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MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 2, 2019

A regulatory agency needs to take another look at plans to deal with a possible oil spill from a pipeline, says the U.S. government.

The race to feed vegetarians is heating up. Nestle will introduce soy protein-based burgers across Europe and the U.S.

A lot can happen to the wheat crop between now and harvest.

An Illinois policeman killed in a head-on collision was quite a hero.


Photo: GCapture/Getty Images

Milk for growing calves: Too much of a good thing?


Ask a rancher what his or her “dream cow” looks like, and you’ll get a lot of various answers. The cow’s breed, mature weight and genotype may differ depending on the producer’s goals, environment, production practices and marketing strategies.

However, no matter where you live or what your operational goals are, there are a few factors to selecting the ideal cow that I think everyone can agree on — quiet disposition, great milking ability, structural soundness, easy calving and fertility.

It’s this balance of traits, in conjunction with performance markers, that make for that picture-perfect cow we are all seeking.

Yet, sometimes we can get lost in the abundance of data available to us, and it can be tempting to chase a single trait in order to make marked improvements in one specific area.

And that’s where we can get into trouble.

Take, for example, milking ability. We all want cows that have ample milk to grow a calf and put more pounds on her offspring by sale day. However, by chasing one single trait like milk, we may fall trap to overpaying for that particular parameter.

In the case of milk, how much is enough or even too much?

The answer to this question can be found in a recent article written by Travis Mulliniks, University of Nebraska-Lincoln beef cattle nutritionist. “Using maternal genetics, calf weaning weight can have as low as a 5% influence on ranch profitability, due to increasing cowherd production costs. With selection of milk, we are chasing a mere 5% influence on profitability,” he writes.

“On the other hand, the economic value of reproduction is reported to be 5 times greater than calf growth or milk traits. With feed costs, which typically run between 60% to 75% of total annual cow costs, matching cow type or genetic potential to the production environment is and will be more important as the cost of production increases.”

Mulliniks references a study conducted at the University of Tennessee that looked at 37 Angus-bred beef cows and the volume of milk each produced and its correlation to calf performance.

Interestingly, although it should come to no shock to beef producers who have seen high-volume milking cows come up open or late on pregnancy checking date, that fertility decreased in the high milk production cows.

Mulliniks explains, “After milking, cows were classified by their milk production as Low (14 pounds per day), Moderate (20 pounds per day), or High (26 pounds per day) milk cows. Pregnancy rates after artificial insemination was 11% and 13% points lower for High milk cows compared to Moderate and Low cows, respectively.

“The decreased pregnancy rate after artificial insemination in the High milking cows continued through the entire breeding season with High milking cows having the lowest overall pregnancy rates. Milk production level did not increase calf weaning weight. Even with the nearly double milk production from Low to High, calf weaning weights were not different between the three groups.”

According to the article, if milking potential in the cowherd is too high, producers may start seeing several problems that would impact productivity and profitability, including:

  • Calving distribution starting to spread out from increased number of later breeding cows
  • Decreased pregnancy rates in young (2- and 3-year-old) cows
  • Decreased stocking rates over the years than previously stocked
  • Increased number of thinner body condition score cows and/or increased feed amounts to maintain adequate body condition score.

You can read additional information of research conducted at UNL by clicking here.

It can be easy to think that “more is better” and “bigger is better.” However, if we fall into that mentality, we may lose sight of the importance of balance for achieving long-term success in our cow-calf operations.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

Fed Cattle Recap | Are the good times over?


Depending on where you live, March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, as the old saw predicts. But for others dealing with ongoing flooding or the aftermath, March was more like a honey badger.

It will take months and maybe years for the full effect of the disaster to be felt. In the meantime, keep them in your thoughts and prayers and know that relief efforts are ongoing.

Now, looking at the cash fed cattle market, the question hanging over the trade is whether or not we’ve hit the top in prices for the year. Time will tell, but that idea seems to be the prevailing notion.

The Five Area formula sales volume totaled 221,350 head for the week ending March 30, compared with about 240,803 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 75,703 head, compared with about 73,836 head the previous week. 

We report the Five Area averages because of the significance the region has on the market. The Five Area region is comprised of Texas-Oklahoma-New Mexico; Kansas; Nebraska; Colorado and; Iowa-Minnesota. These states produce more than 80% of the fed cattle marketed.

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 54,000 head for the week. The packers have 305,000 head lined up for April, compared with only 230,000 head the same month last year.

