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Friday, February 13,2009

BEEF Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
A troubling event occurred this past week at an auction barn. There was a feeling of ?not wanting,? but also a feeling of ?that is the way it is.? The auction barn is known as a social center and a place to sell cattle. People share stories and experiences that go along with an industry that is speckled with considerable individualism.

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Friday, January 23,2009

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Last week, the report card on bull S48 was to keep him for the 2009 breeding season. This periodic review is used on all bulls at the time of purchase and periodically throughout a bulls life. The first evaluation of older bulls is for soundness, because putting resources into a bull that has limited breeding capacity is impractical.

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Friday, January 16,2009

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The coffee chat is filled with many opinions about how to buy bulls. The art of buying a bull requires an open mind, homework, and a vision for the future of a producer?s cowherd. For example, we turn to the nutritionists if we want to get a better understanding on how cattle can utilize peas in rations.

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Friday, January 9,2009

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The commonsense process of buying bulls has not changed much. The requirements are simple. The bull needs four decent legs, a bit of appropriate muscle indicative of the product, and a functioning reproductive system. Cost usually determines which bull one brings home.

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Tuesday, December 30,2008

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The report from the human side of the chute was not very good. We had 32 open heifers that were pastured together and exposed to one bull. The bull had passed the breeding soundness exam. He was at least interested in the heifers at the time of turnout. Once we had the news, the bull was brought in for a recheck.

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Tuesday, December 16,2008

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The market talk was casual until the producer leaned over and said, We just marketed a 90.8 percent calf crop with an average weight of 560 pounds at 189 days of age. The room grew quiet. Are you sure? a neighbor asked. Yep, but I was just average. Maybe someday I can manage my way to the upper third, the rancher replied.

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Friday, September 5,2008

Beef Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Wintering cattle requires feed. The current tight inventories of feed suggest that cow culling should be deep. Yet, once the culling is done but the bales still don’t add up, the time is right to contact a good beef cattle nutritionist. The nutritionist can help develop a "least cost" ration. When developing the least-cost ration, feedstuffs may need to be purchased. One needs to be careful and review all options. Through the years, most of us have witnessed the detrimental effects of underfeeding or the results of overfeeding. The important point is that the nutrient value of feed is what drives value and performance. When I was fresh out of college, a producer preparing for calving was seeking a supplement to go along with his lower-quality grass hay. I asked if he had higher-quality hay that more likely would meet the requirements of a cow in late gestation or early lactation. "No," the producer said. "Don’t you ever have any access to alfalfa hay?" I queried. "Yes, but I fed that out when the cows came off pasture in October and November," the producer replied. There were two red flags with this scenario. The first was the failure of the producer to understand the nutritional requirements of cattle at different stages of life. The second was the misallocation of current feed inventories. A sound understanding of the nutritional requirements of cattle and the nutritional value of feed is needed. Chip Poland, Dickinson State University Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies chair and a well-educated beef cattle nutritionist, says the first step is to encourage producers to default back to the basics. "We feed nutrients, not pounds, which is a tough concept to get across since we physically see pounds," Poland says. "Corn at $6.35 per bushel (local price in Dickinson on Aug. 20) equates to approximately 14 cents per pound of total digestible nutrients (TDN). Hay at $100 per ton to be delivered at approximately $15 per bale (roughly a 150-mile delivery) is priced at roughly 13 cents per pound of TDN." The form that one buys feed in is price dependent. Using Poland’s example, with both corn and hay priced high, there still are options as to how a producer obtains the energy and other nutrients that a cow needs. "Hay was still cheaper, but, in the long haul after waste is figured in, that may or may not be true," Poland says. "I can limit feed corn with minimal waste. While storing and feeding round bales of hay, one should factor in to the price approximately 10 percent waste." Another factor that needs to be addressed is transportation. "What would corn cost if we looked at the source and moved it in unit volumes?" Poland asks. "A local elevator published corn prices at $4.60 and $4.80 per bushel for old and new corn, respectively, in today’s newspaper. Using the same hauling price for hay (approximately $350 per load for a 60-mile trip), the per-bushel price increases about 45 cents to $5.05 and $5.25, respectively, or about 11 to 12 cents per pound of TDN from corn." In a very simple scenario, we see high-priced corn may not be as high as it would appear. Conversely, hay may not be the only feed of choice at times. This analogy, along with numerous other examples of shopping around for feeds stuffs, is required of producers this year if one is producing cattle in areas that are short of feed. Not only is the basic ingredient (feed) missing, all the costs have escalated greatly. Producers need to make good, solid assumptions and keep in mind the answer will be different for each location and producer. However, producers need to price nutrients, not pounds of feed delivered, and seek the help of a sound, well-educated beef cattle nutritionist. May you find all your ear tags. — Kris Ringwall (Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension Beef Specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701/483-2045.)

