Close
Home » Articles »   By Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
 
 
Monday, September 3,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Animal identification slowly is becoming a maze that goes nowhere At one time, the process of tracking cattle was simple. Cattle did not move far and any transactions that involved swapping cattle were recorded to memory. In fact, prior to the concept of crossbreeding, cattle were moved only between the same types. This was a concept that was put in place by English animal breeder Robert Bakewell during the 18th century. Of course, there were cattle that were rogues, feral in nature, but these were considered inferior to well-bred cattle. Prominent societies were established to track cattle and record offspring and transfer title as needed. Little did those who established the principle of heterosis and promoted the development of crossbreeding programs realize just how badly they upset the applecart. With the commingling of cattle breeds and the outpouring of commercial crossbred cattle, the need and desire to track the origin and parentage of cattle diminished. The need simply was not evident. Today, one would need to go back to the 1960s to find that environment among cattle producers. It goes without saying that most of today’s producers were not involved with cattle in the 1960s. So, we have a new mind-set by cattle producers. For all practical purposes, producers have grown up during the past 50 years. It was a period of time that witnessed the emergence of crossbred cattle and a simultaneous increase in cattle movement across state and national borders. Perhaps that is one of the fundamental issues regarding animal identification and the utilization of that animal number to help in source and age verification. Not only is the concept foreign to many cattle producers, but also to many involved in the numerous aspects of the cattle-producing business. As a case in point, the current operating mode is not only getting more confusing to producers, but the crisscrossing of demands from within the industry is adding a tremendous burden. The bottom line is that cattle potentially are source- and age-verified if there is some form of functional calving notation in the producer’s records. Those calving notes include some form of identification of an address or physical location. The only process required to complete the job is to place a unique ear tag in the calf at birth or prior to shipping and submit the documentation to an appropriate USDA program that provides verification. Such a simple thought. However, in the industry, it has become a quagmire of tentacles that are overlapping, with a total failure to communicate. It is sad that there are cattle that are source- and age-verified and available to the market but are turned away as the marketing chain places more and more certification requirements to offset perceived failures when cattle products reach their end market. As each market end point develops its own voluntary program, the structure bottlenecks marketing the calves the way calves traditionally have been sold. The additional requirements of certification and re-certification through specific Quality System Assessment (QSA) programs add more layers on top of layers, but, of course, all are voluntary. There is one little surprise. Producers who are responsible for the conception, development, birth and rearing of calves are becoming more and more frustrated when they have a calving book and are record savvy, but are denied entrance to the age- and source-verified programs due to lack of compliance. There is a common question that crosses our desk. What are producers who have their cattle source- and age-verified through a USDA process verified program or QSA supposed to do when the marketing chain places more requirements on them to the point that it causes marketing disconnect? There appears to be considerable structure entering the marketplace, but the structure actually limits the breadth of marketing opportunities for producers. Today, Bakewell is still right when he said “like begets like.” However, he would have a hard time proving it. I think he would have gotten lost in the paperwork.

