Beef Tips

Options for managing cows through the winter with limited forages

by Jaymelynn Farney, beef systems specialist, Parsons, KS

Drought-stressed pastureThe drought that plagued most of the state through the previous winter and this summer was a perfect storm that has some operations concerned about forages for this winter.  There are areas that have limited pasture growth and even with some of the recent rains, the rain may be too late or insufficient to change the pasture situation.  Through last winter, around the nation, there were producers that fed more hay than typical and that has used up a significant amount of hay reserves.  Given all these factors, cattle producers need to find alternative feedstuffs to maintain current cow numbers.  This article will address a few things to think about when trying to stretch forages. Continue reading “Options for managing cows through the winter with limited forages”

Drought challenges linger despite welcome rains

By Bob Weaber, extension cow-calf specialist

drought-stressed pasture after rainFor many producers in Kansas, the last couple of weeks have brought much needed rain to our rangeland and helped fill ponds on which we depend for watering livestock.  Much of central and northeast Kansas received 2 – 10 inches of rain over the Labor Day weekend.  Undoubtably, the rain was welcomed by many and does much to relieve the short surface water supplies. The spring and summer of 2018 will be remembered by many cattle producers due to the hot and dry conditions that persisted. The lack of rain resulted in subpar forage production for both cool and warm season grasslands. As a result, cattle producers will face a wide range of lingering effects of the drought over the coming months and perhaps years.

The lingering effects of a drought can be broadly classified into cow nutritional effects, cow reproductive effects, calf performance effects and rangeland/forage effects. All will take time for recovery but in each case, careful management can hasten the progression of recovery. Continue reading “Drought challenges linger despite welcome rains”

Tally Time- Use of parentage testing in commercial operations

by Sandy Johnson, extension beef specialist, Colby, KS

One of the options now available to producers with multi-sire pastures is to identify offspring parentage.   Research using parentage tests have shown us the wide range in number of offspring sired by bulls in these setting.  Despite economic difference between offspring of sires, for most commercial producers determining parentage of all offspring it is not currently cost effective.  However, it may pay to determine parentage in certain situations. Continue reading “Tally Time- Use of parentage testing in commercial operations”

Access workshop materials from Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle meeting

Beef Reproduction Task Force LogoOver 200 cattlemen, industry representatives and academia interested in increasing the reproductive efficiency of beef cattle gathered at the Ruidoso Convention Center, Ruidoso, N.M., for the 2018 Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle symposium Aug. 29-30.

The newsroom at the meeting website ( provides summaries of the presentations, proceedings, audio and slides from the various speakers.  Each presentation was shared via Facebook live on the Beef Reproduction Task Force Facebook page and the Angus Journal’s Facebook page.  Take advantage of these great resources to sharpen your skills on your own time schedule.

Managing Footrot in Beef Cattle

by A.J. Tarpoff, DVM, MS, extension beef veterinarian
Red Angus Females

During the summer months many producers run into issues with lame cattle. The effects of lameness may show itself by decreased fertility, weight loss, decreased performance, and increased labor and medicine costs. It has been estimated that 88-92% of lameness in cattle stems from the foot. Several issues could be the culprit, but we will review some of the common causes and treatment considerations. Continue reading “Managing Footrot in Beef Cattle”

August 2018 Feedlot Facts

“Cull Cows: A Disappointing Failure or Marketing Opportunity:

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

Most cattle operators view open cows with some degree of disappointment. However, you might be surprised at the amount of revenue that can be realized from cull cow sales. I recently summarized the Kansas Farm Management data on Kansas cow-calf operations from 2010-2015. Participating operations had an average herd size of 126 head, weaned an 84% calf crop, sold 106 calves and 20 head of breeding stock or cull animals annually. In the 2015 data, the average gross income of participating operations was $118,710, the sale of breeding stock or culls generated $28,453 of that figure. Thus the sale of cull animals accounted for 24% of the participating operations gross income. Although marketing cull breeding stock/cows is often viewed as a loss, it is a significant source of income that should not be overlooked. Most cull cows are sold through local auction markets. Therefore, understanding the market and making timely marketing decisions is one of the most important components of realizing the most dollars out of a cull cow. The figure below illustrates the 15-year average and 2016 slaughter cow prices in Western Kansas.

