Beef Cattle Browsing – October 2010

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.

A recent summary of 35 research studies evaluated the relationship between human colon cancer and consumption of red meat. Association between the two was found to be absent in women and weak in men. The authors noted it is difficult to isolate independent effects of red meat consumption from other dietary constituents and behavioral factors. They concluded that “currently available evidence does not support an independent positive association between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer.” (Obesity Reviews, June, 2010; International Assoc. for the Study of Obesity)

Information continues to accumulate on factors affecting economics of beef herds. State averages for 2009 have been reported by the Kansas Farm Management Association. Herds were divided into those selling weaned calves and those retaining ownership through a growing period. Operations were divided into thirds based on net return to management per cow.

Compared to the low net return producers, for those selling at weaning the high return group had higher weaning weights and $113.62 more gross income/cow. The high return group had lower costs across the board, including for feed, pasture, interest, vet medicine/drugs, marketing/breeding, depreciation, machinery, labor, and miscellaneous, resulting in $243.82 less total cost. The mid-point producer realized $449.83/cow gross income with cost of $735.03, resulting in a loss of net return/cow of $285.20.

Results were the same for those selling after growing, except there was no difference in vet medicine/drugs. High return producers had $196.80/cow higher gross income and $242.00 lower total cost than the low return group. The mid-point producer had a loss of net return/cow of $367.91, an increased loss of $82.71 over selling at weaning.

NOTE: These results are for only one year in one state, but other studies also show the biggest factor affecting profit in beef cow operations is production cost. Also, comparisons based on profit per cow may be misleading when comparing herds where cow size, and hence stocking rate, is not the same. The most valid measure of profit, and production, is done on a whole enterprise basis. (Kansas Beef Tips, Sept. 2010; Kansas State Univ.)

The Global Animal Partnership has a five step program to reach their top level of standards for the welfare of cattle. Some of the things required may be of interest.

You can’t use therapeutic drugs for market animals and can’t use sub-therapeutic drugs for any animals. You do have to relieve animal’s pain and suffering, or properly euthanize them if relief is not possible. Animals must be kept in minimum Body Condition Score of 4. Lameness cannot exceed two percent of the herd. You can separate animals from the herd only for a brief period when newly introduced or if an animal is injured or sick.

Cattle must be handled quietly and without mistreatment. Lariats may be used if necessary but “only by experts in the use of this tool.” Electric prods may be used “only if there is imminent risk of injury to the animal or handler.” Squeeze chutes must allow animals to breathe normally.

The number of assisted calvings and caesarians must not exceed five percent of the herd each year. Fenceline or two-stage weaning is required. Calves must not be weaned before six months of age. Records must be maintained of all locations where an animal has been kept. Ear notching, branding, and wattling are prohibited. No more than two ear tags may be applied per animal. Males may not be castrated and females may not be spayed. Disbudding of horns is prohibited. Horns may be tipped “only to prevent growing into an animal’s head or in response to behavior that puts other animals or handlers at risk.”

Animals must have “continuous access to drinking water and must be provided with a full ration that supplies optimum nutrition at each specific stage of life.” Cattle must live continuously on range or pasture, except during extreme weather conditions posing a risk to animal welfare, containing at least 75 percent vegetative cover. Animals must be provided with shade and be protected from heat and cold stress. Numerous specific requirements exist concerning housing conditions, control of insects, rodents, and predators, movement and transport, and marketing. (Marketing through auction or sale barns is prohibited.) Attaining this highest level of welfare standards would certainly be challenging. Full details are available at Attaining these standards would certainly be challenging and they are more extreme than those recognized by most welfare authorities in order to ensure animal well being.

