Beef Cattle Browsing – November/December 2015


The Texas Animal Health Commission made some changes to the Trich control program regulations that will be implemented starting January 1, 2016. The regulations now state:

“The maximum age for bulls to be sold as ‘virgins’ in Texas was lowered from 24 to 18 months. Bulls may still be sold as ‘virgins’ up to 30 months of age if a veterinarian will co-sign a statement along with the owner, stating that the bull has not been in contact with female cattle. Virgin bulls are not required to be tested upon change of ownership. A separate Trichomoniasis rule passed which requires the testing of bulls on adjacent pastures to where an infected bull was disclosed.”



Breed association genetic evaluation programs continue to expand to include additional production traits. Initially, Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) was limited to immature weight traits and predicted milk production. Later, other groups of traits were added including for carcass merit. Traits are being added which measure, or are thought to be related to, reproductive success. EPDs for these traits (and the relevant breed association/s) currently include:

  • Heifer Pregnancy or Heifer Calving Rate (Angus, Gelbvieh, Hereford, and Red Angus);
  • Sustained Cow Fertility (Hereford);
  • 30-Month Pregnancy (Gelbvieh);
  • Stayability (Gelbvieh, Limousin, Red Angus, and Simmental).

Stayability is generally defined as the percent of daughters staying in the cowherd at 6 years of age. It is assumed that such females have reproduced relatively successfully or they would not still be in a herd.


Data from one video auction service were analyzed from 2.75 million head sold in 27,746 lots (average of 99 hd/lot) through 92 auctions conducted from 2010 to 2013. The analysis adjusted for 18 variables (such as sale weight, vaccination protocol, age/source verification, number of days to planned delivery) other than implant status, which might influence price. Findings were:

  • % of lots implanted was very consistent, ranging across years from 28.4 to 30.5;
  • implanting was lower (18.2% to 27.9%) in lots from the West Coast, Rocky Mountain, North Central, and South Central regions;
  • implanting was 64.9% in lots from the South East region;
  • across all regions, 33% of steers and 25% of heifers were implanted;
  • being implanted or not did not statistically (P<0.05) affect sale price in any year;
  • in one year, implanting very slightly reduced price (by $0.40/cwt);
  • in three years, not implanting very slight increased price (by avg. of $0.13/cwt).

According to the most recent survey by the National Animal Health Monitoring System, only 14.3% of herds utilized growth implants for suckling calves. And this has declined over the at least 40 years that implants have been available. NOTE: Across many research and field trials, implanting suckling calves averages increasing weaning weight by about 20 lb, for a product cost of only ± $1.50/head. For most producers, there’s money being left on the table.

(Prof. Anim Sci. 31:443; Kansas St. Univ., Ohio St. Univ., Grassy Ridge Consulting, Merck Anim. Health)


My colleague Dr. Rick Machen, Texas AgriLife Center at Uvalde recently called my attention to a change in feeder cattle futures. The Index price for feeder cattle futures contracts includes separate values for Medium and Large Frame #1 steers and Medium and Large Frame #1-2 steers. Within those two classifications there have been provisions for cattle weighing 650-849 lb with four 50-lb brackets within that range. Beginning Nov. 7, 2015, the weight ranges for both grade classes have increased to 700-899 lb. Price tends to decrease as feeder cattle weight increases, so this change should narrow the previous average spread between feeder price index and fed price index. NOTE: This change is a reflection of the continuously increasing size (weight) of cattle in the US. For a complete explanation of the Index see:



Internal parasite infestation can cause important performance and profit reductions in grazing beef cattle. If there is genetic resistance to parasites it might be used to counter ill effects from parasitism. Records collected over two years on fecal egg count, birth weight, weaning weight, and weaning temperament were analyzed from 201 Nelore-Angus cross steers. There was no relationship detected between fecal egg count and any other measured variables. However, calves from one sire family had significantly (P<0.05) less (only about one-half) the level of fecal egg count as the other three sire families. The authors suggested this difference indicated “the presence of genetic variation for fecal egg count”. NOTE: Some previous research showed Bos indicus have somewhat higher resistance than Bos taurus to some parasites. Perhaps genetic variation within breeds, as suggested in this study, also could be used in genetic selection to reduce parasite loads.

(2015 So. Sec. Am. Soc. Am. Sci. Meeting, Abst. 5; Texas A&M Univ.)


Beef-type Brown Swiss heifers were managed to gain at rates of 1.5 lb/day (LO) or 2.2 lb/day (HI)) during birth to weaning at 6 months of age and/or development from weaning to 15 months of age. This resulted in four treatment groups based on gain before and after weaning: LO-LO, LO-HI, HI-LO, and HI-HI. Results were:

  • HI gain to weaning were significantly (P<0.001) heavier and taller at weaning;
  • LO gain to weaning subsequently gained more (P<0.001) during development but were still not as heavy at 15 months of age;
  • there was no significant difference in weight at onset of puberty (which averaged 56% of mature weight) but HI-HI averaged younger in age at puberty;
  • fertility rate was similar at 86%;
  • HI gain during development were older and required more AI services to conceive.

The authors concluded that, based on their results, weight gain of 1.5 lb/day from birth to first breeding had “no negative effect on reproductive performance”. However, they cautioned that more research would be needed to assess any possible lifetime effects.

(J. Animal Sci. 93:3871; Univ. of Technology, Aragon, Spain and Univ. of Bologna, Italy)


Ruminal acidosis is a common problem in cattle finished on high-concentrate rations. Antimicrobial compounds have been used in some situations to reduce acidosis. However, use of antimicrobials in livestock, for a number of purposes, has come under increasing concern by some segments of science and the public. Dicarboxylic acids have been shown to possibly affect the rumen environment.

Ruminally-cannulated crossbred heifers were used to study the effects of low and high levels of fumaric and malic acid in a 92% concentrate ration. No significant effects were found on dry matter consumption, ruminal pH, total volatile fatty acid concentration, or lactic acid-utilizing bacteria. The authors concluded that, based on their study, “organic acid supplementation did not have any significant effects on rumen fermentation” and “did not prevent acidosis in high-grain diets”.

(J. Animal Sci. 93:3950; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Lethbridge, AB)


According to a recent research report, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the midwestern U. S. would result in likely losses to producers and consumers of $188 billion. Associated cost to government would likely total $11 billion. Use of emergency vaccination against FMD coupled with other disease management practices has been proposed as a means of addressing such an outbreak. However, emergency vaccination has been challenged by some, citing possible problems:

  • difficulty in distinguishing vaccinated and infected animals;
  • delay or loss of export markets;
  • vaccination cost;
  • uncertainty of actual value of vaccination;
  • uncertainty of vaccine availability for specific strain of virus involved in outbreak.

Using an aggressive emergency vaccination program, the study estimated loss to producers and consumers would be reduced by 70% (to $56 billion) and loss to government by 90% (to $1.1 billion). NOTE: Such reductions in loss would have to be compared to overall cost of implementing the program.

(Jour. of Agric. and Appl. Economics 47:47; Kansas St. Univ., Colorado St. Univ.)

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