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A Commitment to Breed Improvement

Simmental breeders are working hard to provide the most complete Continental genetic package for the U.S.beef industry.

You might ask yourself, what exactly does that entail? It is the pursuit of a genetic package that perfectly compliments British breeds, ensures ideal crossbred replacement females for commercial producers and promises an end product with the necessary balance of quality and cutability. No other Continental breed provides the combination of maternal excellence and carcass value that Simmentals bring to the table.

Just glance at the latest results from the USDA Meat Animal Research Centergermplasm project. You will find Simmental at or near the top among Continental breeds for almost every economically important trait ranging from fertility to efficiency to marbling. In fact, Simmentals rank first for most of the important traits evaluated.

The main reason SimGenetics compete so well among their competitors is the long standing breeder dedication to using genetic evaluation and cutting edge selection technology to constantly improve their product. Today's American Simmental cattle are easier calving, more moderate in terms of mature size and more maternally useful than at any time in history.

In addition our long-running carcass progeny testing program gave Simmental breeders a head start, by providing the information needed to improve carcass and performance traits. Finally, our commitment to a multi-breed philosophy for genetic evaluation has given members and their customers the tools needed to manage heterosis and capture valuable genes available in the industry.

If someone developed an injectable product that would increase lifetime productivity of a cow by 25 percent, producers would stand in line to buy it. They would run cows through a chute four times a year if necessary, just to take advantage of this huge increase in production. This product does not exist in a bottle, but it can be found in semen tanks and bull development yards everywhere.

It's called heterosis. Research has shown time after time that it works to the tune of about a 25 percent increase in lifetime cow productivity. It's no wonder the biggest trend in U.S.beef genetics is once again crossbreeding.

With the huge potential that hybrid vigor offers to increase profitability, it is at the edge of negligence for seedstock producers to not encourage their customers to take advantage of it. Whether producers manage a breed crossing system or utilize composite seedstock to simplify the process, planned crossbreeding makes commercial cattlemen money!

One of the greatest changes to crossbreeding systems is the development of genetic evaluations that combine breed effects with individual genetic merit to predict production outcomes for commercial herds. With these advances, there is no need to consider anything but the best and most proven germplasm available for your crossbreeding needs.

Today's top end composite cattle are a good example. The days of simple crossbred bulls with questionable parentage and genetic value are soon to be gone. These seedstock are being replaced by designed composites that utilize the most valuable genes that complimentary breeds have to offer, in an easy to use package that retains heterosis and promotes profitability.

During these good times in the beef business, the American Simmental Association (ASA) has been busy planning for the future. Throughout the past year, the ASA has implemented an inventory based reporting and registry system so maternal production can be more completely documented and evaluated.

Over 80,000 females were enrolled in the program in its first year. In addition, the first dollar value index EPDs were released in 2007. These sophisticated selection tools represent the decision making process while emphasizing real dollar differences between genetic options. The ASA also offers an All Purpose Index (API) and a Terminal Sire Index (TSI). Currently these are the most technologically advanced indexes offered by any breed and are backed by the first, largest and most reliable multi-breed genetic evaluation available in the beef industry today.

If you have more questions about today's SimGenetics and what they offer your business, visit or contact the association at 406-587-4531.

Angus Foundation Announces Graduate Student Scholarship Program

The Angus Foundation has announced the inception of its new graduate student scholarship program. Since 1998, the Angus Foundation has supported the members of the National Junior Angus Association (NJAA) by providing more than $400,000 in scholarships to students pursuing undergraduate studies.

To foster the advancement of education, youth and research, the Angus Foundation will make available $25,000 in graduate student scholarships to young men and women actively involved in the Angus breed and pursuing an advanced degree in higher education. These one-year awards will consist of five $5,000 graduate student scholarships.

The graduate student scholarship can only be applied to advanced-degree studies. Applicants must have at one time been an NJAA member and must currently be a junior, regular or life member of the American Angus Association. Strong preference and priority will be given to applicants pursuing advanced degrees related closely to the beef industry.

