Lowndes – Echols Ag News

Georgia Peanut Farm Show and Conference

Georgia Peanut Farm Show and Conference set for Thursday, Jan. 17

Kelley Manufacturing Co. sponsors the Grand Door Prize

 

 

TIFTON, Ga.  — Producers can improve the bottom-line of their farming operation with knowledge, connections and information gained at the 43rd annual Georgia Peanut Farm Show and Conference, held at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center, Jan. 17, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Peanut farmers and those involved in the peanut industry will be able to learn more about the latest products, services and peanut research at the show, which is sponsored by the Georgia Peanut Commission.

The one-day show offers farmers a full day to view the products and services of more than 100 exhibitors and a day of education. A free luncheon begins at noon for all peanut farmers in attendance. The Georgia Peanut Commission will present a short program beginning at 12:15 p.m. that will cover award presentations and an update from the National Peanut Board and Washington. The Georgia Peanut Commission, in cooperation with the OneBlood, will host a blood drive from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during the show.

The University of Georgia Peanut Team will present an educational peanut production seminar from 9:00 until 10:30 a.m. Team members will provide information on peanut production tips and have a question and answer session with team members specializing in irrigation management, insects, disease and nematodes, weed management and economics. Farmers will also have the opportunity to earn private or commercial pesticide applicator certification.

An Industry Seed Seminar will also be held from 10:35 to 11:35 a.m. during the show. This event is sponsored by the American Peanut Shellers Association Committee on Variety & Seed Development, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation and the Georgia Peanut Commission. Growers will be able to learn about peanut varieties available for 2019 and varieties on the horizon.

During this year’s show, Kelley Manufacturing Co. is providing the Grand Door Prize Package of one season’s use of a new peanut combine (choice of four-row, six-row or combine with Unload-On-The-Go option). At the end of the 2019 season, the winner has the option of purchasing the combine from an authorized KMC dealer with $15,000 off the list price. Also, KMC is providing a second drawing for one season’s use of a new Digger Shaker Inverter (choice of rigid or flex model in a two-row, four-row or six-row) or the use of a new KMC Dump Cart. At the end of the 2019 season, the winner has the option of purchasing the digger or dump cart from an authorized KMC dealer with 10 percent off the list price.

Additionally, farmers can register to win the Grower Prize, donated by Amadas Industries. This prize includes a certificate good for the amount of $10,000.00 towards the purchase of any new Amadas self-propelled combine or $5,000 towards the purchase of a new four-row or six-row Amadas pull-type combine or $1,000 towards the purchase of a new Amadas peanut dump cart. Amadas is also offering a customized Grizzly cooler which will contain a certificate good for a parts credit of $1,000 for Amadas parts through a local authorized Amadas dealer.

The winners of the Grand Door Prize and the Grower Prize must be certified peanut farmers with an FSA farm number and present to win.

For more information on the show, contact GPC at 229-386-3470 or online at www.gapeanuts.com.

Lowndes -Echols Production meetings Schedule

Vegetable Meeting 9:30 am 4-H Center

Lake Park

January 17, 2019 Dr. Stanley Culpepper

Dr. Bhabesh Dutta

Dr. Andre Silva

Dr. Stormy Sparks

Forage Meeting 6:30 pm 4-H Center

Lake Park

January 17, 2019 Lisa Baxter, UGA

Robby Bondurant, Westway Feed

Peanut Meeting 12:00 noon Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta January 24, 2019 Dr. Mark Abney

Dr Scott Monford

Cotton Meeting

 

6:00 pm Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta January 28, 2019 Dr. Glen Harris

Dr. Jared Whitaker

Row Crop Weed Control Meeting 6:00 pm Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta February 28, 2019 Dr. Stanley Culpepper

Dr. Eric Prostko

Row Crop Disease Meeting 12:00 noon Lowndes Extension Office-Valdosta March 4, 2019 Dr. Bob Kemerite

Ag Forecast meetings

Published on 12/07/18

UGA CAES set to host annual Ag Forecast meetings

By Clint Thompson

Sam Pardue, dean of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), will serve as the keynote speaker at the upcoming Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series set for Jan. 22 through Feb. 1. The annual meetings allow UGA agricultural economists to address Georgia’s farmers, lenders and agribusiness leaders about the latest trends and economic conditions in Georgia’s No. 1 industry — agriculture.

