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Beef Today December 2013 : Page 1

December 2013 CONTENTS The Roundup The New Generation 6 What 12 Research if you could graze new production cows all year long? ideas before jumping in. Food Versus Feed Cattlemen’s Notebook 8 Study 14 Find debunks myths in practical, regional food-versus-feed debate. tips for your area. Cowboy Calendar Closing the Gate 10 Mark 16 Prepare these events on for a banner your calendar. cattle year. Increasing the number of days your cows are grazing will help lower RDMIZE annual feed costs and improve pro tability › PHOTO: SARA BROWN KEEP COWS GRAZING BY GREG HENDERSON Feed and forage represents your largest annual production costs, and they provide the greatest opportunity for you to make significant changes in a short period of time. In fact, annual feed costs typically make up the majority of differ-ences between high-cost producers and THE low-cost producers. University Exten-sion analyses from several states with significant numbers of cow-calf operations have determined feed and forage costs represent 50% to 70% of annual cow costs. Further, a sur-vey by USDA’s Economic Research Service found national total operat-ing costs of $610 per cow in 2012. That survey also showed a wide range of operating costs—from $387 per cow in the Fruitful Rim (Florida and the Gulf Coast of Texas) to $884 per cow in the northern Great Plains. The devastating 2012 drought contributed significantly to higher cow-calf production costs in regions such as the Northern Plains, but data from previous years confirm that a variation of $500 from low-cost producers to high-cost producers is not uncommon. Heading into winter, there is little you can do to change the cost of your harvested and stored feed supplies. Now, however, is an excellent time to start planning for grazing and forage harvests for next year. Create a plan. “Feed is not only the major cost item in cow-calf production, but it is also the major factor influencing reproductive performance, which is the most F M XIMIZE HERD

Keep Cows Grazing

Greg Henderson

Increasing the number of days your cows are grazing will help lower annual feed costs and improve pro tability

Feed and forage represents your largest annual production costs, and they provide the greatest opportunity for you to make significant changes in a short period of time. In fact, annual feed costs typically make up the majority of differences between highcost producers and low-cost producers.

University Extension analyses from several states with significant numbers of cow-calf operations have determined feed and forage costs represent 50% to 70% of annual cow costs. Further, a survey by USDA’s Economic Research Service found national total operating Costs of $610 per cow in 2012. That survey also showed a wide range of operating costs—from $387 per cow in the Fruitful Rim (Florida and the Gulf Coast of Texas) to $884 per cow in the northern Great Plains.

The devastating 2012 drought contributed significantly to higher cow-calf production costs in regions such as the Northern Plains, but data from previous years confirm that a variation of $500 from low-cost producers to high-cost producers is not uncommon.

Heading into winter, there is little you can do to change the cost of your harvested and stored feed supplies. Now, however, is an excellent time to start planning for grazing and forage harvests for next year.

Create a plan. “Feed is not only the major cost item in cow-calf production, but it is also the major factor influencing reproductive performance, which is the most Important factor in cowherd profitability,” explains Bob Weaber, Kansas State University Extension beef specialist. “This relationship establishes what should be the primary goal of cowherd nutrition programs—maintaining an optimally high reproductive rate.”

Whether your operation is large or small and it includes native or tame grass pastures, proper planning can increase forage utilization and help improve reproductive efficiency. First, range and forage specialists say, you should establish goals that:

. As many days as possible, meet the nutritional needs of the livestock from standing forage.

. Harvest forage as efficiently as possible.

Match cows to forage. University of Nebraska beef specialist Rick Rasby says producers should select cows that match their feed resources.

“It is not only about output (weaning weight) but also About input (cow costs),” Rasby says. “On a fixed feed resource base, as the nutrient needs of the cowherd increase as a result of increased mature weight and/or milk production, the number of cows that can be managed on this resource base decreases. If the number of cows don’t decrease, then outside feed resources need to be incorporated into the feeding program so that reproduction is not compromised. Increased mature weight and milk production increase annual cow costs. The flip side of that is that weaning weight will increase.”

He says keeping your cows grazing is more economical than carrying Harvested feeds to them to meet their nutrient requirements.
As mature weight increases and/or milk production increases, the number of cows grazing a fixed pasture resource base needs to decrease. It is more profitable to produce another calf as compared to another couple of pounds of weaning weight per calf. Optimizing traits like milk production and mature weight are likely more economical than being on the extreme ends for these two traits.

Pasture management. How you manage your pastures will also have an effect on how much you can reduce costs. That’s why many grazing specialists recommend you consider a management-intensive grazing (MIG) system. This type of grazing system can significantly increase forage utilization rates.

