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CATTLEMEN The trusted leader and definitive voice of the beef industry.



THE WEIGHT GAIN IS REAL. Go ahead, blink.

A deworming with LONGRANGE® (eprinomectin) can help keep parasites from eating into your profits. If you used a conventional dewormer like CYDECTIN® (moxidectin), SAFE-GUARD® (fenbendazole) or in combination, your cattle are probably already reinfected with parasites. That’s because conventional dewormers only last 14 to 42 days and SAFE-GUARD has no persistent effect. Only LONGRANGE delivers up to 150 days of parasite control in a single treatment.1,2 When you look at the benefits of season-long parasite control with LONGRANGE – you’ll see you have a lot to gain.

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IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not treat within 48 days of slaughter. Not for use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older, including dry dairy cows, or in veal calves. Post-injection site damage (e.g., granulomas, necrosis) can occur. These reactions have disappeared without treatment. Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim. ®LONGRANGE and the Cattle Head Logo are registered trademarks of Merial. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. ©2017 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. RUMIELR1633-A (04/16)

1 2 3

Dependent upon parasite species, as referenced in FOI summary and LONGRANGE product label. LONGRANGE product label. Data on file at Merial.

Table of Contents Extended-Release Injectable Parasiticide 5% Sterile Solution NADA 141-327, Approved by FDA for subcutaneous injection For the Treatment and Control of Internal and External Parasites of Cattle on Pasture with Persistent Effectiveness CAUTION: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. INDICATIONS FOR USE LONGRANGE, when administered at the recommended dose volume of 1 mL per 110 lb (50 kg) body weight, is effective in the treatment and control of 20 species and stages of internal and external parasites of cattle:

Gastrointestinal Roundworms Bunostomum phlebotomum – Adults and L4 Cooperia oncophora – Adults and L4 Cooperia punctata – Adults and L4 Cooperia surnabada – Adults and L4 Haemonchus placei – Adults Oesophagostomum radiatum – Adults Ostertagia lyrata – Adults Ostertagia ostertagi – Adults, L4, and inhibited L4 Trichostrongylus axei – Adults and L4 Trichostrongylus colubriformis – Adults

Lungworms Dictyocaulus viviparus – Adults

Grubs Hypoderma bovis

Mites Sarcoptes scabiei var. bovis

Parasites Gastrointestinal Roundworms Bunostomum phlebotomum Cooperia oncophora Cooperia punctata Haemonchus placei Oesophagostomum radiatum Ostertagia lyrata Ostertagia ostertagi Trichostrongylus axei Lungworms Dictyocaulus viviparus

Durations of Persistent Effectiveness 150 days 100 days 100 days 120 days 120 days 120 days 120 days 100 days 150 days

DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION LONGRANGE® (eprinomectin) should be given only by subcutaneous injection in front of the shoulder at the recommended dosage level of 1 mg eprinomectin per kg body weight (1 mL per 110 lb body weight). WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS Withdrawal Periods and Residue Warnings Animals intended for human consumption must not be slaughtered within 48 days of the last treatment. This drug product is not approved for use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older, including dry dairy cows. Use in these cattle may cause drug residues in milk and/or in calves born to these cows. A withdrawal period has not been established for pre-ruminating calves. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal. Animal Safety Warnings and Precautions The product is likely to cause tissue damage at the site of injection, including possible granulomas and necrosis. These reactions have disappeared without treatment. Local tissue reaction may result in trim loss of edible tissue at slaughter. Observe cattle for injection site reactions. If injection site reactions are suspected, consult your veterinarian. This product is not for intravenous or intramuscular use. Protect product from light. LONGRANGE® (eprinomectin) has been developed specifically for use in cattle only. This product should not be used in other animal species. When to Treat Cattle with Grubs LONGRANGE effectively controls all stages of cattle grubs. However, proper timing of treatment is important. For the most effective results, cattle should be treated as soon as possible after the end of the heel fly (warble fly) season.

Letter from the President ............................ 6 Letter from the CEO .................................. 8 Managing Forages to Meet Beef Cattle Nutrient Needs ..........................11 Reducing Lameness and Improving Cattle Structure through Genetics and Management ... 23 Using Genetics to Select for Healthier Cattle .................................. 33 Optimizing Managed Grazing for Soil Health and Sustainable Production Systems................... 43 Future of the Cattle Feeding Industry in the United States . . .....................53 A Fresh Start to a Proven Strategy ................ 59 Developing Heifers for the Long Haul ............ 63 The Secret to Ranch Continuity — Courageous Conversations . . ....................... 69

Environmental Hazards Not for use in cattle managed in feedlots or under intensive rotational grazing because the environmental impact has not been evaluated for these scenarios. Other Warnings: Underdosing and/or subtherapeutic concentrations of extended-release anthelmintic products may encourage the development of parasite resistance. It is recommended that parasite resistance be monitored following the use of any anthelmintic with the use of a fecal egg count reduction test program. TARGET ANIMAL SAFETY Clinical studies have demonstrated the wide margin of safety of LONGRANGE® (eprinomectin). Overdosing at 3 to 5 times the recommended dose resulted in a statistically significant reduction in average weight gain when compared to the group tested at label dose. Treatment-related lesions observed in most cattle administered the product included swelling, hyperemia, or necrosis in the subcutaneous tissue of the skin. The administration of LONGRANGE at 3 times the recommended therapeutic dose had no adverse reproductive effects on beef cows at all stages of breeding or pregnancy or on their calves. Not for use in bulls, as reproductive safety testing has not been conducted in males intended for breeding or actively breeding. Not for use in calves less than 3 months of age because safety testing has not been conducted in calves less than 3 months of age. STORAGE Store at 77° F (25° C) with excursions between 59° and 86° F (15° and 30° C). Protect from light. Made in Canada. Manufactured for Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA, USA. The Cattle Head Logo and LONGRANGE are registered trademarks of Merial, Inc. ©2015 Merial, Inc. All rights reserved. 1050-2889-06, Rev. 2/2015, 8LON016C







THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF NCBA President President-elect Vice President Federation Division Chair Federation Division Vice-Chair Policy Division Chair Policy Division Vice-Chair Immediate Past President Chief Executive Officer

Craig Uden Kevin Kester Jennifer Houston Jerry Effertz Dawn Caldwell Joe Guild Jerry Bohn Tracy Brunner Kendal Frazier

Senior Editor Associate Editors

John Robinson Brittany Schaneman Charmayne Hefley

Creative Director Graphic Designer

Don Waite Sharon Murano

For ad sales, contact Jill DeLucero or Beka Wall at 303-694-0305. Contact NCBA: 9110 E. Nichols Ave., Suite 300, Centennial, CO 80112 (303-694-0305); Washington D.C.: 1275 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 801, Washington, D.C. 20004 (202-347-0228). National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reserves the right to refuse advertising in any of its publications. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association does not accept political advertising in any of its publications. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association does not accept any advertising promoting third-party lawsuits that have not been endorsed by the board of directors. © 2017 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. All rights reserved. The contents of this magazine may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or part, without the prior written consent of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

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Craig Uden NCBA President Nebraska

Tracy Brunner NCBA Past President Kansas

Kevin Kester NCBA President-elect California

Jerry Effertz NCBA Federation Chair North Dakota

Jennifer Houston NCBA Vice President Tennessee

Dawn Caldwell NCBA Federation Vice-Chair Nebraska

Kendal Frazier NCBA CEO Colorado

NCBA Offices DENVER OFFICE 9110 E. Nichols Ave. Suite 300 Centennial, CO 80112 303-694-0305

Marty Smith NCBA Treasurer Florida 4 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN

Joe Guild NCBA Policy Chair Nevada

WASHINGTON D.C. OFFICE 1275 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 801 Washington, D.C. 20004 202-347-0228

Jerry Bohn NCBA Policy Vice-chair Kansas SPRING


“GENEMAX ADVANTAGE HELPED US GET TO 57% PRIME.” Jimmy Taylor Taylor Ranch, Cheyenne, Okla. In challenging economic times, you need every advantage you can get. GeneMax® Advantage™ from Zoetis helps you decide with confidence which heifers to keep in your herd and how to breed them. GeneMax Advantage delivers three economic index scores that allow for easier, more dependable decision making.

For more information, contact your Zoetis representative or visit All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Services LLC or a related company or a licensor unless otherwise noted. © 2016 Zoetis Services LLC. All rights reserved. GMX-00093

of Directions. We’ve worked with presenters from the 2017 Cattlemen’s College to provide you with the latest management information and ideas to allow you to move your herds forward. The consumer ultimately drives the market and prices for the beef we produce, and we must always keep their demands in mind when we make our decisions each spring. That’s why we focus on innovation in the spring magazine. It’s because of this dedication that beef continues to be the protein of choice for consumers and we must never lose that focus. Whether it’s new ideas about selection or better information about grass and forage management, the idea is to provide you with the information that allows you to move your herd forward, protect the resources with which we’ve been entrusted, add to your bottom line and produce the beef that consumers want to purchase.

Letter from the President Craig Uden Every spring we have an opportunity in this business to choose a direction, and that applies to our herds, businesses and our industry. It’s the time when we see new calves hit the ground across a large portion of the country, we make breeding decisions and some of us take to the fields to plant new crops. It’s a time for renewal and it’s a time of year when there’s a strong sense of optimism among cattlemen and cattlewomen. The uptick in the market this spring has added to that optimism, and frankly, it’s an improvement that we needed to see after a historic sell-off in cattle markets. But, it also serves as a good reminder that no matter how much we might want to be in control of cattle prices, they’re subject to many forces outside of our control. There are things we do have the ability to affect, though, and one of those items includes the management and quality of our animals and the beef they produce. That’s the focus of this edition 6 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN

I once sat in the audience while Joann Smith admonished a room full of beef producers for failing to listen to the consumer, and it’s a speech I have never forgotten. In fact, Smith’s words stuck with me and helped to guide my management decisions and leadership philosophy since that time. As producers, every single member of the beef community owes it to our communities to take care of the air, land and water we manage. We owe it to our family to make decisions that guide us to profitability and we owe it to our animals to ensure we’re making the right decisions for their health and welfare. And finally, we owe it to the consumer to make sure we’re producing beef that’s safe, wholesome and meets their demands, even as those demands change over time. In my mind, sustainability encompasses those four pillars but it’s also about identifying the issues we face and continue to learn as we make improvements in our operations over time. I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability as NCBA president. I think about the sustainability of our industry and what we can do to improve it and make sure it’s prospering for the next generation as they begin to take on management and leadership roles. That’s why publications such as this one are important to us at NCBA. It’s why we’ve served the beef community since 1898 and it’s what guides the volunteers and staff who work on your behalf each day. SPRING


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membership organization, much of our work centers on government policy, making certain that the laws of the land aren’t unfairly skewed against beef production or beef producers. We fight to make certain rural voices are represented at the tables which are increasingly dominated by urban decision-makers. We remain committed to the ideas and principles that our country was founded upon and we’re there each day to be certain that beef competes on a level playing field in the United States and abroad when market and trade rules are being considered.

Letter from the CEO Kendal Frazier NCBA serves two distinct purposes within the beef community. We are, and have been since our beginning, a membership organization which serves to insulate our dues paying members from the heavy hand of government. We are also a major contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. This branch of NCBA serves every checkoff paying member of the beef value chain. From cow-calf producers to importers and every segment between, we contract to do the work that must be done to keep beef at the center of the plate in the marketplace. This work is done knowing that beef competes against intense competition from pork, poultry and other meal choices. As a membership organization, we take our direction from our individual members and state cattlemen’s associations, which direct the policies of NCBA and the work of our staff in both Washington, D.C., and Denver, Colo. As a


As a proud contractor to the beef checkoff, we do the difficult work that must be done for the beef community. The work we do as a contractor is essential and valuable to our business. Third-party research shows that every dollar invested into the checkoff returns $11.20 to cattlemen and women. The work on beef promotion and research is also directed by grassroots members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee. These volunteer cattlemen and women are tasked with addressing the needs of our industry today and anticipating the changing demands of future consumers in an effort to ensure beef remains competitive against other proteins. Regardless of the project or the issue, each NCBA volunteer leader and staff member goes to work each day knowing that the work they do improves the future for beef producers. Sometimes there are immediate results, other times those results are delayed, sometimes for years. However, we all remain committed to the goal of a brighter future for beef and the beef community. I’m proud to work with a strong and committed team and I’m proud of the work we do each day for the beef community as a membership organization and as a proud contractor to the beef checkoff. As you begin making business of your spring work, we

hope you’ll take a moment and give a little back to your community in one form or another. Volunteer at your

church, read to a child or serve a leadership role in an

organization that makes a difference. It’s that spirit that separates the communities where beef producers live

from the rest of America. It’s the same spirit that makes America, and beef producers in particular, so great.



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Managing Forages to Meet Beef Cattle Nutrient Needs By Dennis Hancock, Ph.D.1, and Beth Kegley, Ph.D. 2 1

Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, University of Georgia 2 Department of Animal Sciences, University of Arkansas

Summary The most cost-effective way to meet beef cattle nutritional needs is generally to ensure that the forage provided to the animals approaches or exceeds the nutrient needs of the cattle being fed. The challenge is consistently producing forages that provide sufficient protein, energy, and mineral content. Management factors, such as the forage crop’s maturity and the species of the forage provided to the animal, has a significant impact on the crude protein, digestible energy content, and mineral concentration. This paper describes some of the management factors that influence the nutritive value and mineral content of forage.

Background In most beef cattle enterprises, 60 percent or more of the total cost of production is tied up in feed

costs. The forage component consists of the largest proportion of that cost. The use of forages that approach or exceed the nutrient needs of the cattle being fed will minimize the total cost and increase profitability. The challenge is consistently producing forages that provide sufficient protein, energy, and mineral content. This article discusses some of the management factors that influence forage quality and mineral content.

Discussion Management Factors That Affect Forage Quality The most critical management factors and their relative importance with regard to forage quality are listed in Table 1. Certainly, there are many additional factors that affect forage quality. However, following the recommendations for each

Table 1. The relative importance of the primary factors that affect the nutritive quality of forage and general recommendations on best management practices that optimize quality. Importance Factor High Forage Maturity

High Forage Species Moderate Forage Utilization Moderate Variety Moderate Storage Moderate Rain Damage Moderate Heat Damage Low Fertilization

Recommendations Cut the forage in the late vegetative or early reproductive stages of growth. See the harvest recommendations in Table 2 for detailed information on individual species. Use a high-quality forage species that persists and can be produced economically in your environment. Species resistant to drought and temperature extremes should be used. Grazed forage is generally higher quality than conserved forage (i.e., barn, hay silage, etc.) However, animal selectivity may reduce overall forage utilization compared to mechanically harvestedsystems. Use varieties that have proven to provide a good balance of high quality and high yields. Select disease and insect resistant varieties. Protect hay bales from rainfall and weathering during storage (i.e., barn, tarp, etc.). Properly pack and exclude oxygen from forage that is being ensiled. Avoid cutting if significant rainfall (> 0.50 inches) is predicted during curing, but take care to avoid allowing forage to become overly mature. Dry forage to the appropriate moisture for making hay (Round: 15%; Square: 18%) and store in a manner that allows adequate ventilation. Maintain integrity of oxygen barrier in silage storage. Fertilize based on soil test recommendations and at recommended times to sustain CP/mineral concentrations in the forage and to maximize vegetative mass in the standing forage. NATIONAL CATTLEMEN


of these factors will help cattlemen to harvest high

is protected against digestion. Therefore, lignin

Forage Maturity

capable of meeting the energy needs of the animal.

quality forage that optimizes yield.

causes the forage to be much less digestible and less

Maturity is the most important factor affecting

Even though more total DM yield accumulates with

a higher level of digestible nutrients and protein,

digestion. Therefore, lignin causes the forage to be

maturity. One example of this is provided in

the energy needs of the animal. Even though more

stems, and a higher fiber (NDF) content. As

maturity from vegetative to reproductive stage

gives the plant strength and rigidity. Lignin also

digestible dry matter harvested per acre (digestible

protect themselves from attack by bacteria, fungi,

phenomenon in tall fescue, but all forage crops

forage quality. Young, leafy vegetative growth has

advancing forage maturityfrom vegetative to against

which declines as the plants progress toward

much less digestible and less capable of meeting

Figure 1. Older forage has fewer leaves, more

total DM yield accumulates with advancing forage

plants mature, more lignin is deposited. Lignin

of growth, there is a point where the amount of

is a natural chemical barrier that plants use to

yield) no longer increases. Figure 2 highlights this

and insects. The mechanism that the plant uses

exhibit this same relationship.

to provide this protection also means the forage 70








45 40







8 30

Age of Grass, weeks

Figure 1. The figestable dry matter (DDM) and crude protein (CP) of Coastal bermuda grass as affected by plant maturity in South Georgia. Source: Burton et al., 1963. Argon. J. Costal Plain


Undigested DM/Ac

2.5 2.0 Tons/Acre


Digested DM/Ac

Crude Protein, %

Digestable DM, %


Continued on page 14

1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0

Late Boot Early Flower


Figure 2. As an illustration of a typical situation, the total yield of tall fescue increases with maturity, but the amount of digestible dry matter (DM)/acre does not generally increase beyond the late boot stage. Because of increasing fiber and lignin concentrations, more undigestible DM is produced and lowers the quality.




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Continued from page 12 Because of the effects of advancing maturity on

quality, it is critical to harvest the crop whenever the forage reaches the recommended stage for harvest. Table 2 lists the maturity stages that should be

targeted for some of the major forage crops. Delaying

a harvest beyond the recommended maturity stage will result in forage that is less digestible and

much less capable of being consumed at a high

rate of intake. Harvesting slightly earlier than the recommended maturity is an option and may be advisable to avoid weather-related risk.

Table 2. Harvest recommendations for some of the major hay crops.

Hay Crop

First Harvest

Harvest Recommendations Subsequent Cutting Special Considerations

Alfalfa* Late bud stage Early bloom (usually after every 28-32 days). Annual Ryegrass Boot stage When regrowth reaches 10-12 in. (if applicable) Bermudagrass 12 - 16 inches 3.5 - 5 week intervals Orchardgrass Boot - early head 4 - 6 week intervals Red or Ladino Early Bloom Early Bloom Clover Small Grains Boot-early head N/A Tall Fescue Boot-early head 4 - 6 week intervals Winter Annual Early Bloom N/A Legume

In the spring after establishment, allow the first cutting to reach mid-bloom. Harvest if forage growth ceases because of hot or dry weather. If the variety rarely gets taller than 14 - 15 inches, take the first harvest at 12 inches. Harvest if forage growth ceases because of hot or dry weather. When grown with a grass, cut at the correct the correct stage for the grass. If the boot-early head stage is missed, take the first harvest at the dough stage. Harvest if forage growth ceases because of hot or dry weather. When grown with a grass, cut at the correct stage for the grass.

* These recommendations aid the longevity of the alfalfa stand in the South and may not be appropriate for other areas in the U.S., especially when extremely high quality is desired.




Management Factors That Affect Mineral Content

Like its impact on protein and digestible energy content, plant maturity is a crucial factor affecting mineral content in forages. Actively growing plant tissue generally has higher concentrations of P, Mg, and K. Mature forage generally has lower Co, Cu, Fe, Mo, and Zn. In contrast, the Ca levels are usually not affected by maturity.

Forage species also vary in mineral content (Table 3). Legumes generally have higher concentrations of Ca, Mg, K, Cu, Zn, and Co than grasses, while grasses are generally higher in Mn. However, mineral content in the various forage species may also be substantially affected by the soil in which they are growing. Soil fertility has a major impact on mineral

Continued on page 18

Table 3. Observed mineral content in various types of forage grown in Texas (Greene, Personal Communication) relative to the requirement in the diet of selected classes of beef cattle (NASEM, 2016. Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, 8th Revised Ed.).


P Mg K S Cu Mo Zn Se Mn

--- --------------- % ------------------ ------------------ ppm ------------------ Forage Type Legume

Warm season grasses Cool season perennial Cool season annual Native grasses

1.43 0.41 0.38 0.52 0.48

0.25 0.25 1.47 0.24 0.39 0.33 1.71 0.19 0.32 0.27 2.25 0.22 0.26 0.20 3.34 0.18 0.10 0.12 0.91 0.14

12.4 1.65 23.0 0.295 47.6 6.5 0.68 27.3 0.095 100.1 5.0 0.99 17.8 0.063 122.0 7.2 1.11 25.0 0.102 91.6 5.7 1.50 22.5 0.247 51.6

Cattle requirement Growing cattle Cow, gestation Cow, early lactation

0.4-0.8 0.22-0.5 0.10 0.6 0.15 10 n.d.* 30 0.1 20 0.16-0.27 0.17-0.22 0.12 0.6 0.15 10 n.d. 30 0.1 40 0.1 40 0.28-0.58 0.22-0.39 0.20 0.7 0.15 10 n.d. 30

* No guidance is available on molybdenum nutrition in the NASEM nutrient requirements.





©2017 CNH Industrial America LLC. All rights reserved. “New Holland” is a trademark registered in the United States and many other countries, owned by or licensed to CNH 16 Industrial N.V., its subsidiaries or affiliates. “Equipped For A New World” is a trademark in the United States and many other countries, SPRING owned by or licensed to DIRECTIONS NATIONAL CATTLEMEN CNH Industrial N.V., its subsidiaries or affiliates.


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Continued from page 15

nutrition. The status of the soil with regard to the mineral in question would certainly have an impact on the forage’s mineral concentration. Soil type and the parent material of the soil can influence the nutrient concentration that is observed. Further, soil pH that is too high or too low can influence mineral content, particularly the micronutrients. Higher pH tends to increase Se and Mo, but may actually reduce Cu, Co, Mn, Fe, and Zn concentrations.


Further, fertilization that stimulates plant growth can increase the concentration of the mineral(s) being added, but it may lower other minerals’ concentration. Fertilization in excess of the plant’s need may result in high or toxic concentrations developing in the forage. Because of the variability induced by different soil fertility and forage management tactics, it is important that the forage mineral content be regularly monitored with a forage test.

Continued on page 20





Continued from page 18

Sodium is one of the most important minerals for animal production. Forages are generally highly variable in Na content, but their


concentrations are very low. Consequently, ample supplemental Na, usually in the form of NaCl, should be consistently provided to cattle.