Dried distillers grains plus solubles (DDGS) has become an important ingredient in many finishing feedyards. However, DDGS may also have uses for growing cattle. In one trial, steers initially averaging 574 lb were grazed on bermudagrass pasture from mid-June to early September. Calves were supplemented with 0, 2.8 lb, or 5.6 lb of DDGS fed Monday through Friday, resulting in a daily equivalent feeding of 0, 2 lb, or 4 lb. ADG for the three groups was 1.74, 2.20, and 2.31, respectively. Increased gain/lb supplement was 0.27 for the low level and 0.17 for the high level.

In a second trial, calves initially averaging 484 lb had free-choice access to large bales of 9-10% CP fescue hay from mid-November to early February. Supplementation with DDGS was based on initial body weights at rates of 0, 0.3%, 0.6%, or 1.2%. This resulted in supplementation of approximately 0, 1.5, 3, or 6 lb/day. ADG for the four groups, respectively, was 0.11, 0.99, 1.30, and 1.80. Increased gain/lb supplement for the three supplemented groups, respectively, was 0.67, 0.44, and 0.32, higher supplement efficiency than for the first trial. The latter finding was not surprising considering the very low performance of the group that was not supplemented.

These results show that DDGS supplementation for growing calves results in performance close to that from other supplements similar in nutrient content to DDGS. Also, as has been shown in other studies, supplementation increases weight gain, but at diminishing rates for increasing levels of supplement. The economics of supplementation depends on the relationship between cattle price and supplement price. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:347; Univ. of Arkansas)

A group of 2190 beef heifers was diagnosed for pregnancy between day 42 and day 74 of gestation. Diagnosis was by novice or experienced technicians using rectal palpation or ultrasonography. Overall fetal loss was 1.55%. Risk of loss was greater (P<.01) when evaluation occurred at less than 53 days of gestation (3.46%) than over 53 days (1.26%). Rectal palpation resulted in greater (P<.05) loss (2.68%) than ultrasound (1.29%). Inexperienced technicians had greater (P<.01) loss (2.07%) than experienced technicians (1.06%). So, stage of pregnancy, method of diagnosis, and technician experience all affect fetal loss from pregnancy determination. (Prof. Anim. Sci 26:341; Colorado State Univ.)

Angus (AN), Romosinuano [(RO), a non-Bos indicus type native to Colombia] and Brahman (BR) bulls were bred to cows of the same breeds in all possible combinations. At seven months of age, heifer progeny were weaned and placed with bulls. From then until 19 months of age, body weight, hip height, chute behavior score, and chute exit velocity were measured every month. Age at conception was estimated as age at calving minus 285 days.

BR crosses had greater P<.05) chute velocity than RO and ROxAN. Whether from the sire or dam side, BR had higher (more temperamental, P<.05) chute scores. Significant (P<.05) heterosis was found for reducing age at conception, ranging from 54 to 93 days.

Breed direct genetic effects at conception (all P<.05) were as follows:

  • AN reduced age 112 days, weight 79 lb, and height 4.5 in.
  • RO had no effect on age, incresed weight 30 lb, and increased height 0.9 in.
  • BR increased age 170 days, weight 205 lb, and height 5.5 in.

Breed maternal genetic effects at conception (all P<.05) were as follows:

  • AN reduced age 61 days, had no effect on weight, and reduced height 0.6 in.
  • RO had no effect on age, increased weight 30 lb, and increased height 0.9 in.
  • BR increased age 146 days, decreased weight 55 lb, and had no effect on height.

RO appeared to be intermediate to AN and BR in most of the traits measured in this study. (J. Animal Sci. 88:3173; Univ. of Florida, Texas A&M Univ.)

CattleFax has released projections for profit from beef cow operations. Looking back, by their estimation beef cows lost money from 1981 through 1986, made money from 1987 through 1993, lost money from 1994 through 1996, and made money ever since. Highest loss was in 1996 (about $85) and highest profit was in 2005 (about $175). Projections for 2010, 2011, and 2012 are profits of about $80, $120, and $150. Why? Lower cattle numbers and higher exports. Of course, as always the corn crop will be a significant factor. (CattleFax UPDATE, 9/10/10)

Comments are closed.