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Friday, August 29,2008

47BeefTalk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Pregnancy check now for better management Trucks have been bringing in hay at $5 a loaded mile, so the hay yard is filling up slowly and expensively. The gates and locks have been spruced up. This year, hay values are pricey. As a result, most ranchers are standing at a fork in the road. Do they buy hay or sell cows? Producers need to review all of the options. The preferred alternative is trying to meet the nutritional needs of the cowherd with hay. Hay prices definitely are forcing the review of other feed options. Purchasing feed based on a dollar cost per pound of energy and protein is more desirable than simply purchasing feed on bulk weight. Yet, a more basic question needs to be asked: Are all the cows worth feeding? Now is the time to use ultrasound technology to pregnancy check the cows. Most veterinarians can complete the check. The sooner one can determine next year’s calving projections, the more solid the plans will be. At the Dickinson Research Extension Center, fetal age is determined during ultrasound pregnancy checking. To find the age of the fetuses, an excellent time to set up an ultrasound appointment is two to three months after the bulls are turned out. Ultrasounding three months after bull turnout would make the oldest calf about 90 days old. If the bulls were pulled after 60 days of breeding, then the youngest fetus should be approximately 30 days old. Even if the bulls still are in with the cows, ultrasounding can work. Cows that carry a fetus less than 30 days old are hard to pick up and would be candidates for the cull pen or, at a minimum, the recheck group for possible sale as bred cows. Now is a good time to perform a "paper" presorting of the cows one would like to keep and invest with expensive feed. For example, the center gives all cows a pregnancy code. An A1 cow is pregnant and conceived by artificial insemination. An N1 cow has conceived naturally during the first 21 days of the breeding season. Cows that were predicted to have conceived during the second 21 days of the breeding season are coded as N2. Cows that were predicted to have conceived during the third 21 days are N3 cows. The rest of the cows are open or late and, depending on the need, may be rechecked in the fall. Most likely, these cows will be sold as cull cows. Last week, 48 cows in section 16 were pregnancy checked by ultrasound. Thirty-five were classified as A1 cows, 12 as N2 and only one open. In terms of management, we now know that 35 cows will calve early and 12 will more than likely calve during the later part of the calving season. The open cow will be rechecked and sold. The same procedure was used on heifers. Today, 96 heifers were evaluated for pregnancy. Nine heifers were open. One was pregnant, but wild. All 10 are being pulled off the short pastures and heading to town. There is no excuse for keeping open heifers. There is even less reason to keep a wild heifer. After a day of working cattle, the sounds of silence are appreciated. During the day, the sound of a heifer’s leg kicking the chute or, worse yet, a person’s leg or any other anatomical reachable part is unacceptable. I have watched enough heifers come through the chutes to know there are nice heifers and there are some not-so-nice heifers. Those not-so-nice heifers have inflicted enough damage through the years to earn a place in the harvest line. That may sound harsh, but the truth is the truth. Temperament and expressed behavior are inherited, and like begets like and mean begets mean. Get ready to pregnancy check early for better planning. May you find all your ear tags. — Kris Ringwall (Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension Beef Specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701/483-2045.)

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Friday, August 22,2008

46BeefTalk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Now that hurts! The hay yard is empty for many producers and the traditional June hay was scarce or nonexistent. As the staple for cattle, the amount of hay one wanted to make has been replaced with the amount of hay needed to sustain the herd. Early indications suggest an upward shift in prices. Last year’s hay was abundant and visible from the road, at least in the case of the Dickinson Research Extension Center. A quick check of the records confirmed that the center purchased 318 tons of hay at an average price of $61.65 per ton. That will change this year. The "Ringwall" approach to hay inventory figures says one large, round bale per cow per month for every cow one is planning on feeding. Nutritionists want to know the bale weight and have a quality analysis. Veterinarians note the need for nitrate testing and monitoring any other health concerns with poorly prepared hay. For a generic starting point, it works. Generally, the bales come in pretty heavy and there seems to be enough extra weight on the bales to make sure there is some hay for the calves, bulls and a few horses. If we try to maintain 350 cows at the center through the anticipated November-to-April feeding period, we need 2,100 bales. For a large part of the upper Midwest, these dates coincide with the period when forage does not grow. Last year, the center supplemented raised feed with approximately 500 purchased bales that weighed 1,300 pounds. This year, the tables are turned and the center only is anticipating putting up approximately 400 bales. This means there is a need to purchase 1,700 bales. Current price puts the value of much of the hay at approximately $90 to $100 per ton. Through verbal discussions, the price range is somewhere between $60 and $150 per ton. The alfalfa market for dairy cow hay would be significantly higher and the later cut grass hay should be available near the lower end of the price range. So stop right there, take a deep breath and mutter, "now that hurts." Many times, changes tend to arrive in different packages for the typical needs versus wants list. However, the bottom line is that it makes no difference. The impact is the same. Placing wants ahead of needs can put an operation in financial jeopardy. Likewise, as the wants turn up on the needs list, the financial impact is just as devastating. Last year, our hay purchases here at the center were almost $20,000. This year, those 1,700 bales are estimated to total $110,500. Let me repeat my statement. "Now that hurts!" That means 1,105 tons at $100 per ton for a total cost of $110,500. Even worse, we haven’t paid any trucking fee yet. "Now that hurts even more!" There is no fairy godmother that will wave a wand to feed the cows. Only money and a lot of hard labor will do that. There might be a fairy godmother for the winter weather and maybe she will shorten the winter feeding period, but I never have found her very dependable. If one was to be honest, the tooth fairy is more dependable, but usually quits by the time one is actively involved in the beef business. Adding up the per cow purchased hay cost, the center spent around $60 a cow last year. This year, it looks like the center may need to budget more than $300 per cow for hay. "Oh, that hurts!" Even if the tooth fairy would help, she simply doesn’t deal with that kind of money. However, we do need to take a time out to see if any money was saved by not putting up our own hay. More next time. I need to go buy some tissues. — Kris Ringwall (Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension Beef Specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701/483-2045.)