Read more
Monday, July 16,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Back to the fungus Reviewing the cow/calf priority list (“Priorities First: Identifying Management Priorities in the Commercial Cow-calf Business”) that was summarized and authored by Tom Field, Ph.D., Fort Collins, CO, it is very obvious that the highest priorities for cow/calf producers are directly related to the purpose of the cow. That purpose, to annually produce a calf that will convert roughage from ruminant forage to nonruminant feed, is a very important part of the food chain. Whether food for other animals or food for humans, the conversion of forage by ruminants to protein for use in nonruminant diets certainly is important. The production of beef for the human diet is the driving force in the commercial beef industry, which is an industry that is more and more dependent on grass. Some would argue with that statement by noting that the cow/calf business always has been a grass-based industry. However, in the world of cheap, harvested feed, the industry has shifted at times. More manually harvested feeds have been a significant part of the cow/calf enterprise. However, the pasture and range category is No. 2 in the rankings of commercial cattle producers and the top two subcategories involve usage. That usage, as one might guess, involves stocking rate and the timing and duration of grazing. The priority settings do provide a glimpse into how cow/calf producers view the resources around them and open the door to a discussion of missed opportunities. In the area of pasture and range, it is the plants that form the foundation of the ranch. One could even go further and note that soil health is fundamental to the plant community. It is through monitoring and evaluation of the plants that one really learns the guts of a grass operation. The coming and going of various plants throughout a grassland community tells a lot about what is happening, not only on grazing impact, but also what one doesn’t see, which is the living world beneath our feet. This spring definitely was a mushroom spring. What is great about the world of mushrooms is that they simply are giving you a view of a world we cannot routinely see, at least not with the naked eye. Earlier, Lee Manske, Dickinson Research Extension Center range specialist, and I reported on a quick review of a few types of mushrooms evident on our walk in search of fairy rings. The mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a fungus and the fairy rings are of the genus Chlorophyllum. Along the walk, we found a large number of hygrophorus, amanita, russula, armillarius, mycena, panacolus and cortinarius mushrooms. All these mushrooms must live on organic matter. Many of the fungi break down or decompose dead plants and animals. Furthermore, mycelium is the network of filamentous hyphae that form the typical vegetative structure of fungi and are always present in the soil. One does not need to look across the landscape to see life. All we need to do is look under our feet to find abundant life. The principle of good stewardship of the land literally starts under our feet and is the basis of the principles that establish the accepted grazing systems that producers use. In fact, according to Manske, fungi literally hold our grassland communities together. For example, the activity levels of rhizosphere fungi have the ability to aggregate and stabilize soil particles and thereby improve the quality of the soil in grassland ecosystems. The priority ranking is right because the overall management of the pasture and range has considerable significance for the development of today’s biologically effective grazing management system. However, don’t just look at usage because monitoring the health of grasslands is very complicated, and don’t forget to look at the plants and the soil they are growing from.

Read more
Monday, March 26,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Vaccinate and get ahead of the storm We seem to expect and accept some level of illness from the people we associate with and from the living things that are entrusted to our care. During certain times of the year, there seems to be a marked increase in sickness. Now seems to be one of those times. Blame it on the weather. The “cooping” phenomenon because of the weather causes everyone to remain in fairly close contact. In fact, one has the tendency to ask if anyone actually is feeling well. One of our children noted that a friend had chicken pox. Sure enough, we now have chicken pox in the house. Our immune systems will be tested and maybe even bolstered as the chicken pox virus makes its way around the house. At least our next child was vaccinated for chicken pox, but the doctor said we should not be surprised if we have another case of the pox. So we are counting down the days for the emergence of a fresh batch of pox spots. As people, we are very mobile. Fortunately, there are standard protocols concerning vaccinations. Most of us are vaccinated against the numerous diseases that continually make the rounds. Chicken pox is one of the many we were encouraged to be vaccinated against as a child. All of us should have thought about updating our annual flu vaccination. If nothing else, this shot at least gives our bodies a chance to fight off the hordes of things that don’t like us in this world. If we ever question the need for public health and aggressive childhood and adult vaccination programs, a quick trip through any of the older, small town cemeteries should jar us back to our senses. The development of effective vaccines, improvement of antibiotics and other treatment regimens has helped prevent many illnesses. In the bigger picture, improvements within our environments, such as improved water handling facilities, cooking facilities and waste handling systems, are critical to the health of our families and everyone around us. The same is true for all the animals we are entrusted to care for. As calving season approaches, we should reflect on all those things that happen to us so we can appreciate the plight of a calf a little better. The weather has us cooped up and sharing more living space than we want to share, so we get sick. A storm moves in and the cows and calves are squeezed into the barn, so they get sick. One child arrives at school with chicken pox, so our child comes home with chicken pox. One calf has scours and tomorrow the calf next to it has scours. We forgot to get our flu shot this year and are paying the price for it. The old body sure is aching these days. We neglected to vaccinate the calves, so the pen performance seemed to be a little off this year. Some of the calves seemed a little doggier than they should have been on some of those tough days. The toilet’s plugged and running over, but nobody cleaned the bathroom. Well, we just haven’t got around to cleaning the calving barn lately and we ran out of straw for a week. Either way, the local tombstones sing out. We actually have a lot in common with all those calves we are entrusted with. At least for now, the help at the Dickinson Research Extension Center is busy vaccinating the cows for scours and getting better prepared for the calving season. Vaccinate and get ahead of the storm.