National cash sales for the week included 19,786 head of 15- to 30-day delivery and about 18,500 head the previous week.      

Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending March 30 was $126.34 per cwt, compared with $128.96 the previous week, which was $2.62 lower for the week.  

The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $205.60 per cwt, compared with $207.64 the previous week, which was $2.04 lower. 

The Five Area weighted average formula price was $205.32 per cwt, compared with $205.27 the previous week, making it 5 cents higher.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 614,000 head and that compares with 590,000 head the same week last year. 

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending March 16 was 865 pounds, which was 6 pounds lower than the previous week and 12 below the 877 pounds the same week last year. Very muddy conditions and storms continue to push carcass weights much lower than any time since 2015.   

The Choice-Select spread was $7.15 on Friday, compared with $10.45 the previous week and a $12.35 spread last year.  


Farm Progress America, April 2, 2019

Max Armstrong looks into the move by the Trump Administration to relocate the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The aim is to be ‘closer to the stakeholder’ in the farm. Max shares that 136 cities put their hat in the ring to host the new services, that’s been narrowed. But there’s a move by more than 100 communities to block the move.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Image: danijelala/iStock/Getty Images Plus

How to identify the management strategy that makes you more money

Cow calf pair on pasture

In response to my study rancher’s question of how he should manage his beef cow herd through the next cattle cycle, I will share with my readers some of the simulation work we did in trying to answer that question. Keep in mind, we are trying to identify a profit-enhancing management strategy for dealing with the next cattle cycle.

Last month, I raised the question of raising replacement heifers or buying bred replacement heifers. I will now put some dollars and cents to my study rancher’s question of whether he should raise or buy his replacement heifers. Traditionally, he annually runs 250 females — 205 mature cows and 45 bred replacement heifers.

I simulated his herd’s net cash income after a family living draw of $100 per cow each year for 12 years over the complete current cattle cycle (2009 through 2020). The results are summarized by the first two bars in Figure 1.


Raised replacements win

My analysis suggests a total net cash income for the 12 years of $489,932 for raised replacements. This figures out to an annual average of $40,828 net cash income per year over the complete cattle cycle with raised replacements.

If bred replacement females were all purchased, the net cash income is projected to decrease to $342,046 for the same 12 years. This comes to $28,504 average per year net cash income over the complete cycle.

This calculates out to an annual difference of $12,324 per year for his 250 beef cows, or $49 per cow per year in favor of raised replacements.

Then there’s the age-old debate: “Yes, but he could have a higher-producing beef cow herd by bringing in better outside genetics.” Being an economist, I will leave this debate to my animal science friends.

My study herd manager said, “But, it will take less feed to buy replacement heifers, so I can run more cows with the same amount of feed.” Here is my economic analysis in response to this statement.

A significant economic question with respect to raising versus purchasing replacement heifers concerns the farm-raised feed consumption. In this example herd, the question becomes: How many mature cows could be run with that same amount of feed fed to the herd with replacement heifers? 

With the traditional herd, my study herd manager has the winter to grow the replacement heifer calves — from fall weaning through wintering, and onto spring grass. Then, he grazes them on summer grass, getting them bred and transferred into the breeding herd at fall preg-check time.

Some open heifers are then culled and sold. This compares to simply buying preg-checked bred females around preg-check time and putting then into the breeding herd.

Feed simulator

I have a comprehensive beef cow herd feed simulator where I can enter feed consumption for each animal type in the herd for each 15-day period over the total year. I enter in the cattle numbers by type, such as heifers to be developed, mature cows, bulls, and even the number of horses used. I can enter seven different feeds plus animal-unit days of grass for each animal type.

The feed simulator produces detailed annual feed quantities consumed by the complete study herd. Once feed prices are entered, it calculates each feed quantity consumed, and each feed’s cost plus an annual total feed cost for the total herd.

I simulated the study herd of 205 mature cows — 45 heifers being developed — and 13 bulls (no horses were included). I decided to specifically focus on the AUMs of grass consumed. In fact, I asked the question of how many mature cows could be run on the same amount of grass that is consumed by 205 mature cows, 45 replacement heifers and 13 bulls.

A mature cow and her calf consume more grass than a developing heifer. The answer I came up with, grazing no replacement heifers, was 235 mature cows.

In other words, from a grass standpoint, these 235 mature cows consumed the same AUMs of grass as the original 205 mature cows and 45 heifers being developed.

