The large inventory of feed cattle that have been placed in the feedyards has begun to affect the price of feeder calves. How large an impact will depend on consumer demand. Credit: Chris Prevatt, UF/IFAS
Cattle on Feed Report
On Friday, September 21st the monthly USDA-NASS Cattle on Feed Report was released. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the number of cattle and calves on feed (Feedlots with 1,000 head or more capacity) for the slaughter market in the United States on September 1st was 11.125 million head, 5.9 percent above Sept. 1, 2017. This is the largest September inventory since the series began in 1996. The monthly cattle on feed inventory not only increased year-over-year, but month-over-month with 32,000 more cattle on feed since the August 1st inventory report. Additionally, this is the fourth month in a row where a monthly record has been set for the number of cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market. A twelve-month moving average of monthly feedlot inventories shows that, over the last year, feedlots have had the largest average feedlot total since 2007. Placements in feedlots during August totaled 2.07 million head, which was 7 percent above August 2017. Net placements were 2.02 million head. Marketing of fed cattle during August totaled 1.98 million head, slightly above the 2017 total.
Keys for the Beef Cattle Market
The cattle on feed report did not create a positive short-term outlook, as it continues to provide bearish information for supply fundamentals. Beef production is on track to reach a record level of 27.1 billion pounds in 2018, up 3.6 percent year over year. For the year to date, beef production is up 3.0 percent year over year. However, fourth quarter beef production is expected to be about 4.0 percent larger than last year.
From the demand side of things, a strong domestic economy and robust exports have continued to support beef and cattle prices during 2018, against record large U.S. beef production and all-time highs in competing meats (pork and poultry). Packing business margins continue to be good. Therefore, packers have great incentive to keep processing as many head as possible to take advantage of margins. Good retail demand and packer margins will be needed to keep the market moving along at a good pace during the last quarter of 2018.
There are many unknowns and potential headwinds for cattle markets during the next 12-18 months. Any weakness in the domestic or global economy compared to the conditions of the last two years would dampen demand for beef and thus cattle. Therefore, two of the keys for maintaining prices moving forward will be for the U.S. economy and export markets to continue growing. These two factors will be challenged by the cycle of tariffs and retaliation. Futures markets may begin to react more aggressively to political announcements that may or may not materialize into price changes. Demand for U.S. beef is critical to the success of U.S. cattle producers. Export markets can take a very long time to materialize, but can be lost very quickly.
Just like soil sampling before purchasing fertilizer, hay should be sampled and sent to a lab for evaluation before purchasing supplemental feeds. As Dr. Jennifer Tucker from UGA often says, “Don’t guess, forage test!” Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS
The summer of 2018 has been very challenging for hay production. The combination of frequent rainfall, and heavy downpours have prevented timely harvest, and also diminished the quality of the hay produced. The days are getting shorter, grass growth has slowed, so it is time to start planning for cool-season supplementation. Because of the rainy summer, many producers will have to feed at least some lower quality hay this year. Since hay serves as the base for the winter feeding program on most operations, it will be even more critical this year to balance low quality hay with adequate supplemental feeds. This conundrum has many producers asking, “What is the best way to do that?”
In the modern area of precision agriculture, many crop farms have implemented the technique of precision fertilization. Using grid soil sampling, GPS maps can be generated with variable rate fertilization zones. Once the maps are paired with high-tech application equipment that responds to the data, crop farmers can fertilize more efficiently than ever before. While most livestock producers are familiar with high-tech genetic and breeding technologies, many farms are not utilizing the available technology for what I call “Precision Feeding.” Whether you produce your own hay, or buy it from a local farm or supply dealer, you should have your hay tested for nutritional quality. As Dr. Jennifer Tucker, UGA Beef Specialist, often says, “Don’t guess. Forage test!” Once you know how good or bad your hay is, you can precisely determine the type and amount of supplement needed to balance the nutritional needs of the animals you are feeding.