At the seminar’s six locations across the state — Bainbridge, Carrollton, Lyons, Macon, Tifton and Watkinsville, Georgia — Pardue will discuss how CAES works with Georgia’s agricultural leaders and how the college works to help solve the issues facing rural Georgia.

“Perhaps more than ever, the Ag Forecast is needed to assist farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and the organizations that support them to plan for the future,” Pardue said. “Uncertainty in weather, commodity prices, trade and access to markets, regulatory policy, and labor creates a challenging environment for Georgia producers. While we cannot predict the future, we can bring all the tools at our disposal to better inform our stakeholders in their decision-making processes.”

CAES hosts the Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series every year. Those interested in attending the seminars can register at georgiaagforecast.com. Economists from the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development and CAES Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics will present the economic outlook for Georgia’s producers with an emphasis on Georgia’s major commodities.

“Ag Forecast provides producers, bankers and agribusiness leaders with a glimpse of what will happen in 2019. It presents data on how conditions in Georgia, the United States and the globe will impact producers here in Georgia,” said Kent Wolfe, director of the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet with UGA faculty and UGA Cooperative Extension agents and will leave the meeting with a copy of the 2019 Georgia Ag Forecast book. It provides detailed outlooks of the major commodities produced in Georgia from scientists who work on the crop year-round.

One topic that’s expected to be on the forefront is how Hurricane Michael will impact the future of Georgia agriculture. The storm devastated south Georgia agriculture on Oct. 10, 2018, causing more than $2.5 billion in crop losses. Since the hurricane moved through Georgia during harvest season, multiple crops were at extreme risk for damage.

“The impact from Hurricane Michael will undoubtedly be a hot topic because it impacted a number of commodities in the state with potential global implications,” Wolfe said.

Georgia’s cotton crop sustained between $550 and $600 million in losses, classified as immediate damage to commodities grown by Georgia producers. Pecans suffered $100 million in losses to its crop along with $260 million in losses to trees and $200 million in losses to future income. Other crop damages include $763 million in losses to timber, $20 million in losses to poultry houses, and $480 million in losses to vegetables.

The 2019 Georgia Ag Forecast series will be held:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 22: Macon, Georgia — Georgia Farm Bureau Building
  • Wednesday, Jan. 23: Carrollton, Georgia — Carroll County Ag Center
  • Friday, Jan. 25: Watkinsville, Georgia — Oconee County Civic Center
  • Tuesday, Jan. 29: Lyons, Georgia — Toombs County Agri-Center
  • Thursday, Jan. 31: Bainbridge, Georgia — Decatur County Agricultural Center
  • Friday, Feb. 1: Tifton, Georgia — Tifton Campus Conference Center

The Tifton seminar will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a breakfast buffet. All of the other seminars will begin at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a networking lunch.

The Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series is presented by UGA CAES and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. For more information on the 2019 Georgia Ag Forecast series, visit georgiaagforecast.com or search for #gaagforecast on social media.

Take Care of Your Christmas Tree

Doug Collins, Lee County Extension Coordinator

It’s that time of year again.  People are putting up Christmas trees.  Whether yours stays fresh until after Christmas, or turns into a needle-shedding fire hazard is up to you.

A cut Christmas tree is a living thing, or at least it was when it was cut.  As such, it is perishable.

The first step in making a tree last until after Christmas is to select one that is in good shape.  If you are buying a precut tree, gently grasp a branch on your prospective tree and pull your hand over the branch.  If needles come off in your hand, don’t take that tree home.

After purchasing the tree and before bringing it inside the house, bump the bottom of the trunk against a hard surface to knock loose needles off of the tree.  Then cut an inch off of the bottom of the trunk.  You see, after the tree has been cut for a while without being placed in water, a seal forms as the cut.  This seal will prevent your tree from taking up adequate amounts of water.

