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Beef Herd Management
Inside my barn

The Christensens’ new barn contains cattle working facilities, horse stalls, an office-vet room and a loading chute. It’s a lot easier and safer to work cattle inside the facility than outside, says Dale Christensen, who operates the 2,000-head feedlot near Beresford, S.D., with his brothers, Doug and Don, and parents, Marlow and Donna.

No-stress cattle handling

You’ve got to see Melissa Arhart’s video of how she and her husband, Andrew, work cattle.

Eight top livestock tips from Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, Colorado State University animal scientist, offered some “do’s and don’ts” to follow when handling livestock when she spoke to about 200 producers at a workshop at the 777 Ranch near Hermosa, S.D..

Cow-calf profits show big range

The 119 herds, consisting of 17,300 cows, in the North Dakota Farm Business Management Program generated an average loss of $12.85 per cow last year. The 25 highest-profit herds did considerably better than the average with a profit of $73.25 per cow. The lowest-profit group lost $185.14 per cow. The spread between the two groups was $258.39 per cow.

Fall calving brings more bull sales

Calving season comes around twice a year at the Spickler Ranch near Glenfield, N.D. They calve 450 cows from March 15 to May 15 and 150 cows from Aug. 10 to Oct. 10.

County sheriff offers tips to deter vandals

According to Wabash County Sheriff Larry Striker, a lot more has changed in today’s countryside than just the near-total removal of fences.

BQA adds value

Drew Gaffney does more than preach to Nebraska producers about the value of Beef Quality Assurance. He pockets an extra $20 per head in value at market time by practicing BQA principles in his cow-calf and yearling operation.

Increase DDGS?

Finding the maximum amount of distillers grains to include in a livestock ration without affecting animal performance, health or environment is the focus of new Iowa State University research. The researchers are working to safely increase feed use by cattle and poultry producers of the coproduct made during ethanol production. Dry distillers grains with solubles, or DDGS, is rich in protein, oil and fiber.

Focused on beef

Rancher Watt Matthews Casey, DVM, of Shackelford County, Texas, turns 90 on Aug. 11. For 62 of those years, he has been with Casey Beefmasters, which he founded in 1948.

EZid unveils its new electronic ear tag

EZid, a division of Avid Identification Systems in Greeley, Colo., has announced the release of the EZid HDX Electronic Ear Tag for cattle.

Grass farmer

Dan Specht is as concerned about making a profit as any other farmer. But the organic grassland farmer in northeast Iowa believes he can manage his pastures in a way that maximizes profit and still offers good habitat for birds and other wildlife.

GPS shows cattle grazing habits

While most people see cows when they look at a pasture, Iowa State University animal scientist Jim Russell sees the potential for improving cattle production, as well as a way to conserve soil and water.

Crossbreeding cattle outside family lines ups hybrid vigor

Crossbred cattle have better fertility, feed efficiency, disease resistance and longevity than purebreds, many believe.

Grazing several species of livestock can prove beneficial for pastures

Multi-species grazing is an old idea becoming popular again, claims University of Idaho’s Karen Launchbaugh, a rangeland ecology professor.

Shopping for that perfect bull

In the quest for the perfect bull, ranchers spent hours in spring pouring over expected progeny differences, or EPDs; birth, weaning and yearling weights; blood lines; and relatively new DNA information. Now that the summer breeding season is over, some wonder, “What data did cattle producers really use to select their bulls?”

Beef research profits from debate

This summer’s American Society of Animal Science annual meeting had hundreds of research presentations on every animal subject known to humanity were reported. There was no shortage of controversy over what to feed beef cattle. At times, grass vs. grain controversies sparked heated debates.

Wean beef calves with less stress

Most spring-calving herds will be weaning calves within the next 60 days. That usually means about three nights of poor sleep for human and beast while cows and calves bawl in protest.

Best feeding facility? You decide

Eight years ago Steve Ollerich expanded his family’s farming operation when he purchased a 3,000-head open feedlot near Elkton, S.D. As his daughter, Trish, 20, looks to return to the operation in the near future, Ollerich says he is searching for ways he can expand again, and improve efficiencies.

Choose right heifer to boost bottom line

The selection of replacement heifers is one of the most critical decisions a beef producer must make. The selections a producer makes will influence the productivity of the beef herd for many years. The high cost of developing replacement heifers makes it vital to select heifers that have the highest probability of developing into productive cows. Producers should select potential heifers at weaning and then make a final decision at breeding time.

