N A T I O N A L
CATTLEMEN The trusted leader and definitive voice of the beef industry.
THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF NCBA â€¢ 2017 BeefUSA.org
2017 SPRING DIRECTIONS
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.
Use LONGRANGE on your cow/calf operation and see the difference for yourself.
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*Results varied between 13 and 40 lbs. for heifers and steers, respectively, over 104 days.
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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
www.BeefUSA.org LONGRANGE-PI_InBrief_NCBA SPRING DIRECTIONS.indd 3/6/17 1 8:53 AM
N A T I O N A L
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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2 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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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
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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
8 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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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10 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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 cropâ€™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 www.BeefUSA.org
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
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
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
12 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
2.5 2.0 Tons/Acre
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.
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.
14 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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.
A W E L C O M E S E N S E O F P R E D I C TA B I L I T Y
IN A WORLD OF UNK NOW NS.
©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.
18 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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
20 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
concentrations are very low. Consequently, ample supplemental Na, usually in the form of NaCl, should be consistently provided to cattle.
RECRUIT A NEW MEMBER TODAY! Recruiting Tips: • Don’t be afraid to ask if they are members. That includes your friends, coworkers, and community. • Stay up to date on the latest issues and don’t be afraid of the tough questions. • Tell them why YOU are a member. • Get their contact information and follow-up.
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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 donâ€™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
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
135° Hock Set
Figure 1. Key points for evaluating beef cattle structural conformation. (Image courtesy Shane Bedwell)
24 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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)
angle, modest length, and substantial depth of ‘17 ad National Cattlemen 1/2 pg
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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)
26 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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.
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.
wonâ€™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
28 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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)
30 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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
32 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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
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.
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
34 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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
> âˆ’ 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.
36 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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 $1 billion annual cost associated with BRD in the U.S. cattle industry.
Translation to the beef industry is likely to be a little more problematic due both to the larger number of
breeds and breed associations involved in beef cattle
real task may be getting the industry to incorporate the trait of disease susceptibility into beef cattle selection indices and selection decisions. One issue is that not all beef breed associations have economic selection
indices, which would leave the value determination
of BRD susceptibility up to the individual breeder. A recent economic analysis on a terminal sire selection index showed that BRD had a high economic value â€“ almost as high as hot carcass weight - meaning
selection against BRD incidence should get a high economic weighting as its economic importance is significant to overall profitability (Table 1).
Table 1. Economic value, genetic standard deviation (SD), relative economic value, and relative importance to days to harvest for bovine respiratory disease (BRD). (Buchanan, J. et al. 2016. Journal of Animal Science, 94:5456-5460.) Trait Economic Genetic SD Relative Relative Value ($) 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 â€“ 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
38 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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 http://www.brdcomplex.org/; or www.ebeef.org/.
Research Initiative (USDA AFRI Grant no. 2011www.BeefUSA.org
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Purina® All Seasons™ Cattle Nutrition Program
First-calf heifers: friend or foe? Calving a first-calf heifer out and then trying to get her bred back in 60 days can be a challenge. It’s a critical timeframe that can make or break a heifer’s future in the herd. Help put your heifers on the path to success by evaluating your nutrition program. A heifer nutrition program should: 1. Support more heifers bred Your herd relies on developing heifers that are fertile, milk well and have longevity. But, heifers are still growing, developing their next calf and may also have a calf at side. You can’t assume they have it all covered. Your heifers need a boost. The nutrition you provide heifers plays an important role in getting them bred and rebred. Quality nutrition during all three trimesters of a heifer’s pregnancy can also maximize the genetic potential of the resulting calf. The Purina® All Seasons™ Cattle Nutrition Program is designed to support more heifers bred in the first 60 days postcalving. 2. Be flexible and convenient No matter your forage availability, labor resources, feed type preference or facilities,
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Farm: Bradley 3 Ranch Location: Texas
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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 www.BeefUSA.org
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
also contributes to soil
in the 21st Century).
health. Shafer points
out that compared to
health in pasture
systems is essential
of the forage plants,
and proliferation and
turnover of the plant
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
contributes further to
to a changing and
addition, Shafer notes
can increase plant
the condition of grazing
9 billion people
growth and regeneration
livestock productivity. In
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.
44 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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 (http://bit.ly/2o2kSKZ) 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
plantsâ€™ 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 soilâ€™s The bottom line is that soils with healthy, diverse
communities of organisms can provide more water to plants.
entry, and the flow of
and other organic
organic carbon through
a grazing system, can
provide for the plantâ€™s
be achieved with proper
needs. It offers energy
to animals that eat the
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
ground means managing
matters because good
ground. Since carbon
plant, and provides
suggests that controlling
growth and development
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
46 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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 www.youtube.com/cattlementocattlemen
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
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
48 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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,
of a system through
soil health and soil
management may be
more effective than
infiltration and water
water can be most
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
profitabil ity. As Tate
states, producers’ on-
and scientific research
show that optimal
may involve using
a grazing stick to
benefits all aspects of
evaluate forage height,
or digging a hole to
assess soil compaction and root penetration.
Monitoring data may indicate need for
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. www.BeefUSA.org
available at at http://bit.ly/2nIqhq1, and Managed Rangeland Systems, with Johnny Rogers and Dr.
Kenneth Tate, is linked at http://bit.ly/2o7nOqg. 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
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 distillerâ€™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 canâ€™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 todayâ€™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
54 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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
56 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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
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 wonâ€™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-
on approach S&S has introduced new ways of
thinking and a new approach to working cattle
Gill, PhD has
to producers across the country. As the program
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
access demonstrations and learning opportunities,
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.
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
demonstrations and clinics on
stockmanship, colt starting,
The personalities delivering the S&S message are
Curt Pate and Ron Gill have not only effectively
certainly the largest factor of the program’s success.
safety. His abilities
taught cattlemen and women their proven low-
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
60 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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
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3/22/17 5:48 PM NATIONAL CATTLEMEN 61
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 30â€“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 heiferâ€™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 60â€“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 55â€“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.
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
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.*
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
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.” https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/livestoc/as1755.pdf. 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. www.BeefUSA.org
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:// agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?f=2013/US/ US201300350000035.xml;US201300003567. Accessed 10/25/2016. NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
68 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
69 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
“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.
70 NATIONAL CATTLEMEN
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 youâ€™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
devices and Android devices. The app is FREE
1) What is your comfort level with the farmâ€™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 - http://apple.co/2odei1J Link to Android Version - http://bit.ly/2nfb1OB 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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