Place the tree in a stand with a water reservoir.  Check the water level hourly during the first day to make sure your tree has adequate water.  The first several hours after being put into water, your tree will be very thirsty and take up a lot of water.  If the water level falls below the cut, a seal will form as previously described and the trunk will need to be cut again.

Make sure all electrical equipment to be put on the tree is in good condition and that there is no worn or broken insulation on the lights.  Disconnect lights before going to bed.  Keep the house temperature as low as is comfortable.  Heat can dry out a tree.  Don’t allow pets or small children to climb or pull on the tree.  If small children are present, make sure that no dangerous ornaments are placed on the tree within their reach.

Keep the tree away from heat sources and open flames.  If the tree becomes dry and needles fall excessively, replace the tree with a new one.  As was done when the tree was purchased, gently grasp a branch on the tree and pull your hand over the branch.  If the needles come off in your hand, it is time for a new tree.  Have a safe and merry Christmas!

YOUNG CATTLEMEN’S WEBINAR SERIES

YOUNG CATTLEMEN’S WEBINAR SERIES

3-PART INDUSTRY TUTORIAL

DEC. 6, 2018 – 7PM

SUPPLEMENTING POOR QUALITY FORAGE IN SOUTHEASTERN COW/CALF SYSTEMS

BY: DR. JACOB SEGERS, UGA

DEC. 13, 2018 – 7PM

TIPS FROM A VETERAN: A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO FARM FINISHED BEEF

BY: DR. FRANCIS FLUHARTY, UGA

DEC. 20, 2018 – 7PM

CASHING IN ON VALUE-ADDED CALVES

BY: DR. DAN THOMSON, KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY

WEBINARS WILL BE AVAILABLE LIVE ONLINE AT:

https://zoom.us/j/2293863214

Where Do We Go From Here?

By Lenny Wells UGA Pecan Specialist.  I’ve had a lot of questions recently about the long-term effects of the Hurricane on our pecan trees and the pecan crops we can expect in the next few years. Until recently our state has not had to endure the after-effects of a direct hit by a major hurricane.

The impact of the extensive tree loss we have suffered will certainly be felt in a general drop in production over the next 3-5 years. For growers that lost 30-40% of the trees in some orchards this will be a large hit if their orchards were not overcrowded. The long-term impact will be felt less in orchards that were overcrowded prior to the storm but it may take a few years for production to get back to where it needs to be. Many overcrowded orchards had young trees inter-planted among older trees. Where large older trees were destroyed, these younger trees and the remaining older trees will now have access to more sunlight, soil water, and air flow. As a result, once these trees recover, they will be more productive and the production in that orchard should return to normal or may even improve somewhat from what it was before. Orchards that lost more trees will feel the effects for a much longer period of time. In addition, surviving trees that have been broken up may be more likely to develop heart rot and reduced vigor.

Trees remaining in orchards along the storm’s path will likely take some time to recover. Many of these trees lost much of their fruiting wood in the storm. This will have to re-grow for a year because pecan flowers are generally borne on the new growth that develops from one-year old wood. Since many of the young shoots from the 2018 crop, which could have fruited in 2019, were lost or damaged in many orchards, the trees will likely have to sit out a year to have very much production at all. Another thing to consider is that trees that were salvaged but were severely broken up will likely produce an over-abundance of water sprouts in the coming year. Such growth usually has a weak attachment point and is easily broken by wind once some weight develops on the ends of these sprouts. In certain situations, selective pruning can help alleviate this problem but often as we do this, the remaining shoots are left more exposed to the wind and will break as well, so it may be better in many cases to let mother nature prune these out until the limbs gain some strength.

Remaining trees also likely had a few roots broken as they were rocked back and forth by the wind. It will also take time for these roots to re-grow to support optimal growth and nut production. We will likely even see some trees that made it through the storm initially, begin to decline somewhat over time and possibly even die as a result of damaged root systems.

