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2008 NCBA Coverage

New NCBA officers include: Andy Groseta, a Cottonwood, AZ rancher; Gary Voogt, Marne, MI, president-elect; and Steve Foglesong, Astoria, IL, vice president. Bill Donald, Melville, MT, is the NCBA Policy Division chairman, while Alan Albright, Lytton, IA, is the new Federation Division chairman.

New leadership for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, which administers the checkoff, includes: Dave Bateman, Oregon, IL, chairman; Lucinda Williams, Hatfield, MA, vice chairman; and Dan Dierschke, Austin, TX, secretary/treasurer.

Yolo Land & Cattle Co. operated by the Hank Stone family of Woodland, CA, were named the 2008 Environmental Stewardship Award Program national winner.

Representing NCBA’s Region VI, the operation competed against five other regional winners for the national recognition. The award, now in its 17th year, is sponsored by National Cattlemen’s Foundation, NCBA, Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Among the other regional honorees were: Region I, Sunrise Club Calves, Shippenville, PA; Region II, Dee River Ranch, Aliceville, AL; Region III, Oak Knoll Ranch, Salem, MO; Region IV, Roaring Springs Ranch, Frenchglen, OR; and Region VI, Alexander Ranch, Sun City, KS.

The 2008 Beef Industry Vision Awards, presented by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, were awarded in six categories:

• Cow-calf – Robert Bruner, Bruner Angus Ranch, Huntsville, TX. • Feeding – Paul Engler, Cactus Feeders, Amarillo, TX; and James Herring, Friona Feedyard, Amarillo, TX.

• Livestock market – Jackie Moore and Steve Owens, Joplin Regional Stockyards, Joplin, MO. • Retail – H-E-B, San Antonio, TX.

• Packer/processor – Eldon Roth, Beef Products, Inc., Dakota Dunes, SD.

The Vision Award, sponsored by Micro Beef Technologies, recognizes individuals, businesses and organizations in the cattle industry that innovate in an effort to enhance not only their business, but also the industry as a whole. Nominees were evaluated on effective use of technology, impact on production costs, ingenuity of implementation, innovative marketing, impact on the industry and optimum resource management.

The National Beef Backer Award in foodservice recognizes chain and independent restaurant operators who excel in menuing and marketing beef. More than 8.66 billion lbs. of beef were served in the foodservice channel in 2007. Among the honorees were:

• Independent − Cherry Valley Country Club, Skillman, NJ.
• Chain − Logan’s Roadhouse, Nashville, TN.
• Innovator of the Year − The Rex Restaurant & Bar, Billings, MT. Meanwhile, winners of the first annual National Retail Beef Backer® Awards included: • Chain (11+ stores) – Harris Teeter (166 stores), based in Matthews, NC.
• Independent (fewer than 11 retail stores) – Foodmaster Supermarkets (10 stores), based in Chelsea, MA.
• Innovator –The Kroger Company (2,400 stores), based in Cincinnati, OH and recognized for its launch of the Flat Iron Steak.

NCBA’s Veal Council unveiled four new veal cuts designed for the casual-theme foodservice segment to help increase veal demand nationwide. These cuts complement the five cuts introduced last year under the Veal Optimization Study.

The four new cuts include: the Osso Bucco for Two, Double-Bone Veal Chop, Tuscan Style Veal Chop and Boneless Osso Bucco. For more, visit www.veal

These four cuts more fully utilize the veal square cut chuck,” says Mike Lemler, vice chairman of the Veal Council and a California veal marketer.

Members address checkoff hike

NCBA members voted to direct the association to ask Congress to approve a process that will allow producers to vote on enhancements to the beef checkoff program.

“Twenty plus years of inflation have really eroded the beef checkoff’s ability to fulfill all the expectations we have placed on it over the years,” said NCBA President John Queen, a Waynesville, NC cattleman. “And increases in beef production have come primarily from higher cattle weights, rather than herd expansion. That’s another reason revenues don’t keep up with the industry’s needs. We’re producing more beef, but the revenue we need to market it doesn’t keep pace.”