Read more
Monday, January 29,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The trick in a good beef-breeding plan is to stack the bull pen full of great EPDs. On most winter nights or even days, most cattle producers do not sit around and ponder the activity of blowfish, sometimes called puffer fish. No, this time of year, cattle producers find themselves paging through bull catalogs and dreaming of the perfect bull. The evening pictures bring about a certain amount of contentment to finish the day. The perusal of the estimated progeny differences (EPDs) rejuvenates some basic math skills, quickly sorting the best to the top. But what about blowfish? Blowfish have the unique ability to puff themselves up by rapidly swallowing large quantities of water or air; therefore, along with significant spines, they become a rather difficult target for pending predators. As a young child, I had the privilege of having a dried blowfish on my shelf and was always amazed just how difficult any contact with a blowfish was. Blowfish, like many fish, simply spend their time eating and enjoying life, but are obviously quite prepared for survival. A little natural selection and there seems to be a real opportunity to simply look big and mean and survive. But, underneath, there is simply a little fish that stays alive and continues on for another day. The connecting point for beef producers is that there are blowfish in the beef industry as well. These are bulls that have a knack for looking big and capable as you stroll by their pen at the bull sale, but when you get them home, they are just another bull eating hay. Looking big and mean may be a good strategy for blowfish, but in the world of commercial beef, it is not a very wise strategy. The best defense for avoiding bulls that are simply blowfish is having a plan and using it. The best plan for any bull-buying strategy is based on the use of EPDs. Yes, EPDs are the root of any well-developed selection plan within the commercial beef business. Although crossbreeding certainly has the ability to offset problem areas as well, all beef-breeding programs must start with a selection plan to arrange the best genetics (DNA) available in a producer’s herd. So, the basics are simple. Every bull, at least those bulls recorded with a breed association, should have a reasonable list of EPD values. EPD values are the expected progeny differences when two bulls are randomly mated to cows of the same breed. These expected progeny differences are simply the subtracted values of one bull’s EPD versus another bull’s EPD. For example, if a bull (named Nice) has a weaning weight EPD of 40 pounds and another bull (named Nicer) has a weaning weight EPD of 60 pounds, then the bull named Nicer should, on the average, sire calves that have the genetic potential to weigh 20 pounds heavier at weaning. The calculation is 60 pounds (Nicer) minus 40 pounds (Nice) equals 20 pounds. In other words, a 20-pound genetic advantage for the Nicer bull. This is the same concept for all EPD values. A quick review of the numbers will allow any producer who is looking for a new bull to soon figure out who is the real bull, in terms of growth or size, versus who is the blowfish and simply puffed full of air and looking good for the day. Buying the right bull is an offensive move for survival. And don’t forget that even though some bulls are simply blowfish, a few bull producers are, too. Beware—don’t give in to the big, puffed-up bull. Hold your ground and buy the bull you need based on EPDs.

