Sept. 19, 2016
Interval feeding of protein supplement to cows on range
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Dry, pregnant beef cows grazing low quality warm season pastures in late summer, fall, and early winter are usually supplemented with high protein supplements. It would be desirable to feed the supplement at less frequent intervals (than daily) to reduce labor and equipment costs.
A study done at OSU in the 1990’s has indicated that cows fed the same amount of total 40 percent crude protein supplement either 3 or 6 days per week perform similarly. Interestingly enough, similar research (Pope et al., 1963) was reported over 40 years ago with similar results. Below in table 1 are the results of the 1994 experiment. Cows were fed 21 pounds of protein cubes per week from Nov. 17 until March 9. From March 10 to April 22, cows were fed 28 pounds of supplement and only 17.5 pounds per week from April 23 to May 15. Cows were provided free choice grass hay when snow or ice covered the standing forage, or when the temperature was less than 40 degrees and raining, or was less than 25 degrees at noon. Cows were exposed to bulls for 75 days beginning May 17 and palpated for pregnancy 90 days after the breeding season. In this trial, the cattle performance was virtually identical and was not affected by the interval at which the cows were fed the protein supplement. Note: Adequate amounts of standing forage or hay should be available to supply the remainder of the diet for the cows.
Table 1. Influence of supplementation interval on body weight, body condition score, and pregnancy rate of beef cows. (Wettemann and Lusby, 1994 OSU Animal Science Research Report)
|Days supplement fed per week||3 days||6 days|
|Number of cows||62||61|
|Body weight in November||1186||1210|
|Weight loss to April (after calving)||242||255|
|Body condition score in November||5.4||5.4|
|Body condition score in April||4.4||4.3|
Cattle producers that are feeding larger quantities of lower protein, high energy supplements will want to feed the supplement on a daily basis (see Oklahoma Beef Manual seventh edition chapter 21). Too much high energy feed at one feeding may cause digestive disorders such as acidosis or founder. The maximum recommended amount to provide during any one feeding period is one percent of body weight (example: 11 pounds for an 1100 pound cow).
Stocker purchase opportunities
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Stocker producers have numerous decisions to make when purchasing stocker cattle including the weight, gender, and quality of cattle to buy. The appropriate choice for individual producers depends on the objectives of the stocker program and the type of production system. Feeder cattle price relationships at any point in time can help sort out market incentives for stocker purchases.
Feeder cattle prices by weight typically reflect the cost of gain that feedlots face. In other words, the feedlot cost of gain will indicate the tradeoff that feedlots face in buying lighter weight versus heavier feeder cattle. The red line in Figure 1 shows the equivalent price of lighter weight feeder cattle compared to heavy feeder cattle assuming an average $75/cwt. feedlot cost of gain.
All else equal, a lower cost of gain (cheaper grain) will make the red line steeper, implying a sharper rollback in feeder prices as weight increases. Conversely, higher cost of gain will flatten the red line demonstrating that feedlots can afford to pay less for light weight cattle when the cost of gain increases. Oftentimes and on average, the red line will coincide very closely with observed feeder cattle prices by weight indicating that feeder markets are in equilibrium, meaning that the value of putting weight on cattle ahead of the feedlot is roughly equal to the cost of putting weight on in the feedlot.
Figure 1. Steer Prices, Oklahoma Average, Med/Large, No. 1, September, 2016
Versus Feedlot Cost of Gain Based Projections.
However, it is very apparent that the blue line in Figure 1, representing current average market prices in September, diverges significantly at lighter weights from the red line. In other words, lightweight feeder cattle appear to be underpriced relative to feedlot value at the current cost of gain. It appears that feedlots have a preference for heavy weight cattle and sufficient supply such that their demand for lightweight feeder cattle is less. The resulting slump in lightweight feeder prices is simultaneously an opportunity and a purchase signal for stocker producers. The implied value of gain for lightweight stocker cattle is higher than the feedlot cost of gain and is averaging from $1.00/pound to about $1.15/pound. The market is encouraging stocker based gains in feeder cattle weight, apparently with the blessing of feedlots.
The blue price line in Figure 1 is not a smooth line but includes a kink at about 600 pounds with a steeper price line to the left and a flatter line to the right. This translates into the highest value of gain at weights between 600 and 750 pounds. Stocker producers typically purchase lightweight stockers, say 450 to 500 pounds and may still want to do so. However, if less weight gain is an objective, for example, in the situation where a producer is considering two sets of stockers this winter to graze out wheat, then purchasing slightly heavier cattle may be worth considering.
These considerations help stocker producers understand purchase signals at the current time. Of course, the ultimate value of gain depends on market values for cattle at the time of sale. The risk considerations of owning cattle over time and the challenges of managing that risk are additional considerations beyond the purchase opportunities in the current market.
Cow-Calf Corner is a weekly electronic newsletter from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency.