Tag Archives: cows

My Viewshed Today

Weather was nearly perfect this morning – a welcome relief from the 90 plus temps and high humidity.  May have been the most beautiful day since last November!

This is my viewshed whilst shifting cows to a new paddock.  Okay, actually they shift themselves – i really don’t do much with the cows most of the year.

Cheers!

tauna

Calving, Lambing, Kidding

Many proclaimed experts, farmers, and ranchers alike are confused about what season it is.  ‘Spring’ calving to many means January, February, and a bit into March.  NEWS FLASH! – that is NOT spring – that is winter calving in no uncertain terms and terribly hard on livestock and people (in the northern hemisphere) caring for them.  Outdoor winter calving, lambing, kidding has been described by bold people as animal abuse!

Now before you think me a ‘Bertha-better-than-you,’ please know that we used to do this very thing!  It is the status quo in ranching circles.  We’ve been calving in sync with nature now for nearly 20 years and life is much better and profitable for all.

Nitpick your own operation and life – identify elephants in the room – stop digging a hole and solve the problem with simple solutions.  The key word here is SIMPLE!

Consider this recent article (from BEEF online) on how to warm up a calf:

Cold stressed calvesAleMoraes244 / ThinkStock

Re-warming methods for cold-stressed calves

Newborn calves that have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. What’s the quickest method to re-warm them?

Mar 29, 2018

By Donald Stotts

It’s been a winter that no matter where you are, you’d probably like to forget. Some parts of the country are warm and very, very dry. Good for calving, but not a promising start for spring and summer grazing.

Other parts of the country have been cold and wet. And with calving season underway for many, it’s worth reviewing re-warming methods for cold-stress calves, says Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist.

Selk warns that newborn calves that are not found for several hours after birth and have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. “A review of the scientific data on using a warm water bath to revive cold-stressed newborn calves bears repeating,” he said.

In a Canadian study, animal scientists compared methods of reviving hypothermic or cold-stressed baby calves. Heat production and rectal temperature were measured in 19 newborn calves during hypothermia and recovery when four different means of assistance were provided.

Hypothermia of 86 degrees F rectal temperature was induced by immersion in cold water. Calves were re-warmed in an air environment of 68 degrees to 77 degrees where thermal assistance was provided by added thermal insulation or by supplemental heat from infrared lamps. Other calves were re-warmed by immersion in 100-degree warm water. The normal rectal temperatures before the induction of cold stress were 103 degrees.

During recovery, the baby calves re-warmed with the added insulation and heat lamps had to use up more body heat metabolically than the calves re-warmed in warm water. Total heat production during recovery was nearly twice as great for the calves with added insulation and exposed to the heat lamps than for the calves placed in warm water.

“This type of body heat production leaves calves with less energy to maintain body temperature when returned to a cold environment,” Selk says.

By immersion of hypothermic calves in warm water, the study indicated that normal body temperature was regained most rapidly and with minimal metabolic effort.

“When immersing cold-stressed baby calves, do not forget to support the head above the water to avoid drowning the calf that you are trying to save,” Selk says. “Also make certain that they have been thoroughly dried before being returned to the cold weather and their mothers.”

Stotts is a communication specialist at Oklahoma State University

 

Fertilize with Hay

Going along with my previous post, this article appeared in the 24 March issue of Midwest Marketer and tickled my ears.  

Check out this Bale Grazing Calculator!

This primer on bale grazing is excellent, though dated.  Since its publication, i think producers have found that plastic twine and netwrapping materials need to be removed before the livestock have access to the bales.

 

Fertilize fields with hay

Winter-feeding beef cattle on hay and pasture fields can minimize labor of hauling manure while still distributing crop nutrients.

Fertilize fields with hay

Many Beef cow-calf producers feed hay rations to cows in confinement settings during the winter months. Feeding hay on fields away from the barn is gaining popularity. Labor and machinery requirements of hauling manure can be minimized by winter-feeding beef cattle on fields. Care should be taken with feeding practices to ensure that crop nutrients are evenly distributed.