History can teach us a lot. If we look at what happened to pecan production in Mississippi following Hurricane Camille in 1969, we see that annual in-shell nut production of improved cultivars in Mississippi the decade prior to Camille averaged ≈3400 t per year, but only 1900 t per year the decade after Camille. The 1969 crop was estimated to be ≈4000 t, but dropped to 2800 t because of direct storm damage. In-shell yield the following year was 900 t, probably ≈25% of what it would have been without Camille. The intensity of alternate bearing increased by 258% during the 6 years after the storm. Production in 1970, the year following the storm, was only ≈27% of the average for the previous 5 years. Thus, slow recovery from hurricane-enhanced alternate bearing can be a long-term problem. For comparison, Camille’s winds were 100-65 mph as the storm moved inland. Michael’s winds were 115-100 mph as it moved from Bainbridge to Albany, falling off further from there.

I am frequently asked how all trees in an orchard or region can all get on the same cycle. Well, hurricanes are one of the environmental events that can do this. Since most trees within an orchard or region are similarly damaged from a hurricane, they all begin to bear on roughly the same cycles, resulting in little or no crop one year, followed by a heavy but low quality crop the next.  Such trees and orchards may require 5–10 years to recover sufficiently to once again display relatively stable fruit production.

Most orchards in our affected area carried a heavy crop into the storm, so the trees were already set up to go into an “off-year” in 2019. Our production practices have changed a lot since 1969 and we like to think that with fruit-thinning, hedging, irrigation, spray programs, and fertility, our trees are in much better shape now, so hopefully our drop-off won’t be this severe. But as we can see, the potential is there for our production to be drastically affected. More recent experience with hurricanes in Alabama has shown that trees tend to be off in the year following the storm but come back surprisingly well the year after that.

Given all the young trees we have in this state, all the trees that will be re-planted, and the improved sunlight in orchards that survived the storm, my suspicion is that, on a state-level, we will certainly have an off year in 2019 but I am hopeful that we will see production begin to improve in 2020. While the total volume of pecans Georgia produces going forward will be reduced from what it would have been, I feel that we will return to levels of production in the state similar to what we were seeing prior to our planting boom within 5 years and we will be the top producing state again within that time period. This is a testament to our growers and the stewardship with which they grow the crop.

Hedging has proven to be one of the best management practices you can employ for minimizing hurricane damage. We saw with Tropical Storm Irma that we had a 60% reduction in wind damage in 2017 on hedged vs non-hedged trees. A similar trend was observed for hedged trees under Michael’s wind. Hedged trees can still suffer damage, but because they do not present as large a sail to the wind and do not have such long, hanging branches, the damage is reduced.

Growers who are re-planting should be looking to plant varieties that have better scab resistance and quality. Good options would include Avalon, Zinner, Ellis, Sumner, Kiowa, Caddo, Oconee, Creek, Cape Fear, and Excel. The merits of some of these varieties lie in scab resistance more-so than quality, while in others, quality is the biggest advantage. Some of these have both quality and scab resistance.  Take a good look at your operation and consider which suits your situation best.

I think we have to start considering that we can’t continue growing pecans the way we have been. This marketing season has shown us that we can’t always rely on a good price to pull us out of the hole created by spraying 16 times or more in a season, no matter how large and high quality the nut may be. Ideally, we should be growing varieties that require 8 or preferably, fewer sprays.

A diversity of good quality cultivars with some level of scab resistance and being able to grow good yield with high quality on fewer inputs for a greater profit margin is going to be the key to the future of pecan production in our state. Its not really about how many pounds you can produce in a given year, its being able to produce consistently with the maximum amount of net profit and healthy, non-stressed trees that will remain consistently productive that makes you a good grower. The key to this is cultivar selection, sunlight, and water. Anybody can spend money (if they have it). If you spend more than you make, it doesn’t really matter how many pounds you grow.

Nutritional Considerations Going into Calving

Lawton Stewart, Extension Animal Scientist, UGA
Roger Gates, Whitfield County Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent, UGA Cooperative Extension

This year has proved to be quite an interesting one.  Most producers were able to put up plenty of hay.  However, due to average to above average rainfall, a large proportion of the hay produced was harvested at a later than ideal maturity.  Based on the samples submitted to the UGA Feed and Environmental Water Laboratory, we are dealing with lower quality forage for winter feeding.  For producers with a late winter/spring calving season, this could cause potential issues.  Combining this with a few other observations, here are a few situations we are seeing, and the potential ramifications.

