July 3, 2017
Celebrate the cattle industry across the country on July 4
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
As we celebrate Independence Day and the freedoms we enjoy in this country — often with a grilled hamburger — think also about the vast and varied cattle industry across the country. The U.S. cattle industry is very complex in no small part as a result of the tremendous variety of environments and climates in which cattle production takes place. I have the privilege to visit and learn about cow-calf, stocker and feedlot operations in many different locations and situations.
I am endlessly fascinated and impressed by the many shapes and sizes of the cattle industry across the country. Every operation is part of the same broad industry that collectively satisfies the wide range of demands for countless beef products. The underlying economic principles that drive the industry are the same for all producers. And yet, those economic principles lead to very different answers about the optimal way to manage production in environments that range from subtropical to subarctic. The industry uses a vast array of forage and feed resources in very dynamic markets which make efficient management a constantly moving target.
In just the past two weeks I traveled from the Mexican border on the southernmost part of New Mexico to within 100 miles of the Canadian border in Western Montana. This covers extensive production in arid regions of the Southwest with stocking rates of 60+ acres per cow to intensive irrigated pasture and hay production in western Montana that use about 2 acres per cow. In such a range of production conditions, the marginal economic decisions that optimize production result in very different answers for many production factors such as cow size, calf weaning weight, weaning percentage, etc. and a variable focus on cow-calf and/or stocker production. The cattle industry is unique among livestock industries because production must be figured out in every region. Though the questions are the same, there certainly is no one set of right answers to be found in any book that fit all regions of the country.
Included in a few examples that I have visited in recent months is cattle production in the swamps of Florida, with very unique challenges of nutrition, disease and health management in the subtropical climate. Preconditioning calves is often impractical in such an environment so the majority of calves are shipped west at weaning. In contrast, the cattle industry in the Northeast operates somewhat apart from the rest of the country with feeder cattle flowing north from Virginia for finishing in feedlots and under bank barns.
The Sand Hills of Nebraska provides an ocean of grass, shoulder high on a horse, for cow-calf production, while farther south the Flint Hills in Kansas is home to early intensive summer grazing for many thousands of stockers. Wheat pasture in the Southern Plains provides a winter home for millions of stocker cattle. Cattle move from widely dispersed cow-calf production all over the country towards increasingly concentrated stocker and feedlot production in the middle of the country.
I continue to be amazed that a single industry can look so different in different settings and even more amazed that markets are able to efficiently coordinate all of this diversity with market forces to provide a steady flow of beef products that is competitive in domestic and international protein markets. As you celebrate July 4 with those hamburgers on the grill, don’t forget to celebrate the hard work of cattle producers in all parts of the country who figure out how to produce in every environment and the incredible markets that guide and coordinate it all so that consumers everywhere can take for granted the availability of fresh beef all year around.
Follow BQA guidelines when treating and selling cows
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Summer time often brings a few infectious ailments to beef cows. Common problems include eye infections and foot rot. Treatment of affected cows will often involve the use of antibiotics.
On very rare occasions violative residues of pharmaceutical products have been found in carcass tissues of cull beef cows. Violations of drug residue regulations can result in expensive fines (or even worse, jail time) for the rancher and a “black-eye” for the entire beef industry. It is vital that cow calf producers have a close working relationship with a large animal veterinarian in their area. If a cow has an infection or disease that must be treated, her owner should closely follow the veterinarian’s directions, and also read the label of the product used. Most of these medications will require that the producer keep the treated animal for the label-directed withdrawal time. The Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Manual contains the following discussion of medication withdrawal times.
“A withdrawal time may be indicated on the label of certain medications. This is the period of time that must pass between the last treatment and the time the animal will be slaughtered or milk used for human consumption. For example, if a medication with a 14-day withdrawal period was last given on Aug. 1, the withdrawal would be completed on Aug. 15 and that would be the earliest the animal could be harvested for human consumption. All federally-approved drugs will include the required withdrawal time for that drug on the product label or package insert. These withdrawal times can range from zero to as many as 60 days or more. It is the producer’s responsibility to be aware of withdrawal times of any drugs used in their operation. Unacceptable levels of drug residues detected in edible tissues collected at harvest may result in traceback, quarantine, and potential fines or jail time. Substantial economic losses may result for the individual producer as well as negative publicity for the entire beef industry…”
Producers are responsible for residue problems and should follow these four rules:
- If ever in doubt, rely on the veterinarian-client-patient relationship you have established with your veterinarian.
- Use only medications approved for cattle and exactly as the label directs or as prescribed by your veterinarian.
- Do not market animals for food until the withdrawal time listed on the label or as prescribed by the veterinarian has elapsed.
- Keep well organized, detailed records of pharmaceutical products given to individually identified animals. Include in the record, the date of administration, route of administration, dosage given, lot or serial number of product given, person delivering the product, and label or prescription listing of withdrawal dates. Examples of Beef Quality Assurance records can be found in the Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Manual website at the menu item “Record Keeping Forms.” Records should be kept for 3 years after sale of the animal.
Editor’s note: For information on the Texas Beef Quality Producer Program, click or tap here.
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.