Feeding on fields is typically accomplished by strategically spacing hay bales around the field either with or without hay rings frequently referred to as bale grazing. Another feeding method on fields includes unrolling bales on the ground. Unrolling bales on the ground typically allows for better crop nutrient distribution. Spacing bales across a field creates a situation of concentrated nutrients from manure and waste hay in the areas where bales are fed. Over time, nutrient distribution can equalize with good grazing and management practices to promote soil health. Nutrients can be distributed by livestock and soil microbes over time, however, uniform nutrient spreading is more ideal for crop production yields.

Utilizing the various feeding methods can result in a wide range of hay waste. Producers need to weigh cost savings associated with winter feeding on fields and feed loss with any given feeding method.  Feeding on fields allows nearly 100 percent nutrient cycling into the soil for both phosphorous and potassium while nitrogen capture will be variable. Consequently, hay waste is not a 100 percent loss. Much of the crop nutrients from hay waste is available to the next growing crop. If hay is harvested on the farm, nutrients are simply redistributed to the feeding area. If hay is purchased, those nutrients are added into the farm nutrient pool.

Purchasing hay and bringing nutrients onto the farm can be a cost effective addition of fertilizer to the farm. The vast majority of fertilizer costs for crop production are for application of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Producers should use a feed analysis of purchased feed to determine its fertilizer value. Producers can use dry matter, crude protein, phosphorous and potassium content to determine fertilizer value. Table 1. demonstrates the calculations of converting an example feed analysis to the quantities of fertilizer nutrients in a 1000 lb. bale of hay. Using an example of dry hay containing 85 percent dry matter, 10.6 percent crude protein, 0.18 percent phosphorous and 1.6 percent potassium content, the following value can be calculated:

Dry feeds will usually contain 10-15 percent moisture or 85-90 percent dry matter. A 1000 lb. bale of dry hay with 15 percent moisture will contain 850 lb. of dry matter. Ensiled feeds will contain considerably more moisture.

Protein contains 16 percent nitrogen. Crude protein is calculated by multiplying the percent nitrogen by a conversion multiplier of 6.25. From the example hay analysis, 10.6 percent crude protein can be multiplied by 0.16 or divided by 6.25 to equal a rounded off 1.7 percent nitrogen. The nitrogen content multiplied by the dry hay bale weight of 850 lb. equals 14.45 lb. of nitrogen in the bale of hay. The percent phosphorous (0.18 percent) and potassium (1.6 percent) are also multiplied by the 850 lb. of dry matter hay to equal 1.53 lb. of phosphorous and 13.6 lb. of potassium.

Producers must be aware of the differences between feed analysis and fertilizer analysis. Feed analysis are recorded as percent crude protein, elemental phosphorous, and elemental potassium. Fertilizer analysis is recorded as percent elemental nitrogen, phosphate (P2O5), and potash (K2O). Using Upper Peninsula of Michigan fertilizer prices, nitrogen is valued at $0.47/lb. N, phosphate at $0.35/lb. of P2O5, and potash at $0.325/lb. K2O.

Table 2. demonstrates the fertilizer value contained in a 1000 lb. bale of hay. Fifty percent of the nitrogen and 85 percent of the phosphate and potash are recycled through cattle back into the soil and is used for future plant growth. Some of the nutrients are lost to volatilization into the atmosphere and are retained in the animal. Referring back to the example, 50 percent of the 14.45 lb. of nitrogen contained in the hay gives 7.2 lb. of nitrogen into the soil for plant uptake. The 7.2 lb. is multiplied by $0.47/lb. to value the nitrogen at $3.38. Elemental phosphorous and potassium need to be converted to percent phosphate and potash. Elemental phosphorous 1.53 lb. is multiplied by a factor of 2.29 to equal 3.5 lb. of phosphate. Elemental potassium 13.6 lb. is multiplied by a factor of 1.2 to equal 16.3 lb. of potash. Eighty-five percent of both the phosphate and potash will be recycled into the soil for future plant uptake then multiplied by their respective unit price gives a value of $1.04 of phosphate and $2.65 of potash.