So where do you begin this process of fine-tuning your winter nutrition program? The first step is to sample each cutting or purchased lot of hay to determine the nutritional quality. Contact your local county agent to get some help with this. A number of the agents in the Florida Panhandle have forage probes at their office, or can get one to use from a nearby county. If you want to purchase your own equipment, there are a number of different companies that sell forage sampling probes. The one I use, was ordered from Nasco and fits on the end of a 1/2″ cordless drill. The combined cost of the forage probe ($130) and a heavy duty 1/2″ cordless drill is around $350.
To send in a forage sample to a lab for analysis you need a 1/2″ cordless drill, forage probe, and a submission form from the lab of choice. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS
To submit a hay sample to a lab for testing, you will need to fill a 1-quart Ziploc bag with ground hay from probing 7-10 random hay bales from each cutting or purchased lots. Samples of hay from the exterior of a bale will not provide an adequate representation of the hay you will be feeding. You also don’t want to sample only a single bale. Just as with soil testing, you want to try to get a representative sample from each cutting by taking core samples from bales produced from different parts of the field. If you purchased the hay to be tested, just randomly sample from as many different bales as possible from each load.
There are a number of both commercial and university forage laboratories that can be used to provide a summary of the nutritional quality of your hay. The main things you need to know are the moisture content or dry matter (%DM), crude protein (CP), and the energy level reported as total digestible nutrients (TDN). The University of Florida has a forage testing lab at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Central Florida, that provides a basic test for $7/sample: UF Forage Test Submission Form. You can also send in hay samples through the Southeast Hay Contest that are analyzed by the University of Georgia’s Forage Lab: SE Hay Contest Entry Form. For $22 you get the forage analysis, a nitrate level test, and may win recognition at the Sun Belt Ag Expo as one of the top forage producers in the region. The entry deadline is the third week in September each year. If you want to use a commercial service, you can also submit samples to Waters Ag Lab in Camilla, GA: Waters Feed Test Submission Form. No matter which lab you select, the goal is find out what level of protein and energy is provided by the hay, so you can calculate the level of supplemental feed needed to complement it.
Forage Analysis Results
Most all forage labs provide sample analysis results in two formats: as-sampled and dry-matter. The as-sampled column would be useful for actual ration formulation of a total mixed ration. In general though, you should focus on the dry-matter columns for comparisons between forages, and for basic supplementation calculations. Moisture levels of forages are rarely identical, so removing the moisture gives a more accurate comparison. For basic supplementation program development, you would use the highlighted dry-matter protein and energy values. If you want to know more about the other information provided in a forage test, Understanding Your Forage Test Report is an article that was published a while back that more completely explains what each of the reported values represent in a standard forage test lab report.
The forage analysis report above is fairly typical quality for average quality Bahia or low quality Bermudagrass hay that was more mature because of frequent summer rains. If you were going to feed this hay to lactating cows, or growing animals you would expect those animals to be deficient in both protein and energy. These numbers mean very little, however, without also knowing the nutrient requirements of the animals you are feeding.
Decision Aids for Supplement Calculations
There are a number of commercial software options for livestock ration balancing, as well as private nutrition consultants that provide very precise calculations for complete ration balancing. For feedlots and dairy operations, having very precise mixing recipes is essential. For most cow-calf operations, however, determining the right amounts of supplements to provide is not that complicated. Since you typically feed hay free-choice, all you really need to know is whether the hay is adequate or deficient in protein and energy. Once you know that, a simple spreadsheet can be used to provide a good estimate of the type and amount of supplement required to maintain body weight. Dr. Nicolas DiLorenzo, UF/IFAS Beef Specialist recently developed a very simple spread sheet called the UF HAY BALANCER that can be used to help cattle producers make decisions on supplement choices for mature cows on a free-choice hay diet. The University of Georgia also has a decision aid spreadsheet called the UGA BASIC BALANCER that is a little more complex, but it can be used to compare supplements for brood cows, bulls, heifers, and stockers, as well as providing some feedstuff cost comparisons. Both of these are Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that come with information pre-loaded for use. Commodity prices do fluctuate, so you may need to update the prices in the feed list provided.
