The United States Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service reports annually, on a per cow basis, the costs and returns of beef cow herds. These are reported for the entire country and by USDA Farm Resource Regions, shown below.

us map_browsing

Three of the regions are located partly in Texas. The Prairie Gateway (in red) is characterized by USDA as consisting primarily of cattle, wheat, sorghum, cotton, and rice farms. The Southern Seaboard (in dark green) is denoted as having part-time cattle, general field crop, and poultry farms. The Fruitful Rim (in gold) is the most diverse of the regions, being located in areas varying widely in climate from Florida to Arizona to Washington; it is identified as consisting of fruit, vegetable, nursery, and cotton farms. Regardless of the accuracy of those characteristics, shown below are returns and costs for 2015:

      Region Revenue Operating cost Total cost Return over op. cost Return over tot. cost
Prairie Gateway  $1028       $617   $1383     $483     -$112
So. Seaboard   $833       $506   $1523     $326     -$691
Fruitful Rim   $796       $395    $997     $401     -$201
U. S. Total   $960       $603   $1365     $357     -$405

There was considerable variation across regions in revenue, cost, and returns. Based just on operating cost, all regions showed a positive return. Return above operating cost is often the figure looked at in many cow-calf operations, especially smaller part-time operators on paid-off land. Many of these operators do not include a charge for their labor or that of other family members or friends, which is part of total cost in the USDA estimates. This unpaid labor cost was $412 across the entire U.S., about the same as $409 for total feed cost (grazed, harvested, and purchased). For the entire U. S., these two costs comprised 60% of total cost.

(USDA – ERS, )



It is estimated that BRDC (sometimes referred to as shipping fever) causes losses of over $1 billion per year in the U. S. BRDC is considered to be a complex because it can involve many different viruses and bacteria. The BRD Coordinated Agricultural Project, led by Texas A&M University, was developed to study this from a genomic standpoint; involved are geneticists, veterinarians, epidemiologists, animal behaviorists, microbiologists, livestock economists, and veterinary and livestock Extension specialists.

DNA samples were taken from over 1000 pre-weaned dairy calves and feedlot cattle that were diagnosed with BRDC. DNA also was obtained from healthy contemporaries of the diagnosed animals. Analysis has been completed on the dairy calves. There were over 100 genomic regions that were significantly associated with BRDC, supporting the idea that many genes are involved. Heritability estimate for BRD susceptibility was 0.21, considered to be in the moderate range which is similar to that of numerous production traits. 173 of the dairy calves were by 10 AI sires with at least 11 progeny. Susceptibility to BRDC among offspring of sires ranged from 18% to 92%.  Data from feedlot cattle are currently being analyzed.

(, 12/11/15; )



For the last 40 days before calving, Angus cows (averaging 1388 lb) pregnant to embryo transfer were fed in drylot to consume either 100% (CON) or 70% (LMT) of net energy requirements for body maintenance. Diets were formulated such that total daily crude protein consumption was the same for both groups. After calving, all cows and calves were maintained together on rotationally-grazed tall fescue pastures until calves were weaned at 266 days of age (d 266).

Calves were then preconditioned for 40 days (d 266 to d 306) on ground 11.9% CP tall fescue hay at 1.2% of body weight and 15.9% CP concentrate at 1% of body weight, top-dressed with a complete mineral mix at 0.05 lb/calf. Calves were de-wormed on d 266 and vaccinated on d 273 and boostered on d 287 for IBRV, BVDV, PI3, Mannheimia haemolytica, and Clostridia. Jugular blood samples were obtained from calves within 12 hours of birth and on d 266, 273, 274, 276, 279, 287, and 306 to evaluate levels of humoral immunity.

During the 40 days before calving, CON cows lost, based on weight immediately after calving, 62 lb compared to 96 lb for LMT. Subsequent pregnancy rates did not significantly differ. Calf pre-weaning and post-weaning ADG did not significantly differ. Some measures of humoral immunity level in calves post-weaning were significantly lower for LMT. The authors concluded that “restriction to 70% of daily energy requirements during the last 40 d of gestation had minimal effects on pre-calving cow weight change and did not affect post-calving cow weight change and reproductive performance. However, it decreased post-weaning vaccination-induced humoral immunity, inflammatory, and physiological stress responses of calves”.

(J. Anim. Sci. 94:2542; North Carolina St. Univ., Oregon St. Univ.)



