Close
Home » Articles »   By Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
 
 
Friday, July 18,2008

41 Beef Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Cow size—calf value The mushroom season this spring was short. The area is still short on feed and the cow size question remains unanswered. Like all discussions, the temptation is to set aside the challenges of yesterday and replace them with immediate thoughts. Unfortunately, questions are not answered, and yesterday’s challenges eventually will become tomorrow’s problems if unanswered. Now is a good time to continue the cow size discussion. The stocking rate question simply will become a question of purchasing hay. The logical approach is twofold. The first approach is trying to meet the immediate needs of the current set of mother cows. The second is evaluating whether one is feeding the right cows. That continues the cow size discussion. Many things come into play. There are some overall facts that can be fairly well stated. The more difficult part of the discussion is evaluating traits through inter-relationships among the traits and within the environment in which the cattle are being produced. Cow and calf size are easily noticeable while cow milking ability cannot be observed except for a brief period at calving. Cow size is not simply weight since cows may be thin or fat on a short or tall frame. The bottom line is finding the right cow that can survive, raise a marketable calf, and be reasonably efficient on the resources available. Those resources quickly are becoming economically challenged. The necessity of addressing the long-term needs of the herd no longer can go into next week’s discussion. The right cow is not extreme in any trait, but one that combines several traits into one efficient working unit. The unit needs to be bred to a bull that will settle the cow and add value to the calf, which, in the end, will pay the bills. Just today, the closeout arrived for the final set of steers from last year’s calf crop. The first figure I always look at is death loss. This set of 55 calves made it through the feedlot with no deaths. Death loss for the calves at the Dickinson Research Extension Center never has been an issue. However, dead calves take chunks out of net return. In this case, the calves averaged $33.82 net return per head. The calves were sent to the lot on Jan. 15 and weighed in at 758 pounds (pay weight). The calves were valued at $98 per cwt. Doing the math, they were valued at $742 at arrival, plus $33.82 net return in the feedlot, so their total value back to the ranch just exceeded $776 per head. Being a data person, I could look up the significance of that number, but many years have gone by when our targeted value back to the ranch was $500. So even without the stats, the lot closeout was good. True net return to the cow has not been figured yet because variable and fixed costs need to be subtracted for the cow and bull to determine the ranch net return. However, in terms of the cowherd, the more valuable the calf and the lower the production costs, the more net return to the ranch. It takes the right cow mated to the right bull in the local environment to make the desired net return. These calves had an average daily gain in the feedlot of 4.27 pounds per day. The converted (feed efficiency) dry matter to gain was 4.69 pounds and the frame score was 5.1. They exceeded the required ribeye with an average yield grade of 2.36 at an average live weight of 1,277 pounds and a 41.8 percent grading choice or higher. Therefore, given the calf value, the cows are still here and will remain. However, let’s not forget we are working on the long-term question. What cow do we need? — 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.)