  1. I will restrict feed in the last trimester to decrease calf birth weights.
  2. I need more protein to go with my hay
  3. There is a tendency to under estimate crude protein and over estimate energy.

I will restrict feed in the last trimester to decrease calf birth weights. Is this correct?  Absolutely!  The problem is that is not the only thing it will affect.  Recent research has focused on fetal programming.  Fetal programming is the concept that maternal stimulus or insult during fetal development has long-term effects on the offspring.  One of the most critical aspects of fetal programming involves adequate nutrition, or lack thereof, for the dam.  Research has shown minimal impact on calf birth weights, however restricted nutrition during the last trimester decreased weaning weights, finishing weights, and hot carcass weights.  Additionally, research from Nebraska indicated that heifers from nutritionally restricted cows reached puberty 14 days later than those with proper nutrition.

I need more protein to go with my hay.  Is this correct? Possibly, however protein is only half of the equation.  From April 1 to November 1 of this year, 1,260 bermudagrass hay samples and 291 fescue hay samples were submitted to the UGA lab.  The mean crude protein and energy (TDN) values were 12.1% and 53.4%, respectively for  bermudagrass, and 14.2% and 55.2%, respectively for fescue.  Figure 1 represents the CP and TDN requirements of a brood cow throughout the production year.  As you can see, as cows are entering the  final trimester, their CP requirement is exceeded by the average bermudagrass and fescue sample, but the energy requirement falls short for bermudagrass.  More importantly, the CP requirement is met for peak lactation, but falls tremendously short for TDN.

There is a tendency to under estimate crude protein and over estimate energyThe cheapest money you will ever spend in a beef cattle operation is a forage test, guaranteed!!!  As part of the recent Master Cattlemen’s Program, Dr. Roger Gates offered free forage testing for participants along with a survey for producers asking them to estimate what they thought the quality of the hay was (prior to testing).  This survey resulted in 83% of producers under estimating the protein of their hay compared to the actual.  This would result in the purchasing protein supplement when not needed.  For energy, 50% over estimated energy.  This would result in depriving needed energy during late gestation and early location.  In addition to the previously discussed fetal programming issues, this could also cause delayed breeding.  An actual example of over estimation of energy is illustrated in Figure 2.  The over estimation could likely result in breeding delayed 42 days.  The resulting loss in weaning weight could easily reach 80 lb, resulting in an approximate $120 decrease in value per calf.  Through forage testing, the producer would know to feed 4 lb/d of a supplement such as corn gluten feed.  Based on a 25-cow herd, this could easily return $1,920 above cost.  That is a no-brainer!

Brood cow nutrition is a crucial part of a beef cattle operation.  Between fetal programing and maintaining the proper calving interval, it is imperative for producers to pay close attention to the nutrients available in their forages, and if they meet the requirements of their herd.  If you have any questions on nutrition, hay testing, or developing winter feeding strategies, contact your local Cooperative Extension office (extension.uga.edu, or 1-800-ASK-UGA-1).

Cotton Losses From Hurricane Michael

Published on 10/31/18

UGA economists estimate up to $600 million in cotton damage from Hurricane Michael

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

University of Georgia agricultural economists believe that Georgia cotton farmers in the path of Hurricane Michael have only begun to feel the impact of the storm that took 90 or 100 percent of many area growers’ crops.

This week, Yangxuan Liu, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), and UGA Cooperative Extension agricultural economist Amanda Smith released preliminary cost estimates of Hurricane Michael’s damage to Georgia’s cotton industry.

Their initial estimates of farm gate value loss range from $550 million to $600 million. This includes losses related to cotton lint, cottonseed and reductions in fiber quality.

UGA’s estimated loss value for cotton is still preliminary. Updates will be provided as more data is collected, Liu said.

“We took into consideration yield loss variation across the state and adjusted our estimates accordingly,” she said.

“We are still in the process of gathering more data from cotton farmers and county agents.”

Because heavy rains and winds occurred when the bulk of Georgia’s cotton crop was at risk, Liu cautions farmers that quality issues may be a problem.

