BIG Cattle on Feed Inventory and Cattle Market Keys Moving Forward

BIG Cattle on Feed Inventory and Cattle Market Keys Moving Forward

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.

Precision Feeding After a Challenging Hay Season

Precision Feeding After a Challenging Hay Season

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.

Forage Sampling

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 thisA 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.

Forage Sample Equipment

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.

Forage Testing

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.

sample hay test rport
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?

A comparison of two types of hay and the supplements needed to maintain cows at peak lactation. Source UF Hay Balancer, Alabama Weekly Hay Report and Alabama Weekly Feedstuff/Production Cost Report.

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.

UF Research Study Confirms that Calm, Cool Cattle are More Productive

UF Research Study Confirms that Calm, Cool Cattle are More Productive

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.

 

Friday Funny Feature:  Almond Dairy Farming

Friday Funny Feature: Almond Dairy Farming

Typically, the weekly featured videos share an innovation or idea related to agricultural production.  This week take a break from the serious videos to enjoy a humorous one that pokes fun at the idea of milking almonds, called “Nut Milking Exposed.”  There has been a great deal of discussion of late about whether nut oil based drink products should be label as milk.  No matter which side of this argument you sit on, this video was cleverly produced to make fun of the notion of getting milk from nuts.  Check out this video that shares the humorous story of a 3rd generation nut milker.

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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

Follow BQA Guidelines When Treating and Selling Cows

Follow BQA Guidelines When Treating and Selling Cows

It is the cattle owner’s responsibility to ensure that the withdrawal time indicated on the label of certain medications must pass between the last treatment and the time the animal will be slaughtered for human consumption. Photo credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist 

Summer time often brings a few infectious ailments to beef cows.  Common problems include eye infections and foot rot.  Treatment of affected cows will often involve the use of antibiotics.

In the past, and on very rare occasions, violative residues of pharmaceutical products have been found in carcass tissues of cull beef cows.  Violations of drug residue regulations can result in expensive fines (or even worse, jail time) for the rancher and a “black-eye” for the entire beef industry.  It is vital that cow calf producers have a close working relationship with a large animal veterinarian in their area.  If a cow has an infection or disease that must be treated, her owner should closely follow the veterinarian’s directions, and also read the label of the product used.  Most of these medications will require that the producer keep the treated animal for the label-directed withdrawal time.  The Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Manual contains the following discussion of medication withdrawal times.

A withdrawal time may be indicated on the label of certain medications.  This is the period of time that must pass between the last treatment and the time the animal will be slaughtered or milk used for human consumption.  For example, if a medication with a 14-day withdrawal period was last given on August 1, the withdrawal would be completed on August 15 and that would be the earliest the animal could be harvested for human consumption.  All federally approved drugs will include the required withdrawal time for that drug on the product label or package insert.  These withdrawal times can range from zero to as many as 60 days or more.  It is the producer’s responsibility to be aware of withdrawal times of any drugs used in their operation.  Unacceptable levels of drug residues detected in edible tissues collected at harvest may result in traceback, quarantine, and potential fines or jail time.  Substantial economic losses may result for the individual producer as well as negative publicity for the entire beef industry…”

Producers are responsible for residue problems and should follow these four rules:

  1. If ever in doubt, rely on the veterinarian-client-patient relationship you have established with your veterinarian.

  2. Use only medications approved for cattle and exactly as the label directs or as prescribed by your veterinarian.

  3. Do not market animals for food until the withdrawal time listed on the label or as prescribed by the veterinarian has elapsed.

  4. Keep well organized, detailed records of pharmaceutical products given to individually identified animals.  Include in the record, the date of administration, route of administration, dosage given, lot or serial number of product given, person delivering the product, and label or prescription listing of withdrawal dates.  Examples of Beef Quality Assurance records can be found in the Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Manual website at the menu item Record Keeping Forms” .  Records should be kept for 3 years after sale of the animal.

 

Friday Feature: The Ride Over Gate

Friday Feature: The Ride Over Gate

Every livestock producer has daydreamed about automatic gates to make travel around ranches faster and easier.  But, it is too expensive to provide power and hydraulic cylinders for each pasture gate.  This week’s featured video was produced by the Wrangler Company in New Zealand to introduce their Ride Over GateThe ride over gate is a small, spring loaded gate that allows four wheelers, utility vehicles, and center pivot irrigation wheels to pass through fences to access pastures without ever having to stop to open and close the gate, with no electricity needed.  With their gate system, checking livestock on a utility vehicle can be much more convenient. 

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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