Read more
Friday, May 23,2008

Beef Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Cow size—How much more does the big cow eat? The green forage tends to be seasonal, while the grazing of seeds and dry grass is the non-growing season staple. Regardless of the season, a cow’s nutritional requirements need to be met. The challenge is making sure our production expectations are in tune with what Mother Nature provides. Our pastures and feed piles may be limited as we struggle to balance feed and cattle. When seasons are as now, the lack of rain (or other environmental restraint) highlights the need to plan. The quick and easy answer is to sell cattle. However, the astute manager does nutritional planning first. Recently, the Dickinson Research Extension Center sorted cow/calf pairs and two groups (herds) of cattle were sent out for spring and summer grazing. The first herd has 52 cows that average 1,216 pounds (856 to 1,395 pounds) and the second herd has 50 cows that average 1,571 pounds (1,350 to 1,935 pounds). The 355-pound difference brings up two questions. What is the difference in the nutritional needs of the two herds and is there an advantage of one group over the other during dry weather? I consulted with animal nutritionists to help explain the difference in nutritional needs of the two herds. Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist, and Chip Poland, Dickinson State University Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies chair, responded to the questions. The core issue is what cattle to feed if feed becomes limited. For ease of understanding, let’s discuss how much we would feed these cattle if we removed them from the pasture on June 1 when the calves are approximately 3 months old and fed them until the end of September, a period of four months. The first group of cattle (averaging 1,216 pounds), with milk production estimated at 20 pounds peak, would have an average daily need of just less than 28 pounds of dry matter of a ration that was 60 percent total digestible nutrients and 9.8 percent crude protein. The larger set of cattle (averaging 1,571 pounds), with milk production estimated at 20 pounds peak, would have an average daily need of just less than 34.5 pounds of a daily dry matter of the same previously noted ration. The total dry matter increase for the herd that weighs 355 pounds more on the average would be 6.5 pounds of dry matter (feed) per day per cow, or 780 pounds of feed per cow for the duration (120 days) of the summer confinement period. As the producer, one would need to estimate about 3,360 pounds of dry-matter feed per cow for the smaller cattle and 4,140 pounds of dry- matter feed per cow for the larger cattle. If each herd has 50 cows, the smaller set of cattle would need 84 tons of dry-matter feed. The larger set of cattle would need 104 tons of the same feed. Keep in mind that we need to return to Greg and Chip to actually balance the ration and make sure we fine-tune and match the cattle dietary needs with the actual feed stuffs we have. In addition, we will need to factor in feed waste for the feeding system. For now, know the weight of your cattle and feed accordingly. If you cannot find 104 tons for the heavy herd, perhaps you better shift gears and keep the lighter cows. We hope you can find enough feed for them. More later as we look at the grazing options of the two herds. — 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.) Feeding cows can be simple, but also complicated. In simplest form, the cow needs to fill up with grass or some other palatable green forage.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The most recent addition to the lineup gets the nod. We all know that in a matter of days, the most recent becomes old. You now can do about anything you want with that small device in the palm of your hand. You can take a small stick device and manipulate the keypad in a way that the world knows who you are, where you are, and what you need. This is common among the new generation. The older generation is quickly getting acclimated. Therein is a great opportunity: new jobs and new expectations. In the beef world, the beef techie soon may be listed in the classifieds under the help wanted section. During a quick look at the local auction barn crowd, the buyers and spectators were fairly well equipped with good cell phone technology. Calf weights, lot weights, average calf weights and prices were displayed in a matter of seconds on digitized boards and other incidental electronic equipment. Many of these conveniences always have been there, but technology has aided the process and speeded things up. Enter the beef techie, who brings efficiency to the process of making technology work in environments that are not technology friendly. Many environments are a combination of old technology merged with new technology. Some merges well, while other technology has trouble fitting in. Regardless, technology is coming, and knowing how to plug things in becomes important. Perhaps the concept of a new television, disc player or surround-sound system, with individual remotes and interfaces, has arrived in the beef barn. Interestingly, the other day, the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) team added some thoughts to the technology world. The DREC and many others worked on a project that was developed on older, low frequency electronic identification technology. Restraining cattle was required to use the technology. It took significant effort and time to fully implement. The latest development has new technology reading high-frequency tags with no interference or performance issues at local livestock auctions. The reading took .338 second per