“Some harvested cotton modules in the field were damaged by wind and rain, which might degrade quality. The cotton harvested after the hurricane might face quality discounts as well, because more mature bolls of possibly higher quality were lost,” she said.

Liu cited U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that only 12 percent of Georgia’s cotton crop had been harvested prior to the storm’s arrival. Eighty-eight percent of cotton bolls were open and susceptible to the hurricane’s destructive winds.

Hurricane Michael’s path up through southwest Georgia significantly impacted the region that is responsible for some of the top cotton production in Georgia. Southwestern Georgia counties Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Early, Mitchell and Worth were hit hard by the hurricane — and make up seven of the top-10 cotton-producing counties in the state, according to the USDA’s figures for 2017.

Cotton is the largest row crop in Georgia. According to the USDA, the farm gate value for Georgia-grown cotton and cottonseed in 2017 was $867 million with more than 1.2 million harvested acres.

Producers should contact their local UGA Extension agents to report any losses or for more information about estimating storm damage.

“The impact of Hurricane Michael will extend beyond the farm gate level. Cotton gins, local communities and the entire Georgia economy are likely to experience the ripple effect of Hurricane Michael for years to come,” said Jeff Dorfman, a professor of agricultural and applied economics at CAES.

For up-to-date information on Georgia’s cotton crop, see www.ugacotton.com.

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

2018 Southeastern Citrus Expo

If you are interested in growing citrus and want to learn more from other growers in the southeast, join us for this informative once a year meeting of citrus growers north of Florida.

Friday November 16th. Citriholics Banquet and optional tours

Banquet 6:30 PM
Mama June’s 3286 Inner Perimeter Rd., Valdosta.
229-245-6062
http://www.onealrestaurants.com/mama-junes/

Saturday, Nov. 17. Conference Sessions will be held at Raisin Cane, 3350 Newsome Rd. Valdosta. 229-559-2000
https://www.raisincanevaldosta.com/

Registration 8 – 9:30 AM Rate to be determined.

Fruit competition entry 8 – 9:30, Plant Sales

9:30 – 12 Noon Raffle between speakers

Confirmed speakers
Cally Walker, University of Florida Budwood program.
Anna Jameson, Brite Leaf Citrus Nursery, Lake Panasoffkee, FL
Pete Anderson, University of Florida, Quincy Experiment Station
Dr. Jose Chaparro, University of Florida, Citrus breeding and new varieties.

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch Available at Raisin Cane included with registration

1:00 – 4:00 Tours
Lowndes County Extension Citrus Rootstock trial.
Commercial Satsuma Orchard and Variety Trial
Non-commercial orchard and Nursery

Tour sites are all within a few miles of Raisin Cane.

Mark your calendars and watch for updates on the Southeastern Citrus Expo Facebook page.
If you want to be a vendor please contact Mark Crawford craw142@bellsouth.net or call 229-460-5922

Preconference Private Gardens open to visit on Friday November 16th

Adel, Georgia 25 miles north of Valdosta directly off I-75

Garden of Kent Thomas. Acres of palms, Japanese maples and citrus around a beautiful lake.
305 Kent Dr. , Adel GA 229-560-1544
Traveling south on I-75 exit at the Sparks exit 41. Go east into Sparks and turn right onto US 41 south. When you cross over the railroad bridge just before Adel turn left at the BASE of the bridge onto South Ave. Kent Dr. is the first right off this road. Garden is on the left. Driveway has an enter sign.

Valdosta, Georgia

Garden of JD Thomerson. An outstanding garden of camellias, citrus, gingers and a variety of other interesting plants.
111 East Alden Ave. Valdosta 229-244-1050

Nashville, Georgia approximately 30 miles northeast of Valdosta

Triple Bee Nursery. A new citrus nursery operated by Hershell and Ricky Boyd.1128 Seaborn Boyd Rd., Nashville, GA 229-356-0074, 229-686-7287
Use GPS to locate this location

 

 

 

Shopping for a New Herd Sire? Here’s Your Guide

By Jacob Segers UGA Beef Specialist: Fall sale season is now in full swing, and Georgia cattlemen have numerous options to choose from in the current bull market.  So, it seems logical to devote this article to a review of some of the basic principles of bull shopping.