NCBA Policy Division Chairman Bill Donald, a rancher from Melville, MT, added: “All we’re asking Congress to do is empower cattle producers with a referendum process, so they can control the destiny of their checkoff. Producers will decide whether to increase the checkoff assessment, but this will put the procedure in place that allows them to do that.”

NCBA members declined to ask for a specific increase in the checkoff rate, but agreed that an increase to $2/head (a $1 increase) “would adequately fund the program at this point in time.” Any increase in the $1/head rate would require action by Congress to amend the Beef Promotion and Research Act.

Members also proposed:
• Simplifying the petition process that determines whether a referendum on continuation of the checkoff will be held. A valid petition signed by 10% of the nation’s cattle producers would trigger USDA to hold a referendum within one year.

• Establishing a similar petition/referendum process for future increases in the checkoff assessment. This would allow cattlemen to approve or disapprove a proposed increase, without taking the question back to Congress.

• Eliminating any reference to their charter date in determining whether organizations are eligible to manage checkoff- funded programs. Currently, some livestock organizations are not eligible because they were formed after 1986.

• NCBA members also discussed whether the checkoff should be used to specifically promote U.S. born and raised beef.

Currently, U.S. beef is specifically pro- moted only in foreign markets, while domestic programs promote all beef. This is due in part to the fact that as- sessments on imported cattle and beef account for about 11% (roughly $8 mil- lion/year) of checkoff revenues.

Other NCBA membership actions:
Renewable fuels – members favor a sunset of the 54¢ tariff on imported ethanol and the 51¢/gal. fuel-blending tax credit. These programs are set to ex- pire in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Animal ID – Members support a voluntary, market-based approach to an- imal ID. But member policy was updat- ed to recognize the legitimate benefits that premises registration can provide in meeting animal health emergency re- quirements – as long as they do not im- pede normal cattle movement.

Veterinarian shortage – Members adopted policy supporting educational and financial aid programs to help ad- dress a growing national shortage of large-animal vets.

Paul Hitch feted

NCBA members honored Paul Hitch, a cattleman and longtime live- stock industry leader from Guymon, OK, for his industry service. Set to be- come president of NCBA this year, Hitch stepped down due to health problems. To learn more, see “The Man Who Would Be President” in February BEEF.

Addressing the cattle-industry audience, Hitch invoked New York Yankee legend Lou Gehrig. Diagnosed with the fatal disease that would later bear his name, Gehrig gave an emotional farewell speech to a Yankee Stadium crowd, say- ing, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

“I always thought that was odd – I thought Lou Gehrig was insane,” Hitch told the crowd. “But today, I know that Paul Hitch Lou Gehrig was the luckiest man in the world. Because today I am the luckiest man in the world, because I have you. You make me the luckiest man in the world, and I thank you for it.”

Barbara Jackson, Tucson, AZ, was named the American National CattleWomen’s 2007 Outstanding CattleWoman of the Year. New American National CattleWomen of- ficers include: Fita Witte, Belen, NM, president; Kristy Lage, Arthur, NE, pres- ident-elect; and Lana Slaten, Cullman, AL, vice president.

Where will it end?

Where will it end?

Private grazing rates across the Western U.S. climbed more than 5% for the 12 months through January to $14.50/animal unit month (AUM). That’s up from last year’s 4.5% pace, according to the latest USDA January Cattle Survey.

Yet, given the developing profit squeeze caused by steeply rising feed prices and other production costs, mar ket participants say lease rates will eventually have to retreat or at least flatten if cattle prices don’t rise to offset the increased cost structure.

“You can’t help but be bearish on lease prices over the next two to three years,” says Gene Dunbar, national manager of farm and ranch services at U.S. Trust- Bank of America Wealth Management Services in San Antonio, TX.

“If feed prices go up like the market is predicting, a guy can stock lighter and feed less during winter and bad times, or pay a lower lease rate to afford the inputs,” adds Dunbar, who oversees 1.6 million acres of rangeland trust properties located mostly in New Mexico and Texas.

