The price we pay for the performance we get determines if there is a profit to be made. Prices of all inputs have gone up, some much more than others. Cattle cost more and pasture rents are higher. Pasturing methods and feed supplements we have historically used need to be evaluated to determine if the economics are still valid. Assuming you have adequate water, the amount and quality of available grass is the greatest determining factor of animal performance.
No grass has the perfect balance of nutrients for any animal grazing it. We can improve the performance from any grass consumed with the proper trace mineral supplement. As grass matures, a small amount of protein supplement can improve performance of the animal and the grass consumed. Grazing patterns can be influenced by trace mineral and protein supplement placement in order to improve pasture utilization.
If you utilized a distillers based program to maintain or grow calves over the late winter and early spring you needed a trace mineral supplement with high copper levels. And grass is almost always low in copper. Copper is important in several of the animal’s biological systems so it should always be supplemented. Oklahoma State University research has shown that calves have an increased growth rate when provided a trace mineral supplement during grazing. And OSU has shown additional response when using a feed additive mixed with the balanced trace mineral mix.
Supplementing with one of the FDA approved feed additives such as Rumensin®, Bovatec®, or Gainpro® is one of the easiest ways to improve gain on grass. It has been proven time and time again; any of these three can be used in many programs to improve gain from 0.14 to over 0.25 pounds per head per day. The cost to supplement these should be under 25 cents per pound of gain, which includes the cost of the trace mineral.
So whether you own the cattle or are supplementing on a cost of gain, providing a mineral supplement with any of these three additives should make you more money. There are also natural feed ingredients that have been shown to help with animal performance. Tasco® is an organic feed ingredient approved by many Natural Beef Programs.
Fortunately, trace mineral supplements have not increased in price nearly as much as other inputs. The current cattle market means the response to mineral supplements and the performance improving additives they can contain is now worth more than ever. Now is not the time to quit feeding trace minerals to “save money.” Consult with your Ridley feed supplier to determine the best options for your cattle and management situations.
Moisture levels still determine how much grass is available for us to graze. What we do to maximize the use of that grass is up to us.
As we near the end of the winter feeding period, sometimes we have to make tough choices regarding use of moldy hay. Horses and other non-ruminants are most susceptible to mold toxicity and should not be fed moldy hay except under the most dire situations.
Ruminants are protected to some extent because the rumen destroys most mycotoxins, but they are still susceptible to chronic symptoms, especially pregnant animals and those under stress. We can all agree that feeding moldy hay is not most desirable, but what can you do if it is your only option?
The first strategy is to dilute the mold with “clean” feed. In the absence of good quality hay, high fiber feedstuffs such as soyhull pellets, dried distillers grains or baled corn stover can help your livestock eat less of the offending moldy hay. Another strategy is to inspect all hay and feed the worst hay to the least susceptible animals (mature male ruminants, open mature female ruminants). Another strategy is to use temporary fencing to take advantage of new spring growth in non-pasture areas to reduce reliance on hay. It also goes without saying that well-fed livestock that are not lacking in protein, energy, minerals or vitamins in their diet will be much more capable of withstanding a temporary encounter with mycotoxins than animals that are lacking.
Mold causes problems in two main ways, through spores or mycotoxins. Spores can cause respiratory problems when breathed in, especially for horses. Mycotoxins negatively affect a variety of systems in the body. Most molds are harmless and do not produce m
ycotoxins; however, when feeding moldly hay one must assume that mycotoxins could be present and watch carefully for the following symptoms:
*reduced feed intake or feed refusal
*lowered fertility and abortions
*lethargy and increased morbidity
*suppressed immune system leading to lack of response to medications and vaccinations
Have you faced a similar situation in your livestock operation this winter? If so, let us know how you dealt with it.
Most all cattlemen easily understand the direct impact conception rate has on their bottom line. Another measure that can directly affect ranch profitability is calving distribution. While pregnancy checking may give us a good indication of what our conception rate is (number of cows pregnant divided by the number of cows exposed), we will likely need to wait until calving to get a better feel for our calving distribution.
So, what is “calving distribution”, and why should I be concerned with it? Calving distribution is a look at which cycle of your breeding season each of your calves are born. If you have a 60-day breeding season, you have about three, 21-day cycles, to get your cows bred. If you keep track of the birthdates of your calves, you can then generate the calving distribution of your calves. You can now look at the percentage of your calves that are born in each of the 3 breeding cycles in this 60-day breeding season.
Why would this matter? Harlan Hughes has put together a graph in Figure 1, showing the relative profitability of when a calf is born within the calving distribution of a herd.
I have heard ranchers tell of herds where 65 percent of the calves are born in the first 21 days, as well as herds where 85 percent of the calves were born in the first 21 days. It is entirely possible that both of these herds have the same conception rate, yet one is likely to be more profitable. Let’s say both herds are 100 cows and 95 percent of the cows were pregnant. If the ranches were only measuring conception rate, they are likely to be equally happy at this point. Let’s also say 3 percent of the live calves were lost by the time they were weaned. This gives us 92 live calves per herd to sell at weaning.
Will the checks for both herds be the same? Probably not. The second herd has 18 more calves born in the first cycle than the first herd (92 x 65% = 60 calves and 92 x 85% = 78 calves). If those 18 calves gain 2.5 pounds a day for an extra 21 days before they are weaned, they have added 945 pounds more pay weight than the first herd. That could total over $1,400 more in your paycheck. And that herd probably has calves moving from the third cycle to the second cycle as well. Each cow that conceives a cycle earlier, can add about $78 more to your bottom line. Regardless of when a cow conceives, the cost to carry her for a year will be pretty much the same. She should just as well conceive earlier, and deliver a heavier calf.
Now, just how do you get a calving distribution more like the second herd than the first? Nutrition, genetics and management are the tools you have at your disposal. You may still have time to optimize any of these before your 2012 calves are conceived.
It’s a little hard for those of us in the upper Midwest to think about fly control…there are still piles of snow on the ground! Nevertheless, fly season is just around the corner for us and has already started for producers further south.
Flies can be a pain, literally and figuratively. But did you know they can cost you money too? Horn files in particular mean blood loss to your cattle, which results in lower performance from your cows (i.e. milk production) and lower weaning weights by 12 to 14 pounds (dollars in your pocket). On average, flies cost the cattle industry $800 million annually.
For a fly control program to really be effective, timing is everything. The best way to get the flies is to use a feed-through fly control supplement before they are going to be a problem; usually 30 days before the last frost in the spring. From the map below, you can see that those down in the Gulf and Southeastern states are already well into fly season. Those of us further north still have a month or so to prepare.
Feed-through fly control additives, like Rabon® or Altosid®, work in the manure of treated cattle to break the lifecycle between larvae and adult stages. Since horn flies only lay their eggs in fresh manure, it’s a great way to help control fly populations. It’s important to keep in mind that even though you’re feeding a fly control supplement that existing adult flies will not be controlled by the supplement and that sometimes a knock-down treatment is required at the start of your feed-through supplement program.
CRYSTALYX® offers Rabon® and Altosid® in both protein and mineral supplements. The added benefit of CRYSTALYX®’s proven consistent, whole-herd intake means that your cattle will get the right dose every time. Not to mention complete mineral and vitamin supplementation with ROLYX® MAX or IGR MAX™ and added protein with ROLYX® PRO and IGR PRO™. For more information on fly control products and programs from CRYSTALYX®, select the “Proven Results” bar at the top of the page and select “Fly Control”.
Rabon® is a registered trademark of KMG Chemicals, Inc, Houston, TX.
Altosid® is a registered trademark of Wellmark International, Shamburg, IL.