Beef Cattle Browsing – October 2007

Beef Cattle Browsing

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

October 2007

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.

The USDA has developed standards for grass (forage) fed beef, which will go into effect November 15, 2007. Provisions include:

  • the only feed source for the life of the animal is to be grass and forage
  • milk consumed before weaning is allowed
  • allowed feeds are grass, forbs, browse, and cereal grains in vegetative state only
  • allowed feeds are grass, forbs, browse, and cereal grains in vegetative state only
  • no grain or grain products are allowed
  • animals must have continuous access to grazing during the growing season (first to last frost)
  • hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue (without grain), and other roughages are allowed
  • vitamin and mineral supplements are allowed
  • other supplementation is allowed only to ensure animal well being during adverse conditions
  • other supplementation must be fully documented (with receipts, ingredients, feed tags)
  • other supplementation documents must also include amount and frequency of feeding

There was no intent in the standards to address such things as hormones, antibiotics, free range, natural, organic, etc., claims for which can be made under other regulated marketing programs. (Federal Register / Vol 72 / No. 199 / October 16, 2007)

USDA-Miles City, Montana researchers fed 1/2 Red Angus-1/4 Charolais-1/4Tarentaise October-weaned heifers, beginning about two months after weaning, for 140 days. Feeding was at levels of either ad lib (F) or 80% of ad lib (R). The ration was 68% corn silage and 18% alfalfa. F heifers gained 0.29 lb/day more, weighed 48 lb more at the end of feeding, and had more ultrasound-measured  intramuscular and external fat. However, feed efficiency was higher for R heifers and they consumed 27% less feed. After the 140-day period, all heifers were fed ad lib for 30-40 days, synchronized, artificially inseminated, and placed on native range with cleanup bulls for six weeks. During seven months on native range, R heifers gained 23 lb more. F heifers tended to have higher pregnancy rates (91% vs. 86%), but R heifers still had an advantage of 22% less harvested feed per pregnant heifer. Restricted feeding can be economical for developing replacement heifers. (J. Animal Sci. 85:2740)

Texas Tech researchers surveyed 42 consulting nutritionists and received replies from 31 regarding their current recommendations, about one-half from Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas and one-third from Iowa-Nebraska-Colorado-South Dakota. Some of their responses were:

  • corn was the primary grain in all cases, wheat second, sorghum third, barley fourth
  • steam flaking was used by 66%
  • about 2/3 formulated rations to contain from 70-80% grain, with none >90%
  • 83% used grain coproducts (distillers grains, etc.) at average ration levels of 15-20%
  • roughage level averaged 8-9%: 41% used silage and 31% used alfalfa
  • receiving rations averaged 40-45% roughage
  • 2 or 3 step-up rations were common (fed for average of 7 days) before the finishing ration
  • most used liquid non-fat or pelleted supplements, as opposed to loose dry
  • fat was used by 71%, mostly tallow, at average rations levels of 3%
  • ration crude protein averaged 13.3% (dry matter basis), with about 1/5 of that from urea
  • most used the National Research Council as their primary source of nutritional information (J. Animal Sci. 85:2772) 

University of Georgia and Clemson University researchers studied Coastal and Tifton 85 bermudagrass for cow/calf enterprises, along with calf creep pasture using aschynomene, a high-quality tropical legume. Calves gained more on Tifton 85, 2.07 lb/day vs. 1.74 lb/day for Coastal, and weighed more at weaning (556 lb vs. 529 lb). Creep-pasture calves gained more and weighed more than non-creep, 1.98 lb/day and 550 lb vs. 1.80 lb/day and 535 lb. Creep grazing improved in vitro digestibility of Coastal more than Tifton 85. Effects on milk yield varied, but milk protein percent was higher on Tifton 85. This work confirms that Tifton 85 is higher quality than Coastal, and improves milk composition. (J. Animal Sci 85:2762)

Montana State University researchers studied readability of 13 different ear tags of two types (half-duplex and full-duplex) using three reading systems (single-lane, dual-lane, and multi-animal). A total of  5570 observations were included in the study. Readability among the systems did not differ, all being above 99%. But cattle flow rates differed significantly with single-lane being slowest, dual-lane intermediate, and multi-animal fastest. All three systems met minimum flow rate standards set by USDA for the National Animal Identification System. There were no significant differences among the top nine performing tags. (J. Animal Sci. 85:175, Suppl. 2)

Breed association genetic evaluation programs have calculated carcass EPD on an age-constant basis, typically 12-months. However, feedlots generally feed more to a similar level of fatness than to the same age. With this in mind, the American Gelbvieh Association will determine EPD to approximately 0.4 inch ultrasound-measured external fat. This should result in more meaningful values. Also, a new EPD will be developed, Days to Feed (to reach 0.4 fat). We can probably expect to see more carcass genetic evaluations based on physiological rather than chronological end-points. (American Gelbvieh Association Web site)

New Mexico State University researchers studied two 45-day backgrounding systems using 250 calves over three years. Drylot calves were fed corn/wheat mids pellets and alfalfa. Pasture calves were supplemented with 1.25 lb of 32% CP cubes three times per week. Drylot calves gained more but feed and total costs were four times higher, resulting in $45 higher net income for pasture. After backgrounding, death loss during finishing was higher for drylot and net return was higher for pasture. Numerous studies, including Texas A&M Ranch to Rail, have shown a 45-day background period to be useful in preparing weaned calves for growing or finishing. However, nutritional costs during backgrounding are crucial in determining economic returns. (J. Animal Sci. 85:167, Suppl. 2)

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