Dry weather, high corn prices and rising energy costs are prompting further herd cuts. The U.S. cattle herd is now 6.6% under the 1996 peak of 103.5 mil- lion head. There are 546,500 fewer beef cows and replacement heifers competing for pasture than a year ago. Graziers worry about rising lease rates in the face of stable to decreas- ing cattle prices.

Up, up in the West

The Western region’s firmest pasture markets are in Washington and Oregon, where rates spiked an average of 26% to $12.10/AUM, and 12.8% to $14.10/AUM, respectively, over last year. Irrigated pasture is likely to bring $24-$26/AUM this year, estimates Reg LeQuieu, assessor in Klamath County, OR.

Grazing rates in the Pacific Northwest are being driven by stiff competition for grass following last year’s drought, cattle herd rebuilding, and a shortage of hay and irrigated pasture as farmers shift land to wheat, corn or canola production to capture high grain prices.

“It’s raising hell with the cattlemen,” says Robert Burns, owner of Northwest Farm & Ranch Appraisals LLC in Pendleton, OR, who leases out 800 acres of pasture.

Alfalfa hay is currently fetching around $150/ton in eastern Oregon, vs. $65-$85/ton typically. Locals predict hay prices could hit $200/ton. Ranchers are substituting baled corn stalks, wheat straw, barley straw or other lower-quality feedstuffs for hay, says Bill Moore who runs 700 cows near Unity and is president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

Competition for pasture in this region is likely to increase: Beef cow numbers are up 3% in Washington and 5% in Oregon; beef cow replacement heifers are up 11% and 4.5%, respectively, from a year ago.

Drought and land conversion to grain production is fueling increases in pasture rates across the West. Rates rose 10% or more in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Utah, according to USDA reports.

USDA’s survey reflects state averages. Local rental rates vary widely based on such factors as forage quality, proximity to roads, and the availability of stock water, size of the acreage, lease term and landowner services. Charges for counting, checking health and water, providing salt and minerals, and maintaining fences vary with each situation.

The chart on page 22 reports average grazing rates for three common pricing methods: per AUM, a cow-calf basis, and per head. An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.

Contracting in Nebraska

The January survey shows that grazing rates contracted in Nebraska and held flat in California and Nevada – all states that posted net declines in year-over-year cattle numbers.

“It is a pretty tight margin game right now, and people aren’t very enthusiastic about bidding lease rates up, especially with lower cow herd numbers,” says economist Bruce Johnson at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

In past years, cattle moved from New Mexico and other droughty southern states to graze in Nebraska from May to October. That appears to be waning with rising transportation costs, Johnson says.

Moving south to the Kansas Flint Hills, net rents to landowners for Bluestem pasture are expected to rise $1-$2/acre to $12-$13/acre, with some tracts fetching $25/acre, says Mike Holder, a Chase County Extension agent. Custom grazing fees for the early intensive grazing period are likely to increase $5-$10/acre.

With feedlot costs now pushing 85¢/lb. of gain, grass pasture has gained appeal. Holder figures cattlemen can save at least 15¢/lb. of gain by grazing 500- to 600-lb. cattle in the Flint Hills, vs. putting them in a feedyard. “People will be looking for grass to try to get a couple hundred pounds of cheaper gain on their cattle,” he says.

Up 8% in Oklahoma

Turning to Oklahoma, grazing rates are up more than 8% to $9/AUM. Winter wheat pasture is especially in short supply across the north central region. Market participants were anticipating wheat-pasture rates of 40-45¢/lb. of gain. But a dry fall and late seeding produced a poor wheat stand, so that virtually no wheat or small-grain pasture was leased, reports J.C. Hobbs, Oklahoma State University farm management specialist in Enid.

As a result, many lightweight stocker cattle from Texas and the east that are normally moved into this region in mid-November to graze on wheat until March went directly into the feedlot, Hobbs says.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service left the federal grazing fee for Western pasture lands unchanged this year at $1.35/AUM. The fee, which takes effect March 1, is the lowest rate allowed under the current formula. BLM says declining beef-cattle prices and rising production costs outweighed higher private lease rates. The fee applies to more than 26,000 grazing permits and leases on public land administered by the two agencies.