“The creation of the graduate student scholarship program allows us to provide support to students who are choosing to continue their higher education,” said Milford Jenkins, Angus Foundation president. “Graduate students play an important role in the research, development and education of all aspects of the beef industry. We are excited to now be able to support graduate students as this is a logical extension of our existing undergraduate scholarship program.”

The Angus Foundation graduate student scholarship application and guidelines will be made available Dec. 1, 2007, at The application deadline will be May 1, 2008. For more information contact the Angus Foundation at 816-383-5100.

New pour-on insecticide approved

Elanco Animal Health has announced U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval of StandGuard™ pour-on for control of horn flies and lice in beef cattle of all ages.

The active ingredient in the new product, gamma-cyhalothrin, is in the pyrethroid class of insecticides. The company recommends incorporating the new insecticide into an integrated pest management system that includes rotation of insecticide classes.

The product is available in ready-to use bottles, and is backed by a satisfaction guarantee. It can be purchased from local veterinary clinics, animal health distributors and feed stores supplied by Durvet Inc., an animal health products distributor based in Blue Springs, Mo.

For more details, visit

Protect your herd from parasites

Since parasites are found in almost all forage situations, your cattle are ingesting parasites if they are grazing pastures, according to Gary Sides, Sterling, Colo., Cattle Nutritionist for Pfizer Animal Health. Parasites cause numerous problems, including depressed immune systems in cattle, making cattle more susceptible to diseases challenges.

“Internal parasites also suppress appetites, which limits nutrient intake and absorption,” Sides says. “Reduced nutrition impacts animal performance including gain, feed efficiency, immune response, and reproduction.” In fact, Sides says that producers can lose up to $200 per cow/calf pair through production and reproductive losses due to parasite infection.

According to Sides, parasites require cattle to complete their lifecycle. “The purpose of strategic deworming is to treat cattle in a timely manner to reduce the total parasite load on pasture,” he says. “This reduces total exposure of parasites to all cattle on that pasture.”

Sides recommends deworming twice per year with a reputable dewormer, like DECTOMAX®, in the spring, before grass turnout and in the fall before winter. “In a spring-calving herd, the cow and calf should both be dewormed. The stress on a calf’s growth rate and immune system is much higher than that of its dam because it’s not as well developed and has not built up any resistance to parasites,” he adds.

Deworming methods
There are three basic choices for deworming cattle:
Avermectin Pour-On – not only eliminates worm infections but is also effective against a wide range of common external parasites

Injectable Avermectin –best used for internal parasite control, but also has coverage against external parasites

Oral Suspensions – effective only against internal parasites, including protection against worms and flukes

Effective parasite control often starts with comprehensive control and treatment offered by products, like DECTOMAX, followed-up with oral suspension products, like VALBAZEN®, or insecticide pour-on or tags.

“I like using injectable dewormers in the spring because that’s when you find the highest internal parasite load on pastures,” Sides says. “If you live in an area where biting lice are a problem in the winter, one option is to use a pour-on dewormer in late fall to get an extra boost in lice control.”

Sides recommends working with your local veterinarian to design a deworming program that fits your operation.

Looking for cattlemen to "Walk a Mile"

NCBA’s "Walk a Mile in My Boots" program is recruiting cattle producers and agency employees to participate in an educational exchange to help foster understanding and build partnerships between government and industry. The program now includes partnerships with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Association of Conservation Districts. Any cattle producer, NACD member, or FWS or NRCS employee can apply for the exchange program.

For more information, call NCBA’s DC office at 202-347-0228 or e-mail [email protected].

Effects of a freeze on forages

The frost of fall, requires some special management considerations for livestock. When plants freeze, changes occur in their metabolism and composition that can poison livestock. But you can prevent problems.

Sorghum-related plants, like cane, sudangrass, shattercane, and milo can be highly toxic for a few days after frost. Freezing breaks plant cell membranes. This breakage allows the chemicals that form prussic acid to mix together and release this poisonous compound rapidly.

Livestock eating recently frozen sorghum can get a sudden, high dose of prussic acid and potentially die. Fortunately, prussic acid soon turns into a gas and disappears into the air. So wait 3 to 5 days after a freeze before grazing sorghums; the chance of poisoning becomes much lower.