The utilization rate in continuously grazed pastures is about 30% to 40%. As in an MIG system, moving cattle from one grazing paddock to another can increase the utilization rate. Further, a four-year grazing study at the University of Missouri Forage System Research Center found that increasing the frequency that animals are moved can also increase grazing days per acre. The Missouri researchers found that moving cattle every three days compared to every two weeks resulted in 40% more grazing days per acre. Therefore, if the two-week moves provided 42 grazing days per acre, increasing to three day moves increased the grazing days per acre to 58.

Michigan State University Extension educator Kable Thurlow says the same types of improved efficiency can be found in the grazing of stockpiled forages, crop residues and cover crops. The more frequently cattle are moved to a new paddock or strip of forage, the higher the utilization rate will be. Management is the key.

“Grass from rested pastures or hay fields can be grazed late in the season to improve grazing through summer slump or to extend the grazing season into the fall and winter,” Thurlow says. “Stockpiled forage is typically Excellent quality and fits well into MIG, allowing adequate forage plant rest during slow growth times. Saving forage acres for later growth can be difficult, especially if producers usually run out of graze-able acres during late summer or before snow depths inhibit grazing.”

If you typically need to supplement grazing cattle with harvested feeds or if you overgraze your late summer pastures, you probably need more acres in the grazing system. You also may need to reevaluate your stocking rate and consider reducing that rate.

“Saving pasture acres is cheaper than feeding harvested, stored feeds,” Thurlow says.

Crop residues and cover crops also offer an opportunity for an extension of the grazing season. Corn stover and cover crop grazing are an attractive option to help lower the cost of winter feeding.

“Grazing corn stalks can create challenges such as difficulties associated with providing water and fencing to remote locations,” Thurlow says. However, grazing stalks and cover crops are incredibly cheap and will significantly decrease cost of production and can be worth the extra effort.” PHOTO: SARA BROWN

To contact Greg Henderson, e-mail ghenderson@farmjournal.com.

KEYS TO PROFITABLE FORAGE PRODUCTION

. Know forage options and animal nutrition needs.

Forages vary as to adaptation, growth distribution, quality, yield, persistence and potential uses. Also, types and classes of animals have different nutritional needs. Good planting decisions require knowing forage options for your land resources and nutritional needs of the animals.

. Establishment is critical.

Good forage production requires an adequate stand of plants. Mistakes during establishment often have long-term consequences. Using high-quality seed of proven varieties, timely planting and attention to detail lead to establishment success.

. Soil test, then lime and fertilize as needed.

This practice, more than any other, affects the level and economic efficiency of forage production. Fertilizing and liming as needed help ensure good yields, improve forage quality, lengthen stand life and reduce weed problems.

. Use legumes whenever possible.

Legumes offer important advantages, including improved forage quality and biological nitrogen fixation, whether grown alone or with grasses. On a field-by-field basis, every producer should consider whether the introduction or enhancement of legumes would be beneficial and feasible.

. Emphasize forage quality.

High animal gains, milk production and reproductive efficiency require adequate nutrition. Matching forage quality to animal nutritional needs greatly increases efficiency.

. Prevent or minimize pests and plant disorders.

Diseases, insects, nematodes and weeds are thieves that lower yields; reduce forage quality and stand persistence; and/or steal water, nutrients, light and space from forage plants. Variety selection, cultural practices, scouting, use of pesticides and other management techniques can Minimize pest problems. Knowledge of potential animal disorders caused by plants can reduce or avoid losses.

. Strive to improve pasture utilization.

The quantity and quality of pasture growth vary over time. Periodic adjustments in stocking rate or use of cross fencing to vary the type or amount of available forage can greatly affect animal performance and pasture species composition. Know the advantages and disadvantages of different grazing methods so you can use various approaches as needed. Matching stocking rates with forage production is also extremely important.

. Minimize stored feed requirements.

Stored feed is one of the most expensive aspects of animal production, so lowering these feed requirements reduces costs. Extending the grazing season with use of both cool season and warm season forages, stockpiling forage and grazing crop residues are example of ways stored feed needs can be reduced.

. Reduce storage and feeding losses.

Wasting hay, silage or other stored feed is very costly! On many farms, the average storage loss for round bales of hay stored outside exceeds 30%, and feeding losses can easily be higher. Minimizing feed waste with good equipment and animal management, as well as forage testing and ration formulation will enhance feeding efficiency, animal per formance and producer profits.

. Results require investments.

In human endeavors, results are usually highly correlated with investments in terms of thought, time, effort and a certain amount of money. In particular, the best and most profitable forage programs have had the most thought put into them. Top producers strive to continue to improve their operations.

MXIMIZE THE HERD

The Maximize the Herd Series equips cattle producers with the specific information they need to steer their herds to the next level of profitability.

1. Opportunity with Drought

2. Buy Bulls for the Long Term

3. Raise Heifers to Be Better Cows

4. G raze to Lower Annual Feed Costs

5. Handle the Herd with Care

the_Herd www.BeefToday.com/ Maximize_

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