Figure 2 summarizes my answer to the study rancher. My calculated net cash income was highest for home-raising replacement heifers (see Figure 1). If the herd number was restricted to the same herd size but with all replacements purchased, the calculated net cash income was lower.

Market Advisor | April 2019

If beef cow numbers were adjusted to the fixed grass supply, more mature cows could be run with purchased bred females, but net cash income over the complete cattle cycle still did not equal that earned by raising replacement heifers. My analysis suggests raising replacement heifers under a constant feed supply generates a $38-per-cow advantage over purchasing replacements.       

Now, back to the original question from my study rancher: 

  1. Should he adjust his beef cow numbers as he goes through the next cattle cycle or should he continue to run a constant herd of 250 beef cows?
  2. Is there a “cycle trigger” that will tell him when to take the management action?

First, the action trigger. I am suggesting the action trigger for cattle cycle management action is the year that calf prices go through the roof. In the current cattle cycle that was 2014.

My first suggested cattle cycle management action is to sell all heifers born in that high-priced year (in the current cycle, that is 2014) and do the same the second year (i.e., 2015). This strategy is labeled the “no replacement” (No rpl.) strategy presented in Figure 2.

 When I simulate the “no replacement” strategy for 2014 and 2015, the calculated net cash income for the 12 years of the current cattle cycle goes up to $580,717 for a gain of $86,618 — a 17% increase in net cash income for the total cattle cycle.

I cannot stop here because I end up with a reduced inventory change of mature cows from 2009 to 2020 with this suggested management strategy. While an inventory change is not a cash cost, it is a real and important economic cost.

We started with 250 beef females in 2009, so let’s buy replacement heifers back in 2016 and 2017 to ensure that we end up with 250 beef cows at the end of 2020.

Buying replacement females in 2016 and 2017 to bring the herd back up to 250 females at the end of 2020 reduces the total net cash income generated over the total current cattle cycle to $531,615 (see Figure 2). This figures out to an 8% increase in net cash income generated by the herd over the complete cattle cycle.

In summary, Cattle Cycle Strategy 1 is triggered by the peak price year of the current cycle. For example, year 2014 in the current cattle cycle. The strategy is:

  •  Hold back no replacement heifers in the high-price year.
  • Hold back no replacement heifers in the year after the high-price year.
  • Purchase added replacement heifers in the second year after the high-price year.
  • Purchase sufficient replacement heifers in the third year after the high-price year to bring the herd back to normal numbers of mature cows.

Future articles will explore the economics of additional cattle cycle management strategies. Stay tuned. 

Hughes is a North Dakota State University professor emeritus. He lives in Kuna, Idaho. Reach him at 701-238-9607 or [email protected]

Genes: Hill-topper or bottom-dweller?

Photos by Derek Bailey Range-ability-cow-with-collar--Bailey.png
In conducting the range-ability study, researchers cooperated with 17 different ranchers in six Western states. These operations run cattle in a variety of terrains, most of it semiarid and rugged. The cattle were fitted with tracking collars, and when they were on the move, satellites tracked them every 10 minutes.

Ranchers who pasture cattle on rugged rangelands or desert country have known for a long time that some cattle do better out there — traveling farther, climbing higher, using more of the landscape — than others. Now, researchers are showing that there is a genetic component in “range-ability,” enabling some cattle to be more ambitious foragers. 

Cattle can be trained to use higher country and not be “bottom-dwellers,” but there is also an innate tendency in some cattle that makes it easier for them to learn to use the steeper slopes and far corners of a pasture. If some cattle can do this willingly, it saves the labor of trying to teach them — or to keep them from spending so much time in riparian areas.

These studies are difficult to do; it’s hard to get data assessing the way cattle use rangelands. The willingness to travel farther and climb higher is difficult to measure, but GPS technology now enables researchers to track cattle and see where they go. 

Cattle breeders have been selecting for traits like growth, bigger weaning weights and carcass traits that are much easier to measure than willingness to use rugged terrain. Few seedstock breeders select for cattle that cover the country — especially in the East, where grazing distribution isn’t as much of an issue. 

“In the West, it’s a big deal,” says Derek Bailey, professor of grazing management and behavior in the Department of Animal and Range Science at New Mexico State University and one of several researchers working on projects tracking cattle use on rugged and extensive Western rangelands.