Read more
Monday, December 4,2006

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
  The future of beef—global competitiveness In the world of food production, beef is one piece of a very big picture. Today’s beef production plans need to include the rest of the world, which is very complex and sometimes volatile. Trade across borders means survival. Flynn Adcock and Associates opined in “Consumer Issues and Demand,” published by the American Agricultural Economics Association’s online Choices magazine (www.choicesmagazine.org, Volume 21, No. 3, 2006), that three global forces impacting us are “animal disease outbreaks and discoveries, income growth in developing economies and trade liberalizations.” The faces and expressions of these forces are hard to decipher and have many forms. Sometimes the energy to collectively face the challenges evades us, so we retreat. It is easy to sit and ponder the future of one’s ranch or farm as the outreaches of the world drift away. That is how it was for decades as American producers were comforted with the concept that they were feeding the world. Producers stood knowing they were helping people around the world, but never would see all of it. Those thoughts went beyond market value, the need to make a profit or the need for material things. Growing up, one of the biggest days on the farm was filling the potato bin. The potato digger, originally pulled by horses and then adapted to a small International Farmall tractor, was a marvelous device. All one had to do was sit on the old seat and lift the front end as the driver turned from one row to the next. The potatoes would roll up the chain, shedding the soil as they moved under your feet and fell on top of the ground. White potatoes were for baking, red for lefsa and other uses. By the end of the day, the potato bin was full. The chickens already were in the freezer and the laying hens were moved to a winterized shed. Nobody said anything to the pigs because deer hunting season wasn’t over. The beef harvest was a bigger job, but a locker plant could be found to help process, cut and wrap the boxes of meat. The only real indication that the inventory had changed was the great aroma of fresh blood sausage cooking in the kitchen oven. Basement shelves were filled with garden produce just waiting to fill our plates as the year went on. How could one complain? The family had food for another year and the world didn’t do so badly, either. Yesterday is no longer here. Lefsa can be made from potatoes in a box. There’s hardly a home around that actually has a year’s worth of food stored in the cellar or a full potato bin (a what?). The typical beef producer today frequents the local supermarket as often as those living in town. As beef producers, we rely on the rest of the world to supply us with our other needs, including almost all of what we eat. Sitting and pondering today certainly brings up different visions. There still is comfort in supplying food to others, but there is less comfort knowing that our own cellars are no longer filled. We simply depend, like many in the world, on the ability to purchase what we need to survive. For the beef industry, the point is that the world changed. We fed the world, we educated the world, and so the world and the people changed. They don’t really need us. Harvesting potatoes was simple and pondering our future was fun. However, the pondering is gone and in its place is the need to better understand global impacts and realize that we are just one of many in pursuit of the good life.

Read more
Monday, October 30,2006

Beef talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Do not cut out tags The other day I was visiting with a producer who wanted carcass information on the calves he sold. His frustration was directed at the failure of the system. None of the performance data from his calves was coming back to him. He tagged his calves with electronic identification (EID) tags and followed all the appropriate steps, but nothing happened. The principal reason was the electronic ID tags in his calves had been cut out when the calves arrived at the feed yard. Sometimes the message needs to be very blunt: “Do not cut out electronic identification tags, commonly known as EIDs.” The EIDs may have different appearances, depending on the tag company design, but essentially they consist of a button that is attached to the ear by means of a stud. These tags are passive electronic devices that have little to no information on them. The same holds true for all IDs that an animal may have. The visual tag IDs or brands are very important in determining who an animal is. The verification of the EID, along with visual IDs, is important to maintaining the accuracy of the database. In the previous two years, 7,282 calves have been tagged with EID tags in preparation for tracing the calves through the backgrounder, feedlot and harvest process. Our trace-back efforts have revealed 1,440 of the animals still are grazing pastures at home as replacement females. Of the 5,842 that left the home ranch in 2004 and 2005, 3,584 calves have been lost in the system (to date) and 61.3 percent of the calves were not tracked through harvest. The most obvious reason is the tags were cut out. Once the tags are removed, all information flow stops immediately. A very distant second reason is the inability to timely negotiate with individual feed yards to make arrangements at the harvest facility to have the tags read so the appropriate carcass data can be collected. The bottom line is worth repeating: “Do not cut out ear tags from cattle, and that goes for all cattle!” Another little quirk came up in the discussion that shows the relative degree that the electronic ID is misunderstood. There is a thought by some that the EID device can record data and actually is monitoring the calf and its environment. Therefore, the tags should be cut out and destroyed. The passive EID tag (used in the CalfAID program) is not capable of acting under its own power to record data. The tag must be read by utilizing appropriate equipment that only reads a factory-installed number that is permanently embedded in the tag. No other information is on the tag. There are active tags that can store data. However, that tag is not promoted to any large extent in the industry. Even then, appropriate programs must be retained and utilized through specific equipment. The common low-frequency tags currently used do not record data. The tags that do record data require special equipment that is very obvious within the work facilities. Hopefully, with time, more data will start coming back to help producers with management decisions to enhance the management of their beef cattle operations. The center has a goal of distributing 20,000 EIDs for the express purpose of helping producers better understand the complexities of tagging cattle. Each year does get a little better, but one step at a time. Remember: Do not cut out those tags.

