Tag Archives: cattle

Genetic tests are available for everything from birthweight to carcass weight, so it’s tempting to select your next herd bull based on those results alone. Just think, no more driving all across the country to look at pen after pen of yearling bulls. Or, you could build your dream herd of females off a spreadsheet of genetic predictions for maternal traits. Then again, maybe not.

“Phenotype is more critical now than ever,” seedstock producer Dave Nichols says. “It is what you can see and measure. In order to make gene discovery for growth and carcass merit, we have to have birthweight, weaning weight, performance and ultrasound or carcass data. Genomics add to the accuracy of what we already know.”

As an example of the importance of phenotype, the Bridgewater, Iowa, cattleman cites a multiyear National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium (NBCEC) study designed to find genetic markers for susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease (BRD), or pneumonia.

Researchers first identified sick cattle the old fashioned way, by observing them. Then, they took nasal swabs to confirm the diagnosis. Without first identifying sick cattle by phenotype, they probably wouldn’t be able to find genetic markers responsible for resistance to the costly disease.

Phenotype The Bull

Just as phenotype continues to be critical for researchers, it should also be high on producers’ lists when selecting bulls.

University of Georgia animal scientist Ronnie Silcox stresses “even genomically enhanced, expected progeny differences (GE-EPDs) don’t tell you everything you need to know. When I talk to commercial producers, I tell them EPDs are the first thing they need to look at. Use them to narrow down to a smaller group.”

Down to a manageable few, make the final bull selection with the eyes of an experienced cattleman.

“They must be functionally sound,” Silcox says. “Do both eyes work? Look at their feet and legs. Make sure they’ve had a Breeding Soundness Exam. It doesn’t matter how good a bull is, he’s not going to do you any good if he can’t get a cow bred.”

And, because most commercial producers sell feeder calves, Silcox says it’s important to consider whether a bull has enough muscle to grade like a No. 1 feeder calf. The same approach applies when selecting replacement heifers, whether those heifers come from your own herd or another producer. Narrow your selection using EPDs, then look hard at the heifer. If she can’t carry and raise a calf, she isn’t going to help your herd.

A Strong Combination

Phenotype continues to be vital in cattle selection. However, it’s the combination of EPDs and phenotype that’s moving herds to the next level. “EPDs are better than they’ve ever been. If you add the results of DNA tests to actual performance data, it can increase the accuracy to that of a bull that has produced eight to 10 calves,” Silcox says, describing what’s commonly known in the industry as GE-EPDs.

Consider a calving-ease yearling bull to use on heifers. If all you have are EPDs based on pedigree, and he is an embryo-transfer calf (his own birthweight doesn’t factor in) expect accuracy of just 5%. Add genomic test results to that, though, and accuracy can shoot up to around 40% for the same bull.

The less heritable the trait, the more genomic testing can improve accuracy. Auburn University animal scientist Lisa Kriese-Anderson says, “With lowly heritable traits like the reproductive traits, fertility, gestation length, age at first calving, genomic testing increases the accuracy of the EPD value as if the animal has had 10 to 12 calves on the ground.”

She says with the moderately heritable traits like weaning weight and average daily gain, adding genomic test results to the EPD analyses is like looking at 5 to 8 progeny of the animal. With highly heritable traits like carcass traits, or rib-eye area, marbling and fat thickness, genomic tests increase the accuracy at a rate of 2 to 3 progeny.

Even with this boost in accuracy from GE-EPDs, Kriese-Anderson believes, like Dave Nichols and Silcox, that there remain compelling reasons to keep phenotype in the selection process.

“We don’t know what every gene in the bovine genome is doing yet. We find a panel of markers that go with a trait, but not every gene that affects that trait is known. We still need actual measurements,” she says. “Not every purebred animal will get DNA-tested. We have to have the phenotype information to validate and compare with the genomic information. Someday, we may be able to just take DNA samples. But for now, we need both, and that’s OK.”

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.1 million head on September 1, 2018. The inventory was 6 percent above September 1, 2017, USDA reported Friday.

Listen to Jerry Stowell of Country Futures break down the report: http://bit.ly/2OP2uPO

This is the highest September 1 inventory since the series began in 1996.

Placements in feedlots during August totaled 2.07 million head, 7 percent above 2017. Net placements were 2.02 million head. During August, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 430,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 335,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 460,000 head, 800-899 pounds were 475,000 head, 900-999 pounds were 240,000 head, and 1,000 pounds and greater were 130,000 head.

Marketings of fed cattle during August totaled 1.98 million head, slightly above 2017.

Other disappearance totaled 55,000 head during August, 12 percent above 2017.

To view the full Cattle on Feed report, visit https://www.nass.usda.gov/…

USDA Actual Average Guess Range
Cattle on Feed:
On Feed Sept. 1 106.0% 105.3% 104.2-105.9%
Placed in August 107.0% 104.0% 101.1-107.0%
Marketed in August 100.0% 100.1% 99.8-104.3%


OMAHA  — Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.1 million head on August 1, 2018, USDA reported Friday. The inventory was 5 percent above August 1, 2017. This is the highest August 1 inventory since the series began in 1996.

Listen to the report here: https://post.futurimedia.com/krvnam/playlist/cattle-on-feed-report-with-jerry-stowell-4976.html

Placements in feedlots during July totaled 1.74 million head, 8 percent above 2017. Net placements were 1.68 million head. During July, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 410,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 290,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 415,000 head, 800-899 pounds were 367,000 head, 900-999 pounds were 175,000 head, and 1,000 pounds and greater were 85,000 head.

Marketings of fed cattle during July totaled 1.87 million head, 5 percent above 2017.

Other disappearance totaled 63,000 head during July, 31 percent above 2017.

To view the full Cattle on Feed report, visit https://www.nass.usda.gov/…

USDA Actual Average Guess Range
Cattle on Feed:
On Feed August 1 105.0% 104.5% 103.5-106.0%
Placed in July 108.0% 106.5% 100.5-114.5%
Marketed in July 105.0% 105.0% 104.5-106.0%

KEARNEY, Neb. — The challenges of managing multi-species grazing and the fear of being labeled “the sheep/goat guy” are keeping some ranchers from implementing this method of grazing, ranchers at a conference here said this week.

But despite these issues, those who have tried multi-species grazing say the increased ranch profits and improvements in forages that result from using the system should be great motivation for others to try it.

This and other grazing topics were covered in great detail at the 2018 Nebraska Grazing Conference held here this week. The event featured three different presentations as well as a panel discussion.


Sage Askin is a rancher from Lusk, Wyoming. He and his family have multiple enterprises on leased ranchland, including cows/calves, stockers, breeding heifers, stocker goats and hair sheep/ewe lambs (hair sheep do not need to be sheared). They also do some consulting work. Askin spoke at the conference about how to incorporate multi-species grazing.

Askin told DTN that implementing the system was a learning process for him and would be for anyone willing to try it. However, there are also several rewards, he said.

“We killed some sheep that first winter with the blizzards that hit,” Askin said. “But we learned they needed to be in better body condition to survive (winter), and we have moved forward.”

Askin said there are financial reasons to utilize a grazing plan with different species. He offered the specific example of a 400-cow ranch operation that could generate $80,000 in gross margins, or $200 per cow, by only grazing cattle. An operation with 300 cows and 1,200 ewes could generate $120,000 in gross margins, doubling the gross income. The breakdown would be $200 per head of cattle and $50 per head of ewes, he said.

The ranch in Askin’s example would be marketing more products, which would increase the ranch’s margins, he said. Not only would the rancher be marketing traditional cattle culls, heifers and steers, but they would also be doing the same for the sheep flock (culling ewes, breeding ewes and fat lambs), thus doubling their marketing opportunities, he said.

Ranchers are stewards of the grasslands, and the different plants on the range need to be grazed properly, Askin said. Some plants need to be grazed by animals — cattle — that will use them efficiently, while other plants need to be browsed by the correct animals — sheep and goats. Browsing is when the animal feeds on leaves, soft shoots or fruits of high-growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs.

Askin said the more sheep a rancher grazes, the better the cattle pasture the rancher will have, and the more cattle they graze, the better the sheep pasture they will have.

An issue many people cite for not trying multiple-species grazing is competition for grass, which can be an issue, Askin said. On his land, he said he tries to graze sheep and goats on areas with a steeper topography. These animals tend to stay in these areas while leaving bottom areas with lush grass to the cattle, he said.


Brock Terrell is also a rancher who has incorporated grazing sheep on his ranch. Terrell is co-owner of Terrell Farms LLC and Terrell Ranch LLC, both diversified operations located south of Hay Springs, Nebraska. His operation includes cows/calves, stockers, a backgrounding feedlot, sheep, hay, row crops, seed crops and forage crops.

Terrell said during his presentation that his goal is to “harvest multiple layers off the same land,” which includes increasing diversity and decreasing his marketing risk on his northwestern Nebraska operation. He decided to add sheep to his operation for opportunities to sell more products, he said.

He is essentially getting two “crops” from his sheep flock: the wool as well as the actual lambs.

