Beef Cattle Browsing – May 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.

The 57th Annual Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course will be held on the campus of Texas A&M University on August 1-3, 2011. All aspects of beef cattle production will be covered. The tentative agenda and course registration can be accessed at

The Grassfed Beef Conference will be held on the campus of Texas A&M on June 8-9, 2011. The conference will cover topics such as defining grassfed (and organic and natural), forages and cattle types for grass finishing, finishing cattle nutrient needs, preventative health programs, fabrication of carcasses, effect of production system on beef nutritional content, and economics and marketing of grassfed product. Program information and registration can be accessed at Click on Grassfed Beef Conference under Calendar of Events.

In some parts of the country, drylot development of replacement heifers has become more common, but has also become more expensive. Over three years, 299 Angus-based heifers were developed either exclusively in drylot (DL) or grazed on corn stalks or dormant winter range followed by a short period in drylot (GR). In year 1, GR heifers grazed cornstalks for 135 days and then were in drylot for 79 days; in year 2, GR grazed cornstalks for 106 days, grazed dormant pasture for 54 days and were in drylot for 54 days; in year 3, GR grazed cornstalks for 91 days, grazed dormant pasture for 63 days and were in drylot for 47 days. The DL ration, depending on year, was 60-65% brome hay, 12-20% dried distillers grains with solubles or wet corn gluten feed, 10-30% corn silage, and supplement. Heifers were heat synchronized and bred AI followed by cleanup bulls. Weights were as follows:

Initial weight* 557 557
Wt. after grazing* 728 614
Prebreeding wt.* 851 739
Prebreeding % of mature wt.* 65 56
Precalving wt. 1027 992
* = P<0.05

Significantly higher percentages of DL reached puberty by time of AI, but there were no significant differences in first or second season conception or pregnancy rates, calf birth date, or calf birth weight. For GR, winter feeding cost was lower ($33, P<0.01), total feeding cost was lower ($42, P<0.01), and net cost of developing a pregnant heifer was lower ($45, P<0.01). Since the GR system included a short period of drylot management, an evaluation of total grazing development was not made in this study. With total grazing, development costs should be lower but reproduction might also be lower, unless adequate supplement is provided. (J. Animal Sci. 89:1595; Univ. of Nebraska)

Over two years, two varieties of sorghum-sudangrass hybrids were grazed for 84 days, beginning in mid-July, with British-Continental crossbred steers (initial weight of 554 lb in year 1 and 462 lb in year 2) at stocking rates varying from approximately 1½ to 2¾ steers/acre. The hybrids, a brown midrib (BM) and a photo-period sensitive (PS) were selected to represent differences in yield potential and nutrient content. Every 28 days, cattle were weighed and forage samples were collected to assess quantity and quality.

When grazing started, BMR had greater amounts of forage and both varieties were highly digestible and high in Crude Protein. After 28 days, neither forage availability nor nutrient content was affected by forage variety. After 56 days, stocking rate affected forage availability but forage variety did not; digestibility was not affected by stocking rate or forage variety but CP% tended to be lower in BMR. After 84 days, forage availability continued to be affected by stocking rate and tended to be lower for BMR.

After both 28 and 56 days, ADG was not affected by stocking rate or forage variety; gain per acre increased with higher stocking. By 84 days, stocking rate and forage variety affected ADG. Under light stocking, ADG was higher for BMR but ADG declined less on PS as stocking rate increased. Similarly, maximum gain per acre occurred at lighter stocking rates on BMR and declined more rapidly at higher stocking rates.

The authors concluded that performance on both of these forage varieties could exceed approximately 2 ¼ lb/day and 400 lb/ac but depended on stocking rate and forage variety. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 27:92; Texas A&M Univ.)

The latest addition to Texas AgriLife Animal Science Extension’s is the Nutrition Feeds and Feeding Channel. Individual videos address evaluating forage conditions, hay considerations, feeding for intended use, which feed to purchase, reading a feed label, mineral supplementation, non-protein nitrogen, protein limiting factors, use of co-products, protein cubes/cakes, pelleted feeds, using tubs, supplements in tubs, supplements in blocks, loose minerals, mineral blocks, cottonseed hulls, soybean/cottonseed meal, corn gluten/distillers grains/ rice hulls, and wheat mids/soy hulls/alfalfa leaf meal. Videos on many other aspects are also available on RanchTV.

A survey was conducted at auction markets in Idaho, California, and Utah which included data on 23,479 cattle, both beef and dairy. About 60% of beef cows and 71% of beef bulls were predominantly black hided; almost all of the dairy cattle were Holsteins. Average weights were 1206 lb for beef cows, 1652 lb for beef bulls, 1448 lb for dairy cows, and 1608 lb for dairy bulls. Average Body Condition Score (9-point scale) was 4.7 (16% BCS 1-3) for beef cows and 5.3 (4% BCS 1-3) for beef bulls; on the 5-point dairy scale, dairy cows averaged 2.6 (34% BCS 1-2) and dairy bulls averaged 2.9 (10% BCS 1-2). About 4% of beef cows and 13% of dairy cows were considered emaciated. Lameness was characterized in 15% of beef cows and bulls, 45% of dairy cows, and 26% of dairy bulls. Less than 1% of all classes had cancer eye.

