Beef Cattle Browsing – September 2012

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.


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



The World Trade Organization’s highest appeals body recently ruled U. S. Country of Origin Labeling violates provisions of fair trade under WTO rules by requiring segregation of domestic and imported stock, resulting in a price differential between the two. The U. S. government recently announced plans to implement changes to comply with the ruling (TCFA Newsletter, 8/31/12). That is, the government plans to continue COOL in some form. A lawsuit has been filed in U. S. court on the grounds that WTO can not overrule U. S. law. Similar suits have been filed before on those grounds in attempts to avoid WTO rulings, without success. It remains to be seen if sufficient changes can be made to satisfy free trade agreements and continue COOL. Some beef industry organizations favor eliminating COOL entirely as being costly and ineffective.

The USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System surveyed feedyard managers of large facilities (>1000 head capacity) in 12 states, accounting for over 95% of cattle in large U. S. yards. As of Jan. 1, 2011, large yards amounted to less than 3% of the total yards but had over 80% of cattle on feed. Results were separated into yards with 1000-8000 head capacity (medium) and those with over 8000 head capacity (large).

Managers were asked to assess importance of six management practices performed before arrival at the feedyard. The following shows percentage of managers stating that a practice was either extremely or very effective:

  • castrated/dehorned at least 4 weeks before shipping = 92%
  • respiratory vaccines given 2 weeks before weaning = 85%
  • introduction to feed bunk = 81%
  • respiratory vaccines given at weaning = 80%
  • calves weaned 4 weeks before shipping = 79%
  • calves treated for parasites before shipping = 71%

Almost 70% of managers stated that information on pre-arrival processing was very important. However, only 26% of large yards and 38% of small yards always had such information available. 70% of large yards and 53% of medium yards sometimes had information. No effort was made to determine how much managers would pay for the various procedures to be performed. (USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services Info Sheet; July, 2012)

Another breed has implemented the use of DNA/genomic testing in their genetic evaluation program. Where American Hereford Association-approved genomic data on individuals are available, they will be incorporated into Expected Progeny Difference. The primary benefit of this change is to increase EPD accuracy for animals without performance or progeny data, so is mostly of value for younger animals. This improvement has been possible with the development of genomic panels specific to the Hereford breed. Research has shown that, for most production traits, genomic techniques must be developed for specific populations in which they will be applied in order to be effective. Procedures developed in one breed are of little if any use when applied to another breed. (

Brahman X British heifers initially averaging almost 10 months of age and 530 lb were assigned to one of four treatments providing supplement at approximately 1% of initial body weight per day, with free-choice hay provided:

  • 8% CP stargrass hay, 35 lb supplement/wk fed daily (S7, 5 lb/feeding)
  • 8% CP stargrass hay, 35 lb supple./wk fed three times/we (S3, 11.7 lb/feeding)
  • 12% CP bermudagrass hay, 35 lb supple./wk fed daily (S7, 5 lb/feeding)
  • 12% CP bermudagrass hay, 35 lb supple./wk fed three times/wk (S3, 11.7 lb/feeding)

The supplement, designed to provide a low-starch source of energy, analyzed 16% CP and consisted of 49% soybean hulls, 30% wheat mids, and 12% DDG, with the remainder being molasses, canola pellets, and mineral. The S7 group completely consumed supplement within one hour while S3 completely consumed within six hours. After 60 days in drylot, heifers were placed for breeding for 60 days on closely-mowed bahiagrass pastures, with the same treatments continued as above.

S3 heifers consumed less hay on days when all heifers received supplement. This is not surprising since S3 heifers were eating over twice as much supplement on those days as S7. But there was no difference in hay consumed on days when only S7 received supplement. S7 were less variable in daily hay consumption, total dry matter consumption, and total energy and protein consumption. There was no significant difference in ADG due to supplement frequencies. Puberty and pregnancy rates were higher for S7, although both rates were lower than expected. Some other research has indicated that non-daily feeding of developing heifers on low-starch energy supplements resulted in acceptable performance compared to daily feeding. The authors of this paper concluded that was not the case in this study, at least at the weekly feeding level provided. (J. Animal Sci. 90:2371; Univ. of Florida, Oregon St. Univ.)

Sale prices were analyzed on 1001 lots including over 13,000 calves sold at two large (>1000 head/week) and two small (<1000 head per/week) auction barns in Oklahoma. About 70% of calves were black, 16% smoky, and 13% red. Compared to red, average premiums were $4.42/cwt for smoky and $4.15 for black. Calves sold at large auctions averaged $2.21/cwt higher. (The authors noted this should be balanced against any higher cost of transportation if larger auctions are more distant.) Steers brought $7.53/cwt more than heifers and $9.18 more than bulls. Dehorned calves averaged $3.10/cwt more. (Premiums for steers and dehorning are often lower in areas where castration and dehorning are less common.) If the auctioneer commented on calves being sold, average price was $3.20 higher.

The authors noted these premiums are additive. So, in this study, a smoky, dehorned, steer sold at a nearby large auction where the auctioneer commented on the lot received an average premium of $22.11/cwt more than a red, horned, bull sold without comment at a nearby small auction. (; downloaded 9/7/12)

Use of sex-sorted semen has increased with advancements in sorting techniques. However, sex-sorted semen is still more costly and most research has shown that pregnancy rates have been lower. Some studies with sex-sorted semen have found better results if insemination is closer to ovulation and also with insemination deep in the uterine horn where ovulation occurs. This study combined three different groups of suckling Nelore (Bos indicus) cows; total number of cows was 1544. All cows were synchronized and timed artificial insemination (TAI) was implemented with either sexed or non-sexed semen.

At TAI, all cows were evaluated ultrasonically to measure the largest follicle (LF) present. When LF was large, there was no significant difference between semen types in pregnancy per AI. But when LF was small, pregnancy per AI declined sharply with sex-sorted semen. Cows exhibiting estrus, between removal of an intravaginal progesterone device and before TAI, had significantly higher pregnancy rates; but there was no significant relationship between exhibition of estrus and semen type. Also, there was no significant effect due to insemination deep into the uterine horn.

The authors concluded that results from sex-sorted semen, and other relatively expensive semen, can be improved by restricting to females exhibiting estrus and performing ultrasound for evaluation of follicle size. (J. Animal Sci. 90:1816; Univ. of Sao Paulo)

When the “mad cow” scare occurred in the U. S. almost nine years ago, Japan shut off our imports. Later, they allowed in beef from cattle less than 20 months of age. Recently, the Japanese Food Safety Commission recommended to their government the age be raised to 30 months. El Salvador and Mexico also have increased access for U. S. imports. NOTE: Elevation to 30 months of age would cover most fed cattle in the U. S. It could also reduce the relative value of cattle in age-verified programs. (TCFA Newsletter, 9/7/12)

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