Freezing also slows down metabolism in all plants. This stress sometimes permits nitrates to accumulate in plants that are still growing, especially grasses like oats, millet, and sudangrass. This build-up usually isn't hazardous to grazing animals, but green chop or hay cut right after a freeze can be more dangerous.

Alfalfa reacts two ways to a hard freeze, down close to twenty degrees, cold enough to cause plants to wilt. Nitrate levels can increase, but rarely to hazardous levels. Freezing also makes alfalfa more likely to cause bloat for a few days after the frost. Then, several days later after plants begin to wilt or grow again, alfalfa becomes less likely to cause bloat. So waiting to graze alfalfa until well after a hard freeze is a good, safe management practice.

Frost causes important changes in forages so manage them carefully for safe feed.

Some Health Concerns Of Feeding Co-Products

With the ever-increasing availability of soybean and especially corn co-products, owners of beef cows, stockers and feedlots are exploring their options with numerous potentially new feedstuffs. Three products with the greatest availability are corn gluten feed (CGF), distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and soyhulls.

All three can be excellent feedstuffs for most classes of beef cattle, but as with any product, there are always negatives. Let's examine the three products.

Both CGF and DDGS are high in phosphorus (P). While higher levels of P don't cause toxicity problems or reduced performance, it can lead to formation of urinary calculi in feedlot steers. To reduce the risk, feedlot cattle need added calcium (Ca) to raise the Ca:P ratio to 2:1. In beef-cow rations, a Ca:P ratio of between 1 and 2:1 should be adequate.

With any beef animals eating these corn co-products, be sure no additional P is included in the mineral mix, which may necessitate a change in your mineral program. One positive of high P content in corn co-products is that P is one of the most expensive minerals in a typical beef mineral mix. Thus, your mineral mix is generally cheaper when one of these products is fed.

One drawback to high P feeds, however, is that feeding them may necessitate more land for proper manure disposal from a feedlot. P binds to the soil, and concentrations don't decrease as rapidly as nitrates. As P -- rather than nitrates -- becomes the primary determinant of land needs, this should be considered as an added cost.

Likely the largest concern with feeding CGF and DDGS is their high sulfur content. Thus, rations must be balanced with a maximum of 0.3-0.4% total sulfur on a dry matter basis. Cattle can adapt to higher sulfur content, but it's especially troublesome in the early feeding stages.

While polioencephalomalacia (one type of "brainer" disease) may occur with very high sulfur ratios, we can also see issues with feed intake and other nagging disease presentations with prolonged, high sulfur concentrations in feed. As these co-products drop in price, it will be tempting to substitute just a bit more in place of expensive corn, but the risk of cattle getting polioencephalomalacia is just too great.

Remember also that cattle can obtain sulfur from sources other than corn co-products. In fact, most feedstuffs contain some sulfur, with mineral mixes and some hays adding significantly to the total.

Another feedstuff we can't forget as a source of sulfur is drinking water. If you're just beginning to feed corn co-products, or if you have just drilled a new well, testing your water for sulfur should be an absolute. If your water has very high sulfate concentrations (sulfate is 1/3 sulfur), then you may not be able to utilize these products to as large an extent as others.

Soybean hulls. While soybean hulls don't contain excessively high levels of any mineral, they can produce health concerns. Soyhulls expand a great deal once in contact with moisture in the rumen. If cattle are allowed to consume soyhulls free choice, bloat or excessive rumen distention can occur. Limit soybean hulls in the diet to 1.5% of body weight, at which level bloat should be very unlikely.

Another concern of most byproduct and co-product feeds is variability of nutrient content. While product from a single ethanol plant tends to be quite consistent, product from different plants can vary greatly. Time of year also may greatly affect the nutrient content of CGF, as the amount of steep water added back to the corn gluten may vary with the commercial demand for sweetener.

Always ask for an analysis of any byproduct feed, particularly for minerals such as P and sulfur. In addition, be aware the bio-diesel production process primarily removes the fats from the grain, while ethanol production utilizes the starch. Thus, the resulting byproduct feeds from the two processes have dramatically different characteristics.

