WHAT AFFECTS AMERICANS’ DECISIONS ON FOOD
Results of the 11th annual Food & Health Survey have recently been reported. Some of the findings:
- the number one factor affecting food buying is taste, followed by price, healthfulness, convenience, and sustainability;
- the most important item to consumers on food labels is expiration date (which in some cases is actually sell-by date or best-by date);
- women are more likely to rely on what they see or read in choosing food and mothers are more likely to rely on friends or family;
- the three most trusted sources for accurate information on food are registered dietitians, personal healthcare professionals, and U. S. government agencies;
- the three least trusted sources are food company or manufacturer, health/food/nutrition bloggers, and tv food experts;
- over two-thirds of consumers are trying to consume fewer calories by drinking water or low/no-calorie drinks, eating more whole grains, reducing sugar content, and simply eating less;
- about two-thirds are trying to eat more protein, with the top sources being poultry, eggs, and beans/nuts/seeds;
- the top three sources of information on protein are scientific studies, media headlines or article, and family or friends.
(International Food Information Council; http://www.foodinsight.org/sites/default/files/2016_executivesummary_final_web.pdf )
USING HEAT SYNCHRONIZATION IN NATURAL SERVICE
Sychronization is generally thought of as a procedure used in conjunction with artificial insemination. However, the procedure can also be used with natural service only. As with any system, some cows will still be open and calve late. But synchronization with natural service can shorten breeding seasons, increase the number of females bred during the first 21 days, have fewer late calving females, and produce a more uniform calf crop with more uniform weights at weaning which also could result in higher price when sold in group lots.
There are modified programs that do not synchronize as tightly as those used for AI, so that bulls are better able to breed everything in heat. Three such programs are
- 1-shot prostaglandin protocol;
- CIDR protocol;
- MGA protocol (for heifers only).
There are advantages and disadvantages to all. Detailed information can be accessed at http://igrow.org/livestock/beef/utilizing-natural-service-synchronization/.
ARE TODAY’S BEEF COWS HIGHER PRODUCING ?
Dr. David Lalman, Oklahoma State University, addressed this topic at the recent 2016 Beef Improvement Federation Annual Meeting and at the 2016 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course. There is no question that cattle are steadily increasing in body size, that is, weight, and also are higher producing . According to data from major breed association genetic evaluation programs, genetic trend for both and weaning and yearling weight and for milk has steadily increased over the last 40 years. At one time years ago, finished cattle came out of feedyards at around 1000 lb. Current average finished weights are nearing 1400 lb, about the same as current average breed-wide mature cow weight in American Angus Association performance records. But does that same picture hold at the commercial cow-calf level?
Lalman summarized data from the Kansas Farm Management Association, North Dakota Cow Herd Performance Appraisal, Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico Standardized Performance Analysis, and Upper Midwest Center for Farm Financial Management. Depending on the source, yearly data were available over the last 20 to 25 years. Over that period, weaning rate (number of calves weaned ÷ number of females exposed to breeding, often called calf crop percent) has varied across years due primarily to variation in precipitation. But average weaning rate across time has stayed almost the same at 83-89%, depending on the state or region. It seems that level of reproduction/survivability is probably about as high as can be feasible and economical in US cowherds. But what about weaning weight?
Angus association weaning weight records are available for bulls and heifers. To more accurately compare to commercial herd performance, these Angus bull records should be adjusted to a steer equivalent. Using this adjustment, over the last 25 years, weaning weight in purebred Angus has increased from about 550 lb to 615 lb, reflecting the change in breedwide genetic trend for weaning weight. But in the commercial herd state/regional data summarized by Lalman, average weaning weight has changed little (currently around 525 lb to 575 lb depending on the source). So, in these commercial herds, pounds weaned per exposed female also has changed little.
As cow weight and milking potential increase so does nutritional cost per cow. In the Angus association genetic evaluation, genetic trend for annual cost of dietary energy has steadily increased about $60 per cow over 40-45 years, due to increase in both body weight and milking level.
Lalman suggested that “either 1) the producers in these datasets are not selecting for increased weaning weight or 2) lower nutrient availability and (or) less intense management restrict the expression of genetic potential for weaning weight growth”.
(2016 Beef Improvement Federation Annual Meeting; Oklahoma St. Univ.; http://beefimprovement.org/content/uploads/2016/06/2016-BIF-Proceedings-1.pdf )
GROWTH IMPLANTS FOR SUCKLING CALVES
Growth implants have been around for at least 50 years. Even though not widely used, they still represent the highest return over cost of just about any management tool available to cow-calf producers. In 43 field trials conducted in Central Texas in the mid-‘70s, average response to one suckling implant was 20 lb. With current calf prices and cost of implants that is a return of $20-25 per cost of implant. Implants available for suckling calves include:
- Component® E-C, for steers and heifers, implant from 45 days of age up to 400 lb;
- Compudose®, for steers only, implant at castration or later;
- Encore®, for steers only, implant at castration or later;
- Ralgro®, for steers and heifers, replacement heifers should be implanted from 1-7 months of age;
- Synovex-C®, for steers and heifers, implant from 45 days of age up to 400 lb.