Read more
Sunday, October 22,2006

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Attending the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association annual meeting in Fargo, ND, was good. The meeting, as with all meetings, picked up the flavor of the region, a fact of life throughout the world. It seems beef meetings are filled with good humor, with much of it directed at chickens. Unlike many ethnic stories, there is no offense taken to a good chicken joke among the beef folks. In this case, egg laying Ginger was the center of attraction. Ginger starred in the movie “Chicken Run,” a funny movie by Aardman Animations involving a flock of chickens bent on not becoming chicken pie. The chickens spent the majority of the movie developing and executing a plan to escape. In the end, they succeeded, met their goals and retired in paradise. Perhaps there is a lesson in that brief statement, but I would like to make a broader point. The chicken and cow thing has been going on for some time. For the most part, the early settlers would have insisted on both, plus a milk cow, a sow and maybe sheep. As time went on, the need, or at least the desire to specialize, negated the lack of competition. The result was a competitive atmosphere by those who have survived the process of presenting consumers with something that fancies their palates. This is big business and the sparring within the world of meats began. Today, looking the competition in the eye is very real. What seems interesting is that the poultry industry, like Ginger, has a plan. Al Kulenkamp of Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms Ltd., detailed the plan for egg layers in his article, “Profile of the Layer of 2010.” Kulenkamp says, “The layer in 2010 will be substantially improved, but not dramatically different. She will be capable of laying 12 to 15 more eggs of better quality … and consume up to eight grams less feed per egg. With improved breeding techniques, the 2010 layer will be better able to cope with group-type environments.” The opposition for beef has a plan, a goal and a process to achieve that goal. They will. Where are beef producers and the mighty beef cow? Do we have a plan that entwines increased production, better quality of product, more efficiency and increased flexibility to cope with environmental modification? Ginger may tolerate a little fun poked at her, but it is not at her expense. Rather, the fun is at the expense of the beef cow. Long-term planning works. According to Kulenkamp, today’s hens lay 50 or more eggs using 25 percent less feed compared with the hens of yesterday. Chicken breeders utilize consistent, long-term breeding strategies that not only produce change for the breeder, but for the entire commercial industry as well. Yes, the beef cow has changed, but is there a plan to do what the chicken did? Can we increase production, quality, efficiency and positive environmental impacts? All of these issues are addressed. In one room, the cow/calf people gather. The meats people are across the hall and the nutritionists will have their own meeting next week. The beef animal waste people had a call to arms, but no one attended the meeting, so the points were tabled. Instead, the perceived “big” issues, such as animal identification and premises registration, are bubbling to the top. Meanwhile, we entertain ourselves with chicken jokes. Ginger is no joke. She had a plan, set her goals, got the flock to work as a unit and they all retired in paradise. Our cows have a lot of work to do.