group lot, with 99 percent read rates. Connecting the calf with the data package and opening the door to track comingled and re-sorted lots of calves is a major leap forward. The 10 lots of cattle that were read averaged 18.8 calves per lot. Each tag was read 238.5 times during that .338-second time frame. Now that is the job of the beef techie. The beef techie has to figure out how all this works and effectively implement the technology into a very large, mature industry. In the meantime, the industry needs to find the value of both the calf and the accompanying data. We also must go one step further and accept the fact that there are two principles at work. The two principles are trace back and trace forward. The discussion of marketing is strongly related to trace forward. Trace forward is the process of presenting to the market around the world a product and data package capable of providing assurances of the authenticity of the product offered and accompanying data package. Trace forward is a sequential step that, when combined with trace back, creates a synergism around what was, what is, and what will be relative to authenticated producer products involved in domestic and export markets. The bottom line is technology does open doors, but keeping the doors open will require the beef techie.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Opportunity comes with intensity Many opportunities exist within agriculture. Most are driven by the opportunity to make more money, but some are driven by the opportunity to do something different. In either case, the successful completion of the endeavor is not always positive. Frank Kutka, sustainable agricultural specialist at the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center, attended a conference on goat production. Given my background in small ruminants, primarily sheep, it didn’t take long to engage in a good discussion about the conference and the world of smaller ruminants. Having taught the key management principles involved in small-ruminant production, the learning curve often was steep and producer success was not always achieved. In the end, neither the sheep nor the goat industries have successfully engaged mainstream production levels capable of sustaining viable production scenarios of scale. As a force within ruminant production, the vast majority of grassland-related agriculture still centers on the beef cow. The dairy cow is obviously present, but many producers have set aside the milk bucket and, with time, beef cows are grazing on the pastures. Why beef cows? Well, the answer is not simple. One does have to be careful not to offend anyone. However, in our discussion, the phrase “opportunity comes with intensity” seemed to surface more than once. We both concurred that, in many cases, the intensity of management needed to successfully engage a small-ruminant operation is not achieved. That statement is not meant to offend, but having conducted many three-day, intensive schools on sheep production, it is true. While I am quickly reminded this is a beef column, I could not help making the connection to the many issues that beef producers face. Generally, most would agree that today’s beef business, if one sets aside the comfort that comes with higher prices and simply looks at the industry and then sets about engaging that industry head on, is very complicated. Not unlike the sheep and goat business, the changes that need to be made are intense. Additional opportunity is dependent on our willingness to engage change with intensity. Often times in the sheep business, producers complain that their sheep simply died. No, you simply allowed the sheep to die, was my response. As a producer, you were unwilling to take the necessary managerial steps needed to ensure the survival of the sheep. Accepting that the primary reason for failure was your own managerial decisions and general overall resistance to change is difficult to accept. The need to increase management intensity to meet the expected opportunity must be met. In the beef industry, producers simply lack the desire to explore new opportunities. As producers look backward and forward, the need to access new opportunities needs to happen. However, often times, even when one does take on a new challenge, the intensity of the change is underestimated. The current age and source verification effort is a good example. There are new vaccinations, reproductive techniques, breeding programs, supplementation programs, marketing exposure, business planning or simply new associates entering the business. A new level of intensity is necessary. Refusing to increase intensity, however, means forgoing complaining about the future. I had the great opportunity to have supper with several veterinarians from around the world. When asked what was the greatest restraint they encountered while working with producers, they commented that many do not want to change and they simply restrict their own opportunities by never allowing them to become reality. Opportunity comes with intensity and that intensity needs to be engaged.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Is it ever too dry to grow a plant? Now that we’ve had a frost, it’s time to reflect on our previous growing season. With the prices being offered for crops, most producers have to ask themselves if they could have squeezed out a little more production. Ranchers involved in animal production can look over the fence and see what farmers (those more involved in plant production) are up to. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) used that principle when Roger Ashley, Extension Service agronomist, and Dickinson State University student Wesley Messer investigated the possibility of double-cropping. Ashley and Messer presented their findings at the 2007 DREC field day in July. Messer began the report by noting that forage production has been limited to one crop per year by producers in past years. For many of us, that is very true. We convince ourselves that one crop is as good as we are going to get and that is it. Again, high prices and increased values certainly would beg the question of more production. “Due to land use constraints and the need to remain economically viable, producers need to strive for new ways to remain productive,” Messer said. “It may be possible with improved no-till equipment and management to harvest two forage crops in one year.” Allowing one’s mind to wonder and recalling various management decisions and operations that allow us to get a second crop off a piece of ground, Messer and Ashley turned to historical weather data at DREC. Their objective was “to look at 100 years of data and determine the theoretical potential to grow two forage crops in one year.” Using temperature and precipitation data available from 1905 through 2005 and the remaining data from a 15-year summary of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network station in Dickinson, Messer and Ashley were able to accomplish their objective of calculating the daily evapo-transpiration and crop water use based on the Penman equation. “The Penman equation requires daily maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, average wind speed, solar radiation, dew point and relative humidity,” Messer said. Using peas and sorghum, Messer was able to calculate an estimate of the number of years that the crops would have been stressed (soil water equivalent was less than 4.4 inches of water in silt loam soil) or when the plants would have hit a point of no return, which is referred to as permanent wilt point (soil water equivalent was 0). When water stress occurs, yield will be proportional to the water deficit. The crop dies when water stress becomes extreme (permanent wilt point). Interestingly, in the 100 years of weather data examined, they estimated that field pea forage in the Dickinson area hit the permanent wilt point seven years. Sorghum, the second crop in the proposed double-crop scenario, was projected to be more difficult to produce because 18 years in the 100 years studied resulted in the crop hitting the permanent wilt point. On coarse, textured soil, the stress and wilt points will occur more often. “With proper management, advanced equipment and available soil water, it may be possible to successfully harvest two forage crops in one year,” Messer concluded. With prices the way they are, that sounds good and worth pondering as next year unfolds. Ashley said a producer from the Manning area whom he and David Twist, Dunn County Extension agent, are working with, provided an update on his second cut of alfalfa from a field toured during the DREC field day. “Earlier this summer, the producer harvested 2.1 tons dry matter (DM) of hay per acre for the first cutting,” Ashley said. He harvested an additional 1.4 tons DM per acre the week of Sept. 3. July and August were dry in the Manning area (about 1.5 inches total), so the added production was great.” The bottom line is to take some time to review the old concepts, but check into new ideas because technology keeps changing. Even if rain is scarce, with the right crop, techniques and an open mind, there is a chance the cattle will eat.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Beef Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Structural problems, poor performance and/or behavior were the reasons for culling three bulls at the Dickinson Research Extension Center the other day. The bulls were sold to two different buyers for a total of $3,831.35. After the trip to town, the bulls weighed 2,095, 2,085 and 2,145 pounds. They had weighed 2,210, and 2,210 and 2,270 pounds walking out of the lot three days earlier. The issue of shrink or fill is real. Given the volume and capacity of these bulls, the 5.5 percent shrink during the marketing process is somewhat typical. (I will save the shrink discussion for another article.) The cash for reinvestment into the future herd sires is nice and now is the time to review the remaining animals in the bull pen. Are the performance expected progeny differences (EPDs) of the remaining bulls up to the challenges of this year’s spring offering of bulls? The center maintains a line of Hereford bulls for use following artificial insemination of the cowherd. After culling issues are resolved, all producers should go to their respective breed association Web sites and check out how their bull pen rates in the industry. For the center, a quick review of the American Hereford Web site at www.hereford.org was in order. Following a quick review of the Hereford home page, as well as a quick look at the Hereford verified program, I clicked EPD Inquiry and proceeded to enter the center’s list of 3-year-old bulls. By simply typing the registration numbers, which in this case are 42287234, 42287389, 42287422, 42287429 and 42287459, the genetic value of the center’s remaining 3-year-old bulls popped up on the screen. The neat thing about the Hereford Association’s Web site is that the average for all similar age bulls can be printed at the bottom of the listing. I was able to determine quickly that all these bulls should sire calves that are above the breed average for weaning weight and yearling weight, based on their above-average EPDs for weaning weight and yearling weight. In fact, four of the bulls rank within the top 10 percent of the Hereford breed for weaning weight, and three of the five bulls