As spring comes to a close, I hope you enter the summer with plenty of grass, cows in good body condition and a successful first cutting of hay that was cut, cured and put up without getting wet. With summer fast approaching and the market outlook for cattle looking strong, it is again time to look at and consider some decisions that will pay dividends at sale time this fall. I realize when the cattle market is depressed, most producers try to reduce input cost to reduce overall production cost. The fact cattle prices are good leads me to encourage producers to implement management practices again allowing you to realize more profits in your cattle operation. It has always been my belief that the more proficient you are as cattle producers, the more profitable your operation will be. As we enter the summer months and the temperature is rising, let’s look at some of these practices that can affect your bottom line in a positive manner.
Internal Parasite Control - One of the first practices I would consider is in the area of parasite control. I realize last year a lot of producers either did not implement internal parasite control practices or used a generic product not manufactured to the same quality standards as a branded product. Cattle loaded with internal parasites cannot utilize nutrients the way parasite-free cattle can.
Several university studies indicate internal parasites can reduce digestive efficiency by 10 percent or more. At a cost of a little more than $3 per head, you can eliminate internal parasites and improve the cow’s overall digestibility. The increase in nutrient absorption will pay more than $3 the first week alone. Cows not loaded with parasites also shed winter hair sooner, stay in better body condition, breed back sooner and produce more milk. Cattle grazing grass very close to the ground are even more susceptible to internal parasites.
I would recommend worming the cattle at least twice a year with a branded product. While cheaper generics are available, they do not have to comply with the same regulations and are often manufactured in a way to be less effective on internal parasite control. I know of several producers who have returned back to branded products after using generic products because the generic products did not give the response they were looking for and their cattle suffered in growth and performance. This is a perfect time to deworm your cattle and your local Quality Co-op is ready with products that are on sale. While I will not recommend a specific product, I encourage you to read labels and talk to your Co-op manager to select the very best product to control the most species of internal parasites.
External Parasite Control - I would also consider one of many options when it comes to external parasite control. The many variety of flies along with lice cost the cattle industry billions of dollars per year in cattle weight loss, reduced milk production and disease transmission. A cow constantly being swarmed and bitten by flies or lice will spend most of the day swatting flies and rubbing against fencepost instead of grazing and putting on weight. Also, remember there is a direct correlation between nutrition and milk production —- if a cow is not eating, then she is producing less milk for her calf. What this means is the cow is not gaining weight and her calf is growing at a slower rate because of less milk production. This means less calf to sale at market time.
Also disease like pinkeye is transmitted by flies and can affect the overall productivity of your herd.
The good news is there are several products available to help you combat external parasites. Whether it is a feed-through product like IGR or Rabon®, fly tags, sprays or pour-ons, your local Co-op will have the product best fitting your needs. They will also carry minerals and blocks containing either Rabon® or IGR that are very effective in insect control.
A reminder when using a feed-through product is the product will not provide 100 percent control and cattle will still carry a small amount of flies. Also when using these products, remember they effect the lifecycle of the fly —- what flies are on your cows will remain for the lifecycle of that fly. This is usually around 28 days and after that point you will see a reduction in flies on your cattle.
We also have fly tags available that offer very good fly control. A reminder when using tags is they contain different active chemical ingredients for control and it is important to rotate the type of chemical used each year to reduce the chance of resistance.
Other options include using either pour-ons as they come through the chute in the spring or sprays used as you walk through the herd on a daily or weekly basis. Both types of products offer effective control on flies and lice, and can be purchased at any time. We also carry a full line of back rubs and face flaps that will also assist you in external parasite control.
The take-home message here is fly control is a cost-effective measure to improve milk production, increase cow weight and weaning-weights on your calves.
Vaccination Program - This is the perfect time to consider calf vaccinations for your calves as well as vaccinating your herd. This is also a good time to consider pink-eye vaccinations. A producer who does not vaccinate for blackleg along with other clostridial diseases and reproductive diseases needs to give serious thought to this management tool.
Most producers lose a calf or two as well as have several cows open each year. We most often attribute this to bad luck and go on with our daily business. A lot of these loses may be attributed to disease. One lost calf can pay for your yearly vaccination program as it will cost less than $7 per animal to properly vaccinate the herd.
This is also a good time to visually inspect eyes, teeth, udders and horns to diagnosis any problems and either correct them or sale those cattle needing to be culled.
There are a variety of vaccines available in both a killed and modified-live virus strain. If you are unsure which product to use or need assistance in creating a vaccination program, please call on your Co-op employees, local veterinarian or Extension agent for assistance in this very important area.