Producer knows how to store WDGS

Jim Goggins of Springview knows the value of wet distillers grain with solubles, or WDGS, in his operation. WDGS has been long touted by cattle feeders, and now cow-calf producers like Jim and Shelly Goggins and their son, Coy, are also noticing the advantages, particularly when the cost is 75% to 85% of corn in the summer months.

Cattle may ail at high altitudes

Some cattle at higher elevations suffer respiratory problems and congestive heart failure. Affected animals become lethargic and often develop edema (swelling) in the neck and brisket.

Some expert help to select next herd bull

The bull you’re about to buy is half of the genetic makeup of your calf crop. But, do you know what you really want and need in a herd sire?

Feeding unborn calf affects carcass grade

Producing high-quality choice and prime beef carcasses starts earlier than most producers realize. The days in a feedlot at the end of finishing are important; however, the number of muscle cells and fat cells are determined before the calf is born.

Don’t take shortcuts in feeding minerals

Mark Williams of Loomis believes minerals are overlooked on most cow-calf operations. Not his.

Save $15 per head with custom mix

Keeping costs down and maintaining health of the cow herd is crucial during the winter months. Custom mixing cow minerals and feeding dry distillers grains or other corn byproducts in a winter ration pays big dividends.

‘No bull’ tips on picking a bull

Early spring bull sales are just around the corner. Selecting the right bull is one of the biggest success factors for a beef operation — especially now with high cattle prices, high feed prices and the real prospect of a beef shortage.

Up management intensity, keep profit

Think back a few years. If someone had predicted that fed-cattle prices would pass $1 a pound, that the national cow herd would keep shrinking despite feeder prices being more than $1.25 a pound and that we’d still be facing beef shortages, you’d think they were “short a few bricks.”

How to cope with rising feed prices

Good management has often been called “doing the usual things unusually well.” So, consider these five common-sense approaches as you deal with the coming “sticker shock” in feed prices.

Put CHAPS to work in your herd

No, we’re not talking about those leather leg protectors! CHAPS stands for Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System, a state-of-the-art beef production record system designed to provide vital information about your beef managerial decisions and herd performance.

Background calves for more profit

The motivation for backgrounding beef calves is usually to add some additional value to the calf beyond that of the weaning value. In early September, 550-pound steer calves were selling for $125 per hundredweight in this geographic area. However, with the recent increases in the price of corn, it may now be $10 per cwt. less.

Removing bull evens up the calf crop

Calf herd uniformity goes back to the calving season, which goes back to the breeding season, which goes back to taking the bull out sooner. The longer the bull is left with the cows, the longer the calving season.

How many bulls do you need?

The Dickinson Research Extension Center recently decreased the center’s bull population. The average bull age at the center at turnout has been 3 years. Seldom would a bull more than 5 years of age be turned out to breed.

Create records on your calves using five keys

Beef producers who maintain information and performance records have one notable advantage over those who don’t, says Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist, Dickinson.

Steps to buying better herd bulls

The Dickinson Research Extension Center utilizes many bulls and always evaluates bulls at the time of purchase and periodically throughout their life span. Perhaps the most challenging evaluation is to ask if the bulls meet the current objectives of the breeding program or the expected market for the calves.

New feedlot gets bang for the buck

Gary Dvoracek and his sons, of Lake Andes, S.D., built a new beef feedlot this past summer.

Beef economist sees bullish times

Randy Blach, CEO of CattleFax, Centennial, Colo., delivered a message of optimism to Missouri beef producers. The beef industry economist shared his latest outlook on the state of the U.S. beef industry at the 2010 Missouri Cattlemen’s Association meeting in Columbia.

February tests skills of cow-calf producer

Don’t tell cow-calf producers that February is a short month. February can stretch into weeks of misery, worry and calving-night thoughts of “Why me, Lord?”

Smart phone, choices

It’s said you should never stop learning, and now one University of Missouri graduate student is delivering knowledge into the hands of beef cattle producers everywhere.

Supplement hay now for more grass later

March is a month of forage anticipation. Even late “spring” calving is wrapping up. Lactating mama cows need the best nutrition of their reproductive cycle. And, if hay supply is to become sparse or run out, this is the month to turn out to pastures.

Keep livestock out of streams

Pictures from days gone by of cattle cooling off in a creek or shallow pond make a pleasing scene, but the image violates a major concept of conservationists. If you want to protect all natural resources, including streams, you need to keep animals out of the creek or stream.

Ready for summer

Boom-bust weather, that’s Texas — from bitter winter chills to unbearably hot, dry summers.

Condition cattle to beat heat

Most people can make money in the cattle business when times are good and rain is frequent, but how do they manage in extremely hot and dry conditions so typical to West Texas summers?

Sharing in cow-calf enterprise

We have a cow-calf operation and are interested in starting to include our daughter and son-in-law. What would be a fair percent of the calf crop to compensate them if we provide pasture and feed? They would just check the cattle when we are gone. Another option: What would be a fair percent if we take our cows and calves to their farm, and they provide all feed and labor?

Sloped building puts a halt to manure runoff

Replacing an open feedlot with a more environmentally friendly, deep-bedded total containment building is paying dividends for Shelby County cattleman Clint Sonderman. His new 20,000-square-foot facility totally eliminates manure runoff, allows for better manure utilization and is resulting in healthier, more productive cattle.

Branding of cattle goes from hot to cold

Hot-iron branding is the oldest form of livestock identification and proof of ownership. But freeze branding, a technique developed at Washington State University in 1966, offers a more humane alternative.

Cattle rustlers find helpful tool in Internet

Economic downturn and the Internet are helping boost the number of cattle thefts in Oregon, says Rodger Huffman, state brand inspector with the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health and Identification Division.

Why old beef rules just don’t apply

Breeding season for the 2012 spring calving season will soon be in full swing. Cows calving in winter and early spring should be coming into heat from April through July.

‘Premium’ beef began with one man’s tough steak

No matter what breed, type or color of cattle you raise, there’s no escaping the fact that the Certified Angus Beef program changed how all beef cattle are promoted and marketed. As with most paradigm-changing events, it began with the strong convictions of a few individuals.

‘Black attack’ is a beef game-changer

Joel “Jay” Reach loves to promote his black cattle — at Reach Simmental. “They bring a $50- to $100-per-head premium any day at auction, and all the way to the meat counter.”

Cost of air-powered post pounder: 1 calf

If you have been listening at all during coffee time at the local café, you already know that times are good for cattle producers. The talk of 80-cent cull cows, 550-pound heifers selling for more than $800, and 600-pound steer calves bringing more than $1,000 per head has locals choking over their morning coffee and donuts.

Let the ‘mob’ manage grazing land

Before we started managed grazing on our farm, I thought mob grazing was when the raccoons spent a night ruining our sweet corn patch. Since then, I’ve been learning from a lot of farmers and ranchers who are using a mob of cows — up to 1 million pounds of beef per acre in close quarters for very short periods of time — to utilize forages in the most efficient way possible.

New finishing barn offers cattle comfort

Lawrence area farmer and rancher Zach Herz has built a cattle finishing barn that could be the first in a beef feeding revolution. The bedded manure-pack barn is one of the first in the state, but if more farmers and ranchers build similar structures, beef feeding could move from the feedlot to the farm.

Improve your cattle genetics through AI

Every stockman wants a better cowherd. Artificial insemination is a good tool for some ranchers to get there.

Preg-check cows to tune up herd

Pregnancy-testing cows and heifers in the fall can help you operate more efficiently, says Chandy Olson, a St. Onge, S.D.,veterinarian.

Beware of these new livestock diseases

The sale and movement of cattle due to extreme weather conditions nationwide could lead to livestock health problems not normally seen in the Dakotas, warns Charlie Stoltenow North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian.

Hunting enterprise supplements ranching

Rancher Dave Hamilton and his father, Reed, enjoy hunting deer, and they possess the deer population on their Sandhills ranch north of Thedford to accommodate that recreational pursuit.

Livestock Friendly program advancing

Nebraska’s Livestock Friendly County program is in its eighth year of operation, but so far just 14 of 93 counties have received the designation. While that figures out to be just 15% of Nebraska counties, Steve Martin, Nebraska Department of Agriculture ag promotion coordinator, says the program is “alive and kicking.”

Match pastures to cattle needs

Jim Gerrish, with American Grazing Services in Idaho, helps ranchers maximize pasture resources with planned grazing, matching cattle to feed resources to take advantage of what their ranch produces. Timing calving so peak lactation coincides with peak grass production helps.

Capitalizing on calving in fall

Central Wyoming agricultural producer Gordon Medow was pondering whether he should sell his mother cows so he could focus on growing crops.

Windrowed forage cuts down on waste, saves money on feed

Glenn Shewmaker, University of Idaho Extension forage specialist, says you can expect 5% to 25% weathering loss in standing grasses (and more for alfalfa) over winter, and snow may mash down standing forage. It’s harder for cows to dig down and eat it than for them to find windrows under snow.

Monoslope cattle barn provides cool benefits

Monoslope barns are a profitable way to feed beef cattle, according to one South Dakota beef producer.

Follow this 4-step strategy to earn higher calf prices

If you hope to capture the most value from your calf crop this year, you need to follow a carefully planned marketing strategy, says Carl Dahlen, North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist.

Five questions to ask custom feeders

If you plan to retain ownership of calves, here are some questions to ask the custom feeder.

Getting started

Monty and Bobbi Jo Williams are getting a start in ranching in an interesting way.

Grass-fed beef worth the extra work

When Mark Hollenbeck, Edgemont, S.D., assessed the resources available to him for producing beef on his southwestern South Dakota Sunrise Ranch, he knew raising grain-fed beef was not an option. His land would not produce grain.

Try these cold-weather calving tactics

Midland, S.D., rancher TJ Gabriel is gearing up for the calving season. As part of the preparation, he’s making sure he has a few key supplies on hand, including duct tape.

Lessons from 50 years of ranching

Ranchers who have a few decades of experience under their belts can provide some of the most practical management tips you’ll ever learn. Lavern and Sue Koch of New Underwood, S.D., are one such pair.

Monoslope barn eases feedings, harsh weather for cattle feedlot

Northeast Iowa farmers Luther and Quentin Schutte have more time on their hands now for family, friends and fun. The father-son duo — in the business of fattening up beef cattle and Holstein steers — recently consolidated four open feedlots into one large steel-roofed total containment barn, saving them a few hours a day in commuting and work time.

How to protect beef profits

"There’s going to be a lot more volatility going forward than there has been in the past,” predicted Brett Crosby of the Wyoming-based consulting firm Custom Ag Solutions. Crosby spoke on managing price risk in a volatile market during the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Annual Convention in Pierre.

Testing imperative to prevent spread of trichomoniasis

To date, trichomoniasis has not been found in Illinois. Still, that doesn’t mean beef producers aren’t stressing about the possibility of it crossing state lines.

Not all coproducts are created equal

Nebraska is known as the Cornhusker state for good reason. But the state also boasts one of the nation’s most prolific ethanol production industries with a capacity of 2 billon gallons, or 13% of the nation’s overall ethanol production capacity — second only to Iowa.

Bachand locks in calf prices with LRP

Doug Bachand, Edgemont, S.D., has found a way to lock in higher prices for his calves when he sells them in the fall. For the past two years, Bachand has used Livestock Risk Protection, or LRP, insurance — a program available for feeder cattle and fed cattle that allows producers to limit downside price risk while still being able to take advantage of higher prices.

Reasons for differences in high-, low-profit beef ops

We recently reviewed the analysis of 367 beef enterprises enrolled in the North Dakota Farm Business Management Education program to identify factors affecting herd profitability for beef cows. The differences between the 40% most profitable and 40% least profitable groups are interesting.

Visual clues reveal the right bull choice

Dave Davidson knows how important it is to get the right bull power in his herd. For the Center rancher, wading through mounds of data on bulls and selecting the right bulls is crucial.

Grazing options expand

You may have more choices than you think in how you graze your land. Changes in technology for flexible fencing and watering systems make concentrated, high-density rotational grazing with long rest periods for the pasture or forage more attractive now. And there are more benefits for livestock owners who develop a successful grazing system and commit to closely managing and moving their animals.

White Thunder Ranch restores rangeland

Can rotational grazing practices really restore life to eroded, weedy rangeland?

No more mud

Randy, Kevin and Larry Schultz are back in control of their cattle enterprise.

Table aids in sound culling decisions

Use the “Lazy L” principle to help you decide which cows to cull going into a drought, advises Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University Extension livestock specialist, Dickinson, N.D.

Producing the $2,017 calf

Perhaps a producer could forgo carcass evaluations, but that would be a big mistake. All the money that comes into the beef industry ultimately comes from the product hanging on the rail. For all practical purposes, cattle are not kept as pets, and there is no income stream from beef cattle other than beef and beef byproducts.

Get late-calving cows cycling sooner

There are several things you can try to get late-calving cows rebreeding sooner, says Jim Kranz, South Dakota State University Extension cow-calf specialist at Mitchell, S.D., and George Perry, SDSU beef reproduction specialist, Brookings, S.D.

