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Friday, April 10,2009

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The pass is open is an expression that is used by residents and travelers in mountainous areas. This year, the saying, the interstate is open would ring a bell, especially given all the changes in travel agendas in the past three to four months.

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Friday, March 6,2009

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
There was a pleasant view as I went to the auction barn the other day. The semitrailer truck was sitting in the parking lot with a load of alfalfa hay. Under many situations, no one would really notice, but the long, drawn-out winter has many producers checking their hay inventory as frequently as the weather forecast.

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Friday, February 27,2009

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Calving time is imminent. This is easy to see as the cows settle into the final weeks of gestation. Cows are a bit slower to get up. Their movement is not as decisive and the placement of feet is more careful. There is a noticeable decrease in the willingness to jockey for the pecking order.

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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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