Read more
Monday, July 10,2006

Beef Talk: Grazing plan will eliminate the need to hit panic button

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Around mid-June to early July, Mother Nature usually kicks summer into gear. The first noticeable symptom in the upper Great Plains is an increase in temperature and a decrease in moisture. It’s a thin line in determining if a drought is in progress, or if one is simply experiencing good haying weather. There is a concern surfacing, however, that livestock feed may be in short supply. Panic may be too harsh of a word, but some producers do panic. Before the panic button is pushed, some simple principles need to be noted. If a grazing system is not in place, now is the time for action. Go see a grazing specialist and get a plan started. The North Dakota State University Extension Service or Natural Resources Conservation Service, located in almost every county in the country, could help a producer get started. A decade of poor grazing management will take several grazing seasons to correct so normal production can occur. Operations that have effective grazing systems in place are in a position to manage through dry times as well as wet times without upsetting the focused direction of the ranch operation. A basic principle of grazing management calls for 30 pounds of dry matter per day for a 1,200-pound cow/calf pair. A similar amount is destined to end up in a haystack somewhere for every day the 1,200-pound cow needs to be fed when confined. Granted, these are basic numbers that have a significant cushion for waste and some carryover. Larger cows need more and smaller cows need less, but if a producer can find six months of grazing, then six 1,000-pound bales should get baled up and hauled home to provide a feed base for the non-grazing months and adequate acres need to be available during the grazing period. How many acres does it take? Producers can find the answer to that question by visiting a range specialist familiar with their local landscape. For producers stocking 1,200-pound cows in southwestern North Dakota on lowlands, 1.43 acres per animal a month is needed under good range conditions. That figure goes all the way up to 6.88 acres per animal a month in pastures that are in fair range condition, but dry, according to Lee Manske, Dickinson Research Extension Center range specialist. Upland landscapes in good range condition could be stocked at 2.29 acres per animal a month with 1,200-pound cows. These generic stocking rates equate to just less than 14 grazing acres per cow. In addition, six acres are needed for hay, provided 1,000 pounds of hay is harvested from each acre. In a normal year, 2,000 productive acres would support 100 mother cows and their calves until weaning and allow producers to get a good night’s sleep. If you travel east, by the time you get out of North Dakota, you could very easily be closer to 1,300 acres and if you travel farther west or to drier climates in general, the acre requirement is going to go up. None of us have a direct line to Mother Nature. Even Mother Nature simply averages the good with the bad and goes on from year to year. But in these years, where it appears to be drying out, take a quick count of your acres and your cattle. Figure out what type of land you are grazing, and what your typical hay yields are going to be, and get a good estimate of the weight of your cows. If the numbers start to add up to more than what the books are telling you, a survival plan needs to be put in place, which means the producer sells cows or buys hay. Don’t panic. Assess your operation first, seek out good advice, develop a plan and stick to it.

Read more
Monday, June 19,2006

Beef Talk: Keep your bull at home

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
There is nothing more serious in the cattle business than buying a bull. Much time is spent evaluating available information, such as performance data and pedigree, to assure that the right bull is brought home. Not everyone will use the right information (a personal bias), but when the gavel strikes the podium, the bull has a new owner and home. The process essentially has bonded the bull to the new operation. There is always the need to look over the fence as the bull settles into the new surroundings. With the increasing size of the beef cowherds, multiple purchases are common for more operations. With reasonable cull prices (local sale results show bulls weighing a ton netting more than $1,500 in the sale ring), a very real option is to sell marginal bulls and replace them with improved sires. This leads to serious bull sorting and buying and the ultimate end point, bull turnout. For most beef operations, bull turnout is in progress or soon to begin. Trailing or hauling cows to pasture is one task that, with today’s high fuel prices and equipment expenses, needs to be thought through to minimize trips. Bull turnout is just another reminder of the need to travel and position bulls and cows accordingly. Bulls and cows simply don’t appear in the same pasture. A fairly thought-out process needs to be completed to assure that every animal gets to the proper pasture. The Dickinson Research Extension Center routinely travels 50 miles round trip to deliver bulls to cow pastures. The trip is not going to break the bank, but repeated trips add up. As bulls are prepared for turnout, breeding soundness exams already should be in hand. Any bull that turned up infertile already should have had the opportunity to visit the local sale barn. In case the infertile bull was kept for a recheck, don’t forget to do the recheck and, at the same time, check for new problems that weren’t detected during the earlier breeding soundness exam. As the bulls start detecting the presence of cows beginning to cycle, keep an eye out for any aggressive fighting that has created some lameness. Lameness and subsequent pain are important to detect because subtle structural unsoundness will not improve in the breeding pen. Most producers can recall the new bull that never got turned out. Rivalry in the bull pen benched the bull and the dollars invested before delivery to the cow pasture. It is frustrating, but bulls are bulls and even a roughneck takes second seat to bulls that have a focused intention. Perhaps a sigh of relief is in order as the bulls walk out of the trailer and greet the cows. The territory is ripe for problems and the need to recheck pastures becomes a routine activity, even with high fuel prices. Structural problems or pain related to injury takes a toll. Reproductive issues, including bulls that injure their penis regardless of the cause, can result in a bull that has no interest in breeding cows. A bull not breeding cows easily will cost $40 in lost revenue per day. The bottom line is that monitoring a bull is important. The failure to pick up and replace nonperforming bulls hits the pocketbook. With all the challenges of maintaining an effective, sound and performance orientated bull herd, the end reward is good calves that fit the market. All the headaches are worth it, unless the worst-case scenario occurs: Upon checking the cows, you find the neighbor’s bull is in your pasture.