“Pastures are big and rough, often on public lands with certain regulations and standards. Permittees are not allowed to overgraze riparian areas, for instance; and if they do, stocking rate will be reduced or some other grazing management changes will be implemented. This can make it very costly for the ranchers using public lands.”

Permittees try to keep cattle out of the bottoms by herding or fencing off riparian areas. Otherwise, low areas and regions closest to water are often overgrazed, and higher areas or regions farthest from water aren’t grazed enough. Ungrazed grass simply creates more fuel for fires. On many ranges, about one-third of these big pastures go ungrazed. 

Derek BaileyEvery region is different, and there are ways to manipulate cattle use. Herding works, as does “training” cattle to use higher or more outlying areas.

Sometimes water can be developed in those distant, higher places, or cattle can be enticed with salt or protein supplement.

But it can be a chore to get salt and supplement into rugged areas with no roads. Often, fencing in this terrain is not an option.

All these things cost money, and if there were a way to select cattle for “ambitious use of terrain,” it would make ranchers’ jobs easier and use of range pastures less expensive. It’s hard to tell by looking at a cow, however, whether she’ll be a good range cow, and there are “lazy” and “ambitious” cows in every breed.

“Tall cows, wide cows and other things you can readily measure are unrelated to this, so it seems to be a separate trait. We see all kinds of cows on top of the mountain and all kinds in the bottoms,” Bailey says. Motivation has little to do with conformation.

Genetic research

“We know there is a genetic influence on grazing distribution. It is a heritable trait, and should respond to selection,” says Bailey. Some researchers are now looking at genetic markers and hope to eventually determine breeding values that could be used in selecting cattle.

“Because we are using tools where we can genotype either 50,000 or 800,000 genotypes per animal, we are seeing a lot of hits on chromosomes in regions that harbor genes involved in locomotion, feed efficiency, overall metabolism, etc. There are many things that just make a lot of sense,” says Milt Thomas, professor of beef cattle breeding and genetics at Colorado State University, one of the researchers looking into the genetics involved in this trait. Many of these things are interrelated.

“Another thing that pops up, since we’re looking at many cattle at high altitudes, is hypoxia [oxygen deficiency],” Thomas says. “There are several chromosomal regions jumping out at us as being important.”

A CSU graduate student, Courtney Pierce, has been working on her thesis in this project. Her work is showing that the range-ability trait is very polygenic (meaning multiple genes are involved).

“There is not just a single gene; it’s lots of genes — whole-animal physiology — many things that are driving a cow to be what we call a hill-topper versus a bottom-dweller,” explains Thomas.

Often, when people start a new area of research — particularly in genetics — they are looking for the “magic gene” or genetic marker. “It’s not going to be simple for this one. It will be what we call a quantitative, complex polygenic trait. This does, however, lend itself very well to our classic EPD system. EPDs are the most appropriate tool for selection of quantitative traits,” says Thomas.

Will producers one day be able to send in blood samples of bulls and rank them as to which would be best to sire hill-climbing daughters? Perhaps, Bailey says.

But there’s a catch. “This kind of trait selection will not be as accurate as selecting for growth, weight or any other things that can be more easily measured, however.”

What makes an ‘ambitious’ cow?

“Terrain use” is the term Bailey uses for the differences in cattle that are ambitious in contrast with bottom-dwellers. “Regardless of variances in vegetation in certain areas, a steep hill is a steep hill, no matter what; and a long distance from water is always a long distance,” Bailey says. “It takes more effort to climb, or to walk farther to water, but some cattle are willing to do it.”

Bailey developed two indexes to help with data evaluation — rough and rolling. The rough index incorporates slope and elevation. The rolling index includes slope and elevation along with distance from water.

Range-ability study results

The answer, “Because it’s there,” to the question, “Why did you climb that mountain?” may be adequate for an adventurous person — but what makes an adventurous cow do that? A multiranch, multistate research study aims to find out. Certainly, water, salt and minerals, along with other management factors, play a part. But the study digs deeper to see if genetic markers can be found, and ranchers can select for the hill-toppers.

“We can starve the ‘lazy’ cattle into leaving the bottoms and climbing higher, but this is detrimental to the cattle and the land,” he says. They eat out the bottoms before they climb higher.

“I was part of some research in Montana where we split a herd. The ones that previously liked to climb we kept separate from the cows that didn’t like to climb, and we watched them for three years in separate pastures.”

