Winter Lice, Growing Calf Rations, Cash Marketing of Fed Cattle, Providing Minerals

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Guest: Phillip Lancaster

3:05 Listener quester- winter lice

7:54 Growing calf rations

15:07 Listener question- cash marketing of fed cattle

23:50 Listener question- providing minerals

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

Post-Calving Breeding, Replacement Heifers, Pointers for New Operations, Rotational Grazing Fencing Options

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

4:35 Listener question- How long post-breeding before breeding?

9:27 Are your replacement heifers ready?

16:49 Listener question- Pointers for new operations

21:36 Considering Rotational Grazing Fencing Options

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

The Confined Cow-Calf System: Tradeoffs Between Environmental and Economic Sustainability

With the high cost of pasture and rangeland, alternatives to grassland cow-calf production are being investigated with cows and/or calves being in confinement all or part of the production cycle. There are many management options with year-round confinement in regions where grazing grass or crop residue is not possible or desirable, short-season grassland grazing during summer and confinement during winter, or confinement during summer and crop residue/cover crop grazing during winter. Harvesting and delivering feed to the cow rather than the cow harvesting feed herself always adds cost to the production system, and thus, confinement or semi-confinement cow-calf systems have additional costs that need to be offset in some way.

One advantage of having cows in confinement is improved feed management with control over the quality and quantity of feed consumed by the cow-calf pair. By limit feeding cows a high energy, by-product diet during the confinement period, maintenance energy requirement is reduced 20 to 40% compared with a low-energy, forage diet fed ad libitum. This reduction in maintenance energy requirement decreases the total feed energy necessary to maintain the cow. Additionally, the calf has access to higher quality feed (ration vs. grass) and weaning weight is increased if the confinement period coincides with mid and late lactation. The higher quality and lower quantity of feed consumed by the cow reduced methane emissions and would likely require less land improving the sustainability of beef production.

But, as mentioned above, there are additional costs for feed, facilities and equipment, and labor; studies indicate that the net returns decrease as the length of the confinement period increases. Additionally, even though less total land would be used, the amount of land under intensive crop production would likely increase reducing ecosystem services provided by grasslands. Also, the conversion efficiency of non-human edible protein to human edible protein decreases with the use of high-energy, by-product diets because more human edible protein is used in the diet. Protein conversion efficiency is one of the most positive attributes of using ruminants for food production and should be a primary goal in designing any cattle production system.

Developing an economically and environmentally sustainable cow-calf production system will be difficult. Changing one aspect of the system to cause an improvement in one metric can easily result in moving another metric in the wrong direction. The beef cattle production system needs to be evaluated as a whole and careful analysis should be completed before making decisions.


Figure 1. Cow maintenance energy requirement (MEm, Mcal/kg.75), cow methane emissions (CH4, CO2 equivalents/kg HeP), human edible protein conversion efficiency (HePCE, %), and net returns (Returns, $/cow) for conventional pasture-based and semi-confinement (3-4 months) cow-calf production systems

Research and Innovation

Bob L. Larson, DVM, PhD

Beef Cattle Institute

Kansas State University

Changes in the tools and solutions available to address beef cattle health and production concerns are being driven by both time-tested and new areas of research and innovation. The advances being made in genetics, geographic information systems, nanotechnology, and computing power are exciting and provide researchers with new tools to learn about cattle nutrition, reproduction, grazing, health, and behavior. But all innovations are built on foundational knowledge of animal husbandry and the daily needs and characteristics of cattle.

Genomics and related research areas such as proteinomics, lipidomics, and other “omics” are used to study the molecules that are inside cells including DNA, RNA, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. New laboratory tools are being developed to allow animal and veterinary scientists to investigate how different cattle respond to different nutrients, disease challenges, and environmental factors at the cellular level.  These types of studies were not possible just a few years ago, and it is hoped that learning about what is happening in the cells will help explain differences we see in living cattle.

Geographical Information Systems (or GIS) uses maps and other data to ask questions about the characteristics of specific places and the animals, plants, and environment associated with those places. From GPS and GIS technologies in our cars, phones, and farm equipment, “precision agriculture” is changing the way food producers think about using land, animals, labor, and other resources so that each square-foot of land or each individual animal is managed for its own optimal production, rather than for optimal production at the herd or field level. GIS also allows researchers with different areas of expertise such as soil health, forage production, water quality, plant health, cattle health and growth, meat science, and economics to add “layers” to the information for each area and animal on a ranch so that scientists can study complex trade-offs between different aspects of cattle production.

Nanotechnology and nanoscience is the use and study of extremely small things (less than 100 nanometers in size) created to serve many different purposes. To understand how small these devices are – there are over 25 million nanometers per inch, so more than 250,000 of the largest nanodevices could fit in an inch. New microscopes that allow scientists to see things as small as an atom have allowed this area of research and innovation to move rapidly from science fiction to marketable products. Nanodevises could be used to deliver small doses of drugs to parts of the body that are affected by disease and to avoid parts of the body that could have a toxic reaction. Other nanotechnology will likely be used to deliver nutrients, detect disease, and improve meat packaging.

All of these areas of innovation are made possible by rapidly increasing computing power which takes the relatively simple task of doing math problems and allows scientists to ask deeper questions about nature and cattle production. The amount of numbers that are generated by studies using genomics (and other “omics”), GIS, and nanoparticles can only be organized and evaluated using computing speed that was not available until recently. New ways of collecting and storing data and doing math are being developed to keep up with growing amounts of information generated from innovations that are investigating both smaller and larger environments associated with cattle production.

It might be easy to become excited (or appalled) by the innovations that are changing the way scientists do research; but as I look at those who are doing the most beneficial projects, I see animal and veterinary scientists who combine an appreciation for cattle and cattle producers with their knowledge of the latest tools to investigate the mysteries of biology. It seems to me that the more we learn about cattle the more we realize how much is still hidden. By appreciating how amazing cattle and the rest of biology are, scientists take small steps toward understanding the things we see every day – cattle eating grass, growing muscle, becoming pregnant, being challenged with disease, recovering from disease, and serving an important and complex role in the earth’s ecosystem. Although the tools that are the result of and drivers of innovation tend to be complex, the questions that drive cattle research are straightforward and similar to the questions asked by animal and veterinary scientists for generations: How to best utilize forage resources? How to meet the nutrient needs of cattle throughout their life? How to identify individuals with the most valuable genetic traits? How to grow and harvest muscle tissue that makes the most desirable food? And, how to diagnose and treat animals that become sick? In my opinion, the tools aren’t what makes a good scientist, my science heroes have a love for biology, for cattle, and for discovery that makes them want to continue learning throughout their life and to serve cattle and cattle producers by finding solutions to life’s everyday challenges.

Monitoring BCS, Breeding Fall Cows, Cow Size and Profitability, Polio

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

2:07 Monitoring body condition score

8:50 Breeding fall cows

16:30 Cow size and profitability

25:36 Polio

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

Grazing Soybean Stubble, Fescue Toxicity and Vasodilators, Cover Crops to Use Nitrogen in Dry Lot, Winter Water Mineral Supplementation

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook and Twitter.

This week’s guest is Dr. Phillip Lancaster.

2:58 Grazing soybean stubble

7:23 Fescue toxicity and vasodilators

11:58 Cover crops to use nitrogen in dry lot

17:53 Mineral supplementation in winter

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!