFMA) Enterprise Reports provide that information in a one-page summary that can be accessed on the Ag Manager website (https://www.agmanager.info/kfma). The chart below shows the total feed and non-feed (operational costs) of KFMA participating cow-calf producers from 2012 to 2016.

 

The data from these operations suggests that in 2016, feed costs were approximately $392 per cow and the non-feed or operational costs were approximately $549 per cow. Thus the average total cost to produce a calf was $941 ($349 + 549) in 2016. The total feed costs of $392 amounts to $1.07 per day to feed a cow in Kansas. The question is “What does it cost you to feed a cow and produce a calf?”

January 2018 Management Minute

“Failure”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

Leadership and management are evaluated by an organization or operations’ 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.

Differences Between High-, Medium-, and Low-Profit Cow-Calf Producers: An Analysis of 2012-2016 Kansas Farm Management Association Cow-Calf Enterprise

By Dustin L. Pendell and Kevin L. Herbel, Ag Economics

The economic returns to beef cow-calf producers vary considerably over time (Figure 1) due to a number of factors, including the cattle cycle. The record high average return in 2014 was a result of a drought and strengthening beef demand. Although beef demand has been relatively strong in 2015 and 2016, herd expansion has led to larger supplies, lower cattle prices and lower returns to the cow-calf enterprise. The 2012 to 2016 Kansas Farm Management Association summary of data from cow-calf enterprises has lessons for producers given the wide range of variability inherent to this industry. Continue reading “Differences Between High-, Medium-, and Low-Profit Cow-Calf Producers: An Analysis of 2012-2016 Kansas Farm Management Association Cow-Calf Enterprise”

Forage Analysis: How can we use the numbers?

By Justin Waggoner, Extension Beef Specialist, Garden City, KS

Analytical testing of forages is occasionally viewed by cattle producers as an exercise with limited practical application that generates numbers only a nutritionist with advanced study in analytical chemistry can discern.  However, practical application is the fundamental reason we evaluate forages and feedstuffs. The objective of analytical testing of forages and feedstuffs is to improve our ability to meet the animal’s nutrient requirements, and better estimate animal performance. One of the easiest ways we can utilize the numbers resulting from forage analysis is to strategically manage a hay inventory. Continue reading “Forage Analysis: How can we use the numbers?”

Tally Time: Preparing for Calving Season

By Sandy Johnson, Extension Beef Specialist, Colby, KS

Cow-calf pair

The checklist below is designed to help you plan and prepare to improve the success of your calving season and weaned calf crop.

 

• Balance cow rations for adequate protein and energy for increased third trimester and subsequent lactation requirements. Group and feed cows by body condition and age to the degree possible. Target body condition for first calf heifers at calving of 5.5 to 6 and 5 to 5.5 for mature cows.

• Develop sound vaccination program to prepare the cow to produce high quality colostrum.

• Control lice and internal parasites.

• Plan for recording calving data and consider ways to backup records.

• Make sure calving facilities are clean and in good repair

• Plan for ear tags, tattoos, scale or weight tape, banding or castration.

• Check flashlights and other quality portable light sources.

Continue reading “Tally Time: Preparing for Calving Season”

Managing the impact of cattle lice during the winter months

By A.J. Tarpoff DVM, MS; Beef Extension Veterinarian

Cattle lice infections can affect the health and performance of our cows and stocker cattle during the winter months. This time period generally ranges from December through March. The USDA has estimated that livestock producers lose up to $125 million per year due to effects of lice infestations. Not only can they be the cause of direct animal performance losses, but they also increase wear and tear on our facilities and fences. The direct losses to cattle come in forms of decreased average daily gains (documented 0.25 pounds per day reduction in growing calves), skin infections, and potentially blood loss and anemia. Continue reading “Managing the impact of cattle lice during the winter months”

Calving Schools Planned

MANHATTAN, Kan. – With the new year, beef producers are anxious for the 2018 calf crop. In anticipation of calving season, Kansas State University Animal Sciences and Industry and K-State Research and Extension are planning a series of calving schools in January.

The program will outline the normal processes of calving. A.J. Tarpoff, K-State extension beef veterinarian, explains the goals of the event are to increase knowledge and practical skills, and to increase the number of live calves born if they need assistance.

The schools will also share tips on when and how to intervene to assist the cow and how those times may be different when dealing with young heifers. Presenters will also demonstrate proper use of calving equipment on life-size scale.

Continue reading “Calving Schools Planned”

December 2017 Feedlot Facts

“New Year often brings Cold Stress”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

The New Year often brings colder temperatures to the Sunflower State and the Great Plains. Most cattle producers appreciate that cold weather increases nutrient requirements. However, what increases? and by how much? Cattle are most comfortable within the thermoneutral zone when temperatures are neither too warm nor cold. The upper and lower boundaries of the thermoneutral zone are referred to as the upper and lower critical temperature. 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 on the next page 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 cattle maintained in extensive environments (native range, wheat pasture, corn stalks) may spend less time grazing as temperatures decline below freezing, which reduces forage intake (Adams et al., 1986) 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 higher-quality hay or fiber-based supplement (DDGS, Corn gluten feed, or Soybean Hulls) may be required.

December 2017 Management Minute

“Effective Leadership”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

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. What made this individual a great leader? 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 don’t understand it. It’s complicated. 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?”

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.