If you have been in the cattle business for very long, you are intimately familiar with the many purchasing decisions that your operation requires you to make.  From feed and minerals to medications, equipment, and pasture management, it seems that the task of finding the best option for your farm is never-ending.  While operational decisions are undoubtedly important, there is one purchase that is a tangible investment in the future of your program. If you choose natural service as your primary breeding system and maintain a closed herd, the only source of new genetics you bring into your program will be from the bulls you select.  Research has shown that following three generations of retained replacement females, 87.5% of the genetic make-up of the heifers you retain is the result of your last three bull purchases. This makes your herd sire purchasing decisions critical, to your operation’s success.  When you consider purchasing a herd sire, there are a set of minimum standards that each bull should meet for consideration, and then there are “extras” that a seedstock producer may choose to provide which will add value to a bull. It really is impossible to buy a bull that is “too good”; however, it is entirely possible to buy a bull that is “too expensive,” so let’s take a look at some factors to consider when you are standing in the sale pens deciding what to buy.

Information You Should Expect

Earlier in the is piece, I mentioned certain minimums that a should be considered when purchasing a bull. By this, I mean if the following information is not available to you, consider it a deal-breaker, shake hands and walk away!

Fertility

If you read many of these articles you know that the sale of one calf per cow per year is the only real source of revenue for cow calf producers.  While it is true that some income can be generated by the sale of cull cows and bulls, sale of these animals costs the operation in terms of capital, and will not translate into profit over time.  It’s unfair to say that every cow that doesn’t get bred is the bull’s fault. Cow fertility is a complex matter independent of the bull, but it is certain that bulls who are unable or unwilling to breed cows will result in a loss of revenue. Bull fertility is a function of several factors including but not limited to age, genetics, nutrition and health; however, the only objective method for evaluating bull fertility is a breeding soundness examination(BSE). For this reason, it is critical that any bull you purchase should have passed a BSE in the past 30-60 days. A BSE should be performed by a licensed veterinarian or trained professional and should comprise an assessment of scrotal circumference, sperm concentration, motility and morphology, the bull’s physical ability to breed based on structure and general health, and physical examination of the reproductive organs (Table 1).  A “satisfactory” bull is determined to be acceptable for all criteria.  It is important to note that this is not a guarantee of fertility, but that nothing was found that would affect potential fertility.  Bulls, particularly yearlings, must be observed to ensure that acceptable libido or sexual desire persist through the breeding season after purchase.

Animal Health

Do not buy bulls, or any breeding cattle for that matter, if health and vaccination status has not been verified.  Bulls from reputable programs will be vaccinated and a simple look at the sale catalog or conversation with the seller should provide all the information you need for your records. In addition to confirming that vaccinations have been given, inquire as whether any boosters have been given and the date of the last vaccination.  Any animal that you bring onto your farm should go through a quarantine period, but it is important to know when vaccines were given because it takes time (30-45 days is best) for immunity to build after a vaccination is administered.  Stress caused by sale day, hauling, commingling with other bulls, or turnout on cows can slow this process down.  It is vital that your new bull have peak immunity in the first 30 days after turnout so that fertility issues associated with disease or vaccine stress are minimized. Apart from vaccines, bulls should be bright eyed and active with no signs of respiratory or digestive distress. They should have tested negative for PI-BVD and results available for your inspection. Feet and legs should be examined for soundness, and body condition score should be no lower than a 5 on a 1 to 9 scale.  A desirable BCS of 6 is pictured in Figure 1. Note that the ribs of the animal are not visible and that there is noticeable fat covering in the forerib and small pones around the tail head.  There should be noticeable flesh in the bull’s flank and moderate width and substance to the brisket area.  In the case of aged or nonvirgin bulls, negative test results for trichomoniasis, tuberculosis and PI-BVD are also recommended in addition to the records previously discussed.