Once you have a feed analysis, work with a beef nutritionist, Extension beef specialist or your herd health veterinarian to help you formulate a cost-effective and safe ration for your beef business.

Wildlife-Friendly Fencing Can Eliminate Headaches

Farmers and ranchers across the U.S. have a love-hate relationship with wildlife. For many ranch families, one of the perks is viewing wildlife sharing pastures and range with their livestock. On the other hand, several hundred over-wintering elk can eat up a lot of forage meant to take your cows through the winter. Then there's the headache of fence maintenance after the elk herd passes through.

If you want to allow wildlife access to your property, but minimize fence maintenance, it pays to design wildlife-friendly fence systems and management.

When we moved onto a central Idaho ranch, there were already some electric fences in place, but they'd been badly beaten up by the local elk, deer and antelope populations. A lot of barbed wire fences had down wires and broken or bent posts. Many ranchers in our valley had tried electric fencing, but gave up due to repeated critter damage.

Assaying our situation. We started looking at animal travel patterns and behavior to determine how to more effectively use electric fence for management in the face of heavy wildlife pressure. One thing we'd learned on our Missouri farm, with its heavy white tail deer population, was to never turn a fence off.

A lot of electric fences on rangeland use battery energizers; when the cattle leave at summer's end, the chargers are taken away. This leaves the fence non-energized for several months and the wildlife lose any respect for the fence gained over the summer. So, when spring comes, the fences are wrecked.

Simply adding solar panels to the energizers and leaving them on all winter can maintain year-round respect from wildlife. Our number-one wildlife policy here is never turn off a fence.

Common thinking has been to try to build a fence stout enough to stand up to animal impact. We design fences to flex with animal impact.

When we arrived, the perimeter fences on our pivots were four-strand, hi-tensile with the top wire at 45 in. When elk hit that fence, they usually hit it with their full body force right across the chest. We've since dropped all the fences to two-wire with the top wire at 30 to 32 in. Elk hit those fences with their legs and deliver a lot less impact on the fence.

The bottom wire on our fence is at 18-20 in., which allows antelope to shoot right under it without difficulty. Having watched antelope repeatedly bounce off barbed wire fences trying to cross them, I know ours are a lot more humane.

The existing fences used either steel T-posts or ⅞-in. fiberglass with little flexibility. When elk hit the fence with steel posts, insulators broke or popped off; then the fence was dead shorted on the post. If the insulators were top quality and stayed on, the T-posts were often bent over at ground level.

Meanwhile, the fiberglass posts were yanked out of the ground and often twisted end over end. On a fence with both hot and ground wires, this was another dead short.

A composite answer. All our fences now use PowerFlex(R) line posts, a very flexible wood-plastic composite that will bend over to nearly ground level and pop back up to its original position. Their textured surface holds them in the ground much better than slick fiberglass posts. The hi-tensile wire is attached with a long-tailed cotter key that we lock around itself so the wire can't be pulled off the post.

We also use stronger tensile-strength wire than most farm and home store wire. With about 50% greater breaking strength, these fences can take a lot more impact. With flexibility in the line posts, the fence rebounds easily from animal impact. The original fences here were lower-grade wire, and we still repair some breaks each year where that wire is in place. We have yet to repair a wire break where the higher-grade wire has been used.

For intensive management, we also use a lot of temporary fences that get moved every few days. Early on, antelope gave us a lot of problems, so we switched from polywire to high-visibility polytape for just a few months. Once they understood what electric fence was, we switched back to polywire, with few problems since. We knew we had our wildlife well trained this winter as we watched a string of 20 running elk stop for a single polywire, then politely jump it.

You can effectively utilize both permanent and portable electric fencing even if you have heavy wildlife pressure – just pay attention to the details of design.

Preparing For The Unexpected

Earlier this week, I received an unexpected call. It was a call we all get sometime in our lives, and one we most never want to hear.

"I'm sorry, so-and-so has passed away," the caller informs you. What? No, it can be, you think to yourself. She was in the prime of her life! Two kids in college, two still at home. A wife, a mother, a cattle lady, a friend. Was she in poor health? What happened?