Putting it All Together
In closing, I wanted to share an example of the end results of this process to demonstrate how the UF Hay Balancer can be used to help cattle producers become more precise with feeding supplements to compliment the hay they produce or purchase. For this example lets assume that you must purchase hay to feed 25 cows for 30 days that will be in their 2nd month, or peak lactation. This would be the time of most concern, because if you don’t supply adequate nutrition for these cows they will lose weight, reduce milk production, delay cycling and calve later for the following season. The following is a comparison of two types of hay at different prices, and a comparison of different supplement options. You can purchase 850 pound Bahia hay for $43 per bale or 1,000 pound Bermudagrass bales for $67 per bale (based on Alabama Weekly Hay Report). Which would be the best to purchase?
As you can see from this summary, this was not a simple scenario to answer. The end result of this exercise was that even though the bahiagrass hay was lower in quality, the cheaper price compensated for the lack of quality. The Bahia hay required a supplement that offered both protein and energy such as whole cottonseed, that can be purchased from local cotton gins, to balance the diet for these cows. The Bermudagrass hay provided adequate protein, so an energy supplement such as corn or molasses was all that required for a balanced diet. However, using 4 pounds/head/day of whole cottonseed, a rancher could feed his or her herd for 30 days cheaper with Bahia hay than with Bermudagrass hay, even though the supplement costs were $45 lower. If you had worked through this scenario with hay you have grown yourself, with similar production costs, the Bermudagrass hay would have been the better option.
If you would like assistance with forage testing, or balancing cattle herd supplementation, contact your local county extension agent. They can help you develop a precision feeding program for your herd.
Brad Buck, UF/IFAS Communications Services
Cattle are a little like humans: They are more productive when they are cooler. With cattle, a cooler body helps with meat and dairy production, new University of Florida research shows.
“Cows with shorter hair are cooler, and thus, more productive,” said Raluca Mateescu, an associate professor of animal sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “A calm cow is also more productive than an agitated one,” Mateescu said.
“When their bodies heat up, cattle use energy to try to lower their temperature, which usually means they eat less,” said Mateescu, who led a recent study on body temperature and cattle traits.
“These findings would have the biggest impact for beef producers in hot, humid environments, largely in the southeast U.S. and other sub-tropical and tropical regions of the world,” Mateescu said.
Florida and much of the southern U.S. are in what’s called the “sub-tropics.” Places like Brazil, central Africa and the northern half of Australia are in the “tropics.”
The U.S. livestock industry suffers an annual economic loss of $2.36 billion to heat stress, according to a 2003 study led by Ohio State University, the most recent national data available. “Scientists predict most livestock throughout the U.S. will experience extreme summer heat in the years to come, which translates to less-productive cattle,” Mateescu said.
For their research, Mateescu and other UF/IFAS colleagues studied 725 Brangus cows in south-central Florida. Brangus are a cross between Brahman and Angus cows and are the most common breed in Florida. “Because Angus and Brahman possess such different traits, Brangus cattle are ideal to research relationships between the animal’s coat and demeanor and their body temperature,” Mateescu said.
UF/IFAS researchers took cows’ temperature and temperament as they brought them through the chute. They also looked at how the cattle behaved.
“Some cattle are very agitated and move a lot in the chute, and they exit the chute by sprinting or jumping, while the calm ones will follow you and won’t kick or shake the chute,” Mateescu said. “Also, they exit the chute calmly, by just walking out.”
Normal body temperature is similar in beef cattle and humans. In humans, normal would be about 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, according to health care professionals. In beef cattle, it starts at 98 and goes up to 102.
“As a rule of thumb, when cows’ body temperature rises above 102.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they start eating less and produce less meat or milk,” Mateescu said.
“Now that UF/IFAS researchers have shown that cooler, calmer cattle can produce more milk and meat, producers might consider breeding their cattle for these traits,” Mateescu said.
This UF/IFAS study was published in the Journal of Animal Science.