The calculated fertilizer value of the 1000 lb. bale of hay is worth $7.07/bale or $14.14/ton. Current value of this quality of hay is roughly $80-100 per ton. In this example, about 15 percent of the value of average beef quality hay can be attributed to its fertilizer value. Farms that are marginal on soil nutrient levels may consider purchasing at least a portion of their feed to increase crop nutrients on the farm and replace some portion of purchased commercial fertilizer.

Feeding hay on fields during the winter months has several advantages that beef producers can use to offset some of the production costs associated with beef production. For more information regarding the impact of feeding hay on pasture and hay fields, contact MSU Extension Educators Frank Wardynski, 906-884-4386 or wardynsk@anr.msu.edu or Jim Isleib, 906-387-2530 or isleibj@anr.msu.edu.

To Hay or not to Hay?

If, by purchasing hay, i can increase the number of employees (cows) which do not need health insurance, workman’s compensation, employee benefits, bonuses, etc and they seldom complain about the work (grazing and raising babies) they enjoy, and in so doing, also increase the soil quality by feeding microbes (making those employees happy as well), and would decrease my actual labor costs and time, wouldn’t this be a good thing?

I’m not sure!

There are many qualified experts who discourage the hay habit – and i completely agree if i had to own and operate the very expensive equipment and time needed to bale hay, which would be on my own property, thereby simply moving nutrients from one point to another and not increasing – so, am i missing a very big point?

Winter is basically 180 days in north Missouri, so if hay is the sole feed source, the amount would figure as 180 days times 30# per cow/calf pair= 5400#,  allowing some ‘waste,’ and unusually harsh weather, it would be reasonable and wise to round up to 6000#.  If it cost me 5 cents per pound delivered and unloaded at my farm, this is $300 per cow/calf unit for winter feed (180 days), the rest of the year would be 2 acres per cow/calf at the rate $55 per acre rent or $110 per annum.  Total grass/hay feed costs total $410 per cow/calf unit.  It would actually add about 12 hours of my labor to position the bales for bale grazing.  So adding another $20 per cow/calf for $430

Given that info, my farm, depending on weather, could accommodate 200 pairs, figuring 2% death loss of calves to various reasons would result in 196 calves to sell.  If i continue with what i can do and graze only through the winter (relying on fall rain to grow stockpile), then there are 98 calves to sell.  So, to compare:

Calves to sell:  196 times 400 lbs times 1.80/lb = $141,120 – $86,000 = $55,120

Calves to sell: 98 times 400 lbs times 1.80/lb = $70,560 – $22,000 = $48,560

BUT, soil quality is not increased (unless mob grazing is implemented), and certainly not as fast,  Compared to renting more acres, fence and water maintenance does not increase.

What is the right answer!!!!????  

There is time for more reading, listening, studying, and sharpening the pencil.  In the meantime, first week of April , calves will be weaned, then second vaccinations on weaned calves, by 25 April cows will begin calving for 45 days, soil sampling select paddocks, then i plan to implement UHGD (aka mob grazing).

Cheers

tauna

snowy 048

Winter grazing in north Missouri.

 

Winter Hay Buying

Found a local producer (Don Hoover) for pretty good hay late in the season (January).  He delivered an unloaded 2 semi loads (76 bales) each bale weighing 1385 lbs.  (Still have my 100 bales or so of warm season grasses stored in the barn.  Hope i don’t need them – depends on the season.)

Sadly, I’ve already fed them all out (the 76 delivered bales), but back on decent (cow quality) winter stockpile grazing for a few weeks now.

The extended extra cold is really sapping the energy out of the cows although with good feed, they and their calves really don’t notice the cold – thankfully, it has not been rainy and wet – it’s really tough to keep cows and 8 month old calves in condition then.

Supposed to warm up to just above freezing tomorrow, then a few days clear up into the 40’s and maybe 50’s.   Happy camper here!