The cattle that climbed in the past continued to climb, and their pastures were not beat out in the bottom as much as the pastures of the nonclimbers. There was a measurable difference in grass height at the end of the season — 3 inches for nonclimbers and 5 inches for climbers. 

The nonclimbers’ pasture failed the typical Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service standard for riparian area stubble height, and the climbers’ pasture passed, Bailey says. What’s more, the hill-toppers climbed higher even when there was still grass in the bottoms.

“We can’t see any difference in how they perform, though we know there is some energetic cost in climbing or traveling farther, so they must be getting more from the feed [or have more feed efficiency] to offset that effort,” says Bailey.

Bailey says several research projects are underway in Idaho and Arizona on residual feed intake and feed efficiency on pasture. The results indicate that the hill-toppers may be lower-intake, more feed-efficient cattle than bottom-dwellers.

“So we have a couple pieces of information suggesting that hill-climbers may be more efficient animals. Some of the candidate genes we found in our analysis that were associated with terrain use are also associated with feed efficiency,” Bailey says.

Rangeability and GPS collars

How are you going to get them from down here to up there? That question has been plaguing Western ranchers for decades. There are various ways — herding, salt and protein, water development — but some cows just seem to climb and forage better than others. Research may ultimately develop a DNA test to help select for the hill-toppers.

“Some of the candidate genes we’re looking at for terrain use are also related to things like heat stress and hypoxia. Cattle that are vulnerable to heat stress don’t do as well in summer and may spend less time grazing on a hot day. Cattle that can tolerate heat might climb better,” he says. They also may stay out grazing longer before they seek shade, lie down or stay farther away from water longer.

“If they are not as bothered by the heat, they may just keep walking and grazing longer, and end up higher on the mountain or farther from water. There are many things we still need to know, but genetically we’ve found some ways we might be able to select cattle for these desirable traits,” says Bailey.

Research protocols

“In our recent study, we had a student at Colorado State University tracking 330 cows, working with 17 ranches and different terrain. We recently pulled collars off cows from ranches in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming,” Bailey says.

“We tracked some cattle all summer from branding [range turnout] to weaning, and some [in New Mexico] in winter from weaning until calving the next spring — samplings from all kinds of places, in all kinds of herds, large and small,” he says.

Analyzing all those data, however, takes time. “It’s still a bit slow; we are now analyzing data from more than 330 cows, but the GPS system takes a measurement [when cows are moving around] every 10 minutes,” says Thomas.

“If cows wear GPS collars for two months, there’s a lot of data to analyze. We have to look at maps and overlay that data on a topographical map to see where the cattle went,” he says.

Bailey says the study has been aided by additional researchers in Colorado, California and Arizona. “We also appreciate all the ranchers we work with. They have really helped us and have been a pleasure to work with,” Bailey says.

Smith Thomas is a rancher and freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho.

Finding the ‘sweet spot’ when deworming

Internal parasite treatment
As resistance to anthelmintics by internal parasites becomes a greater concern in the U.S., veterinarians are recommending that producers look at their parasite management. One such change is leaving refugia, or susceptible worms, in the gut to water down the genetics of resistant parasites.

Deworming cattle is easy, often providing significant economic return for relatively little cost.

Deworming cattle effectively and sustainably, though, is more complex than many believe. That has plenty to do with the apparent growing resistance of common internal cattle parasites to dewormers (anthelmintics).

Common parasites include Ostertagia ostertagi, which impact both young and mature animals. Cooperia sp. and Haemonchus placei are common calf parasites.

The three main classes of dewormer are macrocyclic lactones, benzimidazoles and imidazothiazoles.

There is no national statistic for anthelmintic resistance in beef cattle in the United States. However, various analyses, such as fecal worm egg count reduction trials, suggest growing parasite resistance to common anthelmintic classes. Globally, resistance is recognized as a key threat to grazing livestock.

“Anthelmintic resistance has been a recognized problem in small ruminants for decades. Now, there is increasing concern about resistance of cattle parasites to dewormers and the ability of cattlemen to continue to have cost-effective parasite control,” explains Christine Navarre, DVM, Extension veterinarian at Louisiana State University.

updated refugia graphic.PNG

This graphic shows how refugia, or drug-sensitive parasites, can be maintained in a herd. The presence of some drug-sensitive parasites decreases (dilutes) the proportion of resistant parasites within the parasite population on a ranch or farm. Graphic courtesy of FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.