This week’s featured video was published by USA Today to share the highlights from a recent Seminole County Florida Sheriff Department case. A helicopter with a night-vision surveillance camera captured some amazing video footage of a car thief trying to escape arrest through a cow pasture. The female suspect jumped out of the stolen SUV and tried to escape from deputies. A small herd of 16 cows followed the suspect and herded her right to the waiting deputies, who made the arrest as she came through the fence of their pasture. I can only imagine what that lady was thinking as the curious cattle chased after her in the dark. One came really close to the suspect, so she probably thought this curious cow was about to run over her. If you understand cattle behavior, this video is pretty comical, but the cows actually aided the deputies in making the arrest of this car thief.
If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks: Friday Features
If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to: Doug Mayo
If you have pastures or hay fields, weeds will always be an issue. Good fertility and grazing management will go a long way towards keeping weeds in check and these factors should be evaluated and addressed as a means of weed prevention. However, chances are that from time to time it will become necessary to use herbicides to control problem weeds. There are many excellent herbicides available for use in pastures and hay fields. Thankfully, when selected and used correctly, these products are an economically sound way to control most of our problem weeds.
Caution: the general effectiveness of these herbicide products can cause producers to become somewhat nonchalant when it comes to management decisions surrounding their use. As an Extension Agent, I often get the call or text, “What’s best for killing (insert problem weed here)?” There needs to be much more to the conversation than the desired one or two-word answer. Herbicides are a management tool, and their usage should be based on their ability to add value to your operation.
Selecting the wrong herbicide for the job or applying a product in a manner that limits its efficacy virtually guarantees a negative economic impact. Some recent conversations I’ve had with experienced pasture managers have reminded me that we can all stand a reminder on how to maximize the efficacy and overall value associated with our usage of pasture/hay field herbicides. The following are a few key principles to help you maximize the value realized out of your herbicide program.
Know your enemy – weeds
If you don’t know exactly what weed(s) you are trying to control, planning and delivering an effective herbicide program is nearly impossible. No single herbicide controls all weeds. To even begin selecting the best herbicide option for your situation you must know what weeds you are trying to control. Even if weed identification doesn’t excite you, don’t skip this step in the process. Your County Extension Agent is available to help you through the entire process, including weed identification.
Always consider forage tolerance when selecting a herbicide
After you have identified your problem weeds you can begin to determine what products will provide effective control. Be careful, not all pasture herbicides are safe for all types of pasture grass. This consideration requires that you understand what your forage base is composed of. Bahiagrass, bermudagrass, and crabgrass are all common warm season forages in NW Florida and they each tolerate various herbicides differently. To further complicate matters it is not unheard of for all three of these species to be growing intermixed in the same field. If you are controlling weeds in broadleaved forages (perennial peanut, clover, etc.) forage tolerance is a huge concern – very few pasture herbicides can be used safely on broadleaf plants. Failing to consider forage tolerance to herbicides can be a very costly mistake. Herbicide injury can cause substantial production loss or even complete stand loss.
Always consider the residual effects of herbicides
Many of the most effective pasture herbicides have a residual component. This means that the product will continue to provide herbicidal activity for an extended period (this varies product to product and with environmental conditions) after its initial application. Generally, this characteristic serves to enhance weed control, but it can cause significant issues when not properly accounted for. Commonly, these potential issues are addressed on herbicide labels as “plant back restrictions” or the amount of time after the application of an herbicide until it is safe to plant various crops in the treated area.
Crop rotations have made row-crop producers accustomed to paying close attention to plant back restrictions. Livestock and hay producers more commonly operate with a perennial forage base. However, residual herbicide issues can arise when warm-season pastures are over-seeded with cool-season annual forages. Many common, summer applied, pasture herbicides can potentially damage fall planted winter annuals.
This field, being harvested for baleage, is comprised of a fairly even mix of bahia, bermuda, and crabgrass. Their is also a mixture of annual and perennial weeds in this field. This mixture of species makes product selection and application timing fairly complex. Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin
After consideration of the three points above, it is possible to determine what product(s) are suitable for your situation. Once the suitable options have been identified, product price becomes a key point to consider. Product price should be evaluated in terms of cost per acre, considering application rate. With a known herbicide cost per acre, be sure that forage quantity and/or quality improvement associated with the herbicide application financially justifies the application. Be sure to remember that benefits provided by effective herbicide use can and should last many years.
