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Natural pellet options

Micro-encapsulated ProTernative yeast is available from Ivy Natural Solutions for use in pelleted feed. ProTernative Continuous Fed formula (CF) is a rumen-specific live yeast that enhances rumen health and function. ProTernative Stress formula (SF) is an active, live-yeast strain that works specifically in the lower gastrointestinal tract to improve health and stimulate feed consumption. The SF formula is recommended for use during the first 28 days in the starter ration or when cattle undergo stress during the feeding period.

Both products are available in 5- and 20-kg units for use by feed manufacturers in the production of pelleted feed, as well as an active live-yeast concentrate for a top-dress.

DNA markers target feed efficiency

Bovigen LLC introduces the industry's first and only DNA test to identify an animal's genetic ability to efficiently convert feed. The GeneSTAR® Feed Efficiency test consists of four markers that together identify as much as a 15% difference in daily feed consumption with no effect on other measures such as average daily gain, carcass weight, quality grade or yield grade.

Plans for reproductive center

Trans Ova Genetics will open a state-of-the-art embryo transfer (ET) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) station in Centerville, TX by Nov. 1. The new lab will focus on ET, IVF and sex-sorted semen, and have the capacity to care for up to 200 donor cattle at any given time. The new facility is designed to make it easier for clients to haul their own recipients for immediate transfers.

Preserve silage

Biozyme's Field Fresh provides ideal preservation conditions and increases nutritional values of silages. Specifically formulated with Amaferm Liquid, Field Fresh's several modes of action can be used on a variety of ensile feeds, including corn silage, small grain silage, legume silages and high-moisture grains. It's designed to enhance initial fermentation and then preserve nutrients while directly preventing harmful mycotoxins and molds. Non-caustic and safe to handle, the application rate is 1 oz./ton of treated silage.

Shipping fever immunity

Dow AgroSciences Animal Health has licensed from the University of Guelph (UG) the leukotoxin antigen LKT-50, which it will use in its Concert Plant-Cell-Produced System to develop a vaccine against Mannheimia haemolytica or shipping fever.

Concert system technology utilizes plant cells instead of whole plants to produce vaccines in a secure, bio-contained environment. The process results in subunit vaccines that use only the necessary parts of the bacteria to stimulate immunity against disease without stressing the animal.

Weather station

Spectrum Technologies, Inc. has redesigned its WatchDog® weather station. Including expanded wireless communications that allow for drive-by data downloading up to 1,000 ft. away and data monitoring from two miles away, the new design can store data up to 183 days. It also has an enhanced LCD display screen and extended battery life to 12 months.

Roping Chute

Designed by champion ropers, Powder River livestock handling equipment introduces the Elite Roper roping chute. Fully powder coated, it's available with custom logo and graphics. The Elite Roper measures 86-in. long, 35-in. wide, 61-in. tall and weighs 525 lbs.

Fertile Female

Dennis Nelson of Milaca, MN won't soon forget #134, the ID tag one of his favorite, fertile females wears.

“She's got that determination to really make it, to really produce,” Nelson says.

Born 3/13/2004, the black, white-faced cow gave birth to her first calf on 5/2/2005 at just 15 months of age. She bred back without missing a beat, giving birth to twins at 2 years and five days on 3/18/2006.

“I never dreamt she'd breed back that quick,” Nelson says, wishing other cows in his 48-head herd generated that kind of production.

This past March, she hit pay dirt again, calving exactly one year later. And she's done it all unassisted.

At three years and seven months old, #134 already has three calves finished, and will wean her fourth this fall. Nelson estimates she weighs 1,100 lbs. and describes her as a docile, yet aggressive eater — which is why her calves have done well.

Sign Up Now For The BEEF QUALITY SUMMIT

Almost overnight, the ethanol juggernaut has reworked the U.S. agricultural landscape. Driven by ever-increasing, government-mandated production levels, almost 5 billion gals. of ethanol were produced in 2006, and Congress this fall will consider a Renewable Fuels Standard that could require as much as 36 billion gals. of renewable fuels be produced in the U.S. by 2012.