The effect of defects on price was analyzed. From 35% to 61% of variation in price was accounted for by defects, being higher in dairy cattle than beef cattle. Cows were discounted if below BCS 5 (3.0 for dairy), below 1200 lb – 1400 lb live weight (1400 lb – 1600 lb for dairy), had extra large udders, had horns, had cancer eye, were below average in muscle score or locomotion score, or were not black hided (beef). There were also discounts for various physical defects. Cows not in these categories received premiums. There were similar discounts and premiums for bulls, except that very fat beef bulls received discounts and lean, but not emaciated, bulls received premiums. The same was true, but not as pronounced, for dairy bulls. Visibly sick animals of all classes were discounted at least $15/cwt, with highest discounts for sick beef bulls.

The authors concluded that body condition and weight were the two most important factors determining price. They recommended that producers consider increasing slaughter value by economically increasing condition and weight and by marketing animals with minor defects before they become severe. (J. Animal Sci. 89:1474 and 1484; Univ. of Idaho, Oklahoma St. Univ., California Beef Council)

Two programs were studied using Angus heifers in two experiments using long-term controlled internal release (CIDR) procedures. CIDR-Select heifers received: 1) a progesterone-impregnated CIDR for 14 days (at which time the CIDR was removed), 2) injection of gonadotrophin (GnRH) 9 days later, and 3) injection of prostaglandin (PGF2α) 7 days later. Show-Me-Sync heifers had the same procedure, except that the GnRH injection was not included. All heifers were given GnRH when AIed, with semen from the same bull, 66-72 hours after treatment with PGF2α. Clean-up bulls were turned in 14 days after AI.

In the first experiment, size of dominant follicles, estrous response up to time of insemination, and pregnancy rate did not differ between treatments. In the second experiment, fixed-time pregnancy rates tended to be higher for Show-Me-Synch, but overall rates did not differ. The authors concluded that the Show-Me-Synch program gave similar results while reducing animal handling and cost. Note that this was done with Angus. It is not known what results might be with the Show-Me-Sync program on Bos indicus-type heifers (J. Animal Sci.89:1358; Univ. of Missouri)

1) Hormone Use in Meat Production is a Health Concern. The hormones used in meat production, such as estrogen, are the same as, or synthetic versions of, those occurring naturally in animals. They are a fraction of the natural estrogen content of products such as soybean oil and eggs. Hormones result in greater production efficiency and lower cost to the consumer.

2) Meat is Less Safe Today Than It Was in the Past. As just one example, the USDA reports that E. coli 0157:H7 in fresh ground beef declined by 63 percent from 2000 to 2009 and the Center for Disease Control reported in 2010 that its goal had been reached of less than one E. coli 0157:H7 illness per 100,000 people. This has occurred while tracking of such problems has increased significantly over the years.

3) Grass-Fed Beef is Safer. Research has shown no difference between grass-finished, organic, natural, and grain-finished cattle in the intestinal levels of E. coli 0157:H7. This organism is a naturally occurring presence in the gut of cattle; neither production system nor type of diet affects safety of the beef produced.

4) Americans Eat Too Much Meat. The U. S. Dietary Guidelines recommend 5 to 7 ounces of meat and beans per day. The National Health Nutrition Examination Survey showed that men consume an average of 6.9 ounces and women 4.4 ounces daily of meat and poultry.

5) Meat Contains Saturated Fat and This Contributes to Heart Disease. Meat does contain saturated fat, but some 40 cuts of meat qualify for the government designation of “lean”. Regardless, a 2010 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that, “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.”

6) Inspectors Only Visit Meat Plants Occasionally. U. S. plants where livestock are handled and processed are inspected continuously, by as many as two dozen inspectors in large plants.

7) Americans Get Most of Dietary Nitrite From Cured Meats and This Can Cause Cancer. Nitrite added to cured meats plays an important role in preventing botulism. Besides, ninety three percent of a human’s average consumption of sodium nitrite comes from vegetables and human saliva. And the nitrite from cured meats is the same as that from vegetables. In a study by the U. S. National Toxicology Program rats and mice were fed high levels of sodium nitrite but no association was found with cancer. Finally, nitrite has important physiological functions in humans.

8) Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production Is Increasing and This Is a Human Health Risk. As far back as the 1950s, articles in medical journals cautioned against overuse of antibiotics in humans to treat illnesses for which they were not warranted because of the potential to create resistant strains of organisms. And yet, a recent study of pediatricians reported that more than half wrote 10 or more antibiotic prescriptions a month they believed to be unwarranted, mainly due to parental pressure. Non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock has been banned in Denmark since 1998, but this has led to a 110% increase in antibiotic use to treat sick animals. The USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety recently stated, “There seems to be little evidence after 10 years that public health has improved since the Danish ban on growth promoting and preventive antibiotics.” (Summarized from “Myths and Facts About Meat and Poultry” downloaded from

A training program for handling cattle that cannot walk on their own is now available in English and Spanish for animal caregivers on beef and dairy cattle operations at The Animal Care Training Program, managed by the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, was developed by beef and dairy cattle veterinarians, animal scientists, farmers and ranchers to aid the beef and dairy industries and provide 24-hour relevant training for animal caregivers. The online modules outline how to care and treat downed animals. There also are modules available to help producers gain knowledge on how to make the difficult decision on when to euthanize an animal, and appropriate methods to use.

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