A perfectly selected product applied incorrectly will likely not achieve the desired weed control or financial return. The following are a few considerations to help ensure/improve the efficacy of pasture herbicides. This is by no means an exhaustive list, simply some points that I have commonly and/or recently seen producers fail to consider.
Use the correct rate
More is not always better and less only saves money if the weeds are still controlled. Use the labeled rate. In the event a range of rates appears on the label, see comments below on spray timing. To know you are using the correct rate, your application equipment must be correctly calibrated. Your county Agricultural Extension Agent can help with this process.
Always follow label recommendations. That said, generally speaking, herbicide efficacy will be improved by adding 0.25-0.50% (by volume, of the total spray mixture) Non-Ionic Surfactant. This translates to 0.64-0.32 oz/gal of spray mixture or 1qt/50gal – 1qt/100gal of spray mixture. In the big scheme of things, surfactant is inexpensive and is generally always a good investment.
Spray timing is crucial
Determining the most effective timing for herbicide applications is very closely related to knowing the specific weeds you are facing. It is generally more cost effective to control annual and new (first year) perennials earlier in their growing season. Waiting later into the growing season allows weeds to become stronger and make seed. Weeds may be controlled after seed set (often requiring higher herbicide rates), but in most cases there will be subsequent generations to deal with. Spraying earlier in the growing season also allows for weeds to be controlled before they have a chance to negatively impact that season’s forage production. Timing is even more crucial when it comes to controlling established perennial weeds. The ideal timing varies by species and situation and should be confirmed before spraying. In general, these weeds are most effectively controlled with late-summer/early-fall herbicide applications.
Regardless of species, herbicide efficacy is reduced when weeds are stressed at the time of application. Post emergence herbicides (the vast majority of pasture products are in this category) are most effective when applied to “happy,” actively growing weeds.
Herbicides can be very effective, especially when their application is timed well. The hayfield pictured here was sprayed one time early this summer. Note the unsprayed area to the left, the entire field looked like that last summer. Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin
Again, this was not an exhaustive list of the considerations that need to be made prior to an herbicide application; only an attempt to address some of the points I have seen producers overlook this summer. Always read and follow herbicide labels – the label is the law.
Herbicides are effective tools that when used properly can have a positive economic impact on your operation. Please take the time to carefully evaluate your situation and make well informed decisions to ensure that your weed control efforts are as successful as possible.
For a more in-depth explanation of any of the topics addressed in this article or other questions relating to pasture/hayfield weed control please contact your county’s Agricultural Extension Agent.
By Lautaro Rostoll, Ignacio Ipharraguerre, and Nicolas DiLorenzo, University of Florida NFREC
Fig. 1. Heifers fed olive oil bioactive extracts (OBE) at the NFREC Feed Efficiency Facility. Feed intake was measured daily using the GrowSafe feed intake monitoring system. Photo credit: Lautaro Rostoll.
The fact that stress is detrimental to animal performance is a well-known concept in beef cattle production. The impact of stress on cattle is observed at various levels, and it can have multiple consequences, all of them ultimately affecting growth and performance. Stress is a very complex process to define and can take place in many different forms. During a stress event, the animals may experience an inflammatory process that ultimately leads to the overproduction of certain types of proteins called pro-inflammatory acute phase proteins. These proteins have a very important role in mounting the immune response needed to fight the stressor. Some are directly involved in recruiting immune cells to the inflammation site, others inhibit microbial growth, and all of them ultimately help in decreasing the negative impact on performance. However, the production of these proteins has a cost in terms of nutrient use efficiency, and these nutrients are diverted away from productive processes into fighting an inflammatory process.
Cattle may experience stress due to excess heat, digestive upsets such as bloat and acidosis, transport, weaning, castration, and many other processes. Often, many of those processes occur almost concurrently in our typical beef production systems, creating an additional challenge that can lead to increased morbidity and decreased animal performance. The majority of the 800,000 beef calves that are born annually in Florida leave the state in a truck heading to a backgrounding, stocker, or feedlot facility, and in many cases the calves are weaned and trucked in the same day. For this reason, any opportunities to mitigate weaning and transport stress could have an impact on the post-weaning performance of Florida calves, potentially enhancing their economic value.