At the state level, grazing fees on state-owned trust lands moved up and down, depending on differences in state rate formulas and local market conditions. Lower calf prices prompted Oregon officials to cut 2008 grazing rates 12.7% to $5.06/AUM for the 638,000 acres of arid to semi-arid state rangeland in central and eastern Oregon.

Montana also cited lower cattle prices in trimming 2008 grazing rates nearly 12% to a range of $6.18 to $6.94/AUM on state land.

In Colorado, state grazing lease rates are up from 5.5% in the northeast to $10.78/AUM, to 19.5% in the southwest to $9.13/AUM. Beverly Rave, field operations manager at the Colorado State Land Board, says the sharp increase in southwest Colorado rates is being driven by a shortage of grass caused by a persistent drought that began in 2001. Another factor pressuring rates: increased custom grazing by absentee landowners who are charging higher rates for yearling cattle shipped in from Texas, Mexico and other regions.

In North Dakota, ranchers bid an average of $7.69/acre for leases on state pastureland in October public auctions. That’s up 10.5% over the prior year’s rate.

In Nebraska, net grazing rates on state-owned land are generally 1% to 3% lower in the eastern and western Sand Hills, but about 2% higher in Lincoln County in the southern Sand Hills, reports Ron Vance, field supervisor with the Nebraska Board of Educational Lands and Funds. State leases for sandy soil pasture range from an average $23.50/AUM in the western Sand Hills, to $30/AUM in the eastern Sand Hills.

From pasture to plate

The industry has its own version of how producers and feeders employ environmental stewardship – the site. It guides visitors through the stages of beef production, from the cow-calf operation, feedyard and ultimately to the meat counter.

It uses a series of testimonials and producer profiles to help inform visitors about all facets of beef production. Ranchers and feeders from Texas, California, Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan, Arizona, Massachusetts and other states are profiled through short videos. They cite the history of their operations and guide viewers through their production practices, animal welfare and dedication to preserving the environment.

“Cattle farmers and ranchers are credible with the public,” says Rick McCarty, vice president of issues management for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “They’re viewed as honest, hard-working and an embodiment of American values. Nobody knows beef production like beef producers and nobody is more credible to tell that story.”

“From Pasture to Plate” helps create a positive marketing environment for promotional efforts such as the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign, McCarty says. And it provides a better understanding of the overall industry and how projects like the Environmental Stewardship Award Program help ensure a sustainable and wholesome product.

Selecting Forages for Swathing

Selecting Forages for Swathing

As snow cover begins to recede and the tractor no longer needs to be plugged in to feed hay, you might be wondering if there’s an easier way. One solution is to bring your cows to forage resources by swath grazing (“Sweet On Swaths,” September BEEF, page 66).

Though the benefits of swath grazing may not materialize until the fall, pre- paring to plant forages begins now. “It’s got to be something you start thinking about in April or May, especially with annual forages,” says Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist. It’s this time of year when producers need to ask themselves, “Where and what am I going to plant?”

Both annual and perennial forages can be used for grazing. Location con- siderations include access to winter water, wind shelter and fencing needs. It’s also important to determine what time of year forage will be grazed, the class of livestock and stage of produc- tion, and their performance goals while grazing swaths. Keep in mind lactating cows have different needs than replace- ment heifers and stockers.

Annual forages

Annual crops are planted every year and include warm-season and cool-season grasses. Warm-season annuals such as foxtail millet, sorghum-sundangrass hybrids or sudangrass, and cool-season annuals such as barley and oats, have been used for windrow grazing, says Jerry Volesky, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension range and forage specialist.

Selecting warm- or cool-season forages is dependent upon the climatic re- gion. “With the heat we typically get in July, cool-seasons don’t quite work out as well in a lot of situations,” Lardy explains, noting producers in Canada use more cool-season grasses.

Cattlemen swath grazing in Canada and the Western U.S. are fans of annual forages.

“The annual route is one of the best ways to go in the Upper Great Lakes Region,” says Ryon Walker, University of Minnesota Extension beef specialist. “It’s the safest way mainly because annuals typically will not come back the following growing season, whereas regrowth of perennial forages may be reduced the following spring due to grazing pressure.”

