Beef Cattle Browsing – August 2008

Beef Cattle Browsing

Editor: Dr. Stephen Hammack, Professor & Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Emeritus

August 2008

This newsletter is published by Texas AgriLife Extension – Animal Science. Media, feel free to use this information as needed and cite Texas A&M University Beef Cattle Browsing Newsletter, Dr. Steve Hammack.

COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) is scheduled to go into effect September 30. Among other commodities, beef sold at retail will have to be labeled with what country it came from. Under COOL, a producer affidavit will be considered acceptable evidence so long as the person involved has first-hand knowledge of origin. Questions have been asked as to exactly what must be included in such an affidavit. According to a recent news update from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, USDA will not create any sort of standard affidavit, so the National Cattlemens Beef Association plans to work with various segments of the industry to develop something that could be used by producers.

Producers should consider maintaining possibly relevant records to support affidavits. The USDA site for COOL is Click on Examples of Records for COOL Verification on the right under Resources and then on Cattle, Beef, Muscle Cuts of Beef, Ground Beef under Additional Information on the right.

Also, participation in the Texas Beef Quality Producers Program (Texas BQA) will provide “records that may be useful to verify compliance with the Country of Origin Labeling provisions”. More information on the BQA program can be found at

University of Missouri researchers studied four heat-synchronization programs in 48 cycling heifers. The four programs were:

  • CIDR Select (P1): progesterone-containing CIDR insert from day 0 to day 14; GnRH on day 23; prostaglandin on day 30
  • Select Synch + CIDR (P2): CIDR insert and GnRH on day 23 and prostaglandin at CIDR removal on day 30
  • CIDR-PG (P3): CIDR insert on day 23 and prostaglandin at CIDR removal on day 30
  • Select Synch (P4): GnRH on day 23 and prostaglandin on day 30

There was no significant difference in average interval from prostaglandin treatment to either estrus or ovulation. However, there was less variation in interval to estrus after prostaglandin in P1 compared to the other three programs, and variation was lower in P3 than P2. Also, P1 had less variation in interval to ovulation after prostaglandin.

Programs P1 and P2 were also compared in 25 prepubertal heifers. More P1 heifers responded to GnRH than P2, but estrous response did not differ. There was no difference between P1 and P2 in variation for interval to estrus or ovulation.

Combining cycling and prepubertal heifers, response to GnRH was greater and variation for interval to estrus and ovulation was lower in the P1 program than P2. The authors concluded that “CIDR Select improved synchrony of estrus and ovulation compared with Select + CIDR.” (J. Animal Sci. 86:1808)

Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Colorado State, and West Texas A&M collaborated to study perceptions of current quality characteristics of the beef industry. Producers, packers, and merchandisers were surveyed. Packer responses indicated that over 92% of carcasses weighed between 600 lb and 1000 lb, 66% graded Low Choice or higher, and  86% were Yield Grade 3 or leaner. Seedstock, cow-calf, stocker/backgrounder, and feedlot producers all ranked lack of animal uniformity first and inadequate tenderness second as the top quality challenges or concerns. Packers, purveyors, and restaurateurs all agreed that lack of uniformity of live animals, carcasses, or cuts was the biggest challenge, but retailers listed insufficient marbling.

When asked what genetic or management changes they had made since 1991, seedstock and cow-calf producers ranked improved genetics using EPD or performance values as first, while stocker/backgrounder and feedlot producers said changed injection-site location. And packers and restaurateurs both said greatest improvement since 1991 had been made in reduced injection-site lesions. Packers and retailers said least improvement had been made in uniformity, while purveyors said excessive cut weight, and restaurateurs listed excess fat cover and inadequate tenderness.

Improvement certainly appears to have been made in reducing injection-site lesions. But uniformity at all levels continues to be less than desired. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 24:189)

USDA-ARS researchers in central Oklahoma compared two reflectance techniques to estimate crude protein in four varieties of bermudagrass. The techniques were remote sensing of standing forage using spectral reflectance (RS) and near infrared reflectance spectroscopy analysis of fecal samples (IS). Plant samples were also analyzed using conventional laboratory methods. Pastures were grazed in three successive years from June through August with calves of predominantly British breeding.

Typical grazing systems of these forages in this area include protein supplementation beginning at about the midpoint of the grazing period. In this study, both techniques signaled at about the same time that crude protein levels dropped below 7 percent, the targeted minimum when supplementation was considered to be beneficial. Such signals occurred 6 days before grazing midpoint in the first year but 5 days and 14 days after midpoint in the second and third years. Using lab analysis as the standard, RS ranked CP of the four varieties at the beginning of grazing better than IS.

The authors concluded that both techniques could be used effectively to estimate CP content and optimum initiation of supplementation. They noted that grazing animals are not necessary for the RS technique, which also could be used to determine when to harvest for hay. Also, it appeared that supplementing too early adversely affected economics more than supplementing too late. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 23:696)

Montana State University and Colorado State University researchers studied an experimental vaccine for E. coli 0157:H7, the E. coli sometimes involved in food-borne illness in humans. They vaccinated 71 cows 30 days before calving and then commingled them with 66 non-vaccinated cows. At approximately 14 days after calving, antibody titers were 11 times higher in vaccinated cows, as were serum titers in vaccinated calves. And 60 days after birth, vaccinated calves still had levels almost eight times higher. There were no differences in E. coli 0157:H7 shedding by calves 60 days after birth, and only about five percent of calves were shedding. The authors concluded that the vaccine effectively elevated antibody titers in dams and that these antibodies were transferred to the calf. (Prof. Anim. Sci.)

As prices of most feedstuffs have increased dramatically, producers search for lower-cost materials. Auburn University researchers compared cotton gin trash and peanut hulls. Steers of Angus X Continental breeding initially weighing 513 lb were fed for 112 days either:

  • 45% peanut hulls + 55% cracked corn
  • 45% peanut hulls + 47% cracked corn + 8% cottonseed meal
  • 45% gin trash + 55% cracked corn
  • 45% gin trash + 47% cracked corn + 8% cottonseed meal

Steers on gin trash ate significantly more (22.7 lb/day vs 16.7 lb/day) and gained significantly faster (2.6 lb/day vs 2.2 lb/day). Addition of cottonseed meal increased both consumption (21.3 lb/day vs 18.3 lb/day) and ADG (2.5 lb/day vs 2.2 lb/day). The authors noted that gin trash can vary greatly in nutritional content depending on cotton variety, method of harvest, and region. In particular, trash from stripper-harvested cotton grown on sandy soils can be especially high in ash. Also, since much gin trash contains more than 11% CP, protein supplementation may not be necessary in some cases. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 24:40)

From 1990 through 2003, US beef exports, as a percent of total production, increased from around 4 percent to 10 percent. That dropped to around 2 percent in 2004, due to the detection of BSE in the US. Since then, exports have gradually gone back up to almost 6 percent and are expected to continue upward as more countries open again to US beef. For comparison, poultry exports increased from 6 percent in 1990 to over 16 percent by 1996 and have ranged from 14 percent to 18 percent since. Pork exports have increased steadily from less than 2 percent in 1990 to over 18 percent in 2008.  (USDA) 

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