The three implants approved for both suckling steers and heifers can be used for potential herd replacements. Implants should not be used in bull calves to be saved for breeding. More information on growth implants can be accessed at
CHARACTERISTICS AND MANAGEMENT OF CATTLE BEING STARTED ON FEED
A survey was made of feedlot consulting nutritionists from major feeding areas, whose clients feed over 14,000,000 cattle annually. The nutritionists represented individual consulting practices (54%), corporate feeding companies (21%), corporate feed manufacturing companies (21%), and combinations (4%). Part of the survey dealt with what cattle feedlots start with and how they manage them. Some of the findings were:
- the majority of cattle were transported to the feedlot for less than 16 hours;
- the majority of cattle initially weighed from 600-700 lb (33%) or 700-800 lb (38%), with a smaller group from 400- 500 lb (17%);
- days on feed averaged 201 days, with 180 days being the most frequent length;
- 19% of the cattle were Holstein (which are generally fed longer than beef cattle because many are started on feed at younger ages);
- at receiving, cattle averaged having a minimum of 12 inches bunk space/hd;
- during finishing, bunk space was reduced to a minimum of 8½ inches/hd;
- 64% of cattle were received on hay for an average of 4 days;
- mass medication was employed with 83% of cattle considered high-risk, 39% for medium-risk, and 6% for low-risk;
- 30% of cattle were implanted once and 70% twice;
- 44% of cattle were sorted into estimated outcome groups, either initially or at reimplanting, based primarily on weight but also with some use of estimated fatness using ultrasound;
- 30% of cattle were dewormed with an injectable product and 30% with injectable and oral drench;
- 46% came out of the yard weighing 1300-1400 lb and 46% from 1400-1500 lb;
(J. Anim Sci. 94:2648; New Mexico St. Univ., Texas Tech Univ.)
SOURCE OF TRACE MINERALS FOR DEVELOPING BULLS
Bulls averaging 231 days of age and 572 lb were developed on a ration of cracked corn, cottonseed hulls, and protein supplement. Trace minerals were provided in either inorganic (sulfates) or organic (yeast or proteinates) forms. Bulls were weighed weekly and assessed biweekly for scrotal circumference, Body Condition Score, and semen characteristics (with collections beginning when scrotal circumference reached 26 cm). Puberty was defined as semen containing at least 5 million sperm/mL and at least 10% motility. Sexual maturity was defined as passing a Breeding Soundness Evaluation.
There were no statistically significant differences between trace mineral sources in age at puberty, body weight, BCS, scrotal circumference, or sperm concentration. At sexual maturity, the organic TM group tended to be younger and have higher sperm motility. The authors concluded that “pubertal traits were not affected by TM source, but source may shorten the time to reach sexual maturity”.
(2016 So. Sec. Am. Soc. Anim. Sci. Meeting Abstract 67: Univ. of Florida, Oklahoma St. Univ.)
WHY ADJUST WEANING WEIGHTS TO 205 DAYS OF AGE ?
In beef cattle, what came to be known as “performance testing” first involved comparing weights of individual animals of similar age managed under the same conditions. Individuals are generally not born on the same day, and it is not feasible to weigh every animal at the same day of age. So, adjustments are necessary in order to make valid comparisons.
For weaning weight, adjustment for age is done by subtracting birth weight (actual or estimated) from actual weaning weight and dividing by age in days. This results in average daily gain from birth to weaning. That average daily gain is then multiplied by a standard age at weaning to give total weight gain from birth to weaning; birth weight is added back to total gain to give weight adjusted for differences in age. (To account for the fact that milking ability is lower when a female is younger, there is also an adjustment for age of dam. Bulls, steers, and heifers are usually compared separately.)
The standard for adjusting weaning weights is usually to 205 days of age. But why? Wouldn’t 210 days (7 months) seem more likely. The first reported research where weaning weights were adjusted for age was published in 1945 in a paper by New Mexico State University (then the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts). The average age of the calves in the study was 205 days. That became the standard for most performance programs.
For genetic comparisons, weights should be adjusted for differences in age. For within-herd genetic comparison, in order to get a clear idea of what the herd is actually producing, commercial producers might want to adjust to their actual average age at weaning. But for economic evaluation, actual unadjusted weaning weight can be useful. Calves from cows that routinely calve earlier should weigh more than calves from late calving cows. And that early-calving advantage should be included in the economic picture. Use age-adjusted weights to evaluate genetics for growth. Use actual weights as part of economic evaluation, along with production costs.
BQA TIP OF THE MONTH – ANIMAL HANDLING
Understanding the flight zone make moving cattle easier. The flight zone is the comfortable distance that livestock maintain between you and them. The flight zone of cattle will vary depending on their disposition. Calm cattle have a very small flight zone while more temperamental cattle have a large flight zone. The flight zone will also increase as cattle become excited or agitated. Cattle should be worked from the edge of the flight zone; this area is commonly referred to as the pressure zone. As you move into the pressure zone cattle will move away from you and as you move out of the pressure zone cattle will generally stop.