Careful heifer selection can help producers manage input costs | TheFencePost.com

Careful heifer selection can help producers manage input costs

Gayle Smith
Potter, Neb.

With input prices continuing to rise, cattle producers will have to stay diligent in finding ways to continue to reduce costs, explained a University of Wyoming Associate Professor of Animal Science during the 2011 Cattleman’s Conference in Douglas, Wyo.

“With the impact the ethanol industry and other alternative uses are having on the demand for corn, combined with the high prices for corn and other alternative feeds, cattle producers need to focus on reducing costs at every opportunity,” Steve Paisley said. Rising fuel prices, fertilizer, hay and other input costs are also a concern.

“The emergence of the ethanol industry and the price of corn has really made us rethink the beef industry,” Paisley said. “We are heading from a traditional feedlot-oriented enterprise towards putting more yearlings on grass and developing them on a more forage-based diet,” he explained.

Even alternative feeds like distillers grain will be driven by rising corn prices, Paisley continued. “Our focus in the future will be to reduce costs at every opportunity. We will need to focus on the bottom line and become better business people.”

The trick is to reduce costs without sacrificing animal health and performance. Cattle producers need to do a good job managing their cows during pregnancy, because it not only affects feedlot performance and meat quality, but heifer development, Paisley said.

Paisley presented research showing how management and potential stressors during pregnancy can impact the future performance, fertility, and longevity of the calves produced. “Improper nutrition during the perinatal period will increase calf mortality,” he explained. “Inadequate nutrition during early to mid-gestation may alter a variety of fetal tissues, which may affect subsequent health.”

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Paisley mentioned an article he saw in 2008 that a producer’s answer to rising input costs was to adjust the winter management of their cows, and work for a body condition score of 4.5 versus 5. He also shared research conducted by the University showing how changes in cow body condition score influenced a newborn calf. At a body condition score of four, it was over 60 minutes before calves were able to stand, while at a body condition score of five it was less than 50 minutes. Paisley pointed out that at a body condition score of 5, the cow will strain less having the calf, so the calf is stronger and able to get to its feet sooner.

“A low plane of nutrition during mid to late gestation may reduce the calf’s absolute body weight,” Paisley continued. “Calves that are born too small at birth may lack vigor and tolerance to cold stress, resistance to pathological agents, and the ability to cope with stress during adaptation to life outside the uterus.”

In addition, if the cow received a low plane of nutrition during pregnancy, it may reduce a calf’s absolute body weight in the end. Paisley shared results of a three-year nutrition study that looked at the effects of a dam’s nutrition on growth and reproductive performance of heifer calves. The study looked at the effects of supplementing the cows with protein during the last trimester of pregnancy. In the study, the calves from the protein and non-protein supplemented groups were within two pounds of each other at birth, but the first group was 17 pounds heavier at 205 days, and 22 pounds heavier at pre-breeding.

The heifers from cows receiving protein-supplement during pregnancy also had an 88 percent first service pregnancy rate, compared to 45 percent for the non-supplemented group. The overall pregnancy rate was 94 percent for the first group, and 73 percent for the second group. Finally, Paisley showed the heifers that had come from the protein supplemented cows had an unassisted calving percentage of 69 percent, compared to 38 percent for the heifers who came from non-supplemented cows.

Paisley recommended producers try to keep cows at a body condition score of 5 throughout pregnancy to maintain health and performance. “Cutting feed to cows during pregnancy to save money is not a wise choice,” he said. “There are several methods of managing a spring calving herd through the winter. Manage the body condition score by sorting the cattle more often or feeding accordingly.” Producers may also want to consider strategically supplementing the cattle, early weaning, or culling some of the poor performing cattle, he added.

With input prices continuing to rise, cattle producers will have to stay diligent in finding ways to continue to reduce costs, explained a University of Wyoming Associate Professor of Animal Science during the 2011 Cattleman’s Conference in Douglas, Wyo.

“With the impact the ethanol industry and other alternative uses are having on the demand for corn, combined with the high prices for corn and other alternative feeds, cattle producers need to focus on reducing costs at every opportunity,” Steve Paisley said. Rising fuel prices, fertilizer, hay and other input costs are also a concern.

“The emergence of the ethanol industry and the price of corn has really made us rethink the beef industry,” Paisley said. “We are heading from a traditional feedlot-oriented enterprise towards putting more yearlings on grass and developing them on a more forage-based diet,” he explained.

Even alternative feeds like distillers grain will be driven by rising corn prices, Paisley continued. “Our focus in the future will be to reduce costs at every opportunity. We will need to focus on the bottom line and become better business people.”

The trick is to reduce costs without sacrificing animal health and performance. Cattle producers need to do a good job managing their cows during pregnancy, because it not only affects feedlot performance and meat quality, but heifer development, Paisley said.

Paisley presented research showing how management and potential stressors during pregnancy can impact the future performance, fertility, and longevity of the calves produced. “Improper nutrition during the perinatal period will increase calf mortality,” he explained. “Inadequate nutrition during early to mid-gestation may alter a variety of fetal tissues, which may affect subsequent health.”

Paisley mentioned an article he saw in 2008 that a producer’s answer to rising input costs was to adjust the winter management of their cows, and work for a body condition score of 4.5 versus 5. He also shared research conducted by the University showing how changes in cow body condition score influenced a newborn calf. At a body condition score of four, it was over 60 minutes before calves were able to stand, while at a body condition score of five it was less than 50 minutes. Paisley pointed out that at a body condition score of 5, the cow will strain less having the calf, so the calf is stronger and able to get to its feet sooner.

“A low plane of nutrition during mid to late gestation may reduce the calf’s absolute body weight,” Paisley continued. “Calves that are born too small at birth may lack vigor and tolerance to cold stress, resistance to pathological agents, and the ability to cope with stress during adaptation to life outside the uterus.”

In addition, if the cow received a low plane of nutrition during pregnancy, it may reduce a calf’s absolute body weight in the end. Paisley shared results of a three-year nutrition study that looked at the effects of a dam’s nutrition on growth and reproductive performance of heifer calves. The study looked at the effects of supplementing the cows with protein during the last trimester of pregnancy. In the study, the calves from the protein and non-protein supplemented groups were within two pounds of each other at birth, but the first group was 17 pounds heavier at 205 days, and 22 pounds heavier at pre-breeding.

The heifers from cows receiving protein-supplement during pregnancy also had an 88 percent first service pregnancy rate, compared to 45 percent for the non-supplemented group. The overall pregnancy rate was 94 percent for the first group, and 73 percent for the second group. Finally, Paisley showed the heifers that had come from the protein supplemented cows had an unassisted calving percentage of 69 percent, compared to 38 percent for the heifers who came from non-supplemented cows.

Paisley recommended producers try to keep cows at a body condition score of 5 throughout pregnancy to maintain health and performance. “Cutting feed to cows during pregnancy to save money is not a wise choice,” he said. “There are several methods of managing a spring calving herd through the winter. Manage the body condition score by sorting the cattle more often or feeding accordingly.” Producers may also want to consider strategically supplementing the cattle, early weaning, or culling some of the poor performing cattle, he added.