Longevity and Fertility are Profit Drivers for Cattle Operations

by Clifford Mitchell

Reblogged from Cattle Today

DSC_0094_6x4_72Producers in the 21st century beef industry come better prepared than ever before. Continued education programs and an abundance of online resources help cattlemen stay well informed. Record keeping practices have improved and cattlemen have a good handle on the costs associated with their operation.

Tightening margins have forced producers to further evaluate the management plan, running through many different scenarios to find the best production model. For some this was a real eye-opener, for others it reinforced the approach they were taking to manage the herd for a profit. A genetic base complete with a bundle of traits also played a key role in the success of the operation. Many cattlemen have argued with neighbors and colleagues until they were blue in the face over their point of view; however, most will agree longevity built into the female is a definite advantage for most outfits.

“Every year I can keep a cow it cuts my costs $1,500. Because that’s what it costs to get a female into production,” says James Henderson, Bradley 3 Ranch, LTD, Memphis, Texas.

Photo by Penny Bowie

Photo by Penny Bowie

“Operations have to be profit driven. Fertility is a good trait to have and will lead to a long life on many ranches, but females have to be productive. Make sure cows are able to live in your environment, breed back and do it profitably year after year,” says Dr. Robert Wells, Livestock Consultant, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

“Longevity is one of the reasons we have Brangus females. A lot of times you wouldn’t know that old cow, is not a six or seven year old, because she’s still milking well and raising a good calf,” says Adam Whitesell, Lockwood, Missouri. This operation maintains 600 to 650 Brangus females and retains ownership of the calf crop most years at Decatur County Feedyard in Oberlin, Kansas.

Cattlemen have been programmed into two schools of thought; either buy or raise the replacements that the operation needs. Costs are associated with each method; another big debate among cattlemen looking for the most profitable answers.

“I know it costs us something to get that heifer into production. I have never put a pencil to actual costs. When it’s time, we select our replacements they go to grass and the cull heifers go to the feedyard,” Whitesell says. “I would think a five-year-old after producing three calves would have paid for herself in our program.”

“The cost of a replacement will vary from one operation to the next depending on if heifers are home-raised or bought. The first thing producers need to do is maximize the salvage value of that cull cow,” Wells says. “Quality replacements, from a known source and bred to good calving ease bulls are costing any where from $1,000 to $1,200 in our current market. Most females, depending on the value of the calf she is producing, should pay for themselves by the time they are four or five years old.”

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“Just to break even in our operation a cow has to be six and produced four calves,” Henderson says. “According to my calculations, it costs me $1,500 every time I replace a cow. This includes feed, facilities, pasture, semen and labor. None of these things come without a cost.”

Care and handling of these replacements will bring genetics to the forefront when done right. Management could help these females lead long productive lives just by making the right decisions as they are introduced to the next stage in the production cycle.

Continue reading

Informative Trichomoniasis Webinar

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica recently hosted an informative webinar on trichomoniasis. This webinar supports an educational effort on trichomoniasis this fall in Texas providing great information for both seed stock and commercial producers on developing a trichomoniasis control program, as well as some recent research on protecting bulls through vaccination.

Dr. Soren Rodning, Assistant Professor at Auburn University, and Dr. Mac Devin, Senior Professional Services Veterinarian – Cattle at Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, share their extensive knowledge and advice.

Listen to the webinar and watch the presentation below, or download the webinar .mov file.

If you have any additional questions, contact Lori Maude .

Observe Bulls During Breeding Season

If we had not been present to observe the problem, an entire calf crop for that breeding pasture could have been in jeopardy.”
-Glenn Selk
Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

The fall breeding season is about to begin. Herds that aim for a September 1 first calving date will turn bulls with the cows in the latter part of November. Bulls that have been recently added to the bull battery and bulls that have not been used since last year should pass a breeding soundness exam before the breeding season begins. Any newly purchased bull that has been previously exposed to cows should also have passed a test for the venereal disease “trichomoniasis”. Reports from the Oklahoma state veterinarian indicate that 2.5% of bulls routinely tested have been found to be positive for this disease. Visit with your veterinarian soon about breeding soundness exams and “trich” tests to avoid reproductive problems next year and beyond.

A good manager keeps an eye on his bulls during the breeding season to make sure they are getting the cows bred. Occasionally a bull that has passed a breeding soundness exam may have difficulty serving cows in heat, especially after heavy service.

Continue reading the full article to find out how to make the most of your breeding season.