Cheers!

tauna

Compare 2-Year-Olds to 3-Year-Olds

Conventional wisdom from cattle management experts as well as those in the Ag University system insists that to properly develop future cows for a profitable cow herd young females (replacement heifers) need to calve by the time they are 2 years old.  The main idea is to identify those females which are the most fertile and to select for early maturation.  But is that really the way to do so?  And is early maturity a desirable trait?  Consider that most producers (in cattle) are expecting those young females to give birth by what is a comparable human age of 14, gestate, and raise a baby every year thereafter.  Whereas, the 3 year old compares to 18.  Animal Age Calculator

There is also the ‘belief’ (because i’ve never seen any data to support this) that a cow calving as a 2 year old raises one more calf in her lifetime than the older heifers.  I cannot speak to this with my own data since i’ve not been at it long enough to gather data, but i also don’t plan to do the research and have another herd that calves as 2 year olds.  However, I’ve spoken with a few producers who have been doing this for a long time and they are just as convinced that allowing their heifers to be physically mature before calving them allows them to live longer and more productive lives.

My heifers are not exposed to a bull until they are at least 2 years old – actually most are born in May of a year and not exposed until mid-July two years later, so they are actually 2 years and 2 months old and they will calve when they are right at 3 years old the following May.

Outside the obvious lifestyle benefits for producer/rancher and the comfort and animal welfare of the livestock, I’ve put together some financial figures which will apply to my ranch and indicate to me that I’ve made the right decision for my operation.

 

Heifer Development Costs
2 year old 3 year old
Value of Weaned Calf  $    630.00 450 lbs  $      1.40
Value of 2 year old  $    810.00 600 lbs  $      1.35
Hay
Pasture Year 1  $    125.00  $    125.00
Pasture Year 2  $    125.00
Salt/Mineral  $        3.00  $         6.00
Breeding Fees
Veterinarian Fees  $        5.00  $         5.00
Supplies
Labor
Interest
Insurance
Taxes
Depreciation
Machinery
Bulls  $      40.00  $      40.00  per head
Costs  $    153.00  $    281.00
Total Cost  $    803.00  $ 1,111.00
Conception Rate 70% 96%
$1147.14  $ 1157.29
*PPI 70 50 days
Calving Assistance 18% 0%
2nd calf conception 70% 96%
Advantages:
Manage growing, breeding, gestating, calving heifers as one mob with cows
Older Heifers are physically and mentally mature with no special feed requirements
Observing older cows calving seems to teach the heifers what to do
Less than 1 % calf death loss
Calves at least 50 lbs heavier at weaning and can be weaned with the cows’ calves
No special treatment

*PPI – post partum interval – the number of days it takes for the female to recover from calving and becoming pregnant again.

The calving assistance and pregnancy rates are taken from various University research data over decades of record keeping.  Most research heifers are developed with considerable grain and feed inputs which incurs more costs including labor.  However, my comparisons are grass and forage only.  Therefore it is likely that the grass managed 2 year olds could be significantly higher open (not bred) percentages than what is illustrated here.  Whereas the 3 year old development percentages are actual from my ranch.  My grass managed 2 year olds were only 10% bred!  Ouch!

WOTB – Working on the Business – tweaking the plan to discover a bit more opportunity for profitability in ranching.  Margins are too thin for my hobby level of ranching, but trying to do my best.

Cheers!

tauna

heifersIMG-3631

IMG-3629
The red heifer in the middle with the black ear tag is a coming 3 year old expecting her first calf while the two red heifers to the left of her are long yearlings (about 1 1/2 years old) and will be exposed to the bull in mid-July.  The black cow to the right is much older – as you can see the coming three year old exhibits nearly the same maturity.

IMG-3631 (1)

 

 

 

Sell Now or Sell Later

There has always been great debate about whether or not to sell open (not pregnant) cows in the fall at pregnancy check or turn the bull back in with them and see if they’ll breed for another season, then sell them pregnant.  Many trade publications will encourage producers to ‘add value’ to a cull cow, but i seriously question the validity of such endeavor, but then again, i’m not an expert with numbers, i’m just lazy and don’t want to be shifting and handling and sorting my cows more than necessary.

