Beef Cattle Browsing – March 2011

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

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.

Angus, Hereford, and MARC III (1/4 each Angus, Hereford, Red Poll, Pinzgauer) mature cows were bred to Hereford, Angus, Brahman, Boran (humped breed from eastern Africa), Tuli (non-humped breed from eastern Africa), and Belgian Blue (double-muscled breed). No straightbred Angus or Hereford matings were made. Results from Angus and Hereford sires were combined as British. Performance of calves from these matings is tabled below:

Breed of Sire Birth Wt, lb % Unassisted Calving % Survival to Weaning 200-day Wt, lb 200-day Wt/Calf Born
British 93 98 96.6 528 510
Brahman 100 91 90.4 542 490
Boran 94 96 96.3 506 487
Tuli 85 97 96.3 495 477
Belgian Blue 93 93 95.7 521 499

Brahman-sired calves were heavier at weaning but more were assisted at birth and survival to weaning was lower, offsetting their weight advantage. (J. Animal Sci. 89:979; U. S. Meat Animal Res. Ctr.)

Power of Meat, an annual survey of supermarket consumers, has been reported. Some of the important findings were:

  • Quality perception of case-ready product is at an all-time high
  • More consumers have become bargain hunters
  • About 1/3 of shoppers notice COOL labels and about 1/3 would pay more for U. S. product, but how much more was not asked
  • More consumers are cooking meat, poultry and seafood at home but less than half consider themselves knowledgeable about cooking these foods
  • More attention is being paid to price and less to nutritional content
  • About 20% of consumers continue to buy some organic/natural product, citing perception of long-term health benefits and better health and treatment of animals as the primary reasons, along with better nutritional value, taste, and freshness
  • To eat healthier, consumers said they were reducing portion size and sodium content.
    (American Meat Institute;, 3/23/11)

Temperature-sensing boluses were placed in the rumen of 30 Angus cows at about seven months of gestation. After parturition, cows were synchronized and observed for estrus. Daily average ambient temperatures during calving in February and March ranged from 36-72 deg. F. and during estrus in May and June from 63-77 deg. F. Rumen temperature was analyzed from 7 days before and 3 days after parturition and from 2 days before and 2 days after visual detection of estrus.

Rumen temperature decreased from day 2 to day 1 before parturition. Temperature from time of estrus detection to 8 hours after detection was higher than at the same hour the day before or day after estrus was detected. Ambient temperature did not influence temperature at parturition or at estrus. The authors concluded that rumen temperature has potential as a predictor of parturition and estrus. (J. Animal Sci. 89:1020; Oklahoma St. Univ.)

USDA-APHIS periodically conducts surveys under the National Animal Health Monitoring System. The most recent survey was done in the 24 states that have 80% of the nation’s beef cow herds with 88% of the cows. Supplemental feeding practices were part of the survey. The following results were reported:

  • 49% of herds supplemented protein for 6 months or more, 30% for 3-6 months, 18% for 1-3 months, and 3% for less than 1 month. The primary protein supplement in all regions of the U. S. was plant protein sources, mainly soybean and cottonseed meal.
  • 45% of herds supplemented energy for 3-6 months, 25% for 6 months or more, 21% for 1-3 months, and 9% for less than 1 month. The primary source of energy was corn, except for the western region.
  • 66% of herds supplemented roughage for 3-6 months, 21% for 6 months or more, 11%  for 1-3 months, and 2% for less than 1 month. The primary roughage source was hay.

Supplementation in most herds is an important factor in cost of production. The complete NAHMS report is available at:


In two years, 288 British-cross steers in each year were obtained for evaluation. In Year1 steers came from two ranches and initially averaged 550 lb; in Year2 steers were purchased from auction barns and averaged 532 lb. In each year, half of the steers were sorted and half were unsorted. Within each half, steers were assigned to one of three groups:

  • calf-fed, CF (immediately placed on feed, for 167 days in Yr1 and 196 days in Yr2);
  • summer yearling, SY (grazed cornstalks for 5 months, grazed bromegrass pasture for 30-45 days, started on feed in May, for 133 days in Yr1 and 145 days in Yr2);
  • fall yearling, FY (grazed cornstalks followed by bromegrass pasture and started on feed in September, for 116 days in Yr1 and 132 days in Yr 2).

Feeding periods were longer in Yr 2 because of lower gains while grazing.

Unsorted steers were assigned randomly to one of the three groups. For sorted steers, the heaviest one-third was assigned to the CF group. The remaining two-thirds were grazed over the winter; after winter grazing, the heaviest one-half were assigned to the SY group. The remaining steers were summer grazed and became the FY group.

Feedlot ADG was lower for CF. However, feed consumption was lower and feed efficiency higher for CF; SY were intermediate and FY ate more and were less efficient. CF had the lightest carcasses and FY the heaviest. SY had lower marbling scores while FY had less fat cover. FY was the only group that produced significant numbers (18%) of carcasses weighing over 1000 lb, which are heavily discounted.

In Yr1, grazing gains were higher and sorted FY were more profitable than sorted CF; the reverse was true in Yr2. Marketing on a value-based grid decreased profit of SY because of lower Quality Grade and decreased profit of FY because of discounted overweight carcasses. Overall, sorting did not increase profit on either live or grid marketing. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:587 and 595; Univ. of Nebraska)

A total of 427 lactating cows at two locations were synchronized using the 5-day CO-Synch + control internal drug-release device protocol (CIDR). During the 12-hour period between two injections of prostaglandin F2α, half of the calves were removed from their dams. All cows were AIed 72 hours after CIDR removal. Interval from calving to breeding averaged 80 days. There was no significant difference due to calf separation in AI pregnancy rate or early-season pregnancy rate. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:534; Colorado St. Univ.)

So some Swedish researchers have advocated. They estimate that agriculture is responsible for 25 to 30 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. They propose a consumption tax on meat that would reduce emissions in Europe by 7 percent. If the land diverted, as a result of this tax, from production of meat was used to produce lignocellulosic crops to generate power in place of coal, they estimate the reduction in emissions would be over 40 percent. (Climatic Change published online 12/16/10); Chalmers Univ. of Tech., Univ. of Gothenburg)

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