The majority of his sheep are Merinos, a breed known for its high-quality wool. The wool brought Terrell $4.20 per pound, which was a record-high price this year, while the other breed’s wool brought in $2to $2.50 a pound. The wool pays for all of his direct cost and labor with this enterprise, he said.

Terrell said he then would have lambs to sell, for which the only cost is the land. He told DTN he keeps his lambs until they are about 90 pounds, and then he weans and ships them to a lamb feedyard in South Dakota. Once fattened, the lambs are shipped to facilities in either Detroit or Chicago for processing.

“I end up selling a couple of pot loads of lambs per year and my neighbors don’t,” Terrell said.

Much like Askin, Terrell said there is a steep learning curve involved with multiple-species grazing and that he is still climbing that curve.

Among the challenges he faced was finding a livestock nutritionist in his area with experience in properly feeding sheep, as well as locating a veterinarian who had experience with sheep. A local cattle nutritionist was willing to work with him to make sure he was feeding his flock correctly, he said.

Terrell has made due with his local vets for sheep health issues when they have arisen. There are no sheep vets in his region of the Nebraska Sandhills, he said.

Another issue Terrell faced when adding a sheep flock to his operation was a real prejudice against those raise sheep and goats. A lot of cattle producers look down upon those who raise small rudiments (the sheep/goat guy) despite the fact it is a profitable enterprise, he said.


While Askin and Terrell are cattle ranchers who added sheep or goats to their existing grazing operations, Mike Wallace is a sheep producer who added cattle to his grazing plans.

Mike and his wife, Fran, own and operate the Double M, a 400-acre sheep-cattle-goat year-round grazing operation in Nuckolls County, Nebraska. He retired in 2012 from the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in nearby Clay Center where he was the sheep operations manager since 1978.

His south-central Nebraska operation has a 40-head cow/calf herd, 230 head of Romanov-White Dorper-St. Croix composite crossbred ewes (hair sheep) and 40 Spanish-Boer goat crossbred does. They graze together on 240 acres, which is rotational grazed with 18 paddocks, while the other 160 acres is divided into 13 paddocks.

Wallace said he is “using multiple-species grazing to preserve a little portion of the prairie.” About half his acres are native tall/mixed-grass prairie while the other half were previously dryland crop ground that has been planted to mixtures of native and introduced varieties of warm- and cool-season perennial and annual grasses and legumes.

Wallace said he has made some environmental observations with his grazing system. For starters, he has very few issues with red cedar trees growing. He cut some trees out of his pastures a number of years ago at about the same time as a neighbor who grazes just cattle did. He has noticed the neighbor’s pasture now has small cedars growing again, while Wallace’s land doesn’t.

Wallace attributes the lack of cedars to the grazing sheep and goats. He showed a video during his presentation of his wife tossing a small cedar tree into a pen of goats. Within a day, all that was left was the main part of the tree.

Wallace also has a 17-acre abandoned cattle feedlot on his farm that grows an annual mixture of various volunteer weeds. When properly managed, this land is productive through spring and summer with high-quality forages for all three livestock species, he said.

“Grazing the way I do, I would guess I’m probably making more money per acre grazing these three species than most crop producers are per acre in my area,” Wallace said.

Cattle producers on the Prairies are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst as an ongoing drought continues to diminish pastures.

“If it’s not a make-or-break issue for (farmers) financially, for some it may be a make-or-break issue for them emotionally,” said Charlie Christie, chairman of the Alberta Beef Producers. “It’s a stressful thing.”

Last year’s season ended extremely dry and there wasn’t enough snow to increase moisture levels. The spring was long, cold and dry, leaving little growth to feed cattle populations.

Many parts of Alberta remained dry this summer, so farmers started to buy feed they usually grow and costs skyrocketed.

“It’s a challenge to say the least,” said Christie, who farms near Trochu in central Alberta. “We are starting to worry about next year now.”

While producers are hoping for rain, not only for this year but to prepare the ground for next, they are also having to make tough decisions as they watch barley yields and cereal crops which will make up their winter feeds.

They are bringing cows home faster, pulling calves from their mothers sooner and putting calves on the market. Some ranchers are already making the choice to sell cows to feedlots to reduce the overall herd.

The beef producers group is monitoring feed stocks for the next couple of weeks before deciding whether to ask the government for assistance.

“You never want to ask for a handout,” Christie said. “It will just depend where things are at, but every day it gets a little bit worse, a little more troublesome.”

Across the boundary in Saskatchewan, Agriculture Minister David Marit said higher hay prices are making it harder to get adequate feed.