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Friday, July 25,2008

Cow size—Effects of cow size on pasture management

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Cow size—Effects of cow size on pasture management The effect of cow size and expected production from pasture management directly impacts expected outcomes that translate into income. This relationship was discussed in recent BeefTalk articles. A drought, at least in western North Dakota, initiated the discussion. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) established two different groups of cattle based on body weight, calculating inputs and potential outcomes. The two groups (herds) of cattle were weighed. The first herd had 52 cows that averaged 1,216 pounds (856 to 1,395 pounds) and the second herd was 50 cows that averaged 1,571 pounds (1,350 to 1,935 pounds). Since not all of these cows had mature records in the center’s data system, data from all the cows was added. Mature cow records were allotted to 100-pound increments. The production potential based on "percentage of cow weight weaned" was calculated for the mature cows. Lee Manske, DREC range scientist, calculated the expected nutritional pasture needs and expected outcomes from these cows based on production estimates by 100-pound increments of cow weight. For cows that were less than 1,300 pounds, the monthly forage dry-matter intake was calculated at 933 pounds. This required 10.75 acres per cow per grazing season in western North Dakota, with a predicted calf weaning weight of 617 pounds. For cows that weighed from 1,301 to 1,400 pounds, the monthly forage dry-matter intake was calculated at 997 pounds. This required 11.49 acres per cow in western North Dakota, with a predicted calf weaning weight of 611 pounds. For cows that weighed from 1,401 to 1,500 pounds, the monthly forage dry-matter intake was calculated at 1,051 pounds. This required 12.11 acres per cow in western North Dakota, with a predicted calf weaning weight of 589 pounds. For cows that weighed 1,501 to 1,600 pounds, the monthly forage dry-matter intake was calculated at 1,101 pounds, requiring 12.68 acres per cow in western North Dakota, with a predicted calf weaning weight of 598 pounds. For cows that were greater than 1,600 pounds, the monthly forage dry-matter intake was calculated at 1,188 pounds, requiring 13.68 acres in western North Dakota with a predicted calf weaning weight of 572 pounds. With that data, I already can hear the e-mails coming. The data does not appear logical. The data means calf gain on pasture weaning weight minus birth weight and then divided by age and then multiplied by grazing days is decreasing as the cow size increases. The larger cows are weaning less percentage of their body weight and producing a smaller calf. Cows less than 1,300 pounds had a pasture gain estimated at 336 pounds. The 1,301- to 1,400-pound cows’ gain was estimated at 332 pounds. The 1,401- to 1,500-pound cows’ gain was estimated at 318 pounds. The 1,501- to 1,600-pound cows’ gain was estimated at 323 pounds, and for cows weighing more than 1,600 pounds, the gain was estimated at 307 pounds. Translated even further, seasonal calf weight gain (pounds) per acre for each cow group would be 31.21, 28.88, 26.23, 25.49 and 22.41 pounds, respectively. Associated individual costs could be calculated as well as the value of calf gain on a per-acre and/or per-cow basis to fine-tune the added value of the smaller cow. As was noted in previous discussions, what is offered here is food for thought. Previous and future managerial decisions can and will determine production potential. There is little we can do to change nutritional requirements, stocking rates and plant biology. How cattle perform given individual production scenarios will vary, but one thing is for sure, do not assume what you see fits. The actual collection of data is essential to guide local changes in management. The application of assumed principles may or may not apply locally. It never hurts to have "more food for thought" for supper. May you find all your ear tags. — Kris Ringwall (Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension Beef Specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701/483-2045.)

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