Read more
Monday, May 23,2005

BeefTalk: Make way for the little guy, he's paying his bills

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The beef business could be called a very static business in some respects. Granted, the world of politics certainly keeps life interesting and the daily markets are far from constant. However, in the big picture, individual beef operations do not change much from year to year. The cows usually calve at the same time and the pasture choice seldom changes. The bulls change somewhat, but for the most part, producers are very comfortable buying bulls as repeat customers. The core of a beef operation is the beef cow. Frankly, when a cow is calving on time, without difficulty and bringing in a 500- to 600-pound-plus calf in the fall, who really wants to change much? However, living things do change and selection within a breed of cattle will change the genetics available for use in the commercial cow sector. This is what keeps the manager of a cow business astute and why deciphering what breed to use and subsequently selecting and buying bulls is a huge component of managing a beef production system. Once bulls are purchased, the process of deciding what bulls go to what cows is critical. Recently the Dickinson Research Extension Center, in the pursuit of expanded understanding within the beef business, started breeding the heifers to Loala bulls, Low-lines of Australia. The three bulls were sons of Quartermaster Q117, who had an 11.46 square inch rib eye at 684 pounds at 14 months of age, measured 39.5 inches tall and weighed 1,120 pounds at 30 months of age, according to American Loala Management LLC. The last weight on these three center bulls was 1,105, 1,125 and 1,170 pounds. All scored a condition score of seven. The bulls were born in spring 2000, with births weights of 50, 47 and 51 pounds and had adjusted weaning weights of 330, 343 and 324 pounds in late September and early October 2000. The bulls were two years old when the center obtained them and this will be their third turn out. As noted earlier, change is not easy and speed is not an asset when making change. The center simply was exploring a breed of cattle that potentially would modify the frame score of the mature cows. The first step was preliminary, the heifers calved the way they should and had no calving problems associated with heavy birth weights. The calves were weaned with the other calves, with an average weaning weight of 500 pounds at 233 days of age. The steer calves were held over as yearlings and sent to the feedlot in the fall. The note on the closeout summed it up: "These cattle were very interesting." The steers arrived at the feedlot with a pay weight of 945 pounds, spent 85 days on feed and had an average sale weight of 1,186 pounds. The lot went 77.3 percent choice-quality grade or better, with 31.8 percent yield grade 2, 54.5 percent yield grade 3 and 13.6 percent yield grade 4. The steers met the required amount of ribeye area per hundredweight of carcass and netted back more than $2.27 per hundredweight in carcass premiums. There was very little choice or select spread when these steers were marketed. The bottom line is the calves did not have health problems and zero dollars were invested in treatments. They sold for an average of $1,093 per head. Feed yard costs averaged $168 per head, so the steers netted back $925. It is safe to say that utilizing these Loala bulls as calving-ease sires was not a mistake. There is still much to be learned, particularly with integrating the crossbred Loala heifers into the cowherd, but for now, the center simply is cashing the check. May you find all your Ear Tags.

Read more
 
 
User Box (click to open)
 
SEARCH IN WLJ
Sign up for our newsletter!
   
 
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.