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Articles from 2016 In July

Over a Cup - July 30, 2016

Over a Cup

Samuelson Sez - July 30, 2016

Samuelson Sez

Visualizing cattle lameness is key to overcoming the problem

“It’s important that we’re doing the right things for cattle and their well-being,” emphasized Connie Larson, Ph.D., Research and Nutritional Services ruminant manager – North America, Zinpro Corporation. “If we can improve education in order to provide
earlier intervention, then we can work towards alleviating the discomfort and help these animals to recover.”

Lameness ranks among the most visible signs of pain in an animal. Two lead authors of the book, Cattle Lameness: Identification, Prevention and Control of Claw Lesions, recently sat down to discuss how and why the beef and dairy cattle industries must make a concerted effort to take on this issue.

Co-author, Dana Tomlinson, Ph.D., Research Nutritionist, Zinpro Corporation concurs. He adds that the new book is unlike other reference materials available on the subject, because it “gives the producer or the nutritionist an understandable manual they can take to the field and quickly apply the knowledge that they have in identifying the lesions that are most prevalent.”

In the most recent episode of Experts Talk, Drs. Larson and Tomlinson both said that visually recognizing the issue, understanding the repercussions, and taking proactive preventive measures are key to reducing the prevalence of lameness in dairy and beef operations.

Since the book was released, “we’re seeing a complete change in our ability to grow producer knowledge of lameness,” pointed out Dr. Tomlinson. “We very logically step the person through identification of the problem, what can be done about the problem, and how one can further prevent the problem in the future.”

Both authors agreed that, while there are similarities in how lameness affects beef and dairy animals, there are differences as well. “[The book] lays out some of the inherent differences between the two breeds of animals, dairy versus beef,” Dr. Tomlinson continued. “On the surface, it may look like, well, they’re both suffering from foot rot or a sole ulcer; but when we dig deeper, we find that many of the causes of those lesions are different. So the neat thing about this new book is we’ve really helped the person that’s reading the book quickly identify — is this lesion primarily a beef problem or is it a dairy problem? — through identification with different color codings.”

The Cattle Lameness book is available in printed format on Amazon. The e-book is available for sale through the Apple App Store, Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

Experts Talk is an award-winning online video series, sponsored by Zinpro Corporation, that features one-on-one discussions with leading authorities on foot health and lameness prevention for multiple species. Each episode features a different expert discussing topics that range from lameness detection, to treating claw lesions that cause lameness, to best-management practices for lameness prevention. To learn more, visit the Experts Talk video library at


3 steps for quality fall forage

Livestock producers looking to add to their fall and winter grazing options should consider forage oats. This versatile forage crop provides numerous benefits to pastures that last far beyond the fall and winter grazing seasons.

“Forage oats can be grown as a grain or forage,” noted Mike Massey with Ragan & Massey. “If producers are looking for a fall forage that provides performance and is palatable to cattle, then they should consider oats.”

Planting Dates
Throughout the South, forage oats can be planted as early as September or October for pasture forage that lasts from the fall throughout the winter. If the seed is going into a prepared seedbed, the forage oat seed can be spread starting in late August in the northern part of the South. Generally, the seed can be planted until the end of October for quality production. RAM Forage Oats from Ragan & Massey are winter hardy and will provide grazing in October if planted in September and appropriate moisture is present. This will provide earlier grazing opportunities to livestock producers than other winter forages like ryegrass or wheat and will provide grazing through April.

Preparing the Seedbed
Forage oats are adaptable and can be planted in a prepared seedbed or drilled into an established pasture that has been disked. The seed should be planted ¾” to 1½” into the seedbed with good soil contact. Oats should be planted at 100 lbs. per acre when planted alone. This seed also can be mixed with ryegrass at a rate of 60 lbs. of oats and 25 lbs. of ryegrass seed.

Seed Selection
When looking for a forage oat seed, it’s important to look for one that has been tested in the area of the country you are planting. In addition, look for a seed that is clean and free from weeds, with no fillers or unnecessary coatings. The goal is to plant for full stand establishment, and purchasing a quality seed helps achieve that expectation.

Ragan & Massey offers RAM Forage Oats that were created to be a small grain forage. This seed is cold tolerant, produces proven yields of up to 12,000 lbs. of quality dry matter and is rust resistant.

To keep updated on Ragan & Massey information or find a retailer, follow on Facebook or Twitter, or check out the article section of

Max's Tractor Shed | July 30, 2016

Are your pastures drought resistant?

"Ranchers can't go broke with too much money or grass, but they sure can have too many livestock.” That observation from the late Bud Williams, long recognized as the father of low-stress handling, pretty well sums up the approach that ranchers must have when anticipating drought.

