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  • Stretching Pastures During Drought
  • Beware the Blue-green Algae
  • The Battle for Cattle
  • Avoid Heat Stress in Cattle with Proper Planning
  • Goss's Wilt
  • Announcements and updates

Stretching Pastures During Drought
By Denise Schwab, ISU Extension beef program specialist
As the drought continues, more cattlemen are asking how to stretch their pastures. There are two major techniques that may be pursued: one is to reduce the grazing pressure from the animal side, and the other is to supplement the amount of feed available.

Animal grazing pressure can be reduced in two ways.
First, by reducing cow numbers through selective culling. Consider culling any cows with structural, health, reproductive or attitude problems. Early pregnancy checking with ultrasound may be another tool to help tighten the calving period and cull very late cycling, open cows.

A second tool to reducing animal numbers on the pasture is to early wean the calves. Research has shown successfully weaned calves as young as 90 days or less, but consistently weaned those 100-120 days of age. Some of that success is dependent on giving one round of vaccinations to the calves prior to weaning, and creep feeding for 10-14 days prior to weaning. Weaning reduces the nutrient requires of the cow 30-50% allowing for energy intake to go toward cow maintenance rather than milk production. Creep feeding is another tool to reduce the feed requirements on the cow, but feed efficiency of creep feeding is extremely variable. Calves tend to be more efficient after weaning when fed directly.

The second technique is to supplement the cow while on the pasture.
There are several considerations including labor and equipment to feed, controlling feed waste, and the cost of the supplemental feed. Cost of the feed really needs to be the major consideration, followed by the issue of how to deliver and control wastes. Many producers will want to feed hay as the supplement, which seems like the logical solution. However, if feeding hay on pasture, producers need to be extremely conscientious about control waste and limiting intake. If allowed fulltime access to hay, cows can easily consume far more than is needed. Remember, you want to supplement pasture, not completely replace grazing.

Also, as hay price approaches $150-200 per ton, this probably isn’t the most cost effective option. For example, a mature 1350-pound cow fed completely in dry lot could consume about 38 pounds of hay per day which would cost $2.78 per cow per day if hay is priced at $150/ton. Studies have shown that cows need about 0.5-1.0% of the cow’s bodyweight in supplemental feed per day, or 7-13 pounds of hay to substitute for available forage, which would cost $0.50-$1 per cow per day. Another option is to supplement 3-5 pounds of grain or co-product and 5 pounds of hay per day which would cost between $0.65-0.75 per cow per day in addition to the available forage.

Another option is to supplement only the grain/co-product while on pasture at about 5 to 6 pounds per head per day. Depending on the current pasture situation, this may or may not have enough total feed available to meet all the cows’ needs. Doubling the quantity and offering it only every other day is also a supplementation strategy that has been proven to work.

How do you know which feeds are the most cost effective? You really need to determine the price per pound of energy or protein in the feed to compare multiple feeds. A quick way to do that is to use the Iowa Beef Center's spreadsheet “Feed Energy Index” which is available as a free download from the IBC website . By simply typing in the various feeds available and their costs, you can get a quick comparison of which feeds provide the lowest cost energy.

Feed Energy Index sample

There are multiple strategies that can help stretch pasture in drought situations such as this year. However, they should be individualized to meet the specific needs of each producer and pasture. For more help on stretching your pasture, contact your ISU Extension beef program specialist.

Beware the Blue-green Algae
Blue-green algae are commonly found in Iowa lakes, ponds, rivers and streams during summer and autumn, and can form dense algal blooms that resemble mats on the water surface. These blooms can be stimulated following storms or heavy rainfall when surface runoff containing phosphorus and nitrogen enters the water, and the blooms can be quite bad when storm events are followed by prolonged periods of hot temperatures. Because blue-green algae can produce poisonous neurotoxins and hepatoxins, they also are a potential health concern to livestock, pets, wildlife and humans, and can be fatal if consumed.

Blue-green algae bloom

Already this summer there have been reports of blue-green algae blooms in Iowa ponds, prompting attention by farmers to grazing and water resource location for their livestock.

Two Iowa State University (ISU) experts have created a one-page informational piece on the algae, which actually is a bacteria. Steve Ensley of the veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine department and Chris Filstrup of ecology, evolution, and organismal biology department and ISU’s Limnology Laboratory, explain how to recognize blue-green algae, describe its potential toxic effects and proper sampling methods for testing, and suggest ways to reduce the incidence of blooms in lakes and ponds.

The Limnology Lab focuses on research and analyses of aquatic ecology in the Midwest, and offers a variety of tests and information on water-based information and resources.

The Battle for Cattle
By Dan Loy, IBC director

By now you are probably aware that this past year was the smallest calf crop since 1950. Estimates vary, but Dr. Bill Mies was quoted in Beef Magazine a year ago indicating that excess feedlot capacity may be as much as 25%. Feedlot numbers had been holding their own due to drought, heifer feeding and general pulling ahead of cattle.

This caught up with the industry with the May 1 USDA Cattle on Feed report. In that report cattle on feed numbers were less than the previous year for the first time in several months, a sign of things to come. This sets up a competitive scramble for the available cattle.

So who will feed the cattle in the future? Depending on where you sit and what your biases are, there are several answers that question. However, most answers will boil down to efficiency, economy (of size and scale) and complementarity.

Economy of size is difficult to evaluate because the answer differs depending on management. For example, the size of feedlot necessary to efficiently operate a feed mill that includes flaking capabilities is larger than one without. Manure management and efficient distribution may be a disincentive to increased feedlot size since it increases the distance that the manure needs to be hauled for distribution. Nonetheless, clearly the long term trend is for larger feedlots.