“As a result, we are anticipating some producers may have no choice but to liquidate animals from their herds,” Marit said in an emailed statement. “Cattle producers in these dry areas have approached the ministry requesting support to help them tackle these challenging conditions.”

Saskatchewan has reached out to Ottawa requesting the federal government activate its livestock tax deferral now to help producers in affected areas. The deferral allows farmers who sell part of their breeding herd due to drought or flooding to defer a portion of sale proceeds to the following year.

On his property near Gull Lake, Rick Toney of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association said some producers are deciding whether to move cows north to the few pockets which did get rain or take the hit of bringing expensive feed into their areas. That cost is just too much for some.

“What are the economics here? There’s a lot of people that are looking to sell off 40 per cent, 60 per cent or their entire heard. Cattle are coming to market,” he said.

Toney said current conditions have many producers worried.

“Everyone is going to have to tighten their belt. There’s going to be less money for servicing debt, less money for everything.

“What are we going to have next spring for grazing? We are going to need our fingers crossed and hopefully this drought turns around.”

Producers in Manitoba have already started contacting the province about low feed stocks, said Brian Lemon, general manager with the Manitoba Beef Producers. However, they haven’t asked for assistance yet.

Lemon said prices for any available feed are becoming too high for cattle producers, who can’t pass the cost along. And at some point there just won’t be any feed available.

“The producers are fairly resilient. We will do what’s right for our animals. We will do what’s right for our families,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s not the first time it’s been a dry season and it probably won’t be the last one. It’s unfortunate.”

A heat stress forecast is as important to a cattle producer, as the rain forecast is to a crop producer. Checking a heat index, and adapting handling to the forecast, will help mitigate risk when working cattle during summer months.

Rob Eirich, Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) coordinator, and Mariah Woolsoncroft, Nebraska Extension beef educator say it’s the connection between heat and humidity that’s especially important in knowing when to reduce stress on cattle this time of the year. They encourage the use of both a heat index, and an assessment of individual animals’ body temperatures using a panting score, to guide management.

Panting scores fall on a scale of 0 to 4, with 0 equaling normal respiration and 4 being severe open-mouthed panting, a protruding tongue, excessive salivation. Usually the neck is extended forward at a 4. (https://extension.unl.edu/…)

With the Cattle Temperature Humidity Index, cattle can be in the danger area with temperatures as low as 82 degrees F, and a relative humidity of 75%. They are considered in an emergency situation with temperatures of 86 degrees F and relative humidity of 85%. (https://extension.unl.edu/…)

There are several tips to minimize the impact of heat on cattle:

*Always handle cattle early in the mornings, before 8 a.m. Don’t move or handle cattle after 10 a.m. during the summer months.

*Don’t handle cattle in the evening, even though environmental temperatures are down. This is because the animal’s core temperature peaks two hours after the environmental temperature peaks, and takes 4 to 6 hours to go back to normal.

*Work cattle in smaller groups so animals are not standing in a holding area for more than 30 minutes.

*Facilites should be shaded and good air-flow provided.
*A sprinkler system may be used to help cool animals.
*Work cattle slowly, using low stress handling techniques.
*Try to have cattle move shorter distances during the heat. This may mean moving animals closer to loading facilities during the feeding period.
*Be aware that sick or stressed animals are at more danger for heat stress and need additional shade and cooling.


We need to rework our corral and get a new chute. Do you have any suggestions? Who makes the best chutes?


Asking who makes the best cattle chute is sort of like asking who makes the best pickup truck. Want to start a fight? Start talking about religion, politics or pickups.

A lot of this is personal preference. I prefer scissor-type headcatches, but others prefer pivoting, self-catching types. I really like chutes that squeeze straight inward rather than in a V shape. I think cattle just seem to do better with a light, equal squeeze.

Chute size and weight must be matched with cattle size. Don’t buy more than you need, but be sure you get enough. There is nothing more stressful than trying to work large cattle in a chute that’s too small.

The most common design flaw I see in corrals is the lanes are too wide. While corrals that are adjustable with crowding alleys are ideal, they are expensive. If this is not an option, alleys 28 to 30 inches wide are enough for most cattle. If you have really large cattle, your alleys may need to be a little wider, but you may have a problem with calves turning around in them. Making alleys V-shaped can help with this, but when a cow or bull goes down, it can be difficult to get them up.

Alleys that gently curve take advantage of the natural tendency of cattle to circle, and solid walls also help keep cattle moving forward. A “crowding tub” with a crowding or sweep gate at least 12 feet long makes getting cattle into the chute much less stressful on man and beast.