While drought has always been a part of ranching, it is becoming more and more of a regular occurrence for graziers and pasture managers. Possessing the knowledge and tools to position your operation relative to drought, and the decisions you make when it occurs, will ultimately determine whether your operation succeeds or fails.

​​​Drought affects the land, the livestock, the money and people involved with a farm or ranch. To prepare and mitigate for risks, an effective drought plan must target all these areas.

The ranch capital triangle developed by stockmanship and livestock-marketing expert, Bud Williams, is useful when visualizing the critical components in livestock farm and ranch operations.

The sides of the triangle represent the three main components necessary to run a ranch – grass, money and livestock.

Williams was trying to convey the concept that during poor grass conditions, such as drought, livestock should be shifted into cash (i.e.: destocking). When good grass conditions return, cash can be shifted back into livestock. This strategy is just one of many that go into developing an effective drought plan.

Developing and maintaining this plan is vital to achieving drought resilience. Drought plans address how an operation recognizes and responds to drought. They should also contain triggers to phase in response actions according to severity of drought levels.

In addition to a drought plan, developing and maintaining land in a desirable ecological state will help strengthen an operation's preparedness for drought. In other words, one should expect their land to be in a similar condition exiting a drought as it was entering.

This is done through good grazing management which leaves adequate residual forage, in turn increasing litter cover on the soil surface and organic matter in the soil. Dominant forage species of pastures and rangelands can also be shifted to a more desirable, drought-resistant state by taking advantage of livestock's selective grazing tendencies.

Having a reliable land-monitoring system in place will help producers understand how management decisions affect the land and when it is necessary to make changes. Components of this land-monitoring system will include a grazing budget, mapping tools, knowledge of critical rainfall dates and precipitation tracking throughout the grazing season.

A grazing budget assists in maintaining land in a healthy state and allows producers to measure and record available forage in pastures. This information is then used to budget the highest-quality feed to the animals with greatest nutrient demands. By budgeting for only what forage is available, risk of overgrazing is greatly reduced.

Along with knowing what is currently available in forage inventory, grazing budgeting acts as another trigger for drought plan implementation. It is tempting to want to provide supplemental feed to livestock when feed runs low during drought, but it is not the most economical decision. Drought feeding is expensive and without an idea of how long the drought will last, producers may end up paying for livestock many times over. Drought feeding, more times than not, only leads to overstocked grazing lands, deteriorated pastures and checkbooks in the red.

Producers can use mapping tools such as Google Earth to create a 'living' map of their operation. Through this application it is possible to map fences, paddocks, and watering systems and track grazing moves. Many universities and ranch consulting firms offer free or low-cost training on how to use Google Earth for ranch mapping.

In addition to budgeting grazing and mapping, knowing critical rainfall dates for your region and monitoring precipitation are necessary for successful and timely implementation of a drought plan. A critical rainfall date is one date by which, if it hasn't rained, you know you are in trouble (i.e.: you aren't going to have enough forage). These dates are the triggers which should signal farm and ranch managers to move their drought plan into the next phase.

Critical rainfall dates are set by linking precipitation patterns and amounts with plant growth windows for dominant forage species in pastures. During these plant growth windows precipitation and soil moisture are most vital just prior to and during the growth period.

Tracking moisture will assist in determining when an operation has reached a critical rainfall date and if action needs to be taken. Rain gauges dispersed throughout pastures and grazing areas are useful tools to monitor moisture. This information can then be used to keep a running rainfall total for the operation. Records should begin in October to reflect moisture accumulation or deficits experienced during winter months.

Additional online resources such as SNOTEL data from NRCS's National Water and Climate Center ( can also be a helpful tool for producers to track moisture in their region.

It is important to note throughout most, if not all, drought experiences, destocking may be necessary to keep lands functioning in a healthy state. Have a destocking plan in writing along with the drought plan. While it may sound like the worst-case scenario, this practice is one of the most important in drought management. By knowing when to quit, producers cut their losses and ensure the sustainability of their livelihoods.

With the increasing prevalence of drought across the nation today, producers cannot afford to forego a drought management plan. Proactive management will go a long way in mitigating the risks involved. Tough times like drought don't last, but being prepared for them will make the circumstances much easier to handle when they do arise.

Additional drought condition and planning information can be found here:

U.S. Drought Monitor (

National Drought Mitigation Center ( ​


Use these 5 tips to reduce stress in your receiving protocol

“How we receive calves at the feedlot can affect performance throughout the feeding phase,” says Chad Zehnder, Ph.D. and cattle consultant for Purina Animal Nutrition. “The ultimate goal is to get cattle on feed quickly and keep them healthy so that they gain weight efficiently during the receiving period and throughout the rest of their time on feed.”