Complementarity here refers to two operational components or businesses that mutually fulfill needs of the other, as in horizontal and vertical industry integration.

Some of the consolidation that has occurred at the larger end of our industry is related to increased ownership of cattle and feedlots by the packing industry. This reduces risk in a narrow margin business and ensures consistent supplies of fed cattle.

However integration can also occur with the cow-calf and feedlot sector (retained ownership) and the grain and feedlot sector (farmer feeders).

Feedlots that own farming or crop production enterprises also spread risk and may be able to competitively source feed costs.

This of course is an inherent advantage of feedlots in the Corn Belt. Retained ownership allows cow-calf producers to take advantage of their genetics and management and capitalize on profitability in the feeding sector when cow-calf margins are negative.

Read the rest of this column on the IBC website.
Avoid Heat Stress in Cattle with Proper Planning

With continuing forecasts of high temperatures and humidity, ISU Extension and Outreach beef veterinarian Grant Dewell reminds beef cattle producers that properly preparing for these weather conditions is vital to maintaining herd health. Here are five steps to avoiding heat stress in your herd.

  1. Plan ahead. After cattle get hot, it’s too late to prevent problems.
  2. Don’t work cattle when it is hot. Finish working cattle before 9 to 10 a.m. in summer, and remember that during a heat wave it’s best to not work cattle at all.
  3. Provide plenty of fresh clean water. When it’s hot and humid, consuming water is the only way cattle can cool down. Make sure the water flow is sufficient to keep tanks full, and ensure there’s enough space at water tanks (3 inches linear space per head.) Introduce new water tanks before heat event occurs so cattle know where they are.
  4. Feed 70% of ration in the afternoon. Heat from fermentation in the rumen is primary source of heat for cattle. When cattle are fed in morning peak rumen temperature production occurs during the heat of day when they can’t get rid of it. By feeding 70% of ration in late afternoon, rumen heat production occurs when it is cooler.
  5. Provide ventilation, shade and/or sprinklers. Environmental temperatures compound the heat load for cattle during a heat wave. Remove objects that are obstructing natural air movement. Indoor cattle will benefit from shade provided by the building as long as ventilation is good. Outdoor cattle will benefit from sprinklers to cool them off. Make sure cattle are used to sprinklers before employing them during a heat wave.

Check out these additional resources:
Heat Stress in Beef Cattle article by Dewell
Iowa Beef Center heat-related resources
Iowa Beef Center drought-related resources
USDA ARS 7-day heat stress forecast

Tips for Diagnosing Goss's Wilt and Leaf Blight
Goss's wilt and leaf blight have already been reported in several fields in Iowa this year. See more information and photos on ISU's Integrated Crop Management News website to help you as you scout your fields. Take a look at the Q&A and the color pictures, and contact your ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomist for more information.

Announcements and updates

Keep up with Iowa Beef Center/ISU Extension and Outreach beef events.

IBC and ICA -- a partnership that works
The summer edition of STORIES (semiannual publication from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU) features the efficient and effective working relationship between IBC and the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. Each of us has our own specific funding sources and those to whom we're directly responsible.

Together we make a great team in creating and offering educational, informational and research-based opportunities to Iowa beef producers. You can read this specific article, "Advancing the Industry Together" here www.ag.iastate.edu/stories/2012/06/advancing-the-industry-together/

You also can read about ISU beef teaching farm manager Marchall Ruble "Grooming Next Generation of Animal Caretakers" in the same issue here  www.ag.iastate.edu/stories/2012/06/grooming-next-generation-of-animal-caretakers/

Cattle handling and monoslope building open house is set for July 17 in Lake Park. Presentations by Tom Noffsinger and Beth Doran begin at 10 a.m. at the middle/high school. After lunch, a low-stress handling demonstration is offered at Robert Ahrenstorff's monoslope facility. The event -- which includes lunch -- is sponsored by Summit Livestock Facilities, FBi Buildings company, and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, and reservations are required. Call 800-213-0567 to save your space.

Northwest Iowa pasture walk on Aug. 8
Eat and learn at a northwest Iowa pasture walk next month. Tour Larry Sadler's pasture near Correctionville and find out how he decided to convert crop land to pasture. Also, learn about factors to consider when making land use decisions, potential impacts of the 2012 Farm Bill, and federal and state programs to benefit your pasture and grazing operations.

The pasture walk features tips for establishing and grazing clover-grass mixture, decision-making for paddocks, managing grazing with short pastures, accessing EQIP and CSP funds for grazing, and option for land coming out of CRP.

Beef burgers served by Woodbury County Cattlemen starting at 6 p.m. followed by the pasture walk. $5 fee will be collected at the event to help defray expenses, but preregistration is due by Aug. 6. Contact IBC/ISU Extension and Outreach beef program specialist Beth Doran at 712-737-4230 or Jerry G. Sindt, Woodbury County NRCS District Conservationist, at 712-943-6727 Ext. 3 for more information or to preregister.

Sponsors are ISU Extension and Outreach, Iowa Beef Center, Woodbury County Natural Resources Conservation Service, Woodbury County Soil & Water Conservation District, Woodbury County Cattlemen’s Association, Farm Credit Services of America and Iowa Forage & Grassland Council.

Directions: From Moville: 7 mi. E of 4-way stop OR 8 mi. W of Correctionville on Hwy 20 Then SOUTH on Kossuth Ave. Watch for signs.