rank within the top 10 percent for yearling weight. Four of the bulls have heavier than average birth weight EPDs, although calving experience with these bulls on the center’s mature cows has not been a problem. These bulls have sired cows that are average for milk production. Four of the bulls are predicted to sire calves with less than average 12th-rib fat at 365 days of age and three are expected to sire calves with greater than average ribeye at 365 days of age. Two of the bulls are expected to have greater intramuscular fat at a year of age. The data led me to conclude the bulls are fit, sound and have good performance behind their pedigrees. None of the older bulls are the superstars that excel in every trait, but they are good, solid performance bulls that will produce a calf crop with value in today’s market. A similar procedure needs to be done for all the younger bulls as well. There is no use hauling feed to bulls that aren’t predicted to produce calves with additional value. Following a spring semen evaluation to assure fertility, these bulls are good to go. Now, all that is left to do is count the breeding groups, determine the number of groups that are short bulls and start looking at bull sale data. Bull sales are always a good way to pass the winter months, but just make sure the homework is done and don’t buy bulls you don’t need. May you find all your NAIS-approved eartags.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Beef Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The phone rings. The producer answers and the voice on the other ends says, “We have a question on one of those calves you sold. Could you pull its record? We shipped it yesterday.” This reality check will be said repeatedly as the beef business moves into the future. Individual animal (and producer) accountability is arriving fast and the days of optical illusions may very well end soon. The Dickinson Research Extension Center experienced firsthand the illusions of the beef industry. Recently, the center attempted to source and age verify 21 purchased calves. More than 14 percent of the tags were not readable in the calving book. The Quality Systems Assessment (QSA) form, with all relevant questions left blank, was signed by the producer and returned to the center. This simple transaction only scratches the surface. Add on tag loss, replacement and corresponding data spillage throughout the marketing channels and the question pops up, “Are you really ready for accountability?” Not only that, but on arrival at the feed yard, the calves were tagged with QSA tags, with the assumption all forms were signed. What is overlooked in the industry is that these processes take time. We all need to take that time to read the fine print, give some thought to what we are signing and verify what we are signing. The phone call about a calf is no illusion. The road for beef producers has split. The first path is to meet a changing world with progressive enthusiasm. The other path is to fine-tune the art of optical illusion and continue down the path of yesterday. I’m sorry if some are offended, but the beef business is full of optical illusions. There seems to be a significant portion of the industry willing to accept change, provided no change is actually made. The discussion is good, the cowherd withstood the blizzard of 1987 and recent droughts. So what is there to change? A wake-up call should be the enormous efforts made to open the export market to Japan, only to find the vast majority of cattle in the U.S. don’t qualify. So what is the fundamental problem? Briefly, the beef industry has been, and appears to want to continue to be a lot- or pen-based business operating at a self, predefined “speed of commerce.” Individual accountability is not capable of keeping up with that “speed of commerce.” Today, beef product development is good, consumer demand is even better and the industry is meeting the challenges presented. Don’t encumber business with individual accountability is the motto. Individual animal identification, traceable and verifiable back to the individual producer, buyer, seller, backgrounder, feedlot owner or packer, is simply not desired in the present mode of doing business in beef. Pros and cons can be made and even by the pros, considerable underestimation of cost is evident. Unfortunately, such an environment is ripe for illusion. Optical illusions appear compliant, but in reality only shuffle accountability down the line until, ultimately, the original producer signs the form, picking up the slack in the marketing chain. QSAs or PVPs, (don’t worry about what the letters stand for, that is the least of your worries) may fill files, but don’t tag calves. The forms state very clearly that all the individual calf data is available at the ranch, is fully auditable, and can be verified for every calf. I have seen many calving books. I suspect there are very few that would meet the criteria, unless handwriting has improved, pencils sharpen themselves, ink doesn’t run or hands were washed each time the book was opened. Who is kidding whom? Remember, a group is only a conglomeration of individuals. May you find all your NAIS-approved eartags.