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Reducing Lameness and Improving Cattle Structure through Genetics and Management By Bob Weber, Ph.D.,1 Jan Shearer, DVM,2 and Shane Bedwell3 Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, Iowa State University 3 American Hereford Association 1


Much of the history of beef cattle selection in

particular endpoint. Current genetic trends suggest

animals of desirable conformation. Those trends in

cattlemen, are using EPDs and indexes in their

the United States was dominated by selection of

size and shape have changed many times since the

formation and development of breed organizations. Livestock shows and expositions were not only the

trend setters, but also trained producers and young livestock enthusiasts to evaluate beef cattle type and conformation.

The performance movement of the 1960s

and 70s provided the data and pedigrees for

the establishment of modern National Cattle

Evaluation systems and selection tools such as

Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) used across the business today. These new tools have fueled a dramatic shift in the way seedstock animals

are selected, evaluated and valued. Many breeds

produce a dozen or more EPD and selection index values. More recently, genomics technologies

add another source of information for genetic evaluation.

that seedstock breeders, and many commercial

selection. Since conformation traits don’t have EPD, it has been suggested that these traits tend to be

overlooked in selection or viewed as less important. During the recent past, a number of stories

circulated in the media with welfare concerns regarding the feet and hoof structure of beef

cattle fed a beta-agonist. While research suggests that feed additives are likely not the cause, it has

elevated awareness and concern over the structural soundness of cattle hooves, feet and legs. Feeding

steers and heifers to much heavier endpoints, often 1,400 pounds or more, may also be a contributing factor to lameness issues.

Commercial beef producers also express some concern and f rustration over hoof and foot

soundness in young seedstock bulls, as it seems more and more bulls are being culled for foot

soundness issues prematurely ending their useful

The inclusion of many traits in the selection

life as breeding stock. Certainly bull buyer

any one trait and certainly limits the progress in

elevated in an era of record bull sale prices. Many

selection indexes may help make selection more

per head. It is not unreasonable for commercial

traits as they relate to achieving profit at a

bulls to last at least 5-6 years of age.

decision results in slower progress in selection for

expectations regarding soundness and longevity are

selection for aggregate merit. The proliferation of

breeding bulls sell for $3,000 to $5,000 or more

efficient through optimal weighting of underlying

producers to expect the feet and leg structure of



Hoof, foot and leg soundness may also contribute

are evaluated through observation of key anatomical

sound avoid involuntary culling and experience

fore and rear limbs of the beef animal. As illustrated

to longevity of beef cows. Cows that remain

improved longevity in the beef herd. Issues that affect beef cattle soundness include clove or

hoof shape, depth of heel, angle of pastern, slope of shoulder and hock set. Animals with poor

structure may develop lameness issues resulting in decreased welfare, decreased production and

reproductive performance, incur additional costs

for treatment and potentially capital loss through early culling. Including selection for soundness will aid in producing cattle that have longevity and profit opportunity.

landmarks that demarcate the primary joints of the

in Figure 1, the angle of shoulder and the set of hock form the basis of evaluation. These two joint angles in cattle are related and ultimately dictate the set

of pastern angle, the depth of heel of the hoof and

length and angle of toe. With an understanding of

these two joint angulations, one can understand key problems in foot and hoof quality.

Starting at the f ront of the animal, the angle f rom the top of the shoulder to the point of the shoulder should ideally be sloped at 45

degrees f rom level. This angle creates the proper

Evaluating Structure

angulation f rom the point of shoulder to the

With some training and experience, evaluating

elbow, located in the f ront flank area. When slope

reach of all beef producers. The basics of structure

occur. Animals with a ‘straight shoulder’ tend to

structure and soundness in beef cattle is within

of shoulder exceeds 45 degrees, problems can

Strong Top

45° 45°

Shoulder Angle

135° Hock Set

Figure 1. Key points for evaluating beef cattle structural conformation. (Image courtesy Shane Bedwell)




lose mobility in their front end and often toes wear

heel. Toes should nearly touch and not be open

correctly to the hoof. These animals will tend to

curvature or scissor claw, Figure 2.

short because the animals weight is not distributed

stand with their front feet set forward of where they

or divergent. Toes should be f ree f rom extreme

naturally would be otherwise. On the move, animals

that are too straight-shouldered will walk with their head down. Animals with correct shoulder angle

tend to walk with their heads naturally elevated. Front legs should be straight when viewed from side or front so knees are strong.

Common f ront leg issues when viewed f rom f ront include knock kneed, bow legged, feet that toe

out or toe in (pigeon toe). From the side view, f ront legs can be buck kneed (over at knee) or

calf kneed (back at knee). Pasterns should have some angulation to provide cushion. Cloves of

hoof should be equal in size with moderate toe

Figure 2. A beef cow foot afflicted with scissor claw. (Image courtesy Shane Bedwell)

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Rear limb structure is just as important as f ront

animal should have the rear feet step into or near

Maintaining proper joint angles of the rear limb

angulation than ideal creates an animal that is sickle

end structure, especially in breeding animals.

helps to stabilize and strengthen joints. This is

important in both bulls and cows to support added weight during mounting at breeding. A common

injury to breeding bulls, second behind hoof issues on the rear limb, is a stifle joint injury resulting

the track left from the front feet. Having more

hocked. From a soundness perspective being a little too sickle hocked is more desirable than being too straight.

Rear feet should point straight ahead and rear legs

f rom ligament damage of the joint near the rear

should not be cow-hocked (hocked in) or bow-

f rom top of their hock joint to the knee joint in

be equal-sized and toes should nearly touch. Open

the angulation of the hock. The hock should be

late debris in wet conditions or are prone to inju-

to knee should be 135 degrees. When rear leg

on rear feet is critical. Shallow heel results in long

legged’ and will tend to walk with a short stride.

pastern can result in joint instability and knuckling

stride and foot placement can reveal a great deal of

All the deficiencies are undesirable. A nearly ideal

flank. Animals should have a 45 degree angle

legged when viewed f rom rear. Rear hooves should

their flank. It’s often easier to think about this as

or divergent cloves are undesirable as they accumu-

vertical in orientation and the angle f rom hock

ry f rom rocks. Depth of heel and angle of pastern

angles are too straight the animal appears ‘post

toes that can wear unevenly, Figure 3. Too steep of

Watching an animal travel and observing length of

over or popping during travel, as well as short toes.

information on correctness of structure. Ideally, an

foot and hoof structure is illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 3. An undesirable foot with straight pastern with a shallow heel and long toe. (Image courtesy Shane Bedwell)

Figure 4. Nearly ideal foot and hoof structure. (Image courtesy Shane Bedwell)




Genetics of Feet and Leg Conformation The principle reason that selection on confirmation

Recently, Australian Angus breeders and researchers collected a large number of

conformation observations to generate genetic

traits has been successful historically is because

parameter estimates and selection tools to monitor

Heritability describes the proportion of variation

estimates for Australian Angus range f rom 0.22

remaining variation that influences a trait is due to

feet claw set, rear feet claw set, rear leg hind view

studies have been conducted over time to estimate

estimated to range f rom 0.02 to 0.50 among the

leg and other conformation traits. Many of these

moderate level of genetic control and indicate that

and 70 percent.

the use of selection tools such as EPD.

of the moderate heritability of these traits.

and improve feet and leg quality. Heritability

in a trait that is due to genetic influence. The

to 0.50 for f ront feet angle, rear feet angle, f ront

management or environmental effects. A number of

and rear leg side view. Genetic correlations were

the heritability and genetic correlations of feet,

six traits. These estimates provide evidence of

conformation traits have heritability between 30

merit for feet and leg traits may be improved via



Some literature supports a phenotypic relationship

on the optimal scoring system. The researchers

hoof issues. A wide range of foot, hoof and

hoof/foot attributes and limb angulation. The

between body weights/rate of growth and foot/ lameness traits have been evaluated in dairy

cattle for more than two decades. In dairy cattle,

favorable hoof angle, heel depth and hock set are related to extended longevity. Animals of heavier weight tended to have more issues with hoof,

foot and leg conditions that limited productivity and longevity. Development of EPD for a range

hypothesize strong genetic associations between American Angus Association has adopted a

condensed scoring system on hoof shape and

heal depth to gather information f rom breeders on differences in Angus structural soundness attributes.

Managing Lameness

of foot conformation traits may aid producers in

While selection for improved genetics may help to

and extend the functional lives of bulls and cows.

won’t entirely eliminate it. A variety of injuries and

Work is underway at Kansas State University

of lameness in beef cattle on pasture is relatively low.

selection of sires that produce sounder progeny

to evaluate more than 3,500 Red Angus and

Simmental animals for a wide range of feet, leg and structural conformation traits. These data

will be used to investigate several scoring system issues and provide recommendations to breeders


reduce lameness issues in beef cattle, it certainly

diseases can cause lameness in cattle. The incidence

Grass pastures are normal walking surfaces for cattle and provide comfortable, forgiving footing that

offers traction preventing injuries from slips and

falls. When lameness does occur, it tends to affect Continued on page 30



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Continued from page 28

the upper leg (i.e. above the fetlock joint). Injuries from mounting, fighting, transport, handling,

predisposed by laminitis (or founder), a condition

that is not uncommon in growing animals on feed. Laminitis in its acute form is clinically observable

loading and unloading are not uncommon and may

as a tender-footed animal with reluctance to

disability. Nerve injuries associated with difficult

whereby the only indication of the disease might be

Both infectious and non-infectious conditions are

Vertical wall cracks occur with greatest f requency

result in temporary or in some cases permanent

walk. It may also occur as a subclinical condition

calving situations and arthritis can cause lameness.

the development of an ulcer or white line disease.

important causes as well.

in the f ront outer claw of beef cattle, as shown on

Common infectious disorders of the foot and

in dairy cattle. Horizontal wall cracks in cows are

foot skin include foot rot and digital dermatitis. Traumatic lesions including the entrapment of

foreign bodies in the interdigital skin also occur and must be distinguished f rom foot rot. The

predominant non-infectious diseases of the foot include sole ulcers, Figure 5, white line disease,

vertical (sand cracks) and horizontal wall cracks. Sole ulcers and white line disease are often

the next page, Figure 6; they are extremely rare

usually associated with calving and a physiological or sometimes disease-related interruption of horn growth and formation. Screw claw is a

conformational defect primarily affecting the outer claw of rear feet of both dairy and beef cattle. The

causes appear to be genetic and environmental and often lead to secondary foot disorders that reduce performance and longevity of affected animals.

