Cow-Calf Corner • The Newsletter, March 14, 2022
Monday, March 14, 2022
Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
Spring is trying to arrive in Oklahoma with several rounds of alternating warm and cold weather recently. Much of the state received a bit of snow last week but moisture totals were very small. The calendar says that winter is officially over this week and spring-like temperatures are forecast in the coming days and may be here for good. Warmer temperatures, low humidity, dry conditions and wind mean that wildfire risks are very high now.
The drought conditions impacting the region will become much more apparent in the coming weeks. The Oklahoma Mesonet system shows that precipitation over the past 120 days averages 44 percent of normal across the state. All regions of the state are dry with some much drier than others. The east central region has received 62 of normal precipitation, the most of any region of the state, while the Panhandle has received just 14 percent of normal since mid-November.
According to the Drought Monitor, nearly 92 percent of Oklahoma is abnormally dry or worse with over 56 percent of the state in D3 (Extreme Drought) and D4 (Exceptional Drought). The Drought Severity and Coverage Index (DSCI) for Oklahoma currently is at 321 (out of a maximum of 500). The Oklahoma DSCI was at 67 in mid-September 2021.
The latest Seasonal Drought Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center predicts continued drought conditions across most of the western U.S., with the exception of the Pacific Northwest (see map below). This includes all of Oklahoma except the eastern tier counties. The weather patterns we are experiencing are consistent with the current La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean. La Niña conditions are forecast to persist into the summer thus increasing the likelihood of continuing drought conditions.
The Impact of Bull Selection – Part 1
Mark Z. Johnson, Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Breeding Specialist
This week we take a look at an example of what happens to expected herd performance in the next generation based on the bull we use.
First, last fall at weaning we took the following measures of herd performance.
- 1,400 pound average mature cow size (4 – 7 year old cows)
- 85% pregnancy rate
- 82% calf crop weaned
- Average weaning weight 500 pounds
- Pounds of Calf Weaned/Exposed Female = 410
This data indicates that we need to improve the Pounds of Calf Weaned/Exposed Female on a whole herd basis to improve the profit potential of this operation. Traits of economic significance to improve this number are weaning weight, cowherd fertility, cow milk level and mature weight of cows. An EPD exists for each and can be used as a basis of selection to improve the 410 value.
In this example, we use herd bulls as rotational sires, selecting the best 20% of heifers to develop as replacements, and sell all other calves at weaning.
Since genetic values are comparable across time and geography, we can use the registration numbers of the five bulls used over the past decade that sired our existing cowherd, and find the following EPDs specific to our selection goal:
- Tattoo WW HP Milk MW
- 3348 85 10 27 104
- 5405 75 8 15 101
- 0A36 81 13 25 111
- 7008 63 9 25 63
- 5133 50 6 17 63
Average: 71 9 20 88
Now we consider the genetic values of two new potential herd bulls.
New Herd Bull 1 71 15 20 68
New Herd Bull 2 101 9 20 122
By comparing the EPDs of the new bulls we are considering to the five bulls that sired our existing cowherd, we can predict genetic change expected in the next generation of cows in our operation. For example: Bull 2 should raise weaning weights by 30 pounds and mature weights by 34 pounds. Bull 1 should sire daughters six percent more likely to get pregnant and raise a calf to weaning while lowering mature weight of cows by 20 pounds. Neither bull is expected to change the milk level of the cowherd.
The question is, which bull transmits more profit potential to this operation? Take some time to consider the question. I will give my answer next week in part 2 of this article.
When is the right time to castrate bulls?
Jeff Robe, Oklahoma Quality Beef Network Coordinator
The practice of castrating animals goes back to ancient times. Egyptian farmers found castrating bovine bulls made the animal much easier to handle. It’s doubtful the Egyptians were concerned about the value-added components of their animals. But today, adding value to market cattle is the name of the game and castration is a key component to any preconditioning program that can greatly influence market price premiums or discounts, especially in older bull calves.
Castrating bull calves has become common practice in U.S. beef herds. In 2017, the USDA-APHIS NAHMS Beef Cow Calf study indicated that 62% of commercial cow-calf herds used castration methods in their management practices. Castration has provided economic benefits to both the cow-calf producer and feedlot operators through increased market prices and meat quality. Castration also decreases unwanted pregnancy and increases the safety of workers and other animals.
There is a perceived notion that intact bulls have an advantage in body weight gains during the preweaning period and post greater weaning weights than calves castrated at or near birth. However, numerous studies have shown the weaning weights are similar for bulls and steers (approx. 600 lbs.). Advantages in calf weight gain due to testosterone production are presumably realized at a time following average weaning dates closer to puberty.
The timing of castration can influence weight gain and stress management. Studies examining how timing of castration effects average daily gains (ADG) in cattle castrated either in early life (birth to 2 mo.) or those castrated at weaning or postweaning (6-10 mo.) demonstrated higher ADG during the post-weaning period in the early castrated calves (approx. 0.30 lbs/day greater) than those castrated at or after. The period calves experience weight loss post-castration increases with age as does risk of disease susceptibility. The stress experienced is also related to the time of castration as the level of discomfort and trauma increases with the size of testicles. Calves castrated at 5 ½ months of age or later experienced a greater duration of stress than those castrated at birth or at branding.
Bull calves entering the stocker or feedlot segments of the industry have numerous health and performance factors associated with late life castration such as increased risk or morbidity and mortality, sick treatments and decreased ADG. Therefore, price discounts for bull calves being sold at market can be substantial when compared to steers marketed in the same weight class. Lighter weight bulls (300-400 lbs.) are viewed as less risky, and discounts are generally minimal if any. As the weight of a bull increases, so does the risk. Discounts can average $6-12/cwt or $30-60 per head.
A herd management practice that dates to ancient times and still used today has clearly proven beneficial. Utilizing the practice and with a timing that makes sense may be the difference between dollars made or dollars lost.
Castration is an important part of adding value to your calves through preconditioning. For more details and to enroll in the OQBN program go to www.oqbn.okstate.edu