Will Cattlemen Restock After Drought?

“This drought is unprecedented- This drought sets into motion a whole new set of circumstances.”

– Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Denver 

Among those new circumstances is the thought that when producers do restock after it rains, they may initially come back with stockers instead of cows, to give them more agility in their pasture-management options. “We’re going to chase stocker animals and that’s going to change the stocker price dynamic.”

And, some ranches will come back with females. “It’s a heck of an opportunity to build genetic quality, and it’s a heck of an opportunity to have fall- and spring-calving herds as part of your operation.”

It’s a tremendous opportunity for cattlemen positioned with the right genetics and management to develop a replacement-heifer enterprise to supply those who are looking to restock. (See “Ten Reasons To Consider A Bred Heifer Enterprise”.)

Continue reading the full story at beefmagazine.com.

High Time for Heifers

-10 good reasons to expose more heifers over the next few years-

This week, beef packer JBS and Five Rivers Cattle Feeding hosted a group of large ranchers, scientists, seedstock operators and others to discuss ways to encourage heifer retention and herd expansion in the U.S. beef industry. Market signals favor expansion, but it is not happening because of drought, input prices, and other market trends.

In the short term, declining cattle supplies benefit producers with higher prices, but long-term, participants are concerned about losing market share and infrastructure.

“…there is huge opportunity for cow-calf profitability in coming years, and expansion is in the best interest to small and large producers.”

Click to read the full story.

“Preg” Check and Cull Replacement Heifers Early

Many Oklahoma ranchers choose to breed the replacement heifers about a month ahead of the mature cows in the herd. In addition, they like to use a shortened 45 to 60-day breeding season for the replacement heifers. The next logical step is to determine which of these heifers failed to conceive in their first breeding season.

Therefore now would be an ideal time to call and make arrangements with your local large animal veterinarian to have those heifers evaluated for pregnancy. By two months after the breeding season ends, experienced palpaters should have no difficulty identifying which heifers are pregnant and which heifers are not pregnant (open). Those heifers that are determined to be “open” after this breeding season, should be strong candidates for culling. Culling these heifers immediately after pregnancy checking serves three very useful purposes.

1) Identifying and culling open heifers early will remove sub-fertile females from the herd. Lifetime cow studies from Montana indicated that properly developed heifers that were exposed to fertile bulls, but DID NOT become pregnant were often sub-fertile compared to the heifers that did conceive. In fact, when the heifers that failed to breed in the first breeding season were followed throughout their lifetimes, they averaged a 55% yearly calf crop. Despite the fact that reproduction is not a highly heritable trait, it also makes sense to remove this genetic material from the herd so as to not proliferate females that are difficult to get bred.

2) Culling open heifers early will reduce winter costs. If the rancher waits until next spring to find out which heifers do not calve, the winter feed expense will still be lost and there will be no calf to eventually help pay the bills. This is money that can better be spent in properly feeding cows that are pregnant and will be producing a salable product the following fall.

3) Identifying the open heifers shortly after (60 days) the breeding season is over will allow for marketing the heifers while still young enough to go to a feedlot and be fed for the choice beef market.  The USDA grading system has an impact on the merchandising of culled replacement heifers. “B” maturity carcasses (those estimated to be 30 months of age or older) are very unlikely to be graded choice.  As a result, heifers that are close to two years of age will suffer a price discount.  Therefore, it is imperative to send heifers to the feedlot while they are young enough to be fed for 4 to 5 months and not be near the “B” maturity age group. Auction barn order buyers will be especially leery of heifers that may be near 20 to 24 months of age, because of the risk of “B” maturity beef that receives a considerable discount when harvested at the packing plant.

Certainly the percentage of open heifers will vary from ranch to ranch. Do not be surprised, if after a good heifer development program and adequate breeding season, that you find that 10% of the heifers still are not bred.  These are the very heifers that you want to identify early and remove from the herd. It just makes good economic business sense to identify and cull non-pregnant replacement heifers as soon as possible.

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

Farm & Ranch Guide: Breeding soundness exam: Cheapest insurance/assurance a producer can buy

We all have insurance of some sort. We insure our trucks, homes, health, and if you are a farmer you can even buy insurance for your crops. Heck, some famous celebrities insure body parts.

As cow/calf producers, often we often fail to purchase the most important insurance for next year’s calf crop, a policy that gives us assurance that come next year we will have calves to sell.

Read More at FarmandRanchGuide.com.