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The annual bull buying season starts—time to bone up on EPDs While the development of expected progeny differences (EPDs) is complicated, the application of EPD numbers to bull-buying techniques is reasonably straightforward and simple. At this time of year, most producers are preparing for the future as they gear up to purchase bulls for their cow herd. These purchases, which start with solid relationships between the seed stock supplier and the commercial beef producer, have a huge impact on the future of the beef business. The livestock periodicals are filled with bull advertisements. The business of selling bulls is very competitive and lots of prospective bulls are at the bunk being fed for their two minutes in the sale ring. Not all of the evaluating can be done ringside. The bottom line in bull buying is that one is purchasing the DNA, in other words, the genetics, that a particular bull will pass on to the calf crop. The DNA is evaluated for most production traits utilizing EPDs. By comparing the value of an EPD for one trait from one bull to the next, a bull buyer can quickly get a feel for the relative likelihood that a bull has the needed DNA to work in a producer’s program. While the development of EPDs is complicated, the application of EPD numbers to bull-buying techniques is reasonably straightforward and simple. If the bull’s structure is sound and has the capacity and desire to breed cows, the objective is to bring home the bull with the right DNA that matches producer expectations of next year’s calf crop, as well as the fat cattle some 20 to 24 months from now. As producers of cattle, we are involved on a daily basis with production and management decisions that influence the type of cattle we raise. The end result is many individual opportunities to create the right mix of genetics (DNA) to meet the local criteria involved in the management of the farm or ranch where the cattle are produced. A major focus for most producers, more often than not, is the cow. The cow is a long-term commitment. Her presence will grace the countryside for years. Creating the right cow is essential because a cow must meet the rigors of her environment head on and survive, produce a calf and re-breed on time consistently. The selection of the bull that goes with each cow and the appropriate evaluation are really the essence of the management that allows producers to make permanent change within the operation. Changes include the gradual replacement of the cow herd and producing calves that meet the current demand at the marketplace. This process has been greatly enhanced and streamlined by the inclusion of EPDs, but sadly, cattle often are presented for sale without the EPD information listed. The utilization of EPDs still lags and often is misunderstood, even after several years of educational efforts by all the major breed associations. One case in point, a recent publication came across the desk that had 76 bull advertisements in it. Only 35 ads actually presented some type of EPD information on either the bulls being sold or the sires of the bulls being sold. Forty-one ads listed no EPD information, but relied on sire names and key words to promote their cattle. There is no question that some bulls are well-known in the industry and bull buyers will shop for sons of certain bulls. Yet, the EPD information is a very simple way for anyone to peruse a lot of information quickly and locate breeding programs that may have an early indication of being relevant to one’s own operation. EPDs are modern tools to give a solid indication of the genes or genetic makeup of a bull and ultimately, that is what one is buying. The bottom line, use EPDs and only buy the right DNA.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
A review of a good sale catalog The procedure for buying bulls should be fairly methodical. While the process can be as encompassing as one wants, we can not forget that the genes are what is needed for herd improvement. The number of sale catalogs received can be overwhelming, but the future return on the time investment of reviewing catalog information is critical. Looks can be deceiving, so that is why homework is necessary. A good catalog starts out with a friendly welcome and factual information about the sale. This information is fairly common, but certainly is needed. Of critical importance is a very clear and obvious phone number and contact information. (In today's world, cell phone dependability is important.) Next should be a detailed explanation of the information in the catalog that all readers can understand. Breeders are notorious for descriptive jargon, lingo and clichés that mean a lot to the inner circle. However, there is a question that you should ask. Would a newcomer to the breed know what is being presented? Trait abbreviations and even Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) vary from breed to breed. A list of only numbers may seem great within a breed, but common courtesy should be extended to the newcomers. The various numbers should be labeled properly to make the reading of the information more understandable. These notations lead up to some very important notes. Right up front, a herd should present the average EPD values for the various traits the breed evaluates, followed by the average EPD values for the bulls and heifers being sold. Additional information could be provided for the breed, such as the trait values for the top 25 percent of the breed, or maybe the top 1 percent of the breed, depending on the strengths within the herd of the bulls or heifers being sold. For the bull buyer who is not aware of the breeders within a breed, the review of producers who print the average EPD values for the calves makes the initial screening so much easier. The individual numbers are important. However, why not start with those herds that are selling bulls or heifers that are above average for the desired traits? This is a quick and easy way to authenticate the future performance of bull candidates. Once the overall performance of the herd has been determined in relationship to the breed, the fun begins, which is the selection of bulls within the