Figure 5. Chronic claw lesion in a bull. Note the difference in claw size with the outer claw being much larger and bearing more weight predisposing it to ulceration. (Image courtesy Dr. Jan Shearer)




Figure 6. Beef cow with vertical wall crack or sand crack. (Image courtesy Dr. Jan Shearer)


conformation traits in their breeding objective

Reductions in the cases of lameness in beef cattle

along with traditional genetic predictions for

improve animal welfare and support advances

solid foundation built on feet and legs of sound

production. Producers are encouraged to include

more fully express their genetic potential.

through improved selection and management will

calving ease, growth and carcass performance. A

in production and, likely, profitability of beef

conformation will enable beef cows and bulls to






Using Genetics to Select for Healthier Cattle By Alison Van Eenennaam University of California, Davis and the Bovine Respiratory Disease Consortium Coordinated Agricultural Project Team

The promise of genomics has taken a little time

make up the bovine genome. Tens of thousands

tests were introduced in the early 2000s and

assayed on a single SNP chip, thereby enabling

to reach the beef cattle industry. The first genetic

of SNP markers from a DNA sample can now be

assayed only a handful of genetic markers. Genetic

genotype data to be collected on thousands of

markers are DNA sequence variations that differ

animals using platforms such as the 50K (50,000)

between individuals such that their inheritance

SNP chip.

can be tracked through families. They can be

However, genotypes on thousands of SNP

used to track or flag useful genetic variations (i.e.

markers are only as useful as our understanding

those associated with a positive effect on traits of

of the importance of each marker to the traits of

interest) so that these variations can be selected for

interest. To determine that requires the assembly

in breeding programs. Unfortunately, these early

of thousands of animals with genotypes and

genetic tests were not very accurate as the few

phenotypes on the trait of interest. This so called

markers they assayed only explained a very small

“training” population is used to estimate the

amount of the genetic variation associated with the

complex traits (e.g. marbling and feed efficiency) to which they were tied.

in Figure 1 there are two SNPs that are associated

dramatically with the advent of “SNP” (pronounced

with a gene that results in a -1% effect on the trait

snip) chips. Single nucleotide polymorphisms

of interest. If we then genotype a young animal

(SNPs) are a type of genetic marker and are

that inherited those SNPs we can predict it will

distributed throughout the 3 billion base pairs that

0 0 0


0 0 0

contributing variation in a population with

observations on the trait of interest. For example,

The landscape of genomic testing changed


relative size of the effect of every SNP marker

havea -1% effect on the trait of interest.







0 0


Figure 1. Diagram representing SNP markers (arrows) distributed throughout the genome and the value of each SNP markers– with two markers in this case being associated with a gene than has a -1% effect on the trait of interest.



Breed associations have been developing datasets of

and economically-relevant traits for which there are

phenotypes in their databases to develop training

are not currently included in genetic improvement

thousands of genotyped animals to combine with the populations to estimate marker effects within their

breed for traits of interest. Currently several breeds

(Angus, Hereford, Red Angus, Gelbvieh, Limousin,

Charolais, Simmental, Santa Gertrudis, Beefmaster,

no records and no selection criteria, and hence they

programs. Typically these are hard to measure traits, or those that are collected late in an animal’s life.

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) complex is a trait

Brangus) are using genomic information to develop

that falls into this category. It was for this reason

the traits in their genetic evaluations. Other breeds

universities got together and obtained USDA funding

genotyped animals to estimate marker effects.

Coordinated Agricultural Project (BRD CAP) to

genomically-enhanced EPDs for at least some of

that a group of geneticists at several large U.S.

are in the process of trying to accumulate sufficient

for a project called the Bovine Respiratory Disease

The traits that can be predicted using genomics

address this problem using the tools of genomics.

are restricted to those for which phenotypes are

The premise behind the project was to take DNA

of the traits that breed associations typically collect

dairy calves and Bos taurus feedlot beef cattle that

genomic predictions for those traits. However, these

scoring system, see Figure 2 on page 36, and their

easy to measure, and genetic merit estimates

healthy. The DNA profiles were then compared

available in the reference population. As such, all

f rom large (> 1,000) cohorts of both Holstein

data on were available to enable the development of

were diagnosed with BRD using a standardized

are the “easy” traits in that they are often relatively

immediate neighbor or pen mate that remained

were already available on these traits prior to the

development of genomics. There are many valuable


between these “cases” that there is a single

Continued on page 37



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Rectal temperature 100-100.9 Cough None

Calf Health Scoring Criteria 1 2




> − 103

Induce single cough

Induced or repeated coughs or occasional spontaneous cough

Repeated spontaneous cough

Small amount of unilateral cloudy discharge

Bilateral, cloudy or excessive mucus discharge

Copious bilateral mucopurulent discharge

Small amount of ocular discharge

Moderate amount of bilateral discharge

Heavy ocular discharge

Ear flick or head shake

Slight unilateral droop

Head tilt or Bilateral droop

Nasal discharge Normal serous discharge

Eye Scores Normal

Ear Scores Normal

Figure 2. The McGuirk BRD scoring system, based on observations on 1) rectal temperature, 2) cough, 3) nasal discharge, 4) ocular discharge, and 5) ear position or head carriage. Assigned scores range from 0 to 3 as the clinical sign progresses from normal to very abnormal. A cumulative score of 5 or more is considered a BRD case requiring treatment.




Continued from page 34

predominant breed, Holstein, that was used in the reference population and the widespread use of

a single selection tool by the U.S. dairy industry:

Lifetime Net Merit selection index ($NM). Selection

indices provide a way to economically weight multiple traits into a single value that differentiates animals

based on expected profit. The $NM has evolved over

the years, starting off originally focused only on milk

and fat production in 1971, and maturing in 2015 to a balanced index that considers 12 traits associated with

production, reproduction, type traits, and health traits.

genetic evaluation, and the structure of the beef

industry. We do not yet know whether the trait of BRD susceptibility in beef cattle will be associated with

several large effect single mutations, or have a more

multigenic inheritance pattern (i.e. be associated with many small effect genes or loci). In the former case

we can likely genotype all breeds for these large effect causative mutations and get accurate predictions that

will be robust over generations. This assumes that the

same causative mutations are segregating across breeds. If BRD susceptibility is more multigenic in nature, this will make it more difficult to identify these small effect

The marker set that is shown to be associated with

causative mutations. Each breed association will need to

genotyping chip that is currently being used for dairy

susceptibility in their breed.

BRD susceptibility could be directly included on the

assess how accurate the markers are at predicting BRD

genomic predictions. This development will require the

Even if these technical challenges can be overcome, the

incorporation of BRD susceptibility into the ($NM) at

an appropriate emphasis. Such calculations will depend upon how accurate the markers are at predicting BRD

susceptibility in the selection population (i.e. reliability), and the economic value of the trait. Even if the markers predict only 20 percent of the genetic variation for

this trait, this is likely to be valuable information given the greater than $1 billion annual cost associated with BRD in the U.S. cattle industry.

Translation to the beef industry is likely to be a little more problematic due both to the larger number of

breeds and breed associations involved in beef cattle

real task may be getting the industry to incorporate the trait of disease susceptibility into beef cattle selection indices and selection decisions. One issue is that not all beef breed associations have economic selection

indices, which would leave the value determination

of BRD susceptibility up to the individual breeder. A recent economic analysis on a terminal sire selection index showed that BRD had a high economic value – almost as high as hot carcass weight - meaning

selection against BRD incidence should get a high economic weighting as its economic importance is significant to overall profitability (Table 1).

Table 1. Economic value, genetic standard deviation (SD), relative economic value, and relative importance to days to harvest for bovine respiratory disease (BRD). (Buchanan, J. et al. 2016. Journal of Animal Science, 94:5456-5460.) Trait Economic Genetic SD Relative Relative Value ($) Economic Importance Value to D2H 1 BRD (% incidence) -2.08 38.83 -80.96 10.65 HCW (lbs) YG2 MARB3 Dry Matter Intake (lbs) Days to Harvest (d) Weaning Weight (lbs)

2.32 -66.14 0.72 -21.02 -1.91 -1.45

37.57 0.21 34.14 1.31 3.97 26.99

87.17 -13.59 24.50 -27.43 -7.60 -39.14

11.47 1.79 3.22 3.61 1.00 5.15

The relative importance was calculated as the absolute value of the relative economic value divided by the smallest relative economic value (Days to Harvest). 2 Yield grade. 3 Camera marbling score. 1



Selection against BRD susceptibility would

the use of direct health observations is an effective

but breeders will need some incentive to include

programs. Such observations require a standardized

obviously have great value to the feedlot sector,

it in their selection criteria, especially given most producers do not retain ownership of their cattle

through the feed yard. There needs to be some value transfer of the benefits derived from procuring

cattle that remain free from disease in the feedlot back to the producers who are providing those

cattle. Such value transfer might be analogous

to a backgrounding premium, but in this case the

premium would be associated with including a cattle health trait in their breeding program.

The importance of recording health traits

way to incorporate heath traits into breeding

system to record diagnoses to ensure phenotypes are comparable between farms. Consistent recording

of BRD health data is more difficult than for other

traits due to subjectivity of diagnosis and reporting. The BRD CAP has been working with the Beef

Improvement Federation (BIF) to develop a set of guidelines for the collection of BRD data. Ideally breed associations would include ongoing BRD

observations in their genetic evaluation programs. The BIF guidelines recommended a two tier

approach to recording BRD information on feedlots – the first would entail a binary observation of

Despite the fact that BRD is the leading cause

BRD. Information recorded should include Animal

nationally, routine recording of disease incidence

origin, breed), treatment information (Date pulled,

genetic evaluation systems. Several studies show that

died or was railed. This information can be used

of mortality in both the beef and dairy industries

ID, lot information (in and out dates, sex, owner/

is not currently being fed back into the national

temperature), diagnosis, and whether the animal




to produce a BRD “binary” observation ( Yes/No),

lung pathology consistent with pneumonia, thoracic

heifer pregnancy. The objective scoring system that

auscultation system, and/or scores on the clinical

analogous to the Yes/No observation recorded on was used by the BRD CAP to diagnose whether

an animal was a BRD case (cumulative score ≥ 5) is shown in Figure 2, on page 36. The fact that

this minimal information would likely be recorded on most feedlots without requiring additional phenotypic data recording was considered.

A second more detailed level of recording was recommended for feedlots with an interest in

collecting more comprehensive BRD phenotypes, perhaps only on a subset of pens such as those

involved with breed association progeny tests. Such

observations could include increased respiratory rate and/or effort, depression, lack of gut fill (reduced feed intake), temperature over 104, evidence of

More Information The Bovine Respiratory Disease Consortium Coordinated Agricultural Project (BRD CAP) was funded by the USDA Agriculture and Food

ultrasound, a >1 score on the Whisper automated signs outlined in Figure 2, on page 36. It was

recognized that pen will be an important factor influencing BRD as the most likely vectors for shedding and transmission will be pen mates.

Conclusion There is clearly value in selection for cattle health. If producers were able to make a 1-2 percent

improvement in BRD susceptibility by selecting for cattle using an accurate BRD susceptibility genetic

test, the feedlot industry could realize gains of $1321 million per year. This underscores how valuable the results of this BRD CAP genomics research to develop approaches to use genetics to select for

healthier cattle could be to the beef cattle industry.

68004-30367; J. E. Womack, Texas A&M, PD). More information about the BRD CAP can be found at; or

Research Initiative (USDA AFRI Grant no.