Slaughter cow prices tend to be highest and relatively steady from February to August, and then decline rapidly, being lowest in the months of October, November and December. Essentially, the worst time to market a cull cow based on the seasonal nature of the market aligns with pregnancy determination and weaning on most spring-calving operations. Therefore, if open cows are identified in late summer and are in good condition, marketing those animals as soon as possible would likely result in a higher price than waiting until later in the fall. If open cows are identified later in the fall, deferring marketing until late winter/early spring and placing cull cows on low-input feeding program that would add additional weight and condition (provided resources are available) might be more advantageous than marketing those animals immediately.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

August 2018 Management Minute

“Five generations in Today’s Workplace”

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

I recently learned that there are approximately five generations currently in the American workforce. I would add that since farmers and ranchers don’t often retire and the kids start doing chores at an early age there could possibly be up to six generations involved in the day-to-day activities of a farm or ranch. These generations are somewhat loosely defined across different sources as 1) WWI and WWII generation (born ~1901-1926); 2) Mature or silent generation (born ~1928-1945; 3) The Baby Boomers (born ~1946-1965); 4) Generation X (born ~1965-1980); 5) Millennials (born ~1980-2000); and 6) Generation Z or Centennials. All of these groups have defining characteristics and ideals that make them unique. There is a tremendous amount of differences between these generations, if we consider that Granddad may have been raised in a world with limited electrical conveniences, and the millennial grandson has never experienced a world without computers or mobile hand-held communication devices. Have you given any consideration to the different age groups or generations that currently make up your workforce? Have you updated your policies, procedures or verbal expectations to include modern means of communication such as texting? For example, if a family member or an employee is going to be late, is it acceptable to send a text? If it is a more formal organization, what about training materials? Millennials and the Generation Z’s (coming soon) likely prefer and are more engaged in something they can watch over printed material.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

July 2018 Feedlot Facts

“Feedlot Heifer Performance in 2017”

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

Each year I retrospectively summarize the data from the K-State Focus on Feedlots in an effort to document annual trends in fed cattle performance. The Focus on Feedlot data for heifers from 2017, 2016 and 2015 is summarized in the table below. Overall, the number of heifers marketed increased in 2017 with approximately 8,400 more heifers being marketed in 2017 than 2016. Heifer in weights were lower, averaging 729 lbs in 2017. Final weights of heifers were on average 30 lbs lower in 2017 at 1,252 lbs, compared to 1,282 lbs in 2016 and 1,266 lbs in 2015. Heifer days on feed increased to 160 days, an increase of 6 days relative to the 154 days reported in 2016. Heifer average daily gain and feed conversion was similar across years. Death loss increased to 1.64% relative to 1.46% in 2016, but was similar to the 1.62% reported in 2015. Total cost of gain for heifers was $3.17/cwt lower in 2017 than 2016. Heifer cost of gain was $3.76/cwt greater on average than that of steers, $74.34/cwt versus $78.10/cwt.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

July 2018 Management Minute

“The New Hire”

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

You have decided to bring a new person into your organization. How do you bring them on-board and get them up to speed with how your organization operates? Do you have a formal training process or do you simply put them to work and hope the new team member is a quick learner?

Regardless of the size of your business or operation, training new people is important. The onboarding process sets the new hire up for success from day one and is an essential component of employee retention. Some surveys suggest that approximately 30% of new hires will leave their current position within 6 months. Lack of job training or a poor on-boarding process are some of the most common reasons cited for leaving an organization. Good employees are hard to find. Creating a strategy for training new employees that teaches them how to do their job and how your business operates (including ethics, culture, etc.) is well worth the effort.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

June 2018 Feedlot Facts

“Feedlot Steer Performance in 2017”

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

Each year I retrospectively summarize the data from the K-State Focus on Feedlots. In an effort to document annual trends in fed cattle performance. The Focus on Feedlot data for steers from 2017, 2016 and 2015 is summarized in the table below. In 2017, participating feedlots marketed 358,092 steers, approximately 39,000 more steers than were marketed in 2016. In weights were slightly lower in 2017, averaging 796 lbs. Final weights of steers were notably lower (34 lbs) averaging 1387 lbs compared to 1416 lbs and 1421 lbs in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Steers were on feed approximately 164 days, an increase of five days from 2016. Average daily gain and feed conversion were similar across years. However, death loss did increase slightly to 1.52% relative to the 1.36% previously reported in 2016. Reported total cost of gain averaged $74.34/ Cwt. in 2016, which was $2.98./Cwt. lower than 2016 and $10.82/Cwt. lower than 2015.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at