It's been a boon to struggling rural communities, but U.S. livestock producers, traditionally in lockstep with crop farmers, are torn. Cattlemen who stand to benefit from the growth of the biofuels industry — either as grain producers, investors, or because of their proximity to the abundance of cost-effective co-product feeds — generally are in favor. Meanwhile, those farther from the production plants, or without easy access to the co-products and facing the prospect of inflated feed-grain prices, are opposed.

Regardless of your personal view of biofuels, they appear to be a fixture on the landscape of U.S. livestock production for the foreseeable future. Now the industry is wrestling with what the phenomenon means, not only to the future of the U.S. livestock industry but the application and management of its feed co-products.

That's the basis of the 2007 BEEF Quality Summit planned for Nov. 7-8 in Omaha, NE. Set for the Holiday Inn City Centre, the two-day conference is themed “Beef Quality In The Ethanol Era” and is designed to provide attendees with the background, knowledge and tools to garner more value from their cattle in this new ethanol-driven paradigm.

Throughout the meeting, there will be ample opportunity to network with experts and other producers to discuss increasing cattle value.

The meeting kicks off Nov. 7 with a keynote panel discussion on the topic “Are we filling the demand for quality beef today?” The panel features top U.S. meat executives and researchers. Included are:

  • Jim Cannon, vice president of culinary and purchasing, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

  • Larry Corah, vice president, Certified Angus Beef® LLC.

  • Angelo Fili, executive vice president, Greater Omaha Packing Co.

  • Jeff Savell, Texas A&M University meats scientist.

Over the next two days, a list of presenters representing the industry's top producers, marketers, researchers and academics will delve into the topics of:

  • The ethanol effect on beef quality.

  • The ethanol effect on the beef industry.

  • The ethanol effect on your operation How will you survive and thrive?

A new feature of this year's BEEF Quality Summit is a one-on-one opportunity for attendees to meet with representatives of various value-based marketing alliances in attendance. While another special feature is the introduction of this year's BEEF Trailblazer Award winner, along with the winner of this year's National Beef Stocker Award.

At $150/person, which includes the two-day conference, one breakfast, two lunches, an evening reception and a dinner, it's an educational event not to be missed by any cattleman concerned about his operation's future. Check out the agenda or register at: www.beefconference.com. Or call 800-722-5334, Ext. 14710.

NBCEC sets meeting

The National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium (NBCEC) is planning a Dec. 11-12 symposium on animal health. Set for Kansas City's Downtown Marriott, participants will discuss genetic variation in disease incidence, the relationship of stress (from alternative management practices) with risk of disease, and the association of behavior and risk of disease. For more information, visit www.nbcec.org/nbcec/, or call 607-255-4416.

Forage Utilization for Pasture-Based Livestock Production

Is your pasture meeting its full potential? What supplements will you need to add to a forage-based diet? Answer these questions and more with the new book available from the Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES).

The 185-page book covers pasture-management tools including: permanent and temporary fencing, watering systems, lanes and feeding pads, animal-handling facilities and fly control.

Available for $27, plus S&H/sales tax. Call 607-255-7654 or visit
www.nraes.org.

Record exports expected

USDA expects U.S. agriculture exports to hit a record $79 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2007, only to be eclipsed by the FY '08 projected total of $83.5 billion. The previous record was last year's $68.6 billion.

The major growth areas are Asia and the Western Hemisphere, with China, Canada and Mexico being key growth markets for FY '08. China is now the fourth-largest market for U.S. agricultural products, USDA says.

Salt as a management tool to enhance rotational grazing

With rapidly increasing grain prices there is renewed interest in optimizing beef production from grazing systems. Rotational grazing, sometimes referred to as management-intensive grazing (MiG), can increase beef production per acre by 30% compared to traditional grazing methods.

The most common form of rotational grazing requires large pastures to be subdivided into smaller paddocks. These paddocks are grazed for two to four days, and then the cattle are rotated to a new paddock. Often, 10 or more paddocks are involved so that grazing occurs at roughly 30-day intervals.

The Benefits

Besides the increased beef production per acre, there are several ecological benefits from properly managed rotational grazing systems.

First, more-uniform grazing prevents bare spots that often result from localized grazing. When more than adequate forage is available, cattle will often graze some areas very close because the regrowth is more succulent and less fibrous compared to plants that have been allowed to mature because they were not grazed.

