Cow-Calf Corner: More beef in 2019; Reducing the risk of calf scours (cont’d)

Feb. 4, 2019

More beef in 2019
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist

With USDA data flowing again, the final numbers for 2018 will begin to emerge soon as well as current numbers for 2019. The annual Cattle report will be released after a one month delay in late February. The January Cattle on Feed report is scheduled to be released on Feb. 22, with the February report to be released on March 8

With all but the last few days of 2018 slaughter and carcass data available, 2018 beef production totals are nearly final. Total commercial beef production for 2018 is projected at 26.9 billion pounds, up 2.6 percent from one year ago and just fractionally smaller than the record U.S. beef production of 27.1 billion pounds in 2002. Beef production in 2019 is forecast at a record 27.4 billion pounds, up 1.8 percent year over year. Total beef production is likely to grow through 2020 at least.

Total cattle slaughter in 2018 was up 2.5 percent year over year with steer slaughter down 0.7 percent from 2017 and heifer slaughter up 6.5 percent year over year. Total cow slaughter was up 6.8 percent with dairy cow slaughter up 5.1 percent and beef cow slaughter up 8.6 percent year over year. Beef cow slaughter represented 9.5 percent of the herd inventory; a culling rate just equal to the long term average. Bull slaughter was down 0.4 percent year over year and calf (veal) slaughter was up 13.5 percent from 2017.

Steer carcass weights increased just two pounds year over year in 2018 to 880 pounds.  This was a smaller increase than earlier projected. Heifer carcass weights increased five pounds year over year to 816 pounds. Heifer weights continue to increase relative to steers. In 2018, heifer carcasses averaged a record level of 92.7 percent of steer carcass weights. Cow carcasses averaged 645 pounds in 2018, up two pounds from 2017. Bull carcasses were down year over year by six pounds to 889 pounds. In 2018, steer carcass weights were 98.9 percent of bull carcass weights. 

The modest increase in steer and heifer carcass weights relieves some of the earlier concern that relatively inexpensive feed would lead to even higher carcass weights. Data from Kansas suggests that feedlot cost of gain increased roughly 5 percent in 2018 but still remained attractive for cattle feeding. While feedlots have an incentive to keep feedlots full and the feed mill humming, larger cattle numbers with the recent herd expansion also gives feedlots an incentive to finish and market cattle in a timely manner and replace with new cattle. Feedlot ration costs are expected to remain close to current levels in 2019 while feedlot numbers will continue to expand, albeit more slowly. As long as feedlots maintain good marketing rates, beef production will continue to grow in 2019, but at a modest pace.


Reducing the risk of calf scours (Part 2)
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

Last week in the Cow-Calf Corner newsletter we examined management practices that would reduce the risk of calf diarrhea (scours) by reducing the exposure of the calf to the pathogens that could cause the disease. This week we will look at methods of increasing the immune status of the baby calf so that when the calf comes in contact with the pathogens, he will have a much better chance of fending off the disease entity.

Make certain that calf gets passive immunity.

Baby calves are born without the presence of antibodies that fight disease organisms in the environment. They receive the antibodies via the first milk called colostrum that is provided (in most cases) by the mother. There are numerous factors that impact the success or failure of this passive transfer of immunity:

1.The amount of colostrum produced and available to the calf
(a) First-calf heifers must be in good body condition at calving to produce the maximum that they are genetically capable of producing. Calves born to thin heifers have been shown to have lowered levels of disease-fighting antibodies 24 hours after birth compared to calves born to heifers in good body condition (BCS=6).
(b) The calf must be vigorous enough to find the teat and nurse within a short time after birth.
(c) Calves that do not have access to good milking mothers need a commercial colostrum replacer or at least 2 quarts of properly thawed frozen colostrum from another cow.

2.Calves need the colostrum (or replacer) within 6 hours of birth
(a) Calves born after a long difficult delivery will often be sluggish and slow to get up. Plus they may have respiratory acidosis which will impair the ability of the calf to absorb the large proteins (antibodies or immunoglobulins). Use calving ease bulls to reduce the risk of dystocia and assist those calves that help in a timely manner.
(b) Feed sluggish calves the colostrum replacer or the natural colostrum from another source first. Do not feed them whole milk before the colostrum. Any milk product will speed up the process of intestinal closure (whereby the gut is losing its capability to absorb the large protein antibodies). Make certain colostrum or colostrum replacer is fed first. A second feeding of colostrum should follow within 12 hours of the first.
(c) When purchasing colostrum substitutes, know the difference between a replacer and a supplement.  A colostrum replacer should contain 100 g of immunoglobulin per dose and research has shown can replace a feeding of natural colostrum from a cow. The colostrum supplements will contain much less than 100 g of immunoglobulin and will be used to supplement a poor-milking mother’s colostrum.Remember to give the supplement after the calf has consumed the natural colostrum first.
(d) Timing is everything. Colostrum absorption by the intestine of the calf is declining rapidly after birth. Therefore, it is critical that the baby calf receive a full dose of colostrum within the first 6 hours of life (the sooner the better).

If the management procedures discussed last week (reducing exposure to pathogens) and this week (increasing passive immunity in the calf) do not solve most of the scour problems on your operation, then visit with your local veterinarian about other options. One additional option to consider would be a pre-calving vaccine for the cows and pregnant heifers. This is given far enough before the calving season so that the colostrum in your cows will contain more antibodies designed to fight calf diarrhea organisms. 

Calf diarrhea continues to be one of the most costly diseases in the beef industry.  Losing a calf to scours is always painful and expensive.

 Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.

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