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The Farm and Ranch Report

Controlling Blackberries in Pastures . . .

Blackberries if left unchecked can quickly spread in a pasture and reduce the amount of grazeable acres. The same competitive characteristics which make blackberries relatively easy to grow in a home or commercial setting make them a persistent foe in your pasture or rangeland.

If you plan on spraying blackberries, DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT mow or burn them for 2 years prior to spraying! Chemical control is most effective during bloom and fruit set stages of growth. This is when they are most susceptible to chemical uptake and translocation.

Blackberry is a perennial, thicket-forming shrub which is very invasive in our area. Each plant has a large lateral-growing root system that can sprout and produce additional plants. The rhizomatous root system is perennial, while the aboveground canes are biennial (living for two years). The first year, the canes or “new wood” emerge and grow rapidly; the second year, the canes bud and produce flowers and fruit. The canes subsequently die after fruiting. This root system is what makes them so competitive and difficult to control.

Currently, several herbicides list blackberry on their label. The most effective herbicides are those which contain metsulfuron or triclopyr ester (Remedy Ultra, others). PastureGard HL (triclopyr + fluroxypyr) and triclopyr ester (Remedy Ultra, others) can safely be applied when blooming, but retreatment the following year will probably be required to achieve control near 100%. Remedy Ultra is very effective at a 1% solution for spot treatments, or 1-2 pints/acre for a broadcast treatment. Good control is dependent on good soil moisture and actively growing plants. Glyphosate is also effective as a 1-1.5% solution for spot-treatments. I have also had good luck using Tordon or Velpar as undiluted spot treatments, applied to the soil in a grid, on 5 ft. centers, at a rate of 9ccs per spot.

These herbicides cause rapid blackberry defoliation and are effective at controlling other weed and brush species. Complete blackberry eradication is probably not possible but acceptable results will likely require multiple applications/years and/or tactics.

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Find out what is happening in OSU Extension at https://calendar.okstate.edu/oces/

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures.  This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; Phone 405-744-5371; email: eeo@okstate.edu has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies.  Any person who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

Premiums from Preconditioning and Seasonal Price Swings . . .

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I wrote about the OQBN program and the associated premiums a few weeks ago but Scott Clawson, OSU Extension Area Ag Economist, more eloquently discusses these potential premiums, and premiums associated with seasonal price changes, in the following comments.

The time of year is upon us to begin planning how we will market our spring born calves. As we fix our eyes on the market’s movements and our checkbook balance, we start to figure out a strategy. As with every plan, we need to make sure we are accurate, conservative, and as thorough as possible. The easiest option is to sell directly off the cow, an option that you can see in every livestock auction in the fall. The discount that follows from this strategy is usually significant. The other option is to wean, “straighten out”, and market those cattle at least 45 days later. Backgrounding premiums and seasonal price changes are the two main positive price movements take place in that 45 plus days after weaning.

Backgrounding premiums exist and are being displayed in many areas as most local livestock auctions facilitate their own programs. In the graphic, we see the annual premiums from the Oklahoma Quality Beef Net-work (OQBN) sales. We see variation from year to year, but it’s obvious that the practice has value. Adding to this, there is variation amongst weights. Within a single year a 400# calf may yield a higher dollar per hundredweight premium for preconditioning than does a 600# calf. This stands to reason as the 400# bawling calf is more high risk than the heavier calf. The importance of this number is that it is a comparison to calves selling the same day. This is valuable to demonstrate the premium for that management practice, but it does not illustrate the seasonal price gains that take place over the typical preconditioning period.

Beefbasis.com is a great way to price forecast for the fall. Using this tool, we estimate that a 500# medium/large muscle score #1 weaned calf in mid-October would be $163.53/cwt. We make a modest gain calculation of 1.5#/day over a 60-day backgrounding program. This leaves us in mid-December with a 590# calf with an estimated value of $157.67/cwt. The second part of this equation is the additional value that we anticipate for the VAC-45 management practices we took on. Looking at the data from 2017 and previous years, we could use a conservative $9/cwt addition to our mid-December calf price ($157.67 + $9 = $166.67/cwt) for participating in OQBN. It is worth noting that the value of this 500# calf at this point (Mid-December) is $169.67. This compared with the estimated value of the same calf quality and weight in October displays the seasonal price improvement that we see on average.