“Worldwide, there is documented anthelmintic resistance to all commercially available products in all of the important livestock parasites. But, the extent of the resistance in cattle varies from country to country and from ranch to ranch.”

Test for resistance, and Navarre bets most cow-calf producers will find it in their herds; it’s just a matter of how much. She’s referring to the fecal egg count reduction test (FECRT), which helps determine efficacy for recent deworming treatments and provides the ability to estimate resistance.

“For $100, give or take, you can get some really good information,” Navarre says. “It helps you to see where you are and how much of a resistance issue you have.

Plan your attack

“You’ve got to have this information to arm yourself in developing a plan … The key to parasite control is to deworm often enough, and at the right time, to minimize the economic impacts, while at the same time preventing the development of anthelmintic resistance,” she says.

That’s where it gets complicated, and why developing and executing a parasite control plan should be done with a producer’s veterinarian.

Every operation and set of cattle is different. Effective plans will differ based on such things as cattle age, purpose and type.

“Many factors, including rainfall, environmental temperatures, pasture type, grazing management, age and immune status of animals, previous product use and anthelmintic resistance patterns all determine the severity of parasite problems on an individual ranch in a given year,” Navarre says. “A unique parasite control program must be developed for each.”

Never mind nutrition and overall herd immunity. As Navarre emphasizes, parasite control is just one part of a comprehensive herd health plan.

Even with testing, she cautions that diagnosing anthelmintic resistance can be difficult.

“This is a very complex and serious issue, and claims of resistance should not be made in haste or with very little evidence to support them. Conversely, if resistance is occurring, it needs to be documented,” Navarre says.

“Resistance is often suspected when poor performance or clinical signs of parasitism don’t improve following deworming. This can be caused by several things and should not be immediately interpreted as a failure of the anthelmintic product,” she adds.

Simple things like guessing the weight of cattle for dosage, improper application, or figuring that stuff gathering dust on the back shelf is still good can all derail the intended outcome. In some cases, such misuse also contributes to resistance.

Then there’s the parasite population left alone by deworming — referred to as refugia. Navarre says refugia are a key contributor to slowing down resistance, but likely for the exact opposite reason logic might suggest.

Leave some parasites to fight

“Refugia is the portion of the parasite population that is not selected by drug treatment; worms in refugia have a genetic makeup that make them susceptible to an anthelmintic,” Navarre says. “The more refugia in a population, the more the resistance genes in a population are diluted, and the more effective the anthelmintic will be.”

The notion of refugia is relatively new for some. In simpler and inexact terms, she says it’s akin to leaving enough non-resistant parasites to breed with the resistant ones, thus slowing the progress of resistance.

Refugia can be on pastures. So, pasture type and management, as well as treatment timing, affect refugia.

“Historically, we have exploited those times of extreme heat or cold when Ostertagia larva cannot survive on pasture, and most of the total parasite burden is in the animal as hypobiotic larvae,” Navarre explains.

“Deworming at this strategic time with products effective against inhibited larval stages can greatly decrease the overall parasite burden in a herd. However, it is a very effective way of eliminating refugia and may lead to resistance problems long term,” she adds.

Similarly, Navarre notes that pasture rotation can control parasites, at least theoretically. But the timing of rotations is variable, depending on stocking density, age of cattle, time of year, recent rainfall and all of the rest. “Rotate pastures to maximize nutrition and pasture use, not to control parasites,” she says.

Refugia can be maintained in the animals, too, by leaving some untreated. There is no cookie cutter for deciding which ones. It’s ranch-specific and depends on myriad factors, including cattle age and purpose and results of the FECRT.

If it’s a cow herd in the Gulf States, for example, Navarre says one approach to maintaining refugia is to leave the adult cattle untreated. Cattle up to 2 years old are commonly most susceptible to parasitic infection.

Conversely, the answer will be different for replacement heifers grazing permanent pasture.

Again, it goes back to developing a plan based on data provided by testing — at least for cattle remaining in the same operation. There’s little to be gained from testing for a stocker operation bringing in calves from multiple sources and grazing them across the same pastures.

In that case, Navarre suggests a starting point is leaving 10% untreated. Based on limited economic research, she says the heaviest calves are the logical choice for the untreated group.

“The quickest way to get widespread anthelmintic resistance is to deworm an entire group of cattle and then put them on a clean pasture,” Navarre says. “We have no refugia left on pasture, and we eliminate refugia in the animals. The only parasites left in the animals are resistant.