Let them eat weeds

Fred Provenza used to wonder as he watched cattle, sheep, goats, deer and elk graze: Why do the animals choose the foods they eat? Is it taste? Nutrition? Possibly they avoid the toxins they know? Could it be a combination of these factors?

Keeping cattle cool this summer

About 30 Iowa beef producers found out just how bad the drought is this summer. The 2012 Iowa Beef Tour traveled through parts of Missouri and Illinois July 16-18, where dried up fields and pastures have farmers in a bigger pinch than those in Iowa.

Strategies to manage cows in dry conditions

In drought or abnormally dry weather conditions, cattle producers need to look at numerous management practices to help stretch their feed supply and maintain performance and reproduction in the cow herd. Iowa State University Extension beef specialist Denise Schwab offers a few strategies that may help.

Drought not just affecting crops

This summer has been hot, and in some pastures, like Scott McGregor’s near Nashua in northeast Iowa, there is a lack of regrowth in grazing land for his 130 head of Angus cattle. McGregor and other Iowa Cattlemen’s Association members voiced concerns about the drought and a number of other issues at the ICA Summer Policy meeting in Ames. “The high temperatures swung us for a loop,” he said.

Timely information for beef producers

With the rising popularity of feeding cattle in buildings as opposed to open feedlots, and the challenge of raising cattle, two new publications are available from Midwest Plan Service. They are “Cattle Feeding Buildings in the Midwest” and “Cow-Calf Production in the U.S. Corn Belt.”

Cattleman strives to improve herd with AI, top bulls

Tim Shelton, a well-known farmer in Dry Fork, Va., grows tobacco and grain, and raises cattle.

Wintering yearlings pays off

Three Nebraska cattle producers who have adopted winter grazing programs for their operations are realizing benefits from the practice.

Ranchers share tricks of trade

Ranchers are typically an ingenious lot, doing what they can to make ends meet.

Heifers return home ready to produce

In the mid-to-late 1980s, the beef industry paid scant attention to the genetic influence of cows and heifers on the overall performance of a cattle herd. That fact didn’t escape the attention of Patsy Houghton, then a Kansas State University beef cattle Extension specialist. Her focus on heifers intensified when KSU implemented a cow-calf student project designed to help students learn the artificial insemination process.

Drought brings feed hazard

Drought increases many feed safety and harvest challenges, says J.W. Schroeder, North Dakota State University Extension dairy specialist.

Weigh backgrounding challenges

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Develop a grazing strategy

In recognition of their excellent forage production and management skills, Jerry and Barb Braun of New Effington, S.D., received the Edmunds and McPherson County Natural Resources Conservation Service 2011 Excellence in Range Management Award.

EPDs help with sire selection

Times are changing for beef producers. Although genetic statistics like expected progeny differences, or EPDs, are becoming more widely used, many still see the value in live evaluations. In the rolling hills of southwest Iowa’s cow-calf country, young beef producers gathered recently at Anita Vet Clinic’s new facility to examine Randy Dreher’s bulls. It was a meeting of the Beginning and Young Livestock Producer Success Network.

Avoid the biggest mistake made when buying a bull

The biggest mistake purebred and commercial producers make when buying bulls is not having the bull registrations transferred to their name.

SD feedlot installs spreader dike

Casey and Gina Maher, of Maher Angus Ranch, Morristown, S.D., recently upgraded and expanded their 300-head feedlot to handle 999 head of cattle.

Reduce work stress on cattle and handler

Quiet. That’s how cattleman Terry Hedeman wants it when he’s processing cattle. The Dade County farmer has come to learn over the years that whooping and hollering just doesn’t work.

Grazing, raising: thinking man’s games

It would be nice to have hard-and-fast rules a management-intensive grazer could follow day after day, season after season. After more than 25 years of being a grass farmer, though, Bob Salmon will tell you it just doesn’t work that way.

Witch hazel adds aesthetics, scent

On warm winter days in late January and February, a sweet, honey-like, almost spicy scent drifts on gentle breezes in some gardens and woodlands. True spring is a couple of months away, but follow the scent and find an enchanting small tree in full bloom: Ozark witch hazel.

Neighbors unite in farm lease pact

Opportunity. That’s what young farmers Dustin and Scynthia Schnake found five years ago when they entered a lease agreement with neighbors Clif and Alice Harrington. The arrangement has proven fruitful for both parties — providing the Schnakes room for expansion and the Harringtons a chance to scale back their operation.

Vets can help with drought-stressed cattle

Your veterinarian can help stretch the limited feed supply and improve efficiency of beef production.