It’s easy enough to simply put numbers to the various practices, then make your favourite decision.

My first stumbling block with the concept of adding value to one of my cull cows has to do with passing off a potentially problem cow to my neighbor.  That doesn’t sound very neighborly or make good business since.  However, one could simply ‘add value’ by pouring the feed to the cow to make her fat and increasing the grade or value for slaughter.  It also could be justified by the fact that my management is super low input and most of my cows would thrive in another producer’s management style.

Let’s compare:

Pregnancy check in the fall reveals 10 open cows.  My cows all have a calf at side or they’d already be sold, so 14-30 days after the calves have received their vaccines, I’ll wean the calf by selling off the cow to slaughter.  She’s not going to be in the fattest condition because she’s nursing a nice calf and a non-fat cow will not bring top dollar.

For example, the different cow classes are as follows:

SLAUGHTER COWS:

  1. Breaking and Boning (75-85% lean) $47.50-$57.50
  2. High dressing $58.00-$67.00.
  3. Lean (85-90%) $44.00-$54.50

Cows in the fall nursing a calf will typically fall in the Lean or Breaking and Boning categories and this year are bringing about $43/cwt (hundredweight).  My cows are primarily Corriente or Corriente cross and will weigh about 800 lbs (by comparison and Angus or other beefier breed will weigh 1200 lbs, although she still may be thin and be in the same category).

 

OR

Keep the cow and turn the bull back with her and hope she gets bred – Let’s say there is 70% chance that she will.  So, we keep the cow until she is in the 2nd stage of pregnancy or about 5-6 months along.

Therefore, if she would bring $875/head as a P2 cow (and this would be a stretch if she is older than 5 or 6).

OR

Leave the bulls in with the cows an additional 20-30 days and hope that another 50% of the potentially open cows actually breed, then sell the bred cows that calved late as well as the open cows in mid-December.

Let’s compare:

10 $105 -$1,050 labor
10 $127 -$1,270 pasture costs
7 $875 $6,125 bred cows sold
3 $400 $1,200 open cows sold
$5,005  keep and sell in June
vs
5 $360 $1,800 open cows sold
5 $675 $3,375 bred cows sold
$5,175  sell in December
($170)

Things to consider.Interestingly, in my opinion, these numbers probably won’t change even if one leaves the bulls in for another 20 days, sort out the cows that have not calved by 10 June and selling them as ready to calve in the last trimester (P3).  In this part of the country (Missouri, USA) a summer calving P3 cow is not as desirable as a fall calving P2 even though i’ve credited her with more value in my chart above.

Leaving the bulls in an additional 20 days is advantage for me in that i avoid having to handle the cattle during ragweed allergy season.  My allergies are so bad, that this is a serious consideration.  However, the reality of bringing in the cows with baby calves and sorting off the one which haven’t calved yet is that it likely won’t happen and one would be right back to a 65 day calving season.  However, those cow numbers could be written down, paired up in the fall and then sold as pairs when animals are mustered in for preg check and calf vaccinations.

The point of changing the time and reducing the length of breeding season was to avoid ragweed allergy season.  However, i discovered that at least this year, i was unable to withstand the debilitating effects of ragweed as late as 1 September.   Also, the longer the calving season, the more inconvenient it is to shift the animals through a managed rotation.

Other alternative is to separate those open cows and a bull put in with them.  Disadvantage is that a separate herd must be maintained for 7 months.  Not really a feasible situation.

So, now that i’ve thought through the pros and cons of the various scenarios, especially solving the issue with allergies i will plan to leave the bulls in an additional 20 days, thereby hauling them out about 20 September.  This means, however, that the following spring that i’ll be dealing with an additional 20 days of baby calves to shift (yes, this is a pain in the butt) and be diligent to write down the numbers of those cows calving late so they can be sorted off during preg check in November.    If half of those late calvers go ahead and get bred, it will add dollars to my bottom line without adding much expense.  Most importantly, it solves the allergy issue.

WOTB – (working on the business)

Cheers

tauna