In dairy cows, higher levels of blood, plasma, or milk urea nitrogen are associated with suppressed fertility. In 15 experiments involving 1331 beef females, blood samples were taken to evaluate blood or plasma urea nitrogen concentration (BPUNC). Samples were taken during estrous synchronization and included 284 females which had not calved, 281 which had calved once, and 806 which had calved more than once. All females were adapted to their nutritional management for at least one week before synchronization and maintained through the first 21 days of the breeding season.

Average first-service pregnancy rate was 56%. No relationship was established between BPUNC and pregnancy rate. In fact, there was a tendency for higher pregnancy as BPUNC increased. The authors concluded that, “when cattle are adapted to their nutritional management scheme prior to breeding and maintained on that diet through the first 21 days of the breeding season, BPUNC is not negatively associated with first-service pregnancy rates”.

(2016 Iowa St. Univ. Animal Industry Rpt. No. R3066)



A 420 page report, “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects” has been published by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Genetic engineering (GE), developed in the 1970s, is defined as “a process by which humans introduce or change DNA, RNA, or proteins in an organism to express a new trait or change the expression of an existing trait”. In 2015, crop varieties with GE herbicide resistance, insect resistance, or both were grown on about 12 percent of the world’s planted cropland. The most commonly grown GE crops in 2015 with one or both of those traits were soybean (83 percent of land in soybean production), cotton (75 percent of land in cotton production), maize (29 percent of land in corn production), and canola (24 percent of land in canola production). Soybeans and corn are widely used in cattle feeds.

Part of the report examined all relevant research on genetically engineered crops and human health or livestock production. Some conclusions, as stated in the report, were:

  • the committee concludes that horizontal gene transfer from GE crops or non-GE crops to humans is highly unlikely and does not pose a health risk.
  • examination of the studies provided sufficient evidence that animals were not harmed by eating food from GE crops; data on the health and feed-conversion efficiency of livestock found no adverse effects associated with feeding GE crops to livestock.
  • the committee found no evidence of differences, after the introduction of GE foods in the 1990s, in the long-term pattern of increase or decrease in health problems between the United Kingdom and western Europe (where GE food is not widely consumed) and the United States and Canada (where GE food has been consumed since the mid-1990s).
  • on the basis of comparisons between currently commercialized GE and non-GE foods, long-term data on health of livestock fed GE foods, and epidemiological data, the committee concluded that no differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health from GE foods than from non-GE counterparts.

(National Academies Press; )



A total of 350 crossbred calves averaging 594 lb was obtained in four groups from local auctions. The first group contained 72% bulls – 28% steers, the second 68% bulls – 32% steers, the third 100% heifers, and the fourth 10% bulls – 90% steers. During 42- to 45-day backgrounding, calves were on free-choice bermudagrass hay and supplement with corn and distillers grain that served as carrier for trace mineral treatments. Zinc, manganese, and copper were supplemented as either inorganic sulfates, organic amino acid complexes, or hydroxy sources.

Trace mineral source had no significant effect on ADG or final weight, number treated for bovine respiratory disease once, number treated twice, number treated three times, or  number of calves classified as chronic. The authors concluded “trace-mineral source had no effect on total body weight gain, ADG, or morbidity during the receiving phase in shipping-stressed cattle”.

(Prof. Anim. Sci. 31:333; Univ. of Arkansas)



High-quality repeating (multi-dose) syringes are a great choice when vaccinating more than just a few cattle. These should be cleaned at the end of each day. One method is to rinse off the outside with tap water to remove any dirt and then flush the inside with boiling water. Never use soap or any disinfectant like bleach, alcohol, Nolvasan, Lysol, etc. as these products can leave residues in syringes which may reduce efficacy of vaccines.



The 62nd Annual TAM Beef Cattle Short Course will be held on the campus of Texas A&M University August 1-3, 2016. Topics this year will include

  • Where is the Beef Industry Headed?
  • Introduction to Cattle Production
  • Forages – Hay and Beyond
  • Forages – The Basics of Pasture and Forage Production
  • Nutrition – How Much Should I Feed My Cows
  • Landowner Issues
  • Purebred Cattle Production – Data and Genetic Management
  • Current Beef Cattle Research in Texas
  • Pesticide Applicator Re-certification
  • Health Management
  • Special Topics in Genetics
  • Purchasing and Managing Stocker Cattle
  • Range Management Workshop – Targeted Grazing
  • Reproductive Management – Focusing on the Bull
  • Insect Management and Control
  • Brush Busters Demonstration
  • Cattle Business Management Workshop
  • Carcass Value Determination Workshop
  • Cattle Handling and Bull Fertility Testing Demonstration
  • Chute Side Working Demonstrations
  • Tractor and Equipment Demonstrations

Information on attending and registration can be accessed at or by calling 979-845-6931.

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