Another advantage of a vaccination program is it will allow you to market the cattle in a different manner leading to fewer deductions at sale time. Order-buyers want cattle that have been properly vaccinated and are willing to pay extra for this. The last thing an order-buyer wants is a sick calf on their hands, but remember a blackleg shot alone is not a vaccination program nor will you be paid extra for it.
We can ship most vaccines directly to you overnight and we are very competitively priced. We also carry a full-line of needles, syringes and cattle handling equipment to make the implementation and utilization of a vaccination program even simpler.
REMEMBER TO USE A KILLED-VACCINE ON CALVES NURSING PREGNANT COWS.
Implants - Implants are a great tool to maximize growth in your calves. Steers, bulls and sale-heifers can be implanted several times while a heifer you are consider to keep as a replacement should only be implanted one time. I have not seen a study that did not conclude implanting a calf did not lead to an increase in weight-gain that more than paid for the cost of the implant. When your calves go to the feed yards they are implanted which should give you enough reason to implant them at your farm. Do not let the feed yards get the added weight gain from implants when you can gain them at your farm.
Minerals - I have discussed in recent articles the overall importance of providing proper minerals and vitamins to your cattle. I realize in the past few years the cost on minerals has almost doubled and this was an area some producers saw as a way to decrease cost. Now is the time to again provide high-quality, complete minerals and vitamins to your herd. Whether you chose a loose mineral or a mineral block like STIMU-LYX®, it is very important to offer them to your herd. This decision will be very beneficial. Cattle on a complete program show better reproductive performance, improved immunity, increased milk production and increased weight gain.
I believe reproduction performance is the greatest reason to implement a high-quality mineral program. Without a calf each year on all of your cows, your chance for a profit is greatly reduced. Cows will cycle sooner, have stronger heats and have less embryonic deaths; and bulls will have improved semen quality and libidos.
The cost of a good mineral versus a lower-quality or trace mineral salt is pennies per head per day. At year’s end, it will cost less than $10 more per cow to feed a complete high-quality mineral. Mineral prices have stabilized and it is very easy to see how it would take very little in improved reproductive performance to offset cost. Remember, cattle will consume an average of four to six ounces per-head per-day. Cattle deprived of minerals will consume more until they have built up body reserves and level off on intake.
Creep Feeds - Feed costs are usually cheaper in the spring and summer due to less demand for feed ingredients. With this said, what better time with high calf prices to creep feed your cattle. The most economical way to justify creep feeding calves is to look at it from a cost-per-pound-of-gain standpoint. Most calves on creep feed will convert six to eight pounds of feed to one pound of gain. If the feed cost to make this pound of gain is .50 cents and the calf is bringing a $1 a pound, it is simple to see you are doubling your money by creep feeding.
Another advantage is you will reduce grazing pressure on your pasture, leaving more grass for your brood cows to graze. It is also proven cows nursing calves being creep feed maintain better body condition and have improved reproductive performance.
I recommend creep feeding calves every year, but it is very beneficial to creep feed calves when cattle prices are high and feed costs are affordable.
We offer a variety of complete feeds along with feed ingredients that make excellent creep feeds for calves. The producer will really enjoy the extra dollars on the check he will see at sale time from creep feeding.
Forage Samples - I really believe in forage sampling as a way to improve your overall feeding program. I like to say, if you don’t know what you got, how do you know what you need?
Producers waste thousands of dollars each year by not knowing the quality of the forage used for feeding. For less than $40, you can have a forage sample on your hay providing information on its quality. With this information, a producer can decide what he should supplement to see the most favorable results. If your forage quality is very good, it’s obvious you will not have to supplement as much as someone with a lower-quality forage. The only way to know this is to pull a forage sample and have it analyzed. Once you get this information, I will be glad to assist in determining the most economical feeding program to compliment your forage.
This past year is a perfect example of why a forage sample is so important. Hay was abundant and cattle were cheap. Producers keep putting out hay and did not supplement because of the abundance of hay. The quality of forage was poor and, added to the cold, long winter, a lot of producers had cattle that were thin or may have even died even with hay available at all times. Armed with a forage sample, this situation could have been avoided by supplementing with either feed or supplement blocks.
Equipment - When cattle are at a higher price, most producers can consider investing money into cattle equipment. I have talked about several management practices you can implement proven to add to the bottom line of your operation. Some of these practices require equipment investments and your local Co-op is ready to assist in this area. If you need head gates, squeeze chutes or complete sweep systems, they have them available at special spring and summer prices. You may need creep feeders or hay rings; maybe your mineral feeders are beyond repair, we have those available. We can also provide wire, panels and posts.
As you can see, there are several different practices you can consider to add profits to your operation. While you may not be able to implement all of these suggestions, I believe any one of these practices will offer your cattle several benefits. I encourage you to consider these practices as a management tool in your operation.