Performance Data and Genetic Information

The amount of genetic and performance information offered during the sale of bull varies by seller and scenario.  Bulls sold private treaty, may have less data available than those sold through a sale.  Sale catalogs are an excellent place to find this information. Performance data may or may not be presented, but is usually shown as adjusted weaning or yearling weights, average daily gains, or weight ratios.  If you have done business with the breeder before and know the consistency and quality of his program, performance information is extremely valuable in sorting through a bull offering.  The deal-breaker here is genetic information, potential herd sires need to have genetic information at least in the form of EPDs.  The exception here is obviously commercial bulls that are not registerable through a breed association, but in the case of registered bulls, genetic information should be provided. In my visits to operations around the state I am often directed toward a bull and told that he is a purebred, but wasn’t registered.  The value of a registered bull is in having access to pedigree information and genetic predictors, so if you are not going to see these benefits, don’t pay registered prices for unregistered cattle. The focus of this article is not how to use EPDs, that’s a conversation for another day, but the point I’m trying to make is that whether you make your living with cattle or work a full-time job and just have 20 head on the old home place, the ability to select  bulls based on genetic merit will positively impact your bottom line as long as the cattle are managed properly.

Information That Adds Value

At a bare minimum the information in the previous section should be available on any bull you consider for purchase. Some progressive producers may choose to collect more information on their bulls, or manage the cattle in such a way that their value is increased and a higher sale price may be justified.

Guarantees

No one raises seedstock without selling a bull that is either infertile or subfertile at some point, the measure of a good seedstock producer is in how he manages these issues.  Guarantees are common in the bull market, but they vary in content from seller to seller.  Some guarantees only last for 30 days while others may guarantee the bull through the first breeding season.  Guarantees may pledge a full refund or simply adjust the terms of sale; however, guarantees usually come in one of four types:

  1. Refunding the purchase price to the buyer and reclaiming ownership of the bull in question.
  2. Replacing the problem-bull with another of equal value.
  3. Refunding the difference between purchase and salvage price after the buyer has sold the bull for beef.
  4. Giving a credit toward the future purchase of another bull.

As expected, most of the time, a better guarantee comes at a higher cost because the seller is absorbing more risk if there is a problem with the bull.

Genomic Testing

The gamble with using EPDs as a fail-safe selection tool is the accuracy of the prediction in young cattle that have few, if any, progeny.  The lack of confidence associated with EPDs on young bulls comes from not having progeny and sometimes performance data both of which increase the accuracy of the EPD.  In young bulls, for example, most of their genetic value is based on their pedigree.  As these animals age and have offspring, we know more and more about their genetic merit.  This increased confidence is denoted by an increase in the accuracy value (0 – 1 scale) associated with each EPD. It does not necessarily mean the EPD increases if accuracy increases. It just means the EPD becomes closer to the true value, whether it increases or decreases. Remember that EPD stands for EXPECTED progeny difference.  Genotyping a young animal increases accuracy because having knowledge of the genetic makeup has a similar value to adding the performance of 5 to 50 progeny, depending on the trait in question. Samples of DNA can be collected very early in life, and unlike metabolites or hormones, the genetic code does not change over the course of an animal’s life.  Genomic testing allows producers to take a virtual snapshot of a portion of the genes that are flowing in the population which regulate economically important traits.  This increased knowledge about the actual DNA of an animal allows for increased confidence in the genetically enhanced EPD (GE-EPD), and has real value for the buyer of the bull.

Seller Reputation

Arguably, the best way to for a seller to add-value to his bulls, is by doing business the right way.  Cattlemen who have established a reputation for producing quality herd sires, and havie a good relationship with their customers set themselves a cut above the rest, and often have the ability to demand a premium for their cattle.  There are buyers who will choose not to pay for a bull from a reputable program, but repeat customers of dependable breeders will usually tell you that the sale price was justified by the added peace of mind knowing the seller will stand behind the cattle, and that buying from a program with a history of producing quality cattle is worth the extra investment.  It’s the same concept we face when purchasing household items.  Do I buy the name brand toilet paper, or take a chance on the cheap stuff?

For more information of purchasing bulls contact your local UGA Extension Office by dialing 1(800) ASK