Walker adds that producers planning to swath graze using an annual forage should be prepared to work the ground the following year. Annual forages work well in most climates, but in wetter conditions high-yielding annuals reduce the potential for molding and the stem component helps swaths dry. Annual crops should be seeded so that when harvested before the first frost, crops are in the early-heading to soft-dough stage. Annuals grazed before this stage will regrow, Walker says.

Costs can add up quickly using annuals, especially in light of increasing nitrogen prices. “If you put the expense of the inputs into trying to produce an annual forage, and you don’t get much for tonnage, it’s probably hard to economically justify the expense of trying to swath it and cross-fence it,” Lardy says.

One other caution is drought stress and the potential for that crop to have high nitrate levels. Lardy recommends drought-stressed annuals be tested prior to grazing.

Perennial forages

Perennials, on the other hand, grow each year without replanting (e.g., alfalfa, smooth bromegrass) but face inherent challenges. “A perennial coming back next spring is going to have a hard time because of all the stress cattle put on it,” Walker says. These crops should be seeded in early spring, unless pastures have been already established. Like annual crops, these are harvested prior to first frost and can be grazed early in the season.

“We grazed those meadows during the month of May,” explains Volesky. “And the reason for doing that was we wanted to delay the maturity of those grasses and be working with regrowth in September when we hayed it.”

He was working with sub-irrigated hay meadows in the Sand Hills of Nebraska comprised of cool-season grasses such as smooth bromegrass, slender wheatgrass with a few legumes and clovers added in. By grazing in May, the forage didn’t become rank when hayed in September.

Another forage that has worked well for producers in Nebraska is alfalfa. Volesky says this is typically last-cutting alfalfa harvested around mid-October for grazing in early November. This works well when compared to grazing standing (stockpiled) alfalfa because after freeze-down, standing alfalfa looses leaves and overall quality fairly quickly.

In Lardy’s experience, “perennials were lower-quality forages just because of when they were cut relative to when they would have peaked in terms of productivity.” Big bluestem (a warm-season) growing in North Dakota hits peak production mid- to late-July, which if swathed at that time is hard to keep in good condition due to heat, humidity and moisture. To get around lower-quality forage, a lick-barrel molasses supplement tub was provided to cattle swath grazing.

Tables 1-3 illustrate how various forages, when put into swaths, fared for crude protein, total digestible nutrients and yield.

Walker preferred the Italian ryegrass/oats (Table 2) mixture because as the oats matured, it choked out Italian ryegrass and made for better swaths. He estimated the stand to be 20% Italian ryegrass, 80% oats. He noted that annual ryegrass was the “best bang for our buck” in terms of yield.

USDA ag projections

USDA released its 10-year agriculture projections in February, and it anticipates a drop in production of all meats for the next few years as more and more corn is diverted to ethanol.

  • The cattle inventory will remain in a range of 96 million to 99 million head throughout the projection period. From 2008-2010, higher grain prices as well as drought will hold down cattle inventories, pushing beef production down. Production will then rise as returns improve and herds rebuild. Beyond 2010, rising slaughter weights will contribute to a moderate expansion in beef production.
  • As the beef industry adjusts to higher feed costs brought on by ethanol production, per-capita beef consumption will decline. The pressure on domestic consumption will be further intensified by an increase in beef exports, assuming a gradual rebuilding of exports to Japan and South Korea.
  • This will mean that strong demand for consistent, high-quality beef will continue both domestically and in overseas markets. Domestically, foodservice demand for high-quality beef will remain constant and will increase in the retail market.
  • As U.S. beef production declines in the next several years, imports of processing beef from Australia and New Zealand will increase. The U.S. will be a net beef importer throughout the 10- year projection period as the recovery of high-quality fed-beef exports doesn’t reach the 2000-2003 levels until the last several years of the projection period.

