Skip to Content

Two Weaning Methods

Jason Duggin, PC Southeast Update, July 2019

 

One of my dad’s favorite sayings was, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” When it comes to types of calf weaning methods, this phrase could easily be used.  However, my dad tended to tell me this when I was using the wrong method.  In the South, operations are often times limited in terms of space, pens, and sufficient fencing to hold curious calves.  Thus, weaning in the Southeast can be a challenge.

 

For demonstration purposes, let’s look at 2 weaning types.  Option 1: Gather the calves, load them on the trailer and ship them to the closest market or buyer.  If your jaw just dropped out of your mouth, I don’t blame you.  I’m not suggesting this is a good strategy, but it is a method that is commonly used.  This is the old standard from days gone by, but some cattle are still managed this way. What’s the cost of using this method? Well, the biggest cost is not being able to capitalize on selling a “weaned” product.  Weaned calves are worth $20 to $40 more per head.  You might ask, “Why are Option 1 calves cheaper?” This is an important question to consider.  To ask it another way, who wants to buy bawling calves?  It’s certainly not the feedlots. Those are train wreck scenarios riddled with respiratory breakouts and increased death loss.  The answer: Those looking to cash in on the cheapest calves on the market.  These buyers are willing to take on the risk of a highly stressed calf at a cheap price in hopes of “straightening” them out health wise, and then over the course of a couple of months, selling them at heavier weights.

 

So, what method is better than option 1?  Just about anything!  Now let’s consider another option which can consist of weaning with nose to nose contact between calf and dam.  This is ideal for reducing calf stress, bawling, and sickness.  After a typical 45- or 60-days preconditioning period, these calves will have an advantage at the market.  They should also gain another 2.0 lbs. per day, conservatively.  Combine that with a good deworming protocol, and there can be some serious payweight added to your sale ticket.    Good weaning management is important and includes- abundant, clean water; quality forage; a good growing diet; good shade; secure fencing; sanitary pen conditions.  It’s not the only way, but it’s the best way.

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

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).

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 

Cattle Clinic at Alapaha Beef Unit

The Tift County Cattlemen’s Association would like to invite you to our “Cattle Clinic” on Saturday September 22nd at the Alapaha Beef Unit. This a free clinic with breakfast and lunch provided. Topics to be covered are Winter Supplements, Crossbreeding & Bull Selection, BQA & Weaning, Winter Grazing, and GCA Update.  If you have any questions please contact Andy Dunn (information is on flyer) or myself. If you would like to come please RSVP so we can have an accurate breakfast and lunch count.

 

Thank you and hope to see you on the 22nd!

 

 

Justin Hand

Tift County ANR/4H Agent

UGA Extension

 

1468 Carpenter Road South  I  Tifton, GA  31793

229-391-7980  Office  I  229-391-7999  Fax  I  229-392-0231  Mobile

jhand@uga.edu  I  www.ugaextension.com/tift

 

Distillers Grain Offers Supplementation Options For Beef Cattle Producers

Dr. Lawton Stewart gives recommendations on feeding distillers grain. Across most of Georgia, most producers have experiencing ample rain and plenty of forage, therefore, winter supplementation is far from their thoughts.  However, now is a great time to start planning ahead.  Typically, three large factors taken into consideration when selecting a supplement are convenience, cost, and nutrients supplied.  Often times, we combine the latter two and look at cost per unit of nutrient (e.g. $/lb of protein or energy).  Unfortunately, sometimes nutrients supplied are sacrificed to maximize convenience or low cost.

Over past two decades, ethanol production has increased, and in turn, the byproduct of this industry (distillers grains) has become more available.  The growing popularity of this feedstuff has led to extensive research evaluating distillers grains in beef cattle production.  In fact, several studies have been conducted at the University of Georgia in an effort to evaluate its value, as well as ways to utilize it in a convenient manner.  For the remainder of this article, the discussion will focus on dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) because this is the most common form utilized in Georgia.

 

Nutrient value and mineral considerations

A summary of the nutrient analysis of approximately 130 DDGS samples submitted to Cumberland Valley Analytical Services (Waynesboro, PA) from the Southeast is presented in Table 1.  This byproduct can be fed as a protein source to replace other more expensive sources such as soybean meal.  Distillers grains are also an excellent source of energy, often testing between 85 and 95% total digestible nutrients (TDN).  The form of energy also makes distillers grains attractive for grazing cattle.  Since the starch is removed, the energy derived from distillers grains is primarily digestible fiber and some fat.