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Optimizing Managed Grazing for Soil Health and Sustainable Production Systems By Steven R. Shafer1, Dennis Chessman2, Johnny R. Rogers3, Kenneth W. Tate4, Kristie A. Maczko5 Soil Health Institute, 2USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Soil Health Division, 3 North Carolina State University – Amazing Grazing Program, 4 University of California – Davis, 5Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable5



with soil nutrients, water infiltration rate

Well-managed grazing systems are critical to pasture

and holding capacity, and vegetative growth

effective resource stewardship, financial stability

interactions allows ranchers to improve their

Soil health provides the underpinning for forage

nutrients in the soil and influencing soil structure,

wildlife populations. According to Wayne Honeycutt,

production. Grazing management supports healthy

Soil Health Institute (SHI), soil health refers to “...a

drought, and rebound more quickly afterwards,

that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” The

lands for more consistent livestock production.

also embraces this definition (e.g., http://bit.

grazing systems formed the foundation for a

of inherent “quality” – air, water, food, architecture,

Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville. Session

Soil is very much alive and contains much of the

linkages to pasture and rangeland management,

rangeland productivity, and is an indicator of

forage production in pasture and rangeland systems.

and rangeland sustainability, and necessary for

and production. Managing to optimize these

and profitability, and robust rural communities.

grazing systems, simultaneously maintaining

production, which in turn supports livestock and

thereby enhancing water availability and forage

PhD, Chief Executive Officer and President of the

pastures and rangelands that persist longer into

soil’s capacity to function as a vital living ecosystem

improving resilience and sustainability of grazing

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Interrelationships among soil health, forage, and

ly/2ndrlyn). Many things can be described in terms

synergistic Cattlemen’s College session at the 2017

clothing – but only living things can have health.

speakers delved into the basics of soil health,

world’s biodiversity. As such, soil health influences

and benefits of managed grazing for soil health and

sustainability and profitability. This definition

speaks to the importance of managing soils and

grazing lands so that they are sustainable for future generations.

Successful land managers must balance livestock’s utilization of plants with ecosystem function,

including contributions to and interrelationships

Significance of Soil Health Characterizing soil health involves measuring

physical, chemical, and biological properties. Soil health influences, and is affected by, the rest of

the larger environment. Steve Shafer, PhD, SHI

Chief Scientific Officer, emphasizes that crop and livestock management are manipulations of the



local environment for desired ends, and can have

holding capacity; improves retention of sediments

Thus, soil health integrates many aspects of soil

surface waters less contaminated; suppresses plant

either a positive or negative impact on soil health. science, agricultural management, and natural

resources. Maintaining soil health is important to

achieve the four goals of a sustainable agricultural

system: 1) produce what is intended to be produced; 2) protect for later production the foundation of natural resources; 3) provide economic incentive

to keep the system in production; and 4) support

the societal framework that enables it (paraphrased from National Research Council, 2010, Toward

and nutrients, making the land more productive and diseases; and provides other ecosystem services.

According to Shafer, improvements in soil health

can lower yield variability, reduce production risk, and add to a farm or ranch’s profitability. Crop yield during drought years can be increased by

improved water-holding capacity. Cover crops and pastures can capture nutrients that represent input costs that would otherwise be lost.


Grazing management on pasture and rangelands

Agricultural Systems

also contributes to soil

in the 21st Century).

health. Shafer points

out that compared to

Enhancing soil

continuous grazing,

health in pasture

rotational grazing

and rangeland

stimulates regrowth

systems is essential

of the forage plants,

to addressing

and proliferation and

numerous agricultural

turnover of the plant

and environmental

roots adds carbon to the

challenges in the

soil in amounts – and at

21st century. Shafer

depths where it can be

states that healthy soil contributes

retained – that improves

adequate food for

lands. Improved forage

by mid-century;

contributes further to

to a changing and

addition, Shafer notes

via sequestration

can increase plant

atmosphere into

invasive weeds.

to producing

the condition of grazing

9 billion people

growth and regeneration

provides resilience

livestock productivity. In

unpredictable climate,

that “moderate” grazing

of carbon from the

biodiversity and suppress

the soil, which

leads to increased

A soil profile supporting a productive grass forage crop. The dark (moist) A and B horizons overlaying the clay subsoil show evidence of water and root penetration throughout the soil.

The critical significance

and improved water

Photo credit Ken Tate.

management is

water infiltration


of careful grazing



emphasized by Shafer as a tool that can enhance soil health over what might be considered a “natural”

or a “baseline” condition for a given location. It is

a common misconception that “moderate” grazing

was what the indigenous American bison did on the range; however, it is important to note that their

and the land to meet needs of humans and provide benefits for the overall environment.

Grazing Land Soil Health Specifics Building on tenets introduced by Shafer, Dennis

Chessman, PhD, NRCS Southeast Regional Soil

Health Team Leader, expands

upon the importance of healthy soils to provide essential

functions for agriculture and

society as a whole. Among the

important agricultural benefits of a functioning soil is its

ability to capture and store

water for plant growth. The

significance of this enhanced

water retention was a recurring theme throughout the session. Chessman explains that

although soils differ in their capacity to infiltrate water

based on their texture or the

amount of sand, silt and clay

they contain, the management of pasture and rangeland has A scientist examining soil health on annual rangelands piques the interest of the locals. Soil Scientist: Toby O’Geen, UC Davis Department of Land Air and Water Resources. Photo credit Ken Tate.

a significant effect on how surface soil layers in those

systems respond to rainfall

or irrigation. A review of the

numbers, perhaps in the tens of millions, heavily

contaminated surface waters with their wastes and in many cases stripped the land of vegetation to the point that the animals starved. Shafer cites

research asserting that such grazing was in fact not

sustainable in the modern agricultural sense, though it may have gone on, boom and bust, for millennia

before Europeans arrived in North America. Proper land management, with an eye toward sustaining and enhancing the vitality of the living soil, will

help ensure sustainability and long-term use of soil

Web Soil Survey ( provides information on the advantages and limitations of soils.

Chessman emphasizes that management has a

direct effect on soil structure, which is defined as the way the sand, silt and clay particles are stuck

together into larger units called aggregates. Good soil aggregation is essential for water and air

movement, root growth, the availability of plant

nutrients, and therefore the health and productivity of the plants growing in that soil.



Additionally, according to Chessman, there is a

affected. As life in the soil declines, soil aggregates

incredible diversity and abundance of life. Life in

water infiltration rate and storage capacity decreases.

world beneath grazing lands that teems with an

the soil is dependent on carbon that comes through

plants’ roots and from dead plant material. Much of the carbon that enters plants during photosynthesis is converted to

become more fragile or even non-existent, and soil’s The bottom line is that soils with healthy, diverse

communities of organisms can provide more water to plants.

Maximizing carbon


entry, and the flow of

and other organic

organic carbon through

compounds that

a grazing system, can

provide for the plant’s

be achieved with proper

needs. It offers energy

to animals that eat the

management. Chessman

the food that drives

grazing to optimize root

living world. If

of forage plants helps

limited, carbon that

abundance of roots are

is limited. When

provide organic carbon

soil is limited, life and

ecosystem. Managing for

diminished. Chessman

ground means managing

matters because good

ground. Since carbon

plant, and provides

suggests that controlling

the underground

growth and development

photosynthesis is

to ensure that an

can enter the soil

present in the soil to

organic carbon in the

that drives the soil

health in the soil is

good root growth below

points out that this

what happens above

soil aggregation is

the result of a vibrant soil community. The

smallest soil organisms,

bacteria and fungi, along

A scientist examines the structure of a soil aggregate for evidence of compaction on a rangeland pasture. Soil structure refers to the arrangement of the soil organic and mineral particles and of the pore spaces located between them.

Photo credit Ken Tate.

with plant roots and

that provides energy for

the soil system comes from photosynthesis,

maximizing the ability of

plants to capture sunlight is critical. This means

the compounds released through roots, provide the

managers must maintain appropriate stock densities,

of soil aggregates. Aggregate-forming glues, whether

periods for plants. Forage plants that are grazed too

glues and physical structures necessary for creation exuded by roots or arising from soil organisms, are carbon-containing substances. Chessman cautions that if grazing lands management disrupts carbon flows into the soil, or leads to a decrease in soil

organic carbon, the living soil community is adversely


duration of grazing, and adequate non-grazing rest

heavily or too often for the site and plant species will not be optimally productive, as they could be with

less intensive grazing pressure. Chessman cautions that improper grazing management decreases the

photosynthetic capacity of a pasture or range site,



and plant root growth is stunted. This results in poor forage production, and inadequate organic carbon

to feed the soil system to achieve the water-related benefits of good soil structure.

graziers can ensure that more of the moisture that

falls enters the soil and is retained for plant growth. Effective rainfall is the percentage of rainfall that becomes available for pasture vegetation. Rogers

Optimizing Pasture-based Grazing Systems

cautions that losses from runoff, evaporation and percolation are expected, but can be managed.

Relationships among soil health, water infiltration and holding capacity were a focus throughout the

session. Johnny Rogers, M.S., North Carolina State

University Amazing Grazing Program Coordinator, grazes livestock between North Carolina and

Virginia, and is familiar with low precipitation years. He posits that graziers develop skills by making

While grassland productivity can be improved

through fertilization, herbicides, and planting new pasture forage varieties, plant growth will often

be limited by plant-available water, regardless of

pasture amendments. Therefore, Rogers recommends exploring opportunities to enhance soil health to capture more of the water that falls on pastures.

mistakes, thereby becoming better equipped for future

How can graziers improve soil structure? The best

of livestock operations are beyond graziers’ control

intensive forage management. Vegetative ground

challenges. Many factors that influence the success

(weather, markets, government policy, etc.). However, Rogers explains that with good grazing management,

method to build pasture soil structure is through

cover will insulate soil from the sun. Rogers notes that it has been well documented that bare soil

The Cattlemen to Cattlemen crew is back on the road! We’re heading to places from Florida to California and everywhere in between to bring you stories from America’s cattle operations around the country. Tune in to hear all the latest news from the NCBA staff in Washington, D.C. on the important policy issues they’re working on, get cutting edge producer education and learn from NCBA staff about the important programs they’re working on to promote beef to consumers.

Cattlemen to Cattlemen airs weekly on RFD-TV every Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

Cattlemen to Cattlemen is sponsored in part by the following companies:

Remember you can always watch full episodes as well as individual educational segments online at



can reach temperatures that inhibit soil’s microbial

compressing soil pores. Limited pore space leads

cycling, etc.) and increase soil moisture loss through

movement. Plant growth will be reduced in compacted

activity (i.e. less glues produced, lower nutrient

evaporation. Managing forage heights is important

year round, but can become more significant during dry, hot summers.

Additionally, Rogers asserts that pasture rest

periods will build soil structure, because rested

plants have larger root systems. A thriving root system will feed more

to poor water infiltration, root penetration and air

soils. Graziers can prevent compaction by reducing equipment traffic and pulling cattle off pastures

during extended wet periods. A well-drained sacrifice

paddock with hay feeding offers an alternative option. Removing cattle is not always feasible and pasture

can become pugged during wet conditions. Rogers advises that such pastures should receive extra rest

periods during future grazing

soil microbes, and they

cycles to repair soil structure.

will produce more

In some cases, producers

glomalin (a.k.a. the

have added plants species

glues) needed to maintain

to pastures - e.g. brassica,

soil architecture. Forages

radishes, turnips, etc. - to

must be carefully

alleviate soil compaction.

monitored to determine whether they’re fully

Rogers concludes that while

grazing events. A grazing

the amount of water that

graziers cannot manipulate

recovered f rom past

stick can help producers evaluate current

conditions to see whether

Using a grazing stick to measure forage height. Photo credit University of Idaho Extension.

falls from the sky, through

management they can control

what happens to this precious

pastures have reached the target height. Rogers

resource once it lands in a pasture. Managed grazing

system creates a more resilient, drought tolerant

systems. Critical points for producers to build soil

states that a properly executed rest rotation

has numerous benefits to pasture-based livestock

forage base.

health and increase water infiltration include:

Potential to create better soil structure through grazing management is paramount to Rogers.