sale offering. Armed with the average value for all the traits analyzed within the breed, the producer easily can find and sort bulls based on their ranking within the breed. After evaluating the feedlot performance of cattle from the Dickinson Research Extension Center, we realized we needed more ribeye and a greater degree of marbling. Picking up a bull catalog, in this case a Red Angus sale catalog, the Red Angus average marbling score is 0.06 and the ribeye area average is 0.01. A quick check of the reference sires reveals there are 18 reference sires, but only seven that are above average in both ribeye area and marbling. Of those seven, two bulls are in the upper 25 percent of the breed. No doubt, these genetics would help the center. The job is to go and find the sale prospects, scanning all the sons of the reference sires that meet our criteria. The next step is scanning all the bulls for their own performance, since both the cow and bull ultimately determine the genetic value of the bull. One vote of confidence is that through the years it is obvious more people are picking the top bulls because the bidding dollars seem to quickly jump on the bulls the center picks. That is a good thing for the industry, but a little frustrating when the wallet doesn't have an equivalent roll of money.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Someone you should get to know—your waste management professional Change in the world of livestock is not new and comes in many forms. Today, the most obvious is the little spots that are starting to show up on the hillsides as spring calving gets under way. The spring sun certainly brings a new light to the operations and it doesn’t take much time for the newborn calves to take advantage of the weather. These are good changes because the inventory is growing again. Along with inventory growth comes the opportunity for additional revenue. Great news for producers, but you quickly notice the term “revenue” was noted. Revenue was used for a reason. Revenue and profit are two different things. The careful guidance of inputs and outputs ultimately will determine what side of the profit or loss column the numbers end up on after expenses are subtracted from revenue. Expenses are something that all operations need to deal with. If one thing seems for certain, expenses (costs) seem to go up progressively. Not only do the same old things seem to cost more, there also seems to be more things on the list that need to be part of the operation. A good example is the ever-pressing need to better understand waste management concerns and the associated costs of dealing with impacts on the environment. Unlike the welcomed change in inventory through new calves, managerial changes related to waste management and associated nutrient management programs seem to be set aside. However, spring is a good time of year to get a better handle on the operation’s current impact on the environment and find out if there are some concerns that need to be addressed. For most operations, business as usual will be the more likely answer to the question, but putting off the question because of feared ramifications does not negate the need to ask the questions. The basic question still begs an answer. Is the cattle or other type of livestock operation an animal feeding operation? Is the size of the operation large enough to be considered a confined animal feeding operation? Does the operation affect the waters of the state? Are there other impacts that could be negated with managerial changes? Has the operation grown to the point that managerial practices now have more impact? These questions are not unlike a pain in one’s side. One could ignore the pain and hope life will go on. Perhaps it will, at least for a while. However, if the pain does not subside, eventually one needs to consult with professional, well-educated people to find an answer. Sometimes the answer is simple, such as cinching one’s belt too tight. A simple mental adjustment that one does not fit into a size 32 waist anymore not only makes life more pleasant, but also brings a level of acceptance of where life is today. In a few cases, the answer is more difficult to accept. That pain in the side may be linked to some difficult issue that needs to be aggressively confronted in order to have some assurance of a future. There is no question that not finding an answer is inappropriate. In regard to the future of any livestock operation in North Dakota, or any state for that matter, do not delay. Ask the question and call for some professional help. In North Dakota, North Dakota State University’s Dickinson and Carrington Research Extension Centers have professionals ready to help your operation get a handle on environmental issues. Teresa Dvorak is available at the Dickinson Research Extension Center at 701/483-2348, ext. 108. Ron Wiederholt, Carrington Research Extension Center, can be contacted at 701/652-2951, ext. 112. Scott Ressler, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, is available at 701/223-2522. These professionals are there to serve you, so don’t delay asking the question. Are you an animal feeding operation and what is it that you need to do? The stockmen’s associations and university Extension Services in all states should be able to offer the same services as North Dakota.

Read more
 
 
User Box (click to open)
 
SEARCH IN WLJ
Get WLJ In Your Inbox!
   
 
S M T W T F S
1 2
3* 4 5* 6 7 8 9*
10 11* 12 13* 14 15 16
17 18* 19 20 21 22 23
24 25* 26 27 28 29 30*
31
 
 

© Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use, without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. 2008 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.