Read the complete report at

“Essential Guide To Calving”

Written by Heather Smith Thomas, this 328-page how-to manual carries readers all the way from pregnancy and calving through care of the newborn calf and managing calfhood illness. Full of high-quality illustrations and photos, this calving handbook puts practical and essential information into simple terms for those who raise cattle. Using examples from her own herd, noted author and lifelong cattlewoman Thomas melds sound veterinary principles with expert advice and seasons it with experiences from her 50-year career with calving cows and their newborns.

ISBN 978-58017-706-1 is available through, and local booksellers.

A legend passes

Visionary cattle-genetics leader Roy Wallace passed away Jan. 20 while in Denver attending the National Western Stock Show. He was 63.

Wallace, vice president of beef programs for Select Sires, literally spent his entire working life in pursuit of producing better beef cattle through improved genetics. He was a leader in the areas of sire evaluation, progeny testing and estrus synchronization in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Wallace was among the originators who helped form the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF), and he was awarded BIF’s Continuing Service Award and the Pioneer Award. He also coauthored the BIF 25-year history, “Ideas Into Action,” and was named among BEEF magazine’s “Top 40” contributors to the U.S. beef industry in 2004.

Memorials can be sent to The Ohio State University, Department of Animal Sciences, c/o Dr. James E. Kinder, Chair, Roy Wallace Memorial, 2029 Fyffe Road, Columbus, Ohio, 43210.

For more on this industry icon, visit:

Creeping cost basis magnifies inputs

"In the course of the cattle cycle, breeding-female inventories will increase, causing calf prices to fall,” says Stan Bevers, Texas A&M University Extension economist. “Few operators believe that input costs will fall as calf prices come down.”

For perspective, Bevers points to Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA) figures from the Southwest that show the total annual cost to maintain a breeding female in 2006 was $571.73. Meanwhile, the cost of a calf weaned that year was $121.26/cwt.

Similar ulcer-inducing examples can be found wherever you happen to run cows. It has plenty to do with skyrocketing feed prices, but it also revolves around other basics, including the amount of feed required by the factory.

For instance, logic says it’s reasonable that USDA’s average slaughter-cow weights should at least illustrate the trend in mature cow weights, even though both beef and dairy cows are included in the data.

By that measure, average cow-carcass weights increased 86 lbs. from 1994 to 2006 (536 to 622 lbs.). If you figure Commercial grading cows dress at 55-60%, and Canners at 40-46%, that means the live weight of those cows has increased 150-200 lbs. on average. To put these weights on par with their production peers, some argue you need to add another 80-120 lbs. (1.0-1.5 body condition scores).

Twig Marston, Kansas State University Extension beef marketing specialist says, generally speaking, every 100-lb. change in cow body weight changes the requirement for total digestible nutrients (TDN) by 0.65 lbs./day.

So, cows that are 150-200 lbs. heavier today require another 97.5-130 lbs. of TDN/year. That’s before you consider specific additional requirements for energy and protein.

Using a subset of the earlier SPA example, the largest part of the $571.73 annual cost was depreciation ($79.83), followed by purchased feed costs ($71.57) and hired labor and management ($58.78). Combined, those three items tallied 44.7% of the annual cost.

On the other side of the equation, even though calf and feeder-cattle prices have increased in recent years, herd efficiency – calves weaned per cow exposed – has remained fairly flat. In the Southwest SPA subset, it was 81.39%. Thus, each calf weaned actually cost $648.65.

Basics still offer opportunity

There are exceptions to any rule, and regional differences abound, but the same reality exists across the nation. That’s obviously one reason why reducing cow costs is harder than running smaller cows. The bigger issue is how efficient cows are, no matter their size.

According to Steve Swigert, a Noble Foundation agricultural economist in Ardmore, OK, financially successful cow-calf operations tend to utilize a combination of these proven practices:

  • Set specific financial and production goals that are measured and monitored.
  • Make wise purchase decisions to reduce investment in depreciable assets, such as machinery and vehicles.
  • Develop systems for total resource management, including wildlife.
  • Avoid hay production by buying hay.
  • Cut feeding losses.
  • Improve grazing utilization.
  • Monitor and control purchased feed expenses.
  • Don’t overstock grazing land.
  • Focus on reproduction (weaning percent based on exposed females) – the No. 1 production factor for cow-calf producers.
  • Control breeding seasons for best use of grazing.
  • Buy replacements and use terminal cross bulls if you are a small producer.
  • Stay clear of seedstock production. It loses money for most operations.
  • Use proven health practices to ensure sound herd health. Develop a written preventive health program, have it reviewed by a veterinarian and then follow it.
  • Evaluate opportunities to participate in cattle-marketing alternatives.
  • Don’t spend money to reduce IRS taxes if they aren’t sound investments that will increase after-tax equity. It doesn’t make sense to spend $1 to save 30¢.
  • For IRS compliance, make sure to keep the ranch bank account separate from your personal account.
  • Consider location when acquiring land for appreciation. Where land appreciation is concerned, non-cattle uses of land are more important than grazing cattle.
  • Use inventory and management accounting systems to accurately measure and monitor performance.

Bottom line, though increasing feed costs are as daunting as they are maddening, there are other cow costs that producers can control, such as shipping cows that aren’t getting the job done.

Reality Check

There can be, upon occasion, a gulf between academic recommenda- tions and practical application. In the cold and hard reality of what works in a challenging and competitive world, mistakes are costly, recommendations are constantly scrutinized, and con- sultants are under pressure to deliver results. And what makes sense in an aca- demic setting can sometimes fall short when the wheels start to roll.

That was the snapshot that Judson Vasconcelos and Mike Galyean, re- searchers in the animal science depart- ment at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, were looking for in their 2007 survey of nutritional recommendations of feed- yard consulting nutrition- ists. The survey canvassed 29 nutritionists who, between them, formulate the rations for nearly 70% of the cattle on feed in the U.S.

Overall, the researchers say, the variation among re- sponses was not large, which indicates the consultants were all using similar information sourc- es and applying the information consis- tently. Their primary information source is the National Research Council (NRC) 1984 and 1996 recommendations, com- bined with other published sources, such as the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System, and their own data and observations. Here, among other things, is what the survey found:

Energy. “Our respondents seemed to recognize the greater energy value of steam-flaked corn and consid- ered steam-flaked corn to increase in NEg concentration by an average of 10.9% compared with dry-rolled corn, and 6.8% compared with high-mois- ture corn,” says Vasconcelos, who is now with the University of Nebraska at Scottsbluff. In contrast, the 1996 NRC ta- bles suggest an increase of only 4.5% for steam-flaked vs. dry-rolled corn, and no difference in the net ener- gy concentration between high-moisture and steam- flaked corn.

“Thus, although most (83%) of our nutritionists used the NRC as their source comof information on energy values, they deviated substantially from NRC estimates of NEg values for processed grain.”

Grain. Corn was the grain of choice for all 29 nutritionists, but corn in the form of co-products is now a fixture in feedyard rations. Eighty-three percent of the nutritionists use grain co-products in finishing diets, with wet distiller’s grains, dry distiller’s grains with solubles (corn, sorghum or both), wet corn gluten feed and dry corn gluten feed the main ingredients. The range of inclusion was wide – from 5% to 50% – with an average of 16.5%.

Protein. Another area in which the nutritionists differed from the NRC recommendations is in the use of degradable intake protein (DIP). “Most of them are not formulating for degradable intake protein, which was surprising for us,” Vasconcelos says. DIP is the type of protein digested in the rumen by the microbial population. A good example of a feedstuff high in DIP is urea.

Undegradable intake protein (UIP), the other type of protein, is not broken down by ruminal microorganisms and “escapes” ruminal degradation, moving on to the small intestine for digestion. Cottonseed and soybean meal are high in UIP.

DIP in the ration is important to ensure that the feedstuffs are providing sufficient protein to allow the rumen microorganisms to do their thing. That’s particularly important when cattle are on a highly fermentable diet, such as steam-flaked corn, Vasconcelos says.

However, if you’re formulating a feedyard diet for DIP, you have to do a lot of estimating because there is no widely accepted laboratory test that provides definitive levels. Thus, most nutritionists prefer to look at the total protein requirements rather than formulate for varying degrees of degradability.

When looking at nutrient composition for finishing diets, the average crude protein recommendation was 13%. The primary sources of plant-based protein were either generally described as byproducts or specified as distiller’s grains or gluten feed. In addition, some nutritionists still use more traditional sources of protein such as cottonseed meal and soybean meal.

Roughage. The survey showed a slight seasonal variation in roughage, with nutritionists using slightly less (an average of 8.3%) roughage in the ration in the summer than in the winter, when roughage averaged 9%. The primary roughage source was corn silage, with 41% of nutritionists indicating this as their first choice, followed by alfalfa at 31%.

Minerals. “Gen-erally, most major and trace mineral recommendations fell within a range of 1 to 2 times the NRC recommendations,” says Vasconcelos. “However, a slight trend for oversupplying nutrients was observed, perhaps reflecting some degree of a desire to err on the side of caution and provide a safety net for both the consultant and the producers they serve.”

However, the survey did show that nearly all the nutritionists didn’t add phosphorus (P) to the diet. “Thus, our data suggest that feedlot nutritionists have responded to environmental concerns by decreasing P supplementation to cattle,” Vasconcelos says.

Cattle management

In addition, the survey looked at recommended cattle-management systems. “With our respondent’s clients, those who sorted cattle into outcome groups were the majority (41%),” Vasconcelos says. “The most common time of sorting was at arrival for 37% of the clients, re-implant for 29% of the clients, and other times for 28%.”

According to Vasconcelos, sorting by body weight was most common, with 61% of responses indicating they used this method. Ultrasound was used by 8.5%, while 24% used other unspecified methods.

“All consulting nutritionists were responsible for their clients’ implant strategy,” he says. The recommended maximum number of days on a terminal estrogen/trenbolone acetate implant was 100 days for 14 of the 29 nutritionists surveyed. Seven recommended 120 days, seven went to 130 days, and one took the cattle to 140 days.

Most nutritionists recommended an average of 21 days to adapt newly arrived cattle to a high-concentrate diet, Vasconcelos says, regardless of method used. The vast majority of the nutritionists surveyed recommend a multiple step-up diet to adapt cattle, using an average of three rations, each fed for seven days. Two-ration blending was used by four nutritionists, while two used a combination of a step-up and two-ration approach. The initial level of roughage in the step-up rations ranged from 27.5% to 46%, with an average of 40%.

And finally, the survey revealed a truth everyone in the cattle business can appreciate – consultants, like their clients, are getting older. The largest percentage of respondents, 35%, have been in practice for more than 26 years, with 28% practicing for 16-26 years. Based on that, Vasconcelos says, “I assume in the next five to 10 years, we’re going to see a big turnover in nutritionists.”

While data from the survey provide a snapshot of practices used by feedyard nutritionists, its value may be longer lasting than that. The results, which show where academic recommendations and practical application merge, and, more importantly, where they don’t, should aid in the development of future NRC models and recommendations.

Temporary Fencing for Controlled Grazing

Temporary Fencing for Controlled Grazing

Sponsored Content by Gallagher Animal Management Systems

Controlled grazing, intensive grazing, rotation grazing, managed grazing or managed intensive grazing…

Some say it originated more than 200 years ago, others say it’s barely 30 years old. Only one indisputable fact reamins… it isn’t possible without electric fencing.

Althought it’s essential, it isn’t complicated. When a permeter fence is already in place and still effective, it’s possible to get all the electric fence components you need for a few hundred dollars.

Temporary fencing can also be used in feedlots to prevent damage to plant life by controlling livestock.

The purchase should include a portable reel for easy handling of the wire, treadin posts, volt meter, solar-powered energizer with battery, and sufficient length of polywire or polytape. Because of it’s greater visability, polytape is preferred in some application.

Cattle can easily be contained with a single strand of electric polytape or polywire for controlled grazing.

The polytape/polywire should be run at the height of a cow’s head and in a cow/calf operation, a second strand is necessary at the height of the calf’s head.

It is essential that the cattle be “trained” to the electric fence before the rotating from paddock-to-paddock begins. This can be done by installing a short section of electric fence, a single hot wire is sufficient, near the water source.