“When they reproduce, they will contaminate the pasture with an almost pure population of resistant parasites. There are no refugia on pasture to dilute the resistant worms,” she explains.

One more thing when deworming: Navarre says two different classes of dewormer should be used at the same time. Also known as concurrent deworming, it boosts the odds of killing more resistant parasites, slowing resistance.

“But this must be in combination with a refugia program or you will be selecting for pure populations of multidrug resistant ‘superworms,’ ” she says.

“Cattlemen should work with their veterinarian to find a balance between keeping overall parasite levels low enough to prevent economic losses, while at the same time retaining some refugia to slow the progression of anthelmintic resistance,” Navarre emphasizes.

Springtime on the ranch is good for the rancher’s soul


Springtime is finally here at our ranch in South Dakota. The ducks and geese have arrived. Tulips are popping up in my flower bed. The grass is starting to green up ever so slightly. The sun shines more often. The birds are chirping. I can leave my windows open while I spring clean. Our kids can finally play outside more often. And the calves are growing like weeds!

There’s something about springtime on the ranch that makes me feel optimistic, rejuvenated and recommitted to our life in production agriculture. The woes of the seemingly never-ending winter are finally behind us, and we can start looking ahead to breeding, planting and the grazing season. Knock on wood that another Xanto blizzard doesn’t hit us in April like last year!

Despite the challenges many are facing right now, on a good year I think we can all agree that springtime is magical on the ranch. My favorite part about this time of year is hopping on an ATV and cruising the pastures with my husband Tyler as we look at our calves. The bulk of our cows calve in February and March, so now that the calves are 4-6 weeks old, we can start to see how the genetic parings turned out and make decisions for next year’s breeding options.

And I don’t care how old I get, I’ll never tire of seeing baby calves frolic and play in the pasture, tails up high as they race across the South Dakota hills. Each night as we watch the sunset on our ranch, cows tend to their calves or munch contentedly on hay. It’s truly a rewarding time of year, and I’m grateful to be able to raise our kids in this lifestyle.

To celebrate this time of year, BEEF teamed up with Igenity to sponsor a photo contest titled, “Scenes from Spring Calving.” Thanks to our readers for sharing some gorgeous images from your ranches. I love seeing the newborn calves and maternal cows in action.

View the complete gallery by clicking here.

From those entries, we narrowed the field to 15 finalists, and this past week, we asked you to help us select four champions to win 10 Igenity Beef DNA tests, valued at $290. Plus, we are giving away three BEEF caps to randomly selected voters.

Congratulations to our finalists: Curt Dahlstrom, Danielle Diniz, Rachel Jones, Louise Hall, Carol Greet, Randi DeBruyne, Autumn Fuhrman, Alex Carone, Suzanne Loepker, Ella Callicott, Derek Stehr, Amanda Towny, Haley Scott, Eric Gardner and Cathy Brown.

Vote for your favorite finalist’s photo by clicking here.

The contest will officially close at noon on April 3, and you can vote daily! That means you have two more chances to select your four favorite images to help them secure a top spot in the contest.

Champions will be announced on April 4. Thanks for helping us make this another great contest! And I would love to hear how calving season is going in your neck of the woods. Email me at [email protected] and let me know how the calves are looking!

A side note, even as I feel optimistic and grateful for the sunshine and great weather we are experiencing right now, it goes without saying that not everyone is faring as well, and I’m mindful of those folks who were impacted by the bomb cyclone. Producers facing flooding and economic challenges may be feeling pretty pessimistic as they face devastating decisions on their operations, and my prayers continue to be in Nebraska and other affected states during this difficult time.

I recently donated my two children’s books, “Levi’s Lost Calf” and “Can-Do Cowkids” to an online fundraiser to help Nebraska cattlemen and women facing hard times. There are also photography sessions, western art prints, semen packages and more up for grabs, all donated by our peers in the beef industry.

The auction closes today, so click the link here to place your bids. Thanks to DP Online Auctions for hosting the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Flood Relief Online Benefit Auction!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 1, 2019

It may be two weeks yet before I29 is open in western Iowa. 

It's unusual for more than one airline to have non-weather challenges in a day. However this morning, several had technical issues stemming from data software.

Consumption of milk declined last year. However, there was modest growth in butter and cheese.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will travel to the heartland this week. 


Photo: misterryba/Getty Images