These were just some of my initial thoughts, and I know many of you can relate. Whether it's the loss of a neighbor or family member, primary operator or seasonal help, it affects each part of the farming and ranching business in different ways. At times like this it's hard to pull everything together and carry on with business, which is why Damona Doye, Oklahoma State University Extension economist, stresses preparing for the unexpected.

"If you talk to lenders, there are four Ds that are most frequently the sources of farm and ranch failure," she says. They are: death, disability, divorce and disaster. "It's not mismanagement or poor management, it's unexpected things like [the four Ds] that result in business failure," she says.

Times like these bring about hard questions, such as: Who makes the decision to perpetuate the business? Who will care for the livestock? The finances? Do they know how to get operating loans? A well-thought out plan can keep the business trucking along.

Doye recommends people prepare by having a durable power of attorney, having a will, medical directives, a list of account and credit card numbers, proof of ownership and keeping beneficiaries up to date. Having these documents in place and accessible to family members can lessen the stress associated with a bad situation.

My heart goes out to those experiencing a bad situation, and my hope is we can all be a little better prepared for the unexpected. For more info and resources on transitioning the business, visit

Crimson Clover Seed May Be Scarce

The price of crimson clover seed for standard varieties has nearly doubled this year. Non-standard varieties may be cheaper, but planting a variety that hasn't been tested is asking for failure, says a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES) forage expert.

"Standard cultivars of crimson clover that we know to be reliable in the U.S. Southern Region include Dixie, Chief, Tibbee, AU Robin and Flame," says Ray Smith, TAES clover breeder. "Any other crimson clovers cultivars or crimson seed offered as VNS (variety not stated) should be investigated fully before purchase."

Crimson clover is commonly over-seeded in warm-season pastures to provide forage for cattle during winter months. Most clover and ryegrass seed used in Texas is produced in western Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Usually, Oregon weather and soils favor higher yields and better quality seed. Last year, however, saturated soils and a hard spring freeze dealt a one-two punch to about half the clover production fields, Smith says.

When the price of any one production item doubles, it is human nature to look for cheaper alternatives. But using seed that hasn't been scientifically tested is most likely going to be an expensive lesson, he says.

"Last spring, in 2007, we know there were problems in northern Florida with producers purchasing crimson clover seed that was imported," he says. "Stands didn't survive. They weren't productive. The producers lost both their investment in seed and field bed preparations and the production year."

With recommended seeding rates for crimson clover in Texas at about 20 lbs./acre, seed costs should be about $36/acre this year, Smith says.

If dealers run out of crimson clovers, one alternative is Apache arrowleaf clover, which Smith says is one of the best substitutes for crimson in any area where crimson is grown.

Farmers used to commonly mix crimson and arrowleaf clover seed to extend the grazing season, but bean yellow mosaic virus ended the practice. However, Apache arrowleaf clover is resistant to the virus, making its use either alone or as mix with crimson seed a viable alternative again, Smith says.

Apache arrowleaf clover seed is currently about $2.15/lb., but a good stand can be achieved with 10 lbs/acre. This brings the seed cost $21.50/acre, cheaper than crimson at the new prices.

Apache arrowleaf clover does require different management, however, Smith says. Crimson clover is ready for livestock grazing as early as mid-February. It will finish producing forage by late April, making it a good match for East Texas bermudagrass pastures.

Apache arrowleaf is earlier in production than old arrowleaf varieties, but won't provide grazing until March 1.

"And we'll have clover grazing through the month of May," Smith says. Any management problems with Apache stem from letting it get too tall, he says. Bermudagrass pasture should be fine if the producer has enough cattle per acre to keep the clover grazed down in May.

Another management issue is soil pH. Apache arrowleaf clover needs a soil pH close to 6.0 to develop a strong stand, Smith said. It is possible to develop a successful stand with a soil pH in the 5.7 to 5.8 range.

"If you put on ultra-fine agricultural lime now, it's possible to make some change in pH by planting time in mid- to late-October," he says.
-- Texas Cooperative Extension release