The mineral content of distillers grains should also be taken into consideration.  Dried distillers grain is high in phosphorus (P) and sulfur (S), but low in calcium (Ca). Supplemental Ca should be provided to balance the high phosphorus levels to maintain a Ca:P ratio above 1.5:1. If this ratio stays low for extended periods of time, urinary calculi, or “water bellies” may occur.  Also, excessive P excretion can have negative impact on water sources increasing the risk of algal bloom.

Sulfur tends to be high and can vary widely between ethanol plants and can be as high as 1%.  The total ration should remain below 0.4% S to avoid issues such as Polioencephalomalacia, or more commonly referred to Polio or “brainers”.

Typically, DDGS should be limited to 30-40% of the total intake to avoid any negative impacts of excessive minerals while utilizing the protein and energy available.

Potential for heat damage

Distillers grains is high in moisture directly after the distilling process and is typically dried down to make transportation and storage easier. If excess heat is applied during the drying process, the protein in DDGS can be heat-damaged and become bound protein.  This reduces its utilization by cattle.  This damage can easily be detected by visual inspection.  Properly dried DDGS will have a light golden color; however, as it becomes heat damaged, it will darken in color and have a distinctive burnt odor.  Figure 1 illustrates the visual difference in an undamaged and a heat damaged load of DDGS.  Analysis of load-A, golden in color, indicates 30.7% CP and 2.3% bound protein, while load-B, darker in color, is 26.9% CP and 9.9% bound protein.  The adjusted CP, or available protein, for load –A and –B is 28.4% and 17%, respectively.  This can create protein deficiencies if not taken into consideration when balancing a ration.

Utilizing DDG in a free-choice hot-mix

An on-farm trial was conducted in Northeast Georgia to develop a hot mix to allow producers to feed DDGS free choice but maintain intake to a safe level.  In this trial, weaned heifers were offered tall fescue hay (56% TDN and 10% CP) with DDGS.  At first, DDGS was offered free choice, however daily intake reached 12 lb/hd, twice the recommended level!  A premix containing salt, limestone, and trace mineral (Table 2) was formulated to limit intake of DDGS while balancing the mineral content.  This “hot mix” limited the intake of DDGS to approximately 40% of the daily dry matter intake for both developing heifers (7.8 lbs) and bred heifers (9.3 lb), and resulted in average daily gains of 1.95

lb for weaned heifers and 1.07 lb for bred heifers.  A hot mix is a supplement that contains an intake limiter and allows a producer to put out enough feed to last several days with intake remaining relatively constant across that time.  This results in a feed strategy that is more convenient than feeding on a daily basis.  This DDGS hot mix could easily be utilized for brood cows and bulls.  In fact, several producers have reported success stories from utilizing this strategy.

 

Despite limitations with sulfur, phosphorus, and fat, distillers grains offer producers an additional option for protein and energy supplementation when cost is not prohibitive.  Additional research has been conducted in Georgia evaluating distillers grains for developing bulls, stocker cattle, and finishing cattle.  For information on the results of these studies, or assistance developing beef cattle rations utilizing distillers grains, please contact your local Extension office (1-800-ASK-UGA-1; extension.uga.edu).  Additional information can be found in UGA Extension Bulletin 1482,Using Distillers Grains in Beef Cattle Diets.

Is your stocking rate correct?

By Steve Morgan

Harris County CEC

There are many important components in a successful livestock production system. One of the most important tasks in grazing management is understanding livestock stocking rate. It is critical in making timely management decisions that affect profits in beef cattle production. The optimum number of animals on a pasture makes efficient use of the forage and still leaves enough forage behind to allow a quick and complete recovery. Therefore, producers must understand how to determine the correct stocking rate for their pastures.

Stocking rate is defined as the concentration of grazing livestock on a given amount of land over a season, year or period of time. Generally, stocking rate is expressed as “animal units” for a given amount of land. This is to allow stocking rates to universally cover all livestock types since an animal unit is equivalent to 1000 pounds of body weight regardless of the type of livestock. Though stocking rate depends on the intensity of grazing management, most pastures would be approximately 2 acres per animal unit. This would provide a forage allowance of approximately 2.5% of body weight per day. However, not all livestock have the same forage demand as a 1000 pound lactating cow. For this reason, animal unit equivalents (AUE) have been developed to assist with the approximate determination of forage demand based on the kind, class and size of animal.

