Now is the time to increase efficiency in the cattle business.

July 15, 2022

3 Min Read
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Summer is here, spring born calves are growing, breeding season is upon us, first cutting hay is on the downhill slide for many. Weather permitting, the busy season is here for many cattle producers here in Ohio. While the bulk of the next few months will be filled with hay making, county fairs, and beef on the grill, let’s not forget that summer is still an important time for cow-calf and fed cattle producers.

Calf management

For cow-calf producers summer is the opportunity to consider implementing any pre-weaning calf management or health protocols that have the potential to add value to this years calf crop that is on ground. Having a plan to add value and manage calves is often better than “just winging it” come weaning time this fall.

As we enter the heat of summer something a bit unconventional to consider is potentially feeding hay to combat the summer slump in pasture production. Several producers across the state have a surplus of hay from last winter. Considering that extra carryover and knowing that first cutting grass hay made this year was made later than ideal, there could an opportunity to utilize some of that lower quality forage here in July and August, especially if it would happen to turn dry.

Feeder cattle 

In the cattle feeding business, there seems to be some opportunity as well. Dr. Glynn Tonsor, Livestock Marketing Specialist at Kansas State is forecasting positive net returns to fed cattle marketed this fall and into 2023. While the markets are subject to changes, now maybe a good time to evaluate feeding and management programs and see if there are opportunities to make decisions that will improve efficiency.

Generally, there are a couple of ways to increase efficiency within an existing feedlot production system, feed, facilities, technology. Feed is probably the one that gets the most attention, given it is the major input cost in cattle feeding. We can have hours long conversations about feed cost and diet composition. When the cost of corn is high these types of discussions are more common, and usually revolve around replacing corn in the diet with another feedstuff. Even though an alternative to corn may be cheaper on a per pound basis to purchase it may not be any more cost effective to feed, depending on nutrient value to the animal.

Feed processing is another point of discussion and is even more pertinent when utilizing a self-feeder (AKA steer stuffer). Corn particle size in one of the first things I look at when making a feedlot visit. If the feed in the bunk looks like hog feed, the corn is too finely ground. At most, corn should be cracked into 3-5 pieces and whole corn is often more efficient and cost effective than finely ground corn.

Winter and summer

From a facilities perspective, ventilation and air quality should be a focal point. Here in Ohio where cattle are fed in all kinds of structures including old hip-roof barns, pole buildings, and monoslope designs, ventilation is highly variable from one farm to the next.

We have been discussing ventilation at the past few winter feedlot programs and depending on the barn can help with ventilation design. One of the best resources available are the Midwest Plan Service guides housed at Iowa State University. These guides show multiple aspects of feedlot design for multiple types of existing facilities.

Technology

Other avenues to look for efficiency are technology and timely marketing. Implants, ionophores, and beta-agonists are all examples the cattle feeding technology that has been tested over the years. Marketing cattle when they are finished is key, feeding to extreme heavy weights reduces efficiency and cattle may be discounted for yield and heavy carcass weights.

Those are several examples of conversations I have had with cattle feeders as they look to increase net returns to their operations. As further questions arise, we at OSU Extension are glad to help. Enjoy the summer season, stay cool, keep hydrated, and eat beef.

Source: Ohio State Universitywhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

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