These 5 tips can help reduce stress in your protocol:

1. Be prepared

“Have a plan in place for vaccinations, health protocols and feeding programs to help calves hit the ground running,” says Zehnder. “The more information you have on incoming calves, the easier it is to make health and nutrition decisions.”

Which vaccines, if any, have calves received? Have they been dewormed or castrated? What type of feed are they used to? Knowing these answers before cattle arrive can help you create a more strategic plan for processing.

A separate plan for preconditioned and newly weaned calves is also beneficial to maximize your receiving program. With a “one size fits all” approach, you might be investing unnecessary resources on preconditioned cattle and under prioritizing high-risk, newly weaned cattle.

2. Reduce stress upon arrival

Transitioning calves from their herd of origin to the feedlot can be highly stressful for them, especially for those freshly weaned. Understand the stress levels of incoming calves and set aside downtime before processing to help make the transition easier for them.

Calves that have traveled long distances may be dehydrated and tired from hours of standing when they arrive at the feedlot. To reduce stress before processing, it’s a good rule of thumb to allow one hour of rest for every hour spent in transport.

Access to a clean, dry environment will also minimize stress and make calves feel at home.

“Proper pen conditions with access to shelter, feed and water are essential to help cattle feel comfortable when arriving at the feedlot,” says Zehnder.

3. Avoid the yo-yo effect

Monitoring feed intake and bunks is important to avoid what Zehnder calls the “yo-yo effect.”

“As calves pick up intake after arrival, we tend to increase feed significantly. We try to get calves to eat more at too quick a pace,” explains Zehnder. “Usually, this leads to calves crashing and going off feed again.”

“This cycle can follow calves throughout the whole feeding phase. It’s important to be consistent and methodical on any deliveries and increases of feed,” he adds.

A good rule of thumb is to increase the amount of dry matter by one pound every two to three days. For yearlings and preconditioned calves, this process can take 7 to 10 days whereas freshly weaned calves can take 28 to 30 days.

4. Focus on fresh feed and feed type

“If calves leave feed in the bunk, they will typically not clean that feed up,” says Zehnder. “It’s likely spoiled and you need to clear that out and deliver fresh feed.”

The feed delivered is also important. Look for a starter supplement that has appropriate trace mineral fortification, the correct protein makeup and proper feed additives that may help calves stay healthy through respiratory and health challenges.

When delivering a total mixed ration (TMR), it’s important to make sure the diet can’t be sorted. A diet that minimizes sorting results in nutrition that is consistent with every mouthful of feed. If feedstuffs are inadequate or unavailable to make a palatable starter diet, another option is to use a complete feed that can provide consistency and palatability.

5. Don’t forget water

The importance of water shouldn’t be overlooked. Staying hydrated can be a challenge for newly weaned cattle that are not used to automatic waterers.

“Calves will naturally walk the fence line when introduced to a new pen. Placing additional water troughs perpendicular to the fence will help maximize their exposure to water,” says Zehnder. “This strategy can be especially helpful for high-risk calves.”

Letting the water run over for a day or two can also be beneficial for cattle arriving at a feedlot. The sound of running water will help calves find water troughs more quickly. However, allowing water to run over can also result in poor pen conditions, so it’s important to control where the water flows and make every effort to keep the space clean and dry.

To find solutions that support healthy calves and more pounds, visit


Want to improve silage quantity, quality? Add inoculants

“It pays to focus on producing silage that is maximized both in terms of quantity and quality,” says Renato Schmidt, Ph.D., Forage Products Specialist, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “Focusing on good silage management practices helps producers reduce dry matter losses and increase retention of important nutrients that contribute to robust growth and health.”

Even in the best situations, there are likely to be challenges simply due to variability in the crop or weather variations during harvest, time taken to bring the crop in and storage conditions. However, focusing on good management practices, including selecting the right inoculant, will help producers defend silage against challenges.

When producers review inoculant options, it’s important to look for evidence that a product that has been proven in the specific crop to be ensiled. Small grain silages, corn silages, haylages and high-moisture corn (HMC) face different ensiling challenges.

“Issues can also vary with the storage method used on the farm,” Dr. Schmidt says. “Bags, bales, bunkers and silos can all present different conditions for ensiling.”

Finally, producers should consider the specific challenges that occur year-to-year on their operation, such as:

  • Harvesting at high or low dry matter (DM)
  • Cloudy or overcast weather during cutting/wilting
  • Field diseases (molds, blights, etc.)
  • Hailed-on crops
  • Drought
  • Insect damage
  • Clostridial (black, smelly) silage
  • Low DM recovery (shrink issues)
  • Feed heating and spoilage issues

“The right inoculant choice can help overcome specific silage challenges on your operation,” Dr. Schmidt says.

Dr. Schmidt recommends producers choose an inoculant proven to help provide fast, efficient fermentation for low DM crops (<30 percent DM), crops harvested in cloudy conditions or where there is a history of clostridial issues or excessive shrink losses. Specifically, the lactic acid bacteria Pediococcus pentosaceus 12455 — fueled by sugars generated by high activity enzymes — is proven to promote a fast, efficient front-end fermentation.

If the crop has higher DM (35 percent or more), it may be prone to heating and spoilage during feedout, especially if it experienced drought stress, hail damage, insect damage or field disease. In these situations, Dr. Schmidt suggests combining P. pentosaceus 12455, enzymes and Lactobacillus buchneri 40788. This offers the benefits of both a fast, efficient fermentation and reducing heating and spoilage at feedout. In fact, the high dose rate L. buchneri 40788 has been reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim efficacy in preventing the growth of yeasts and molds in silages and HMC.

“Combined with good management practices, the right inoculant can help add to your bottom line,” Dr. Schmidt says. “The best defense against silage losses is a good offense.”

Visit to select the silage challenges your operation experiences and suggest an inoculant that is right for you.


How to control costs & spur cowherd revenues

cow calf profits

Controlling cost in the cow-calf sector is more important than creating revenue,” said David Lalman, Extension beef cattle specialist at Oklahoma State University.

In part, Lalman explained to those attending this summer’s annual meeting of the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF), the reason is that the cost of adding a pound of weaning weight is about the same as its value over time.

For instance, the cost per hundredweight of calf produced in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico increased an average of $5 per year from 1991 to 2015, according to data from the Southwest Cow-Calf Standardized Performance Analysis (SW-SPA). Calf prices increased an average of $5.25 per year.

Likewise, data from the Kansas Farm Management Association (KFMA) at Kansas State University (K-State) show the cost per pound of additional weaning weight from 2010 to 2014 was about 96 cents (basis 90% weaning rate), while the value was about 86 cents (basis Oklahoma City mean average).

“On average, the cost associated with increasing weaning weight in the Kansas data was slightly greater than the value of increased weaning weight,” Lalman explained. “The relative value of additional weaning weight is highly variable over time, and therefore, the profitability of managing to achieve greater weaning weight will be highly variable over time. Clearly, in the context of an enterprise that sells at weaning, there is more low-hanging fruit in cutting or managing cost than there is in increasing production.”

Lalman and other researchers at OSU and K-State also looked at cow-calf benchmarking data — too scarce in the industry — from the Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System (CHAPS) program at North Dakota State University; and FINBIN, data from the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota.

The breakeven nature of weaning weight over the long haul may offer a plausible explanation for the fact that weaning performance — measured by such databases — remains mostly static across decades, despite the fact that the genetic trend for growth in the heaviest-used breeds continues to increase at a significant rate.

“It may be that genetic potential for production of the seedstock sector has simply advanced beyond what the environment or resources will allow in these regions,” suggested Clay Mathis, director of the King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management, at the BIF meeting.


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“It is possible that the SPA summaries from the Southwest and Northern Plains simply show optimization, and that resources are dictating an upper limit to cost-effective performance … There is opportunity to improve pregnancy rate and weaning rate, but the marginal cost of higher performance may be prohibitive,” he said.

Although calf prices increased 88% between the two eight-year periods of 1988 to 1995 and 2008 to 2015, when adjusted for inflation, Mathis pointed out prices rose 18%.

At the same time, inflation-adjusted costs — especially those that matter most to ranch profitability — continue higher. For instance, the inflation-adjusted cost of labor was 9% higher, and the cost of feed was 24% more.

“Half of the expenses for a cow-calf enterprise can be categorized as depreciation, labor or feed,” Mathis said. “Other expenses, like repairs and maintenance, fertilizer, fuel, leases and veterinary services are important when taken together, but independently are less important.”

In the most recent KFMA data, Lalman explained 67.8% of the profitability differences between the top third and bottom third of producers was due to lower cost of production of the highest-profit producers.

“Future efficiencies and profits will not be mutually exclusive efforts to controlling costs and increasing revenues,” Mathis said. “Success will come from optimizing expenses and performance by building a production system that will yield the lowest unit cost of production for the most valuable calf that can be produced in the operational environment.”

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