Jan. 2, 2018
It is time to begin the early evening feeding
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
It is generally accepted that adequate supervision at calving has a significant impact on reducing calf mortality. Adequate supervision has been of increasing importance with the higher price of live calves at sale time. In most ranching operations, supervision of the first calf heifers will be best accomplished in daylight hours and the poorest observation takes place in the middle of the night.
The easiest and most practical method of inhibiting nighttime calving at present is by feeding cows at night; the physiological mechanism is unknown, but some hormonal effect may be involved. Rumen motility studies indicate the frequency of rumen contractions falls a few hours before parturition. Intraruminal pressure begins to fall in the last 2 weeks of gestation, with a more rapid decline during calving. It has been suggested that night feeding causes intraruminal pressures to rise at night and decline in the daytime.
The concept is called the Konefal method. A Canadian rancher, Gus Konefal reported his observations in the 1970’s. In a follow-up Canadian study of 104 Hereford cows, 38.4 percent of a group fed at 8:00 a.m. and again at 3:00 p.m. delivered calves during the day, whereas 79.6 percent of a group fed at 11:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. In a more convincing study, 1331 cows on 15 farms in Iowa were fed once daily at dusk, 85 percent of the calves were born between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Kansas State University scientists recorded data on 5 consecutive years in a herd of spring calving crossbred cows at the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center at Hays, Kansas. They recorded the time of calving (to within the nearest one-half hour). Births that could not be estimated within an hour of occurrence were excluded. Cows were fed forage sorghum hay daily between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. For statistical purposes, the day was divided into four-hour periods.
Between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m., 34.23 percent of the calves were born;
Between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., 21.23 percent of the calves were born;
Between 2:00 and 6:00 p.m. 29.83 percent of the calves were born;
Between 6:00 and 10:00 p.m., 8.41 percent of the calves were born;
Between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., 4.4 percent of the calves were born; and
Between 2:00 a.m. and 6 a.m., 1.91 percent of the calves were born.
It is interesting to note that 85.28 percent of the calves were born between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. This is very similar to Iowa data when cows were fed at dusk.
These data also revealed that for a majority of animals in the herd, the time of calving was within 3 hours of the average time of day that cow had previously given birth. Feeding the forage in the early evening hours undoubtedly influenced the percentage of cows calving in daylight hours. (Jaeger and co-workers. Abstracts 2002 Western Section of American Society of Animal Science.)
Many cow-calf producers put large round bales in ring feeders and leave them out for round-the-clock feeding for the cows. Records at Oklahoma State University indicated that when cows had constant access to large round bales but were fed supplements at about 5:00 p.m., 70 percent of the calves were delivered between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Some producers choose to put the big round bales and the ring feeders inside a fenced enclosure. The gates to the hay feeding enclosure are opened at dusk and the cows are allowed access to the hay in the evening and overnight hours, then they are moved to another adjacent pasture the following morning. Anecdotal reports have indicated that this method has the desired results with a higher percentage of calves born in the daylight.
Best wishes in the upcoming calving season and Happy New Year!
What to watch and what to manage in 2018
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Continued growth in beef production in 2018 is likely to pressure cattle and beef prices. Cattle producers have a number of economic conditions to watch that will indicate the impact of factors they cannot control and that will have implications for those factors they do control.
Domestic and international beef demand will continue to be critical factors affecting cattle and beef prices in 2018. The U.S. economy is currently strong with low unemployment and a stock market supported by lots of cash from earlier Federal Reserve stimulus. Economic growth has been rather plodding but steady over the past few years. Though inflationary fears have not yet materialized, the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in 2017 as the economy gained strength. The recent tax cuts and proposed infrastructure investments could provide additional fiscal stimulus that adds to inflation concerns. This may pressure the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more and faster in 2018 and beyond. Though no major change is expected at this time, macroeconomic conditions are a factor to watch in 2018.
Record beef production is expected to combine with growing pork and poultry production to result in record total meat supplies in 2018. Wholesale and retail beef prices held up well to growing meat production in 2017, indicating strong beef demand and there is no indication it is changing going into 2018. However, ample meat supplies will continue to be a demand challenge for beef in the coming year. Pork and poultry production and trade are factors to watch this year.
Beef trade provided much support for cattle and beef markets in 2017, led by growth in beef exports. Modest beef export growth is expected to continue in 2018 assuming no change in trade policy. However, the cloud of uncertainty due to NAFTA renegotiations continues to hang over meat markets. Beef, pork and poultry exports to Mexico and Canada represented 31 percent of total U.S. meat exports and included 26 percent of total beef exports for the first ten months of 2017. Both the U.S. and South Korea have suggested a possible renegotiation of KORUS-FTA, which could impact the number two beef export market. International beef markets and trade policy are also factors to watch in 2018.
Domestic and international beef demand will determine cattle and beef price pressure relative to increasing beef production. Modest price pressure is expected at this time but any threat to demand would quickly result in additional price weakness. Larger down-side price risk means that risk management takes on an added importance in 2018. While cattle producers cannot have much impact on overall market price levels, they may be able to reduce the risk of lower individual prices with risk management tools.
Producers will have challenges to maintain profitability in 2018. Lower prices increase the likelihood of lower revenue and puts additional emphasis on production and cost management in the coming year. The beginning of a new year is a good time to evaluate all aspects of cattle operations for the coming year including major budget items such as forage management and use; harvested and supplemental feed use; and machinery costs. Overall production costs are expected to remain stable in 2018, though rising interest rates may impact debt management at some point. Maintaining profitability this year in the face of lower prices will require increased production and/or reduced costs.
Cattle producers are watching a variety of external factors that may impact cattle and beef markets this year while focusing management on resource use and cost of production. Profitability will likely be squeezed but decent returns are possible in 2018.
Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year!
Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.