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Iowa Beef Center, Iowa State University
August 2015   Volume 6, Issue 2
In this issue
Planning for winter feed needs began yesterday
By Patrick Gunn  ISU Extension cow-calf specialist

Even with an abnormally wet spring and summer in many parts of the Midwest, it is probably safe to say that producers all have at least one cutting of hay completed at this point. From the producers and extension specialists I have talked to, however, quality of that hay is widely variable.

While the temperature says it is still summer, many producers who have either low quality or a reduced volume of forage from this summer may already be behind the eight ball in terms of winter feed planning. As we move into a period of the year where many producers may only have one more cutting of hay available, it is imperative that a winter feed budget is developed now to prevent a shortfall when feed prices will undoubtedly increase after the first of the year.

Here are a few things to consider when balancing winter feed needs and costs without sacrificing animal performance this winter:

1)    Get weights on cows as well as forage. Most producers tend to underestimate the weight of their cows, and overestimate the weight of their bales. Having a correct cow weight will allow you to develop the most appropriate ration/supplementation scheme.

2)    Remember that what is baled is not what the cows either have the opportunity to consume or will consume. Consider the current storage method and estimate the amount of storage loss as well as potential feeding losses that may occur. BRaNDS ration balancing software has a great calculator in the appendix that helps predict feed waste based on amount of “rot” of a bale. Additional storage and feeding losses are also outlined in this fact sheet on the IBC website.

3)    Consider using cornstalks, either grazed or baled, to extend forage supplies. However, use caution when relying on stalks for winter forage. Hope for the best but expect the worst as a wet fall can result in poor quality stalks, poor grazing conditions and a baled product that has more value as bedding than feed.

4)    Plan ahead. Hay prices are as low as we have seen in a few years. If projected forage resources are short, consider buying hay now while prices are still low. 

5)    Test forages (all cuttings, all types)!!! In my opinion, this is the best money spent on any feeding program and likely the best return on investment for the entire enterprise. If you are overfeeding, you are wasting money. If you are underfeeding, you are losing money through loss of production.

6)    Work with a multitude of outlets to identify economical protein or energy supplements available in the area. Then, work with your nutritionist or extension specialist to develop least-cost diets that meet the needs of your cows for all winter production stages. Make sure you only supplement protein when necessary; likewise with energy. Don’t buy or feed what you don’t need.

7)    Finally, add 30 days to your typical winter feeding timeline. Cool, wet springs have delayed pasture turnout the past two years. Turning cows out too early next spring because harvested feeds are gone is a potential recipe for pasture disaster.    
Feedlot facility decision making (first of two parts)
By Russ Euken ISU Extension beef program specialist

Feedlot operators have several choices in types of facilities. In the last fifteen years most of the interest has been in confinement facilities either slatted floor pit barns or bedded facilities with the cattle under roof. Hoop buildings, monoslope roofs and gable roof buildings have all been built. This interest has been generated by increased enforcement of runoff from open lots and potential cattle performance benefits. Increase in manure nutrients and nutrient consistency to be used for crop production have also been drivers of this interest. Labor availability and cattle comfort are also considerations.

A 2014 survey conducted by the Iowa Beef Center found that among survey participants 21% of operations who had expanded in the past five years used confinement while 26% used open lot or open lots with some kind of roof shelter.  It is apparent all kinds of facilities can work in the right situation with good management.

Buildings and concrete are higher investment than an open earth lot and the cost and benefits plus long term plans of the operation need to be considered.

With all the variables in types of facilities and potential payoff it can be difficult to weigh the pluses and minuses. If a location can’t be found where a well designed runoff control system can be installed economically in conjunction with an open lot, a confinement building may be the best choice. Can the higher investment in these facilities be offset by increased cattle performance or manure value?

The Iowa Beef Center recently revised the Iowa Beef Feedlot Systems manual PM 1867. It is available to download for free or you can ordered a printed copy for $7.00 on the ISU Extension Online Store. The manual compares open lots, open lots with shelters, bedded confinement and slatted floor confinement type of facilities. Approximate investment is compared along with an estimated cattle performance based on available research. In addition, estimated manure value and operation costs are included. A cost of gain for all systems is calculated and compared, and all systems are very close with the assumptions that are used.

Iowa Beef Center Director column
Growing Iowa's Beef Industry
By Dan Loy, IBC director

Beef production is important to Iowa, adding over 6 billion dollars in economic activity on an annual basis. Iowa is a top-four cattle-feeding state marketing nearly 1.8 million head in 2014. And even though Iowa’s landscape seems to be dominated by row-crop agriculture there are still more than 900,000 beef cows making it one of the top 10 beef cow states as well. However, based on past history and a considerable resource base it is clear that the state has plenty of room for growth.

The cow-calf industry is beginning a national expansion and Iowa’s feedlot industry has quietly been gaining market share in recent years. In an effort to determine strategies for sustainable growth of Iowa’s beef sector, the Iowa Beef Center conducted two industry surveys in 2014. The surveys were designed to identify challenges and opportunities for sustainable growth of the Iowa beef sector, and summaries of these survey results, targeted to cattle feeders  and cow-calf producers are available at no cost.

Earlier this spring selected industry leaders and staff members of key commodity organizations that support Iowa’s beef industry met at the Iowa Cattlemen’s Headquarters to review the results of these surveys and identify priority areas for the future. The following were identified as priorities for successful long-term growth in the cow-calf and cattle feeding industry segments:

  1. Land use and access -- returning marginal lands to forage production and grazing, and improving shared use opportunities.
  2. Improving information flow that adds value and improves transparency.
  3. Reducing barriers to entry or expansion for young beef producers.
Cattle feeding
  1. Developing the “Iowa Model” for sustainable beef production.
    • Capturing manure nutrient value and protecting water quality.
    • Ensuring and documenting cattle health and welfare.
    • Maintaining competitiveness through efficiency and enhanced market value.
  2. Market access and expansion – developing traceability and verification systems that add value and maintain market access.
  3. Capital access for new and expanding producers that includes improved risk management and loan programs as well as custom feeding models.
  4. Targeted education for beginning and young cattle feeders that are growing their operations.
Your input is encouraged as we work together to sustainably build the beef industry in Iowa to support the growing demand for beef for the world.

Read all of this column on the IBC website.

Industry information
Erika Lundy

New IBC program specialist Erika Lundy brings enthusiasm and experience to this new position. She said the job allows an opportunity for personal and professional growth, and to increase the visibility and value of IBC.

“I am very excited to join an already very successful team in establishing strong relations with beef producers across the state,” she said.  â€œOur aim is to supply producers with the latest science-based resources to help the Iowa beef industry strive for sustainable and profitable growth.”

IBC Director Dan Loy said the Iowa beef industry is well positioned for sustainable growth well into the future, and Lundy will help facilitate the center’s efforts. “Erika brings background and expertise in both cattle feeding and cow-calf sectors, and is well-prepared to support current programs and develop leadership in new exciting projects," he said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that beginning Sept. 1, farmers and ranchers can apply for financial assistance to help conserve working grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while maintaining the areas as livestock grazing lands. The CRP-Grasslands initiative will provide participants who establish long-term, resource-conserving covers with annual rental payments up to 75 percent of the grazing value of the land. Cost-share assistance also is available for up to 50 percent of the covers and other practices, such as cross fencing to support rotational grazing or improving pasture cover to benefit pollinators or other wildlife. Participants may still conduct common grazing practices, produce hay, mow, or harvest for seed production, conduct fire rehabilitation, and construct firebreaks and fences. The end of the first ranking period will be Nov. 20, 2015. See details in this USDA news release.


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