Olive Oil Bio-extracts
In 2017, the University of Florida, North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) began a series of research projects aimed at investigating the potential of olive oil bioactive extracts as a potential feed additive to mitigate stress in cattle. The idea stems from a series of studies conducted in pigs and in rodents, in which certain compounds purified from the olive trees, including fruits, leaves and stems have shown anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These compounds are part of one of the largest classes of plant natural products, known as pentacyclic triterpenes and they are isolated from pomace oil, which is the residue left after olive oil extrusion. In order to test the potential of these compounds as a novel feed additive for newly weaned beef calves, at NFREC we conducted a series of in vitro (in the laboratory) an in vivo (in the animal) studies. In this edition of the Panhandle Ag e-newsletter, we will share the results of the in vivo trials.
The NFREC study
A group of 36 newly weaned Angus crossbred heifers (463 lb of BW) from the NFREC herd were assigned to the study. The heifers were housed at the NFREC Feed Efficiency Facility and were fed a common backgrounding diet comprised of corn gluten feed (61%), cottonseed hulls (32%), molasses (4%) and a mineral premix (3%) containing, or not, the olive oil bioactive extracts (OBE) tested at either 0.04 or 0.16% of the diet DM (Figure 1). After 21 days receiving their respective dietary treatments, the heifers began a period of 12 days during which they were challenged every other day with an intravenous dose of a lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which is a common endotoxin produced in the rumen. When the LPS in the rumen translocate to the blood, it causes an inflammatory response that is characterized by a decreased feed intake and increase body temperature, among other responses. This model was used to simulate a subacute chronic inflammatory process, and then be able to test the potential of OBE in mitigating that inflammatory stress.
To make sure that the model was successful in creating the inflammatory process, a group of heifers received the control diet and was not challenged with the LPS, receiving only a saline solution injection. Thus, the four treatments tested (9 heifers per treatment) were: 1) a negative control group not fed OBE and not challenged with LPS (CTLNve); 2) a positive control group, not fed OBE and challenged with LPS (CTLPve); 3) heifers fed OBE at 0.04% of the diet DM (OBE1); and 4) heifers fed OBE at 0.16% of the diet DM (OBE4). Heifers were bled every other day during the challenge to measure blood parameters indicative of an inflammatory process, and an intravaginal device was inserted to measure temperature continuously every 5 min for the 12 days of the LPS challenge.
Results from the study show that feeding OBE, particularly at the greater inclusion level, had positive effects on vaginal temperature after the endotoxin challenge (Figure 2). Additionally, the increase in the concentration of the acute phase protein haptoglobin in plasma following the endotoxin challenge was moderated in heifers fed OBE, showing a positive effect on decreasing the acute phase response (Figure 3). This was also evidenced by an increase in dry matter intake in heifers fed OBE when compared to control. Several other measurements such as liver biopsies, and many other blood parameters were conducted in this experiment to fully understand the mode of action of these bioactive extracts and are currently being analyzed. These preliminary results are very promising and are consistent with the findings in mice and pig models receiving these types of novel feed additives.
Figure 2. Effect of feeding olive oil bioactive extracts (OBE) on vaginal temperature in heifers challenged intravenously with LPS (endotoxin).
Figure 3. Effect of olive oil bioactive extracts (OBE) feeding on blood concentrations of the acute phase protein haptoglobin. A decrease in the concentration of this protein shows a positive effect of the supplement on moderating the acute phase response.
Take home message
This first study shows promising results in terms of the potential of olive oil bioactive extracts as a potential novel feed additive to enhance productivity in newly weaned cattle. A reduction in the acute phase response was observed in heifers fed OBE for 21 days prior to an endotoxin challenge. This was consistent with an increase in dry matter intake and with improvements in several blood parameters indicative of a potentially enhanced immune status. Feeding olive oil bioactive extracts may provide an opportunity to enhance the value of Florida calves, by including them in a preconditioning program post-weaning, or prior to shipping to improve subsequent animal performance.