Aug. 1, 2016
Managing beef cow margins: grazing cost
by Derrell S, Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Cow-calf revenues have decreased dramatically in the past few months and are expected to remain lower for the next couple of years. Producers must focus more attention on cost management to help maintain net returns in this environment. A reasonable question to ask is: don’t producers always attempt to minimize costs in order to maximize profits? The answer is generally yes but the fact is that there are ways to manage costs that require more effort and intensive management and may not be routinely employed or may not have been previously used by a producer.
Information from Kansas State University (http://www.agmanager.info/livestock/budgets/production/beef/FeedCosts_2015.pdf )indicates that total pasture plus non-pasture feed costs represent 45-50 percent of total annual cow costs. Non-pasture cost includes both harvested forages and supplemental feeds. Total feed cost is the single largest component of annual cow costs and arguably the best opportunity for cost management. The breakdown between pasture and non-pasture costs is particularly useful because it focuses on the forage, which is the primary production of cow-calf and stocker operations, and the management of that grazing resource compared to the use of harvested forages and supplemental feed to augment the quantity and quality of grazed forages.
Often tradeoffs are possible in the efficient use of grazed forage compared to the use of more expensive harvested forages and purchased supplemental feeds. Of course, all of this takes place against the backdrop of herd nutritional management as an important component of herd health, reproductive efficiency and overall productivity. Both feed quantity and quality are critically important in herd nutritional management.
In order to evaluate and make good decisions about feed management and the tradeoffs between grazing and non-pasture feed costs, it is critical to know the cost of grazed forage. Published pasture rental values in Oklahoma provide a means to understand the cost of grazed forage. A wide variety of pasture types are used in Oklahoma including native range as well as introduced warm season forages such as Bermuda or old world bluestem and cool-season grasses such as fescue and ryegrass. When differences in rental rates, stocking rates and grazing season length are accounted for, the cost of grazed forage is very consistent across forage types at about 1.5 cents per pound of grazed forage. Thus, grazed forage costs about $30/ton. For a cow eating 30 pounds of forage per day, this is $0.45/head/day. The grazing season reported for pasture rental is roughly 270 days for warm season grasses; less for cool-season forages. However, combinations of warm and cool season forages, and delayed grazing on stockpiled pastures can extend the grazing season by 30 – 60 days.
Again, the key is increased management in the form of planning pasture use, deferment and fertility (for introduced grasses). Forage alternatives, such as grazing small grain (e.g. wheat) pasture, winter annuals (radishes, turnips, et.) and including more legumes in introduced pastures may significantly impact seasonal forage quantity and quality and should be evaluated to determine feasibility in specific situations.
Understanding pasture value also highlights decisions about pasture management. In situations where invasive species, such as eastern red cedar, have a direct impact on available forage, the value of control, or alternatively, the cost of not controlling the loss of grazing to these pests becomes much clearer. When hay is used to replace grazing, the cost is always higher. A future article will look at hay costs in more detail.
Fetal programming and calf health
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus extension animal scientist
A relatively new arena of beef cattle research is labeled “fetal programming.” Fetal programming is generally considered the impact of nutritional and health status of the mother during pregnancy and its impact on the health and productivity of the offspring. Much of the research on maternal nutrition during pregnancy has focused on the last trimester when most fetal growth takes place. The relationship between late pregnancy nutrition and health of the calf is confounded by the colostrum production and intake. Undernourished cows in late gestation produce less colostrum and therefore calves with increased sickness and death loss.
However, little is known about the effect of nutrition on the middle third of gestation and subsequent health of the calf. The immune system of the fetal calf is developing at this time. Will an undernourished beef cow adversely affect the ability of her calf to ward off diseases after birth and into the feedlot phase of production?
South Dakota State University scientists looked at the effects of cow energy status during mid-gestation on progeny performance including immune function. They used 151 cows fed to maintain a body condition score of 5.0 to 5.5 (positive energy status treatment) or fed cows to only 80 percent of what they needed to maintain body weight and condition (negative energy status treatment). These treatments were applied during the middle three months of gestation. During the first one-third of gestation and the last third of gestation all cows were fed similar diets.
After weaning, the calves were taken to a feedlot where growth and production traits could be monitored. A subsample of the calves was subjected to a foreign protein (ovalbumin) challenge 19 days after arrival at the feedlot. They then measured the antibody response to the ovalbumin challenge to determine immune activity by the calves. These scientists found no differences in birth weight, weaning weight, feedlot average daily gain, dry matter intake, or gain to feed ratio due to the nutrition of the cows in mid-gestation.
However, the calves born to the positive energy status cows had significantly greater antibody titers when challenged than did the counter parts that were born to the cows with restricted energy in mid-gestation. They concluded that mid-gestation nutrition may very well have an effect on immune response of calves during a receiving period in the feedlot. Source: Taylor, et al. 2016: Professional Animal Scientist. Vol. 32:4: pp.389-399.
Aug. 1, 2016