April 2008
Feeding Facts

Feeding Facts

By Jimmy Hughes

From time to time, I come across University conducted research I believe is very practical as well as valuable in offering information to producers who utilize this information. University research, on the most part, is unbiased research holding merit in the scientific community as being reliable and true. I hope these studies will provide practical information to implement in your operation as a means for herd improvement.

Oklahoma State University (OSU) recently completed a study on how the length of a breeding season affects profitability of your cow herd. OSU agricultural economist analyzed over 300 ranches in the Midwest to determine for each day the breeding season was lengthened, the annual cost of producing 100 pounds of weaned calf increased by 4.7 cents. At the same time, the pounds of calf weaned per cow per year decreased by .158 pounds. The range of the breeding season in the data set was from 11 days to 365 days. Producers who kept bulls with their cows year round had $13.63 greater cost per hundredweight of weaned calves than producers who used a 75-day breeding season. If a producer weans 20,000 pounds of calves per year, that is a difference in profits of $2,650 per year. In addition, those same producers sold on average 45.82 fewer pounds of calf per cow per year.

I have discussed, in past articles, the importance of being on a controlled breeding program. This study further indicates how profitable it is for a producer to utilize a controlled breeding program. The number one reason most producers give for not being on such a program is they do not have separate facilities for the bull. With the kind of savings found in this study, a producer could afford to build a suitable pen to put the bull during a controlled breeding season.

Another study is one conducted at Iowa State University (ISU) indicating parasite control in cow/calf segment is the technology most affecting weaning rates and weaning weights. The analysis, conducted by ISU Economics Professor Dr. John Lawrence, was based on 170 research trials spanning 25 years. The study concluded when compared with the second most important practice – the use of growth promoting implants – parasite control is 5.9 times more important to break-even costs. Producers who use parasite control can expect an advantage of over 4% in weaning weight.

In a year with record fertilizer prices as well as high feed prices, I continue to be concerned producers might ignore parasite control as a way to save money. I hope this study will identify the importance of a parasite control program and how this practice will pay for itself in increased weaning weights. I encourage producers to talk with their local Co-op managers to assure getting the very best parasite control product for the cost. Another parasite problem we always complain about, but do little to control, is external parasites like flies. Your local Co-op has a full supply of fly control products to consider this spring. Whether it is sprays, tags or feed supplements, they are well-stocked and prepared to help in this very important area of parasite control.

A final study I would like to offer up for thought is a recent survey by the National Animal Health Monitoring System. This survey indicated less than 20% of cow/calf producers pregnancy tests their herds. The greatest benefit to this practice is quite simple; the producer can identify open cows before feeding them through the winter. Hay cost alone is over $100 per cow per year to feed an open cow throughout the year. The cost of a pregnancy exam will usually run roughly $5 per head and is a quick and simple procedure. Another benefit to pregnancy testing this past year comes from allowing you to select open and slow breeding cows to sale first during drought times on your operation.

I hope these three studies will provide some "food for thought" as you develop a management plan for your cattle herd this year. If I can ever be of help, please feel free to contact me at 256-947-7886 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jimmy Hughes is AFC’s animal nutritionist.