The grass height when cattle come off a pasture is

 Determine the farm or ranch’s carrying capacity  Maintain a flexible stocking rate at or below carrying capacity

critical. Leaving the soil covered with growing plants

 Use stock density to build healthy soil  Rotate cattle to maintain proper residual in

are a source of erosion that can impair soil structure

 Rest forages to promote root development

prevents the destructive impact of rain drops, which by dislodging soil particles. According to Rogers,

erosion damages pastures and carries soil, nutrients, herbicide residues, etc. into surface waters.

Additionally, Rogers cautions that equipment traffic and grazing, especially during wet conditions, also can damage soil structure by compacting soil and



 Monitor the health of the entire pasture eco-system

Managed Grazing to Optimize Sustainability of Rangeland Systems The points Rogers highlights are reinforced in the

context of rangeland systems by Kenneth Tate, PhD,



Grazing management that removes too much leaf area weakens forage plants. Plants cannot capture

enough sunlight for regrowth, and will sacrifice roots

and energy reserves to support essential leaf regrowth. With fewer roots, plants cannot fully access soil

moisture and nutrients. Tate cautions that weakened

forage plants can be displaced by undesired or invasive species. As Rogers notes, poor grazing management on wet, moderate to heavy textured soils will also often compact the soil and limit water, root, and

nutrient penetration. This is a dangerous cycle that will not sustain livestock production.

Tate acknowledges that fortunately, ranchers are well aware that such management is a road to nowhere. Research and on-the-ground experience show that effective grazing management creates win-win

outcomes. Management that supports growth and Examining the structure of a soil aggregate for evidence of compaction on a rangeland pasture. Soil structure refers to the arrangement of the soil organic and mineral particles and of the pore spaces located between them. Compaction by excessive hoof action will compress soil aggregates, thus limiting root and water penetration.

Photo credit Ken Tate. Professor and Russell L. Rustici Endowed Chair

in Rangeland Watershed Science at University of

California – Davis. Echoing earlier emphases, Tate notes that ranchers must manage the intensity and timing of grazing, as well as — equally important — rest from grazing, to 1) optimize forage and

livestock harvest; 2) meet forage plant requirements for growth and vigor; and 3) mitigate potential

negative impacts on soils and the environment. He points out that optimal cattle performance in rangeland systems depends upon abundant,

nutritious forage – which in turn depends upon healthy forage plants with enough leaf area to

capture sunlight, and many deep roots to access abundant soil moisture and nutrients.

vigor of desired forage plants, as well as root and

water penetration throughout the soil, will result in:  Optimal forage production and quality  Optimal animal performance

 Pasture resilience to drought, weed invasion, and other stresses  Return on investments in herd genetics, reproduction, health, supplementation, and infrastructure

 Healthy and productive soil and environmental conditions Many grazing strategies can sustain forage plant vigor and soil health. Tate emphasizes that continuous and rotational grazing strategies at moderate stocking rates in rangeland systems can sustain high levels of soil function, forage production, and livestock performance. However, recent surveys of 765

California and Wyoming ranchers show that two-

thirds of respondents use extensive rotational grazing strategies, with livestock movements every few weeks and moderate stocking rates — ranchers see on-theground and on-the-hoof benefits from pasture rest and rotation of grazing animals.



Tate advises that underperforming rangeland

pastures should be investigated, particularly in heavy soils commonly grazed during wet periods. Grab

a shovel, and dig a pit 1 foot deep by a couple feet long. Look 3 to 6 inches below the surface for a

band of compacted, platy, massive soil with little

root penetration. Look for fine plant roots stacked on top of this layer. Presence indicates you might

have a “cow-pan”. For additional information on this and other grazing management issues, soil, forage,

and livestock expertise is available within university Cooperative Extension, as well as through NRCS. In most cases, Tate assures that small adjustments

in intensity and timing of grazing will allow rooting

and natural soil processes to break down compaction and improve soil structure within a few years –

allowing increases in water infiltration, soil health, forage and cattle production.

Conclusions Grazing management in pasture and rangeland systems is sustainable when it promotes profit as well as environmental health over the long term. Speakers in this Cattlemen’s College

session asserted what ranchers have known for

generations – if you take care of the land, it will take care of you. Optimizing grazing involves

appropriate stock densities, duration of grazing,

and adequate non-grazing rest periods for plants. Soil health is a key component of a sustainable operation. Rogers notes the importance of

keeping the soil covered to maintain temperatures for microbial activity and prevent erosion.

Effective management of aboveground resources

benefits the belowground community, and Rogers mentions the importance of microbial activity for aggregate formation to improve soil structure.

Moving a large herd of yearling steers at the USDA-ARS Central Plains Experimental Range to start the summer grazing season. This herd will be adaptively rotated among 10 pastures using decision-triggers developed by an 11 member Stakeholder Group comprised of ranchers, environmental and non-government conservation organizations, and state/federal land managers to achieve soil, vegetation, livestock and wildlife objectives in a shortgrass steppe ecosystem.

Photo credit Matt Mortenson (USDA-ARS). 50 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN



Similarly, Shafer and

According to Rogers,

that improving

of a system through

Chessman emphasize

improving productivity

soil health and soil

management may be

structure positively

more effective than

impacts water

costly amendments,

infiltration and water

since plant-available

holding capacity,

water can be most

enhances water

limiting. Optimizing

availability, increases

grazing management

resilience, and reduces

involves enhancing soil

production risks over

health to benefit forage

the long term.

productivity, while also potentially reducing

Rogers and Tate

expenses and increasing

highlight the

profitabil ity. As Tate

importance of

states, producers’ on-

monitoring to

the-ground experience

inform management

and scientific research

decisions. This

show that optimal

may involve using

grazing management

a grazing stick to

benefits all aspects of

evaluate forage height,

sustainability, socio-

or digging a hole to

assess soil compaction and root penetration.

Monitoring data may indicate need for

management changes

and adaptations, such as adjusting stocking rates or grazing

Soil profile under a grazed annual grassland on California’s north coast. The white pins demark the different soil layers within this profile. The zone between the top two pins is where one would look for evidence of soil compaction from grazing (“cow-pan”). Grass roots should be penetrating this layer to access nutrients and moisture in the lower layer. If roots are not penetrating this zone, then compaction may be limiting forage and livestock production. Photo credit Ken Tate.

duration. Rogers and

economics as well as grazing land health.

The complete Cattlemen’s College presentation

videos for each session

are available on NCBA’s website. The Basics for Soil Health in Pasture

and Rangeland Systems,

Tate recommend minimizing soil erosion and

with Dr. Steven Shafer and Dr. Dennis Chessman, is

with intact aggregate structure and biological

Grazing to Optimize Sustainability in Pasture and

compaction to optimize forage productivity. Soils activity offer a growth medium for a healthy forage base to support livestock production. As session speakers note, a grazing system

including moderate stocking rates, rest periods, and rotation contributes to both the financial and environmental health of an operation.

available at at, and Managed Rangeland Systems, with Johnny Rogers and Dr.

Kenneth Tate, is linked at Article authors are listed in order of appearance in

these session presentations. Presenters’ summaries were integrated and edited for this article by Dr. Kristie Maczko.



NATIONAL CATTLEMEN 52 Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Beef Council

Future of the Cattle Feeding Industry in the United States By Galen E. Erickson1 1

Nebraska Cattle Industry Professor of Animal Science; Beef Feedlot Extension Specialist Department of Animal Science; University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Introduction The U.S. beef industry is the most intensive beef production system in the world, and as a result,

the most efficient. In this case, efficiency refers to the number of cows in production relative to the

tons of beef produced. Intensive beef production is often thought of in terms of feeding cereal grains. However, many producers and consumers do not

recognize the importance of forage in intensive beef

production systems. We estimate that approximately 80 to 85 percent of the feed required to raise a steer or heifer for market is forage. The new NASEM (2016) Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle

estimates that approximately 80.8 percent of feed

required is forage and less than 10 percent is grain. The reasons that an overwhelming majority of the

feed inputs are forage include the fact that there is a cow that is fed forage for a year in order to produce a market animal. The proportion of forage required in beef production systems is further influenced by

the average age of grain finished beef, average days in feed yard systems, and reproductive and survival rates in the industry. With increased intensity

of cattle feeding, many environmental issues are actually improved relative to producing beef. However, there are challenges as well.

While it is difficult to predict the future, this

paper will focus on recent trends in key areas that

are expected to continue and therefore help predict the future of the feeding industry in the U.S. The key areas that need to be considered are:

1) Geographic location of the feeding industry

2) Cattle characteristics 3) Nutrition advances

4) Health issues and challenges

5) Marketing

6) Environmental issues 7) Technology 8) People

The largest cattle feeding states are Nebraska,

Texas, and Kansas but cattle are fed in many other Plains and Midwest areas. There are pockets of

cattle feeding areas including the Pacific Northwest and Southwest regions. The question is, where will

cattle feeding locations be in the future? In the old days, the Midwest region fed the most cattle and

then there was a transition to the Southern Plains

due to climate, cattle availability, and inf rastructure to translocate feed resources. With distiller’s

byproducts and housing changes, some transitions back to Midwest feeding has occurred in recent

years. While it is unclear where more cattle will be

fed in the future as the cattle industry expands and contracts, clearly water and packing capacities will influence these decisions.



Cattle are different today than in the past, and the

live weight gain at the end of the feeding period.

may look like. We are experiencing record quality

cattle bigger results in a more efficient beef industry.

difficult part is to predict what a future carcass grades (75 percent choice or above) and record

carcass weights. The trendline for the past 45 years has been a linear increase in carcass weights of 5

lb/year for steers and 6 lb/year for heifers. While

many view this as a challenge for the industry and

others suggest cattle can’t get bigger, clearly there are some efficiencies to larger carcasses and cattle have

been selected to be bigger and have been fed longer to make carcasses heavier. Without changing the

market pricing approach for fat cattle (price slide or

greater penalties for big cattle), this trend is unlikely to change. From an individual feeder perspective,

bigger carcasses generate greater revenue and cost

of gain is lower than finished price, even at the end

of the feeding period. As a result, the individual has an incentive to make cattle bigger. Suggesting that

feedyards should market cattle at lighter weights is counterproductive to their economic sustainability

in today’s market. Selling cattle on a carcass weightbasis instead of a live-basis only encourages cattle to be fed longer as the cattle are depositing a

larger proportion of gain on the carcass relative to


Additionally, the more beef supplied by making

About 70 percent of the feed and 50 percent of the cost of a finished animal is the cow.

Nutrition programs are very advanced, and are based on research designed to optimize how cattle are fed. One of the biggest changes in diets in the past 20

years has been the popularity and economic incentive to feed corn byproducts such as distillers grains, corn gluten feed, or Sweet Bran. Feeding byproducts is

not a new concept for beef producers. Corn grain is

still the most important ingredient in feed yard diets. There has been increased interest and adoption of

steam-flaking in Nebraska, whereas the technology

is commonly used in the southern plains. New corn

hybrids, new byproducts, or changing how cattle are fed in terms of additives, technologies, adaptation programs, bunk reading, and overall nutrition

programs is exciting but changes will be relatively slow depending on the adoption rates of new improvements based on research.

Cattle health and well-being is critically important

for social sustainability, economic sustainability, and



good management of diseases. The most common

Marketing is perhaps one of the biggest challenges

can be caused by numerous agents and scenarios that

their time. Marketing includes purchasing cattle,

disease is bovine respiratory disease (BRD), which exacerbate the likelihood of cattle becoming sick. Death loss is not decreasing in feed yard systems

(perhaps even a small linear increase over the past

few years). While new treatments and remedies are

constantly being explored and many of the antibiotic treatments available today are the best that have

ever been available, additional management or even dramatic changes in the industry may be required

to decrease risk and susceptibility of cattle to BRD.

There are opportunities to improve health challenges including low stress weaning, preconditioning, and

backgrounding calves near or on their home ranch.

for feed yard managers and often will take much of but the most time is spent marketing finished cattle. One of the most widely debated topics today is

whether prices are suppressed for fat cattle due to

marketing arrangements. Marketing arrangements, such as formula pricing and captive supplies, are

desirable by some because it is less expensive and

time consuming for the feed yard manager. On the other hand, if all cattle are priced relative to some plant or area average price, then questions arise

on whether the smaller and smaller percentage of

cattle that are negotiated for price are sufficient to set the market price for the majority of cattle that are not negotiated at the time

of sale. It is not clear what the

minimum number of cattle need to be negotiated to obtain a fair

or maximal cattle price. There are also dramatic regional differences with the southern plains states

relying heavily on some type of marketing arrangement where

price is not negotiated on a weekly

basis. In the future, more marketing arrangements will likely develop,

alternative pricing options will be explored, and there will continue

to be discussion on whether cattle

prices are fair and equitable. With that said, much focus has been

placed on improving quality of

the beef cattle in the U.S. Quality can be defined as size, maturity, yield grade, and quality grade.

I am surprised by the relatively

small percentage of cattle that are sold on a quality basis (grade and yield basis). I question whether



cattle producers are adequately rewarded (and also adequately punished) for carcass quality today. Environmental issues are very important to

challenge and research will need to address suitable interventions that feedyards can easily employ to decrease emissions.

producers, particularly to ensure adequate resources

Technology will also dramatically impact the future

producers I know are very interested in passing

adopts more technology than other phases of beef

are available for future generations. All beef

on their legacy, and maintaining the integrity

and quality of their environment. Feed yards are strictly regulated for environmental quality in

regards to runoff water management and manure

nutrient management to ensure ground and surface water quality. More focus will be inevitable in

regards to environmental regulations and the focus will continue to evolve as more is learned about

sustainable methods to decrease the environmental

footprint. In many ways, feeding cattle in feed yards has numerous environmental benefits and decreases the footprint by producing more beef on fewer

resources. Air quality and emissions will likely be a


of the cattle feeding segment. The feeding industry production. In many cases, adoption is easier in the feed yard because cattle are concentrated during this phase and as a result, much of the research and development has focused on uses during

the feeding phase. We are faced with conflicting views from consumers on use of technology. On

one hand, consumers readily adopt technology for

personal use to gain or to save time such as phones, medicine, transportation, etc. On the other hand, there is divisiveness and a small segment that is

intolerant to technology use in food production.

However, technology that improves management is of little concern, technology that improves the



product quality, freshness, or convenience is of little

trained employees will not ever be fully replaced.

of production or is fed/used/applied to cattle is

people. The people that manage and operate these

concern, but technology that improves efficiency viewed with skepticism. Something will have to

give in regards to technology. I have to believe that

technologies that are safe and proven will be allowed for use in food production and may be essential for

global food supplies. Anything beef producers adopt must be acceptable to consumers and any mistakes could prevent use of technology in the future.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important topic for

future of cattle feeding will be people. Finding more young people with interest in the feed yard sector is critical. While many technological advances allow for replacement of people, the requirements for

The feeding industry has very high expectations for businesses are smart, tough, innovative, and often independent individuals. Most managers do not

enjoy all the normal challenges related to managing

employees. As a generalization, the feedyard industry will need to do a better job of attracting talent,

attracting laborer employees, and then a better job of training, retaining, and firing people than in

the past. The opportunities for young people are

obvious but taking advantage of those opportunities requires young people who work hard, can work with people, understand a risky, complicated

business, and are willing to work long hours in

a harsh environments with only some weekends and holidays off.

That is asking a great deal. People that are involved in the feed yard industry have to love it. Perhaps we are asking too

much of people. If so, then adapting work environments and

providing employees

with a drive that their work fills a greater

good will be needed,

in my opinion. Many feedyards will be

successful at managing their personnel issues. If they are not, none of the other points discussed in this

paper matter because that operation won’t survive.





A Fresh Start to a Proven Strategy Taking Stockmanship and Stewardship to the next level Ron Gill

Over the past decade, NCBA’s Stockmanship and Stewardship (S&S) program has taken low-stress

During his 20 year

cattle handling f rom a novel idea to mainstream.

career as a Texas

Through live cattle demonstrations and a hands-

AgriLife Extension

on approach S&S has introduced new ways of

Specialist, Ron

thinking and a new approach to working cattle

Gill, PhD has

to producers across the country. As the program

provided technical

has gained recognition and prominence in the

expertise to livestock

countryside, NCBA has worked to enhance and

producers in beef

increase opportunities for cattlemen and women to

cattle nutrition,

access demonstrations and learning opportunities,

management, and

and now with support f rom Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health and the beef checkoff-funded

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, cattle

producers will have more ways than ever to interact with the S&S program.

The Stockmanship & Stewardship program teaches cattle handling methods that improve gathering,

penning, chute work, and hauling. Much emphasis is placed on ways to increase cattle performance by reducing handling stress, and interactive

discussions show how cattlemen can actually shape consumers’ perceptions of beef.

livestock handling

techniques. Sought-after as a national speaker, Gill’s credibility is founded on his own ranch experience.

Curt Pate For more than a decade Pate

has conducted

demonstrations and clinics on

stockmanship, colt starting,

The personalities delivering the S&S message are

horsemanship and

Curt Pate and Ron Gill have not only effectively

conducting both

certainly the largest factor of the program’s success.

safety. His abilities

taught cattlemen and women their proven low-

horsemanship and

stress cattle handling techniques, but have done

stockmanship demonstrations, along with his

unique to S&S. Producers have come back just to

one of the most sought-after clinicians on both

so with a style and class that is all their own, and

ability as an effective communicator, make him

watch and learn f rom these world-class clinicians.

the national and international scene.



From New York to California, North Dakota to

the experts and others through both live cattle

S&S demonstrations across the countryside

multi-day events will feature both clinicians and

Texas, thousands of cattle producers have attended and implemented the low-stress cattle handling

techniques on their own operations. One producer shared, “My husband grew up ranching (and I’m fairly new to it) but we both picked up a lot of

good information… thanks for bringing this to ranchers.” As consumer interest in how cattle

are raised and handled increases, beef producers are realizing it is more important than ever that

the industry is aware of properly cattle handling. By participating in S&S, producers are not only

learning and applying those important techniques but showing their commitment to proper animal handling, and thereby improving consumer perception of the industry.

Starting this year cattle producers will have more

ways than ever to interact with the S&S program, attend events, and learn f rom the renowned

clinicians. Not only will there continue to be

local events, but the program is developing and launching a new Regional Tour. The Regional

Tour events will allow for more time to learn f rom


demonstrations and classroom presentations. These a whole lineup of learning experiences tailored to the region. “This is the immersive Stockmanship and Stewardship program that we have been

dreaming of – a true experience that producers

should be excited to participate in and learn f rom,” said Josh White, NCBA executive director of producer education.

By expanding these events and extending the

amount of time and exposure producers have to the program, and by partnering with local groups that know their audience best, NCBA is increasing its

offerings of educational opportunities. Producers can expect two days packed with information

that will positively impact their operations. This

extended programing also gives attendees exposure to other important educational information, like forage and grazing management, animal health

protocols, supplementation strategies, soil health, and the latest in industry research. Additionally, all attendees at the regional events will have the opportunity to attend a live BQA training.



Producers shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to

while learning about the latest in cattle handling

at one of the many S&S events that will take place

S&S program and information on all the events at

learn f rom the best and network with their peers

and more! Keep up with the latest news about the

this year. Attendees are sure to have some fun

Participate in one of these Stockmanship and Stewardship REGIONAL TOURS K K



K Davis, CA June 24-25, 2017

Lincoln, NE June 29-30, 2017

Starkville, MS August 3-4, 2017

San Luis Obispo, CA Fort Collins, CO September 30September 15-16, 2017 October 1, 2017

Is BQA certification on your to-do list? It’s free, convenient and available online, anytime. By becoming Beef Quality Assurance (BQA)-certified, you have a positive story to tell consumers that can increase their understanding of — and confidence in — how you’re raising a safe, wholesome and healthy beef supply. It’s a consumer-friendly story, and an opportunity to add more value to cattle by implementing the very latest in best management practices. Get certified! Visit today.

Best Management Practices • Animal Health • Facilities Design Employee Training • Cattle Care and Handling FUNDED BY THE BEEF CHECKOFF

©2016 Beef Quality Assurance

3296_BQACertification_7.25x5.indd 1




Developing Heifers For the Long Haul By G. Cliff Lamb1, Pedro L. P. Fontes2, Nicky Oosthuizen2, Carla D. Sanford2 1

Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX North Florida Research and Extension Center, University of Florida, Marianna, FL


Introduction Most beef producers replace up to 20 percent of their mature cows each year with heifers. Those heifers represent the future genetics and profit potential of the operation. However, beef producers today are faced with several decisions that impact the

productivity of their operations, of which selecting

replacement beef heifers is critical to sustaining an

ever-decreasing profit margin. The unique challenge that each cow/calf producer is faced with is that the

selection of heifers now will affect the profitability of an operation for at least a decade. The mindset for a

cow/calf producer needs to take into account how the heifers that are selected now, as replacements, will

affect their operation ten to twelve years from now. This mindset is entirely different from the feedlot industry or even the poultry and swine industries where turnover and generation intervals are far

shorter; thus, in these industries an error in selection or management can be noticed and remedied at a far faster rate.

It is fairly simple to purchase heifers at a discounted price either from a sale barn, neighbor or even a

heifer replacement sale. However, it is imperative to keep in mind that not any heifer will become a profitable cow. Many factors dictate how an

individual cow performs in a given management

system, and each producer should evaluate the effects of those factors on the potential profitability of 63 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN

their cows. The genetic origin (i.e. breed and color), management techniques from diet to reproduction,

alliances, marketability of heifers, and economics are

all factors that a producer needs to take into account when purchasing or developing heifers.

The efficiency of post-weaning development of heifers has a major impact on the overall

profitability of cow-calf operations. To ensure

satisfactory performance during the first breeding season, replacement heifers must be subjected to an adequate development program. A program

should provide proper conditions for heifers to

conceive, maintain full-term pregnancies, calve

without assistance, wean a healthy calf, and conceive again as first-calf heifers. Knowledge of the basic physiology underlying heifer performance and

the available breeding preparation strategies is important. This awareness allows producers to

adjust their replacement heifer system and increase the economic returns of their operations.

Age At Puberty, Nutrition, And Target Body Weight Gain Age at puberty is a major factor that influences

reproductive success of beef heifers. Ideally, heifers should reach puberty approximately 60 days

before the beginning of their first breeding season,

increasing their chances of becoming pregnant and allowing them to conceive earlier in the season.

Continued on page 65



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Continued from page 63

The timing of first conception is also important to the overall productivity of a heifer. Females that

calve at the beginning of their first calving season have been shown to have a greater probability of

pregnancy in the subsequent breeding season when

bred as first-calf heifers (Patterson et al. 1992). Cows that calve in the beginning of the calving season

were also shown to wean heavier calves (Rodgers et

al. 2012) and stay productive in the herd for a longer period of time (Cushman et al. 2013). Therefore,

increasing the proportion of beef females that calve

earlier can increase the economic returns of cow-calf producers (Rodgers et al. 2012; Lamb et al. 2016).

Management strategies that lower the age at which

heifers reach puberty can have a great impact on the reproductive efficiency of beef heifers and positively affect overall profitability for the producer. Breed is an important aspect that must be

considered when preparing heifers for breeding.

Most U.S. heifer herds are composed of Bos taurus

breeds in which heifers are bred to calve at 2 years of age. However, in the southern states, such as

Florida, more than 50 percent of heifers calve at a later age (Day and Nogueira 2013). This is a

result of a greater presence of Bos indicus genotype in these particular herds. Bos indicus-influenced heifers reach puberty later. Producers generally

manage their herds to achieve parturition at 30–36

months of age for this reason. However, Bos indicus heifers can be developed to calve at 2 years old if they are properly managed. The use of nutrition strategies and pharmacological treatments that

accelerate puberty allows producers with Bos indicus cattle to breed heifers to calve at 24 months (Day and Nogueira 2013).

The period of time that precedes puberty is

called the peripubertal period. From an endocrine standpoint, this period is characterized by a

wavelike pattern of follicular growth in the ovaries



with the occurrence of follicular dominance.

and Lamb 2014). A nutritional program should be

the peripubertal period as a result of negative

to heifers so they can attain this final target weight

However, dominant follicles fail to ovulate during feedback of estradiol on GnRH secretion. The

negative feedback of estradiol decreases as puberty approaches, allowing the secretion of GnRH and LH to increase. Increased LH activity stimulates final follicular growth and maturation of the

dominant follicles, therefore increasing estradiol

concentration to a threshold that activates the preovulatory LH surge and causes ovulation.

The mechanisms that control the decrease in the

negative feedback of estradiol are not completely understood. Nevertheless, it is well documented that nutrition is a key factor that influences

age at puberty and, consequently, reproductive performance of heifers (Patterson et al. 1992; Day and Nogueira 2013). An adequate plane

of nutrition is required for pregnancy to occur.

capable of providing sufficient energy and protein before the beginning of the breeding season.

Pelvic Area Measurements and Reproductive Tract Score Dystocia is a constant concern in heifer

management. The incidence of dystocia is increased in heifers that are not fully grown at the time of first calving. Heifers with small pelvic areas are

more likely to have greater calving difficulty. The measurements of pelvic area can help producers

determine which animals are ready to be exposed to breeding and decrease the risk of dystocia by

helping them select animals with larger birth canals (Troxel 2011).

Another valuable pre-breeding strategy is the

When establishing the nutritional scheme for a

use of reproductive tract scores (RTS). The RTS

consider that Bos taurus beef heifers generally

determine a heifer’s ability to conceive. Through

mature body weight. With that in mind, the use

tract structures are evaluated. Each heifer receives

and effective way to prepare heifers for breeding.

and ovarian characteristics. This information allows

heifers achieve 60–65 percent of their mature body

of becoming pregnant as replacement heifers and to

heifer development program, it is important to

is utilized to assess reproductive maturity and

reach puberty at 55–60 percent of their expected

rectal palpation or ultrasonography, the reproductive

of a target average daily gain (ADG) is a common

a score from 1 to 5, Table 1, based on their uterine

It is recommended that Bos indicus-influenced

producers to select heifers that have greater chances

weight before the breeding season starts (Lancaster

potentially cull late-maturing females.

Table 1. Reproductuve tract score (RTS) description.


Uterine Horns

1 20 mm diatemeter no tone 2 20-25 mm diameter no tone 3 25-30 mm diameter slight tone 4 30 mm diameter good tone 5 .32 mm diameter good tone, erect Adapted from Anderson et al. (1991). 66 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN

Ovarian Structu re 1 No palpable structure 8 mm follicles 8-10 mm follicles >10 mm follicles corpis luteum possible >10 mm follicles corpus leteum present



Herd Health

with the operations and the local diseases that

Adequate herd health is essential for optimal

can impact the herd is advisable. The veterinarian

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, Bovine Viral

management strategies that assist in the control

campylobacteriosis, neosporosis) can cause embryonic

strategy is the breeding soundness examination of

economic losses. Fortunately, the majority of diseases

control certain diseases and prevent poor results

protocol and adequate nutrition. Standard vaccination

The control of parasites is also important. Adequate

with veterinarians once they have become familiar

desirable animal performance.

performance. Several diseases (such as

also has an important role in the establishment of

Diarrhea, brucellosis, leptospirosis, trichomoniasis,

of infectious diseases. An example of management

loss and abortion, which result in significant

bulls prior to the breeding season, which helps to

in heifers can be controlled with proper vaccination

related to male infertility (Dahlen and Stokka 2015).

protocols are available, Table 2, but working closely

deworming protocols are required to guarantee

Table 2. Standard vaccination protocol.*


Vaccine Clostridum

The profitability of beef cow-calf operations

Period of Vaccination 3 months and weaning


Weaning and prior to breeding


Weaning and prior to breedin


Weaning and prior to breeding


4-12 months

Campylobacteriosis (Vibriosis)

Weaning and prior to breeding


Weaning and prior to breeding

*Producers should work with their veterinarian to choose a vaccination protocol that fits their operation. **States with brucellosis-free status do not require vaccination.

depends on an adequate heifer replacement system. The reproductive performance

of heifers relies on the use of adequate

management strategies during the prebreeding period. Understanding the

mechanisms that control the age of puberty

can help producers comprehend the available heifer development strategies and customize a development program that fits their own operations.

Literature Cited Anderson, K. J., D. G. Lefever, J. S. Brinks, and K. G. Odde. 1991. “The use of reproductive tract scoring in beef heifers.” Agri-Practice 12: 19. Cushman, R. A., L. K. Kill, R. N. Funston, E. M. Mousel, and G. A. Perry. 2013. “Heifer calving date positively influences calf weaning weights through six parturitions.” J. Anim. Sci. 91: 4486–4491.

Dahlen, C., and G. L. Stokka. 2015. “Soundness examinations.” Accessed 10/25/2016. Day, M. L., and G. P. Nogueira. 2013. “Management of age at puberty in beef heifers to optimize efficiency of beef production.” Anim. Front. 3: 6–11.

Lamb, G. C., V. R. G. Mercadante, D. D. Henry, P. L. P. Fontes, C. R. Dahlen, J. E. Larson, and N. DiLorenzo. 2016. “Invited Review: Advantages of current and future reproductive technologies for beef cattle production.” Prof. Anim. Sci. 32: 162–171.

Lancaster, P., and C. Lamb. 2014. “Targeting ADG of developing replacement heifers using age and body weight.” University of Florida, IFAS, Florida Coop. Ext., Animal Science Dept., EDIS Publication AN305.

Patterson, D. J., R. C. Perry, G. H. Kiracofe, R. A. Bellows, R. B. Staigmiller, and L. R. Corah. 1992. “Management considerations in heifer development and puberty.” J. Anim. Sci. 70: 4018–4035. Rodgers, J. C., S. L. Bird, J. E. Larson, N. DiLorenzo, C. R. Dahlen, A. Dicostanzo, and G. C. Lamb. 2012. “An economic evaluation of estrous synchronization and timed artificial insemination in suckled beef cows.” J. Anim. Sci. 90: 4055–4062.

Troxel, T. 2011. “Pelvic area measurements in the management of replacement heifers.” : 2–4. Available from: http:// US201300350000035.xml;US201300003567. Accessed 10/25/2016. NATIONAL CATTLEMEN





The Secret to Ranch Continuity Courageous Conversations By Taneil Specht Author of The Farm Whisperer

Imagine the following conversation:

convince Seth ‘there’s no place like home’.”

“We have just moved back to work on the ranch.

“Is your operation big enough to provide for three

We really want our kids to have the same kind of experiences growing up that we did.”

“That’s wonderful! There really is something

special about this place. So, are you going to start taking over? Run the place yourself?”

“Yeah, I think so, eventually. Dad’s getting older and can’t get on as well. But I don’t think he’s really ready to let go yet.”

“Do your brother or sister want to come back, too?” “Jed isn’t interested; says there are easier ways to

make a living. But Sarah hopes she can eventually



“Probably not as it is, but I figure with some

growth and a little expansion it might work.” “That sounds like an adventure. What about now? Did you write anything down with your parents?

Such as your salary and other compensation, your timeline for assuming ownership, your parents’

expectations for retirement …” and the longer the list gets of things that should have taken place,

or should be in the process, the wider my f riends eyes grow and the more the smile slips into a f rown.



As the average age of the American rancher

generations want to honor the heritage of the ranch,

put plans in place that help to assure the continuity

ranch going forward. The challenge: how do you

continues to increase, there is a growing need to of these ranches. Planning for the ownership

and management succession of a ranch can be

while making sure that there is a financially viable have those conversations?

a daunting and emotionally charged process.

The key to ranch continuity is in having courageous

ranch continues in the family, but also isn’t thrilled

you have all of the answers to the challenges of

the ranch and how ownership should work with

though, that you know the right questions to ask to

to know if there is a path to ownership and they’d

of the ranch with the expectations of the family. The

Generally, the older generation wants to assure the

conversations. It isn’t necessary to pretend that

with having to make decisions about who will run

succession planning for the ranch. It is crucial,

the next generation. Many next gen ranchers want

be able to put a plan in place that aligns the needs

like to know the timing. For the most part, all

only way to accomplish this is to ask great questions.




Here are 5 questions that every ranch family

should consider asking individual members of the family prior to putting plans in place. The

answers to these questions should clarify and

inform ranch owners as to some of the provisions they should consider when putting a continuity

5) What is the greatest non-financial objective you’d like to achieve with your estate plan?

If you need further assistance with questions,

my husband and I created an app called Inspired Questions-For Farmers. It is available on iOS

plan together.

devices and Android devices. The app is FREE

1) What is your comfort level with the farm’s ability

do the hard work and ask Inspired Questions.

to create cash flow for the senior generation during retirement?

2) What is your comfort level with personally guaranteeing the debt of the ranch?

3) How likely is it that your lender would continue to lend money to the ranch if the current owners were to retire or pass away?

and it is our gift to American Agriculture. Please Pursue courageous conversations; the generations that follow you will thank you.

Link to iOS - Link to Android Version - Taneil Specht is the co-author of the book The Farm

Whisperer and the co-creator of the Generational Busi-

4) In what ways has the family addressed the

ness 360 process. She is the mother of 5 young children

ownership for the next generation?


possible opportunities and challenges with shared

and lives with her husband in beautiful rural Basin City,





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