Sun, 26 Mar 2017
Mon, 26 Dec 2016
Replacements and expansion are different
Our newsletter in 2012 encouraged expansion over the next 4-5 years. The 4th year seems right on target. Prices dropped quickly as we have all seen. There has been some upward movement lately, but it will be a slow recovery. Now a key for profitability is to maintain a very productive herd. That means replacing your weakest link with a disciplined approach. Replace cows before they become unproductive. If your herd is 10-15 head, you will probably replace 1-2 females every year. You can do this either by keeping back a couple of heifers or buying bred replacement heifers.
Don’t fall into the trap of having a large percent of your herd in need of replacement at one time. It never fails when you are in this situation, you will end up with more open cows than you had planned. This cuts your income from those lost calves.
Top 3 reasons bulls are replaced
Keeping daughters is the number one reason for why bulls are replaced. This is especially true when the operation only has one herd bull. However, we want to remind you of barbed wire injuries. Six bulls needed to be replaced due to barbed wire injury over the last 14 months. Generally the bulls are 3-4 years old. Try to keep barbed wire out of the breeding pasture, and replace it with a hot wire.
Create your own “good luck” against feet and leg injuries. Bulls that run in creek bottoms or have access to standing water seem to have a higher rate of foot injuries. Leg injuries seem to be more common in the areas where steep hills are in the breeding pastures. Obviously some farms don’t have a pasture without a hill. But if you plan a breeding pasture with fewer steep hazards, you can help eliminate exposure to leg injuries. We have observed that over-weight bulls almost always are the ones with leg injuries.
DNA will be used to identify healthier cattle
The dairy industry now has DNA profiles to identify animals that tend to be healthier than others based on certain traits (such as mastitis). A health-based 50K DNA program for beef cattle is on the horizon. When this program starts, we will be one of the first beef herds in the country to make selections using probable health considerations.
We can think of a whole host of diseases we would like to reduce by breeding genetically superior animals. The changes coming for the future of animal health are exciting.
Prevention vs. Treatment
We are focusing on PREVENTING illness vs.TREATING disease. By keeping a high level of immunity, it makes it harder for “bugs” to overcome your cattle. Being proactive to prevent disease will reward you financially with lower medical expenses, better growth and fewer headaches (or even death loss).
Feeding prebiotics and probiotics focuses on feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut to crowd out and starve the pathogen causing bacteria (called competitive exclusion). This protocol works from birth thru vaccination time. It isn’t a treatment method and shouldn’t be used in a disease outbreak.
Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drug use
Call your Veterinarian today because the VFD rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017. Don’t wait until you have an emergency outbreak and discover you can’t purchase your “go-to fix” without a prescription.
A VFD is a statement from your veterinarian, authorizing you to feed a medically important antibiotic, for a period of up to 6 months. This includes tetracycline, penicillin, neomycin and tylosin, to name a few. This VFD rule eliminates the use of medically important drugs for feed efficiency or growth-promotion. VFD drugs may only be used to treat, prevent or cure disease.
This does not include Bovatec, Rumensin, or any drug used to treat/prevent coccidia, such as Decox. Water soluble drugs (sulfadimethoxine, for example) will become prescription products (not VFD), and should be available through your veterinarian like any other prescription product. Injectable over-the-counter antibiotics, such as LA-200 (tetracycline) are not affected by this rule.
To receive a valid VFD, you need to have a veterinarian that works on your cattle operation, has enough knowledge to help make clinical judgements for your animals, and is available for follow-up. Mineral preparations and salt blocks containing medically important antibiotics will also be included in the VFD regulation.
Protect against the cold
We use straw, corn stalks or poor hay to bed down our cattle during extreme cold. We spread the bedding in natural windbreaks on top of the snow or frozen ground. Extra bedding will protect your bulls’ scrotums. Just think of it as insurance on your breeding investment.
Thu, 27 Oct 2016
October 20, 2016
Markets fluctuate and producers must adjust. But, adjusting doesn’t mean destroying your business model. When we were in the restaurant business, we watched very successful companies make the mistake of cutting too much. The easy things to cut were, reduce staff and watch service go down hill. Cut portions, and food quality and customers simply don’t come back. In some cases the cleaning staff was reduced to the point the local health department would close a restaurant.
If you need to put off buying a new rake until another time, that’s one thing. But, stopping your vaccination program, eliminating your mineral program or cutting back on hay to save a few dollars will come back to haunt you. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, look at ways to reduce waste.
For example, don’t over fill the hay feeder so you don’t have to put out hay as often. Improving your hay storage will save a significant amount of hay. Years ago my brother-in-law told me studies showed a 20-25% savings on good quality hay if it was stored inside. That didn’t seem possible until we started putting our hay in barns, and now I agree with him and the studies. We have a ramshackle old lean-to on a knoll in the woods that we use for storage. So it doesn’t have to be fancy.
Could you do a better job of grazing? Does your mineral feeder work well in wet conditions or do you waste 15% because it has no top? When vaccinating, do you have the Vet do your vaccinations or do you? Vaccinations usually come in 5, 10 or 50 doses. One 10-dose is generally less expensive than two 5-dose units.
Low performance herds have lower return on investments. Don’t skimp on your Genetics. Why would you want to wean 450 lb. calves instead of 550 lb. calves if your fixed cost are the same? This soft market is the most economical time to improve your herd genetics. Heifers are a bargain for producers that take a long-term view. Be sure to buy bred heifers that have been verified by a third party. The sire also needs to have low birth weight (BW) and good Calving Ease (CE).
Fall calving is becoming more popular, depending on your geographical location. Many producers want to get away from early spring mud and cold weather. Ten years ago, about 5% of our buyers were calving in the fall. Now about 25% are calving in September-October. Since we do both, our view point may surprise you. Lets look at the benefits of both.
Spring Calving: Our calving season for Spring is usually about 45 days. We plan for our first calf about March 1. By April 15 we are generally finished calving, and the grass is ready for the cows and calves. Once they are on a clean pasture, any sickness caused by confinement seems to go away. Rate of gain is almost always better for the spring calving herd. Grazing animals just do better on good pasture. When cows are grazing, they are also exercising and staying in better shape. Generally there are more opportunities to sell calves that are weaned in the fall.
Fall Calving: Our calving season for Fall is usually about 30 days because we always have better conception rates. We believe this is because they are being bred in cool weather, right after Thanksgiving. Calving starts about September 1. We have almost no sickness in fall calving, since the cows calve on clean dry pastures. In March we have had -15 degree nights, snow, mud and rain which requires calving in the barn or corral. Calf weights are lighter in the Fall, so there are far fewer calving problems or death loss.
Our pastures usually still have some grazing until late October and sometimes as late as November. Then we move cows to our sacrifice bluegrass pasture with feeding pads of concrete surrounded by geotextile covered stone. This is also a great time to take advantage of grazing your fescue pastures. Good quality hay is much more important with fall calving. If we had our choice, we would only do Fall calving. It just makes life easier.
Fall Yearling Bulls are ready for delivery. The great pasture this summer has been very beneficial to rate of gain. The group has some of the best yearling weights we have seen on our fall calving groups. These bulls have the highest Heifer Pregnancy (HP) EPD ever achieved — in the top 3% of Angus Bulls. When prices are lower, every pregnancy can make the difference between profit or loss.
For Fall Calving herds, you need to be doing Breeding Soundness Exams on your bulls right now. The expense far out weighs the risk of going into a breeding season with a bull that can’t do the job. Finding open cows next spring is a cost you cannot afford. I have several analogies to persuade you:
Every calf counts in today’s’ market.