   Animal                                            AUE  

Cow – dry                                             1.00 – 1.50

Cow with calf                                  1.20 – 1.60

Bull – mature                                   1.25 – 1.75

Calf – weaned                                   0.50 – 0.70

Steer/Heifer – 18 months                  0.80 – 1.00

Sheep – mature ewe or ram             0.20 – .030

Sheep – yearling                              0.15 – 0.20

Goat                                                 0.17 – 0.20

Horse – mature                                  1.25 – 2.00

The usefulness of animal units is especially apparent considering the weight difference among various producers’ livestock and the fluctuation of average weights in a herd over time. For example, the average cow size varies considerably and has increased over the past 50 years. Today’s beef cow averages around 1300 – 1400 pounds. These cows are not equivalent to one animal unit. In addition, forage demand varies within a livestock species based on its growth rate (e.g. heifers and steers vs. mature cow). For example:

If the estimated stocking rate for a 1,000 pound cow is 2 acres, the estimated stocking rate for the 1,150 pound cow (assuming both cows have the same forage intake rate of 2.5 percent of body weight) is found as follows:

1,150 pounds x 2.5% = 29 pounds forage intake per day ÷ 25 pounds forage per animal unit = 1.16 animal units per cow

Therefore, 1.16 animal units per cow x 2 acres per animal unit =

2.3 acres per 1,150-pound cow

Condition of the pasture impacts stocking rate. Factors such as previous grazing management, forage species, age of stand, soil type, texture, fertility level and moisture conditions all impact forage yield and consequently stocking rate.

Livestock need forage year-round, but providing an adequate supply of forage for grazing 12 months out of the year can be challenging. Ideally, forage production should correspond with livestock needs. However, pasture production is variable during the growing season while livestock nutritional requirements are relatively stable or steadily increasing. One way to balance this equation is to make hay from some pastures during periods of rapid forage growth. In addition, calving before rapid growth will allow the period of highest animal need to match the greatest production of quality forage. A second way is to manage for a more uniform pasture growth. Some Best Management Practices to accomplish uniform growth include:

  • Keeping forage healthy and unstressed. These plants begin growth earlier in the spring, produce higher yields through the grazing season and continue growing longer in the fall.
  • Switching from continuous to rotational grazing can extend the grazing season and boost yields, since rotational grazing, by virtue of its rest periods, is less stressful to the forage.
  • Maintaining a good fertility program will extend the season and boost yields.

Many forage problems can be avoided by fertilizing properly. To determine fertilizer requirements, take regular soil tests and follow the recommendations given. Be sure to state the type of pasture being grown when submitting your sample because fertilizer recommendations will be based on the crop stated. Many producers incorporate grass/legume mixtures to meet more of the fertility needs of the pasture. Seeding legumes into poor quality pastures is the most common form of renovation. Legumes reduce dependence on nitrogen fertilizer, complement grasses by balancing forage production throughout the season, and improve pasture quality.

Switching from continuous to rotational grazing increases forage utilization. Forage utilization is a critical component that helps determine stocking rate. Most pastures contain a great deal of forage that is never consumed and eventually decays. Traditional continuous grazing systems may use only 30 to 40% of the available forage. The rest of the forage is either trampled, soiled, or of little nutritional value because it becomes overly mature. Most of this loss occurs with underutilized fall stockpiles and during periods of rapid growth where there is surplus beyond what is needed for livestock. When the appropriate stocking density is used, shortening grazing periods through rotational grazing increases forage utilization to 60-75%.

Good producers strive to achieve the right balance between forage availability, forage utilization, and animal performance. They stock pastures heavily enough to graze available forage down to a target height that will allow rapid and maximum regrowth without compromising nutritional needs of livestock. Good producers will observe pastures frequently for overgrazing and undergrazing and will periodically adjust the stocking rate or movement of cattle as needed. Overstocking and overgrazing leads to a reduction in palatable plant species and an increase in less desirable plants. Overuse also means that livestock must graze for longer periods to meet their needs. Over time, heavy stocking causes the more palatable and productive forage species to disappear. These desirable forages are replaced by less productive, less palatable plants.

Is Cottonseed Going To Make My Bulls Infertile?

Lawton Stewart, Extension Animal Scientist

As we’re getting into summer, many producers with fall calving herds have picked out calves to keep as bulls and considering a developing ration to feed their bulls.  OR, for winter/spring-calving herds, producers are pulling out bulls and considering supplement to put weight back on them.  Sooo, every year, about this time, I get the phone call or email asking if their bulls are going to be sterile because there is whole cottonseed in the ration they are using.  My answer is always, absolutely not IF you stay within the recommended feeding levels.  That brings up three questions to discuss:

  1. What is it about whole cottonseed that causes concern?
  2. Can whole cottonseed cause infertility in bulls?
  3. What is the recommended feeding rate of whole cottonseed?

What is it about whole cottonseed that causes concern?  The answer is gossypol.  Gossypol is a yellow pigment produced in the roots, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cotton plant, with the greatest concentration occurring in the seeds.  This compound acts as a natural defense, aiding in resistance to pests.  Gossypol has been studied for years and has shown to be toxic to monogastric animals (i.e. pigs, mice, humans, etc.) and pre-ruminants (i.e. cows, sheep, goats, etc. who’s rumen has not developed yet).  For reference, monogastrics and pre-ruminants should not consume a diet more than 100 ppm gossypol.  This is why we recommend not feeding whole cottonseed to calves under 400 lb.  In fact, gossypol has been studied extensively as a birth control method for males!  However, the results have been extremely variable.

Can whole cottonseed cause infertility in bulls?  As indicated earlier, no.  The question then becomes, why is it such a hot topic?  Early research in smaller mammals, in combination with cottonseed products growing in popularity in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, led researchers at Texas A&M University to look at the effects of gossypol on developing bulls.  These researchers mostly found no differences in reproductive development of bulls fed diets containing gossypol.  When the researchers did find differences, whole cottonseed was fed at or above 40% of the diet, or from Pima cotton.  Pima cotton contains a different isomer of gossypol compared to Upland cotton.  Most cotton grown in the Southeast is Upland cotton.  The 40% in the diet is an extremely high amount of whole cottonseed and would not be recommended.  However, these results have been interpreted as affecting fertility.

What is the recommended feeding rate of whole cottonseed? From a nutritional standpoint, whole cottonseed is an excellent feedstuff when utilized correctly.  Nutritionally, it is high in energy (95% TDN), protein (24% CP), and fat (approximately 20%).  Although the fat content does contribute to the high level of energy, if the fat content in the ration is too high (over 5%), it will negatively affect fiber digestion in the rumen, decreasing animal performance.  For this reason, we recommend that whole cottonseed be limited to 20% of total intake, or no more than 6 pounds per day.  Notice that this is half of what was fed in the previously mentioned research.

When the price of whole cottonseed allows it to be used, it can be an excellent feedstuff.  If you are having issues with fertility in your bulls, make sure all the other aspects of bull management are in place (e.g. breeding soundness exam, injuries, etc.).  Very rarely, if ever, will whole cottonseed cause infertility in bulls.  As one of my mentors from Virginia Tech, Dr. Terry Swecker, would say, “If you hear hoofbeats, don’t go looking for a zebra… Look for the horse first!”.  If you have any questions on whole cottonseed, or would like help incorporating it into your nutritional program, contact your local Cooperative Extension office

The Impacts of China Trade Tariffs on Georgia Livestock Industry

By Levi Russell

China implemented a 25 percent increase in import tariffs on United States pork and is expected to increase import tariffs on United States beef products by 25 percent. However, unlike many row crops and other agricultural products, China is not a primary destination for United States meat products. Beef exports to China only resumed recently and there is not yet a significant amount of beef being produced in the United States that is exported to China. In 2017, the United States was the second largest pork producer after China, and the largest pork exporting country (USDA FAS, 2018b). Twenty-two percent of pork produced in the United States enters the export market (USDA FAS, 2018b). From January 2013 to January 2018, the USDA ERS reports that mainland China made up 7.5% of total United States pork exports, coming behind Mexico (29.3%), Japan (25.1%), Canada (10.4%), and South Korea (8.1%). Pork production is mainly concentrated in the Midwest and North Carolina, and Georgia is not in the major pork producing regions. The impact of the tariffs on pork will be minimal on Georgia’s agricultural industry. However, the reductions in pork prices could hurt some of the pork producers in Georgia. For beef and pork (and other meats), the NAFTA trade discussions are a far bigger concern than Chinese tariffs.

Short-term market fluctuations this year in both cattle and hog markets will almost certainly depend much more on rising supplies, domestic consumption, and exports to other countries than on Chinese tariffs. A recent report by the USDA FAS indicates that the reductions in exports to China will mostly be offset by the increases in shipments to Japan, Mexico, and the Philippines. Exports of both pork and beef from the United States are expected to rise this year, in part due to relatively low United States prices (USDA FAS, 2018a).

In the long term, however, these increased tariffs on pork and beef products constitute a missed opportunity, as China is the number one pork-consuming nation in the world. New sources of demand for United States producers are hard to come by and higher tariffs on beef and pork will likely result in increased production in other countries to fulfill China’s growing demand. This will put the United States at a competitive disadvantage in the long term if the tariff increases are put in place on United States beef and pork products.

 

References

USDA FAS. (2018a). Livestock and poultry: world markets and trade. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/circulars/livestock_poultry.pdf.

USDA FAS. (2018b). Production, Supply and Distribution Database.  Retrieved April 25, 2018 https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/app/index.html#/app/advQuery