In most rotational grazing systems, the cattle will be moved when the forages have been grazed to a height of 2-3 inches (in.). This reduces wind and water erosion by maintaining a uniform forage cover.

With rotational grazing, the feces and urine are more evenly distributed across the paddock, rather than being concentrated in resting areas as often occurs with traditional grazing methods. This improves nutrient recycling and increases forage production.

Salt and Ionophores

Cattle grazing lush forages have an increased appetite for salt. Grazing cattle will usually consume twice as much salt as those fed high-concentrate diets. Part of the explanation may be that lush forages are generally high in potassium (K) and low in sodium (Na).

The body has to maintain a sodium potassium balance, which may stimulate salt intake. Salt is an excellent means of delivering ionophores to grazing cattle.

The ionophore monensin, marketed as Rumensin,® is cleared as a feed additive to increase daily gain of grazing cattle. In the studies reported by Muller (1986), self-feeding a salt-monensin-supplement gave the same improvement in daily gain [0.2 pounds (lb.) per day] as hand-feeding the monensin supplement without salt. These data show that salt, an already proven intake regulator, can be made even better when combined with monensin.

Although less data are available with lasalocid, a Georgia study showed that lasalocid fed in a free-choice salt and mineral mix increased the gains of replacement heifers, cows and calves (Kiser et al, 1986).

Salt Feeders

Trace mineralized salt-mineral mixtures should be formulated to supplement the existing forages and to meet the nutrient needs of the cattle. Working with a nutritionist who understands the complexities of the soil-forage-animal complex is the best way to ensure that optimum nutrition is available to the animals.

Continued on next page...

Because grazing animals have a keen appetite for salt, the salt feeder can be used as a management tool to accomplish several objectives besides meeting the animals’ nutritional needs. The Noble Foundation of Ardmore, Okla., has done considerable research in using the salt feeder as a management tool to accomplish more than simply meeting the salt needs of cattle. Overtime, they found that for it to be an effective management tool, it must possess four characteristics:

First, it must be user-friendly in that it can be easily constructed and rarely needs repairs. Commercial units are available today if the rancher does not want to build his own.

Secondly, the unit must be transportable. This is essential if the unit is going to be moved every two to four days during the grazing season. Cattle learn to follow the unit to the new paddock.

Thirdly, the unit must be properly sized and positioned according to the number of animals in the herd. The salt-mineral feeder must be durable and easily maintained. The salt feeder should be positioned such that it baits cattle to use the cattle rub portion of the tool. The cattle rub portion of the tool will be effective at controlling external parasites only if the cattle use it regularly

Controlling fly populations can be a major challenge when there are a large number of grazing animals in a relatively small area. Recent research (Cocke et al, 1989; DeRouen et al, 1995 and Foil et al, 1996) reported that weight gains were increased 27 lb. per head for weaned calves and by an average of 17% in yearling grazing cattle when flies were effectively controlled.

The Noble Foundation has found that by combining the salt feeder and cattle rub in the same tool, the cattle rub becomes a much more effective method of controlling flies. A 1982 study by Roberts and Saluta reported that more than 75% of the time cattle rubs impregnated with the appropriate insecticides were more than 90% effective at controlling the fly population on grazing cattle. The main problem was training the cattle to use the rub often enough to control the flies. This problem appears to be overcome by combining the salt feeder and cattle rub into one tool.

Putting the cattle rub immediately adjacent to the salt feeder seems to be the key that encourages consistent use of the rub. Although hard block, pelleted and small, granulated salt-mineral mixes have been used successfully in the feeding tool, the loose mineral appears most desirable for the following reasons:

First, the cattle consume the loose salt mineral mix, more rapidly giving them time to also use the cattle rub. The large models with a 10-foot (ft.) cattle rub have been used successfully for herds as large as 150 head. If only block salt is provided, the amount of salt feeder space has to be increased to allow adequate consumption.

Animals at the bottom of the pecking order may not get access to the salt or cattle rub when the feeder is constantly occupied.

Secondly, feeding a mineral mix and/or ionophores requires that the loose salt be mixed with the other ingredients to get the desired intake. The ratio of the salt to other ingredients may change with season of the year, pasture composition, and changing cattle requirements.

Finally, most grazing cattle will consume 2-4 ounces (oz.) of salt per day. This gives a starting point to estimate the ionophore concentration needed to get the desired intake. Practical experience has shown that 20%-30% salt is the minimum concentration needed to encourage regular salt consumption and use of the cattle rub.

Feeding a loose salt-mineral mix requires a roof over the salt feeder in most climates. In low rainfall areas, a roof may not be necessary. However, if a mixture of salt and ionophore is fed, a roof is recommended to prevent rain damage and reduce wind losses.

The salt feeder should be located away from the watering source and trees. These normally tend to attract cattle and often result in heavy grazing pressure around them.

Positioning the salt feeder in a low-traffic area will encourage more-uniform grazing and manure and urine distribution.

In summary, grazing cattle have a keen appetite for salt, which makes it an excellent management tool. Salt can be used to regulate the intake of minerals and ionophores without the labor of daily feeding. The salt feeder described above acts as an attractant to help animals learn to use the cattle rub. The salt-feeder cattle rub tool is an effective means of controlling flies and other external parasites.

Moving the salt feeder to low-traffic areas improves grazing distribution. The salt feeder cattle rub tool is a user-friendly, lowcost device that can increase beef production in a rotational grazing system.

PINGING For Premiums

Remember those old WW II movies? The ones where U.S. Navy ships are trolling for enemy submarines and the only sound that cuts the tension-thick air is the “ping” of the sonar?

While the technology is considerably more advanced and the “ping” is relegated to sound effects in old movies, Kevin Smith and Norman Stovall III are, in a sense, not unlike those old battleship commanders. Instead of a sonar screen, they stare intently at spreadsheets. Instead of launching depth charges, they redline heifers. But they're using the best technology available in an incessant search for an enemy that lies hidden beneath the surface.

Their enemy? Small ribeyes and scarce marbling. Their target? Cattle that consistently hit Choice and Prime on the rail. The bullseye? The higher value those cattle can and will return to the operation.

According to Smith, a commercial rancher and owner of Cimarron Commodities in Seymour, TX, his goal is to produce 50% Prime in his steers by his fifth year in the cow-calf business. Stovall, with Agri-Ventures Corp. at Graham, TX, is looking to improve the overall genetics on 1,200 commercial cows on his family-owned ranch. Both of them say ultrasound data will help them achieve their goals much more quickly.

Smith is no newcomer to the cattle business. He's fed cattle for 25 years and run 500-1,000 stockers for the past 12-14 years on both native and improved pastures and winter wheat. He had a bred-heifer operation for several years as well. Three years ago, after selling out the last of his bred heifers, he decided to add cows to the mix in order to use summer forage the stockers leave behind.

He figured he could handle around 100 cows. But with limited space and forage, his challenge was to make every one of those cows return the highest possible profit to the operation. That meant finding the highest-value signals in the market and producing calves to hit those targets.

“I think if you ask 100 people in the industry what the target is in terms of what the packer is looking for, they'd all tell you 70% Choice and mostly USDA Yield Grade (YG) 2s and 3s,” Smith says. “That's not my target. My target is Prime.”

He figures it this way — based on the U.S. Premium Beef grid that he sold his steers on this year, Prime paid a $26.70/cwt. premium to Choice. “And if you're over 50% Choice, you're getting paid a Choice premium of $10.59 in addition to the Prime premium. So why not aim for Prime?”

He ultrasounds his heifers as yearlings at a cost of $10 each, using Casey Worrell with Rancher's Resource in Harper, TX to do the work. The first heifers he bought and ultrasounded are now three-year-old cows. They came from a group of 244 heifers that were top-end animals based on visual appraisal, but with no information at all on breeding and genetics. Using the ultrasound data along with another sort for conformation, he kept the best 50 head.

The second year, he bought 168 more replacements and did the same thing, keeping 61 head. He kept 22 heifers and 19 steers out of his first calf crop. The steers went to the feedyard. The heifers were ultrasounded and evaluated just as the other two groups.

The ultrasound data not only gives him solid information to use in culling, but it accelerates his timeline. “The reason I ultrasound is to save the years of feeding and testing to get information,” he says. Smith's bull supplier, Rich Blair of Blair Brothers Angus at Sturgis, SD, encouraged him to use ultrasound and estimates it will speed up Smith's ability to reach his goal by 10 years.

Smith mines the ultrasound data for a couple of things. First, he concentrates on marbling, reported on the data sheet as IMF, or intramuscular fat. Since he's shooting for Prime, the higher the number, the better. An IMF of 5% equates to small 0 marbling, the bottom end of Choice. IMF of 8% is slightly abundant, the bottom end of Prime.

Then he looks at ribeye area, culling anything below 1 sq. in./cwt. And finally, he culls on visual appraisal, looking for an animal that's deep bodied with lots of capacity and bone.

While he says he's not at his 50% Prime goal yet, he's well on his way. His 19 steers came out of the feedyard averaging 1,341 lbs. and 85% Choice, with 35% qualifying for Certified Angus Beef®. On a yield basis, 73% were YG 3 with a few 4s and no 5s. On average, they netted $107.15/head over what they would have brought on the cash market.

But that's only part of the story. “Look at the difference in value,” he says as he flips through spreadsheets. “The three Select steers ranged in value from $1,068 to $1,284/carcass. The Choice steers, their value ranged from $1,260 to $1,477.” From top to bottom, that's a $409/head difference. If he had any Prime carcasses, he would have netted an additional $200/head.

“What do I want with a cow that's producing a Select carcass? I have no use for her. You can run a good one in the same tracks that a bad one's in. Why not have something that will produce a calf that will pay you a premium?”

Improving the herd average

Stovall agrees. He assumed day-to-day management of the family operation two years ago, and is working to improve the data on his cattle. “In order to improve my overall quality-based genetics, I'm utilizing every tool possible, and I believe that ultrasounding is a very important one,” he says.

Agri-Ventures Corp. runs Angus/Brangus cross cows on five different places, all bred to registered Angus bulls, and Stovall selects replacement heifers from all five herds. He also uses Worrell for ultrasounding his potential replacements. “Ultrasounding provides feedback on an average base of what each herd is producing. It is a small snapshot, but it provides data for informed decisions.”

Stovall uses a combination of conformation, disposition appraisal, hip height and pelvic measurement, along with ultrasound data, to select his replacements. “I'll measure hip height at 10 months and appraise conformation and disposition as a first-round selection,” he says. At 12 months, he measures the pelvis and if the heifer passes the minimum, she is ultrasounded.

For pelvic size, his goal is to reach a 170-square centimeters (sq. cm) average. This past year, the minimum was set at 156 sq. cm, and this current set of heifers averaged 164 sq. cm.

He uses ultrasound data in much the same way, aiming to improve each herd's quality average. In 2001, the first year ultrasound was used, the IMF score ranged from 2.0 to 3.5 with an average of 2.54 on 20 heifers. “Now, the range for 2007 yearling heifers is 2.9 as a minimum cutoff to the top heifer at 6.72, with an average of 3.95 on 140 head,” he says. “I would like to produce an average of 5-6 IMF score as a minimum baseline on future heifers. We are working toward eliminating less than low Choice.”

Considering all those traits and data gives him better options for culling decisions. Last year, he kept a heifer that had a 2.9 IMF score along with a minimum-sized ribeye area of 9.8 sq. in. (1.18 sq. in./cwt.). “She is a nice heifer that fits the hip height requirements, and should reach a frame score of 6 at maturity. That size cow works well in our part of the country.”

Since Stovall artificially inseminates all his replacements, he is able to select sires based on EPDs that match well with each individual heifer. For example, the heifer that had the 2.9 IMF and 9.8 ribeye area (REA) score was bred to a registered Angus sire with an IMF score of 8.95 and a 13.8 REA, thus improving two critical carcass traits in this heifer's first calf, he says.

However, both Smith and Stovall caution that it's important to make comparisons within contemporary groups, due to year-to-year differences in forage and environmental conditions. “The fly in the ointment is, if you stress these heifers on a nutritional or health basis as they are developing (4 to 8 months is the critical age), marbling during that stage can be greatly impacted,” Stovall says.

This year, Stovall kept and bred 140 heifers from last year's calf crop. “I would like to increase that number to 200, accelerating the quality of cattle I'm raising and accomplishing my goal of having ultrasound data on each cow standing.”

Until that goal is realized, Stovall has been able to make better-informed herd sire decisions by utilizing herd average ultrasound data, thus improving the overall quality and consistency of his calves.

Stovall hasn't fed any steers recently, but still sees a premium for the quality genetics he produces. This past spring, he sold steer and heifer lots over Superior Livestock Video Auction and buyers responded very positively to the quality genetics, backed by hard data.

“Ultrasounding is not new technology, and I am surprised that more commercial producers aren't utilizing it,” he says. “When there is an $8-$10/cwt. premium available for quality cattle, it makes sense to incorporate an ultrasound program into the management plan in order to know what you're producing.”

LOTS Of Cattle, LOTS Of Grass

When people find out Leo Hollinger preconditions and/or stockers 6,000 head of cattle/year on 350 acres, it's easy to imagine either an overgrazed, muddy mess or a dust bowl, depending on the season. Nope. Would you believe he even gets two cuttings of hay off the bulk of those acres?

“We have less than 10 acres at any time that doesn't have a sod, and that is right at the feed bunks,” says the Camden, AL cattleman.

Yes, he does feed byproducts rather than depend on grazing gains for the cattle he preconditions. And no, all the cattle aren't on the 350 acres all the time. But that's still an awful lot of hooves and mouths between the fences at some point during the year.

While he has a total of 21 pens on that portion of his operation, the system he favors is made up of 100 acres of Bermuda and Bahia grass sod divided into three triangles of 25-35 acres. The top of each triangle is two to five acres and is lined with feed bunks. The bottom part is 20-30 acres and does double duty as a hay field.

Year-round strategy

The cycle on the sod triangles starts in June with Hollinger's custom preconditioning operation. Depending on pen size, he stocks from 70-200 head/pen. “There are a lot of nutrients being put on those pens,” he remarks.

The calves in the custom-preconditioning program are from 30-40 different cow-calf operations in Alabama's Black Belt Region, most from within a 100-mile radius. “That type of soil isn't very conducive to weaning calves because of the mud,” Hollinger says.

Obviously, the soil and the management at Hollinger's operation are conducive to weaning calves. He puts anywhere from 2¼-3 lbs./day of gain on them with byproduct feeds. The calves that are around after he gets his last cutting of hay also go in the larger paddocks for grazing.

After they've been on his place for 45 days or so, he markets them in 50,000-lb. truckload lots straight off his farm with help from the staff at Linden Stockyards.

In October, he'll let them graze the paddocks down, then sod-seeds Marshall ryegrass and crimson clover in the triangles. “Ryegrass heals up the pens. It puts a sod back on them,” he reports. As for the clover, he's happy to let it make nitrogen rather than having to buy it.

He normally no-tills in 15-20 lbs. of ryegrass/acre and 20 lbs. of clover. “If we go over 20 lbs. of ryegrass seed, the clover doesn't do well,” he says.

At times, there are still cattle in the pens when he drills in the ryegrass and clover. “I don't recommend it, but I really can't tell it hurts it,” he says.

In the meantime, he's buying cattle of his own, usually around 1,500 head of 300- to 500-lb. stocker cattle, mostly farm fresh but also some from the stockyard. Those he pays someone else to precondition, and then they go to a rented farm. “We want to assure our customers we won't expose their cattle to diseases,” he says.

By January, the custom-preconditioned cattle are almost all gone, and the ryegrass and clover are ready for grazing. He starts moving his own calves from rented farms to the triangles.

By March, he'll have the ryegrass and clover stocked at around three calves/acre and graze through May. “We try to have enough inventory to manage the spring flush of ryegrass, and try not to harvest any ryegrass hay. Those are our cheapest gains.”

He'll normally spread one ton of chicken litter/acre on the forage, too. “The litter is not acid forming. It's a slow-release nitrogen that's higher in phosphorus and potassium, and works good with clover.”

He says the pH on the 100 acres runs from 6.2 to 7.5.

University of Georgia Extension forage specialist Dennis Hancock says the litter is a good choice for fertilizer but cautions, “Long-term, he might want to track the phosphorus content of his soil since he's bringing in nutrients with the litter and byproducts.”

For now, it's part of an economical equation for grazing. Hollinger says his out-of-pocket expenses for the ryegrass and litter are around $60/acre.

“We'll get two lbs. or more of gain a day from the cool-season grass,” he adds. Normally, those cattle only get byproducts if their gains dip below around 1½ lbs./acre.

By the end of May or the first of June, the ryegrass is gone and the cattle are marketed. The Bermuda grass and Bahia are growing and getting ready for hay making in June or July.

Georgia's Hancock says the Bermuda/Bahia combo is a good choice since it has to stand up to heavy use. However, if Hollinger was depending on the forage for gain or hay alone, Hancock says, “He might want to go with Bermuda grass, especially Tifton 85 Bermuda grass, since it's higher in digestibility than Bahia grass.”

As far as hay production, it's rain-dependent, but Hollinger says his production normally ranges from 3-4, 900-lb. bales/acre with adequate moisture to 2-3 bales/acre in dry years.

After the first cutting, he may apply 50 units of commercial nitrogen/acre. “It depends on how much hay we're going to need,” he explains.

By then, the five-acre pens are starting to fill up with calves in the preconditioning program. All without a mess. “We try to be proactive,” Hollinger says. “We fence out the wet areas and the filter strips and catch water in the settlement areas. We let the sediment settle out before it goes in a major creek.”

Becky Mills is a freelance writer based in Cuthbert, GA.

Easy come, easy go

Even though Leo Hollinger keeps the cost of gain down on both his customers' cattle and his own, he's not about to let any gains slip away due to rough handling. “We can't overemphasize how we handle cattle — from the first day we get them until we put them on the truck,” states the Camden, AL cattleman.

“With a new set of cattle, we try to establish some sort of relationship with them the first hour they're here. We stand there and fool with them for 10-15 minutes and find their flight zone. They gain confidence.”

“It's a tough time when they get off the trailer, especially if they're just off the cow,” says Mary Ellen Hicks, animal scientist at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, GA. “The calves are trying to attach themselves to somebody. As long as you move through them quietly and deliberately, it's a good opportunity to step in and establish a leader-type position with the cattle.”

When Hollinger actually works the new arrivals, he says, “We try to handle cattle quietly. Eliminate any delays and prepare. Have your tools there. Make sure your pens are in good shape.”

If he has to doctor a sick calf later on, he'll do it in the pen with an ATV and a dart gun. In moving cattle from pasture to pasture, he'll also use trained border collies.

After the cattle go out on grazing, he'll take a bag of range cubes and walk through them once or twice a week so they stay used to having humans near.

When it's time to sell them, he thinks ahead. “One practice I try to follow is to group the cattle like we'll sell them. We sell all we can in 50,000-lb. load lots. I try to sort them off and bring them in a week or two ahead of time near the scales. Our paddocks are laid out so they funnel into one lane. Then they can just walk out of the paddock into the lane and onto the scales instead of goosenecking them that day. They can gain back the shrink from being moved.”

“That's fantastic,” says Hicks. “He's planning far enough ahead of time that the cattle can do what comes naturally to them and practically move themselves. He's keeping the stress off of them.”

Hollinger adds, “Facilities play a big part. Having scales on the farm is worth at least 1% to me.

“Cattle handling is something you have to learn,” he says. “It's an art, not an exact science, and it only comes with practice.”

Get ready to compete

“Developing Management Strategies For A Changing Ranching Industry” is the theme of Texas A&M University (TAMU)-Kingsville's 4th annual Holt Cat® Symposium on Excellence in Ranch Management. The Oct. 25-26 workshop format on the Kingsville campus will focus on developing management strategies for a changing ranching industry.

In addition to presentations by industry experts on strategic management in the face of evolving economic conditions, there also will be tours of the King Ranch and social activities designed for networking. For more information, call 361-593-5401 or visit krirm.tamuk.edu.

Preceding the Holt Cat meeting on Oct. 24 will be a Texas Beef Quality Producer Program. Learn more about the program at www.texasbeefquality.com/default.htm.