Monday, December 9, 2013

Year-end Activities for Beef Producers

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. Many cattle producers are in the process of evaluating their herd productivity and doing business-related planning for the upcoming year. The following are a few items to consider for the upcoming winter season and new business year.

This is a good time of year to review rental or lease arrangements. Terms of these agreements tend to be very specific to the parties involved; therefore, general recommendations may not be particularly useful. However, several resources are available to assist producers with this process. MU guide G302, “2012 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri” may be helpful in determining the value of services. Extension ag business specialists have sample lease agreements available which may be helpful in developing arrangements satisfying all parties. Remember agreements should be in writing and signed by all parties involved.

Beef cattle producers who have sold the spring calf crop are in a position to evaluate whole-herd performance. A general assessment of cow herd productivity is to divide total weight of calves sold by the total number of cows exposed to bulls. This average pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed is a useful benchmark to assess current productivity and guide future management decisions.

Producers with individual calf weights can get much more specific production data on their cow herd. Actual weaning weights need to be adjusted for age of calf at weaning, cow age, and sex of the calf. Then direct comparisons of productivity between cows can be done, since calf performance variables are standardized. Standardized adjustment formulas are available from the Beef Improvement Federation or MU Extension livestock specialists. These comparisons assist with current culling decisions and breeding decisions next spring.

One last thing to consider is an item for the upcoming calving season. The Sandhill’s Calving System was developed to help producers combat scour outbreaks in baby calves. The system is described below.

Prior to the start of the calving season, all cows are placed in a single pasture. Beginning two weeks after the first calves are born, all cows that have not calved are moved to a new pasture. Cows that have calved stay in the original pasture. After one week in the second pasture, all cows that have not calved are moved to a third pasture while cows that calved in the second pasture stay there. The process of moving pregnant cows to new pastures continues on a weekly basis. Cows and calves remain in their original pastures until the youngest calves are four weeks old, then these groups can be co-mingled back together.

With this system, most calves are born on clean pastures that have not been contaminated with scour causing pathogens from older calves. In addition to reducing pathogen exposure, this system helps with animal management. Pregnant cows are together in one pasture which reduces the amount of area a producer must cover when checking cows for calving problems. Most scour problems occur in calves 1 to 3 weeks old. Since calves are segregated by age and location, the time needed to track down and check the health condition of the calves is reduced. Attention can be focused on the groups most susceptible to scour problems.

Producers who have adopted this system have generally been very enthusiastic about the results. It takes some forward thinking and planning, so begin trying to figure out how this might be implemented on your operation if this idea is of interest.

(by Gene Schmitz, MU Extension Livestock Specialist)


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