The last two weeks have been phenomenal for the beef producer. All of a sudden there are no fat cattle in the country. This has increased the market substantially. With the increase in slaughter prices, the feeder prices have also risen. No one has any real reason for the increase or understands how long it will last, but everyone marketing cattle is excited. Couple this rally with the slump in the corn prices and soon everyone will be feeding cattle again. While making several feedlot visits last week, I saw an electrical sign posting the corn price at $2.91. I knew this isn’t good for row crop farmers, but what’s happened the last few years hasn’t been good for the beef producers. Will cash rents and pasture rents decrease?
We need to plan our turnout strategies to eliminate pasture problems we have had in the past. Many producers have been using Long Range as a means of controlling internal and external parasites. The carrier of this product allows for a double release of the insecticide. Initially the product is released after injection, but a portion is stored in an encapsulated chemical cocoon which dissolves several months later increasing the circulating insecticide. Initially the product was sold as a means to add extra pounds to the calf. The guarantee, which is still used today, was ‘if the pounds garnered by the calf isn’t enough to pay for the product. We have used the product on many herds and only one client exercised his right for refund.
New data, some done right here in South Dakota, exhibits over forty pounds of gain on the cows on pasture, versus untreated cows. This weight gain should help assure better reproductive rates, as well as increased calf weights due to better milk production. Another cavoite is fly control. Producers using Long Range report decreased fly population on the herd. These animals graze continually on prairie grasses while untreated animals in neighboring pasture are grouped and swatting flies. The phenomenon was not part of the initial labeling and not on the present label, but company representatives say the label is being rewritten and will be present on next years product.
Pinkeye is also a common summertime problem. When I went to school, it was caused by a bacterium called Moraxella bovis. This bacteria was then placed into several commercial vaccines. Soon we had a problem called winter pinkeye. This began in the summer, but continued into the feedlots after weaning. It also was very resistant to treatment. Culturing infected eyes resulted in a new pathogen, Moraxella bovaculi. Autogenous bacterins have been produced with good success. Sometimes we still had problems in spite of vaccinations. Culturing has now yielded a new organism, Mycoplasm bovoculi. As you can see, this once simple problem is becoming more and more complex.
Pasture pneumonia has always been a problem. Recent tabulation of samples submitted to SDSU last year indicated no viral causes from the common viruses found in vaccine, IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV. Several of our producers have had problems caused by Corona virus. We normally think of Corona as a scour organism, but it may also cause respiratory problems. There is a new respiratory Corona virus vaccine. I have no experience with the product, but it may be cost effective if you have problems. In Europe Corona virus and BRSV (Bovine Respiratory Syncicial Virus) appear to cause similar symptoms and lesions, and may occur concurrently.
Once we move our beef herds to pasture, it is tough to doctor or handle them. We must prevent common problems to assure maximizing efficiency. Consult with your nutritionalist, extension specialist, and veterinarian to devise a plan for your herd. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound cure. This will allow you to market more high quality calves this fall, improving the profitability of your operation.
I can finally believe spring is here. We had some rain and snow, but now the row crop planting has begun. It is plenty cold, but it is time to plant. Some of the low spots still have some standing water. If the water stays and we plant around it, we will have a great area to hunt migratory fowl this fall. This weekend the grass really shot up with the warm temperatures. The cow calf pairs have started to be turned out. Many purebred breeders are finished with spring breedings and commercial breeders are getting ready to AI their heifers.
The recent spurt in the market has made the producers which purchased heifers early for breeding look like geniuses. Several months ago, when they purchased the heifers, they were about $300/head less expensive. That drastically changes the dynamics of the bred heifer market next spring. Most producers are retaining similar number of heifers as in previous years. The market doesn’t appear to be strong enough to lure many speculators this year. The other negative is the length of time your dollars are invested. It takes roughly a year from pre-breeding to market. A lot can happen with this volatile market.
Now is a great time to semen evaluate your bull. Most of you already have your purchased and yearling bulls tested, but the older bulls should be tested and not rely on his productivity last year. When you have your bull restrained for semen evaluation be sure to examine him closely for potential problems which may arise during breeding season.
He may need a hoof trim. In the past decades, we have seen more conformational problems with feet and legs. Also, high grain feeding may cause excessive hoof growth. Trimming the toes will put the hooves back to their normal weight bearing conformation. If excessive hoof is not removed, abscesses and cracks will develop and the bull will become lame during breeding. Many producers in our area vaccinate their bulls with a foot rot vaccine. Most believe this ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, if the bull experiences no lameness issues during breeding.
We have been conditioned to administer live viral vaccines to our cows and bulls before turnout. For these live vaccines to work they must replicate after they are injected into the animal. We have understood for many years that the ovary may be infected with the replicating virus. This kills the eggs on the ovary and results in a sterile heat. In more recent years we have also wondered if the replicating virus may be shed to the rest of the herd. This causes some infertility issues in the herd and may reduce reproductive rates. New killed viral vaccines should be used within thirty days of breeding in our practice area. We routinely gave live vaccines to bulls before turnout and we would occasionally see infertility develop. We are not sure what causes this problem, but if it affects the female, it may also affect the male. If the testes are infected and the spermatozoa are killed, it takes about 60 days for them to mature allowing the bull to again be fertile. We utilize live products in the early spring on bulls, but switch to killed products the last 2-3 months before breeding season.
Be sure to remember your Anthrax vaccine. South Dakota usually has a case of Anthrax every summer. It is good insurance to vaccinated your cows before turnout to avoid pasture losses and the need to roundup and booster your herd.
Planning and preparation before turnout will help you increase efficiency and minimize losses in your pastures. The recent surge in the market has helped producer attitudes and improved our future plans. Monitor and minimize your costs and begin our preparation for sales next fall.