Collectively, we could sell a bawling calf in mid-October that weighs 500# for $817.65. The other option is to hold off marketing for 60 days and participate in a VAC-45 program. This gives us the opportunity to capture a seasonal price improvement as well as a VAC-45 premium. The 590# calf in mid-December has an estimated value of $983.35. The difference is $165.70/hd, but this is not profit as no costs have been deducted. But it does provide a starting point to begin our budget. Individual costs per producer will be variable based on set up and resources. Also, each producer will assign a different value for labor, management, and death loss.

At the end of the day, there is risk involved in any ranch decision. Death loss, poor gains, price, and marketing risk are all lurking in the background. We can mitigate price risk by using price protection tools. However, leaning on the history of seasonal price moves and VAC-45 premiums, we have a chance to manufacture some extra profit.

Find out what’s happening on the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Calendar at https://calendar.okstate.edu/oces/#/?i=2

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Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; Phone 405-744-5371; email: eeo@okstate.eduhas been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies.  Any person who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

OSU Extension News June 28 2018

The Longhorned Tick (also known as the Bush tick) (Figure 1) is an exotic tick and has been documented as a serious pest of livestock in Australia and New Zealand. Recently, this tick has been found on animals in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia and Arkansas. Longhorned Ticks can be found on multiple animals and is considered a three-host tick. This three-host tick is unique in that it can reproduce either sexually (male and female mating) or through parthenogenesis. The reproductive biology of this tick can lead to large populations occurring in pastures or on animals in a short period of time if left unmonitored. However, since it is a three-host tick, it will typically complete their life cycle in 6-months with all active life stages (larva, nymph, and adult stages) feeding on animals. Host associations for this tick are diverse and can infest both small birds as well as large ruminants such as cattle. Considering hosts and pasture types, these two factors will allow certain areas to be more susceptible to this tick. For instance, this tick does not move very far from available hosts when transitioning between life stages (Heath 2016). Therefore, areas that are regularly visited by cattle with vegetation that allows humidity to stay high such as wooded or tall grass areas are probably more likely to have this tick. This tick is also associated with wildlife such as deer, raccoons and opossums. A common area for ticks to be found in pastures are where these wildlife animals commonly reside such as deer trails. It is also an aggressive biter and causes a lot of stress in animals which can lead to economic impacts to beef animal performance.  

Figure 1

Disease associations from this tick are important from the veterinary health aspect as well as the public health aspect. This tick has been identified as a competent vector of several bacterial pathogens including anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, spotted fever rickettsia, and Lyme disease. This tick is also associated with viruses mainly found in East Asia. However, the most likely pathogen that this tick can transmit is the protozoan pathogen that causes Theileriosis. In fact, the cattle that this tick was sampled from in Virginia tested positive for Theileria orientalis which causes bovine theileriosis which can cause high production losses and high mortality in susceptible beef animals. 

Below is a comparison of ticks commonly found in Oklahoma (Fig. 2).

Figure 2

Of the ticks listed the most likely tick to be confused with the Longhorned tick is the Brown Dog Tick (Fig. 2F) due the similar structure of the mouthpart of these two ticks. The length of the mouthpart in Amblyomma ticks and Ixodes ticks (Fig. 2A-C) is much longer than in the Longhorned tick. The mouthparts of the American Dog Tick and Winter Tick, both of which are Dermacentor ticks, are shorter or in equal length as the basis that connects their mouthparts to their body (Fig. 2 E&F). The Longhorned tick has some characteristics that distinguish it from other ticks but only trained personnel can see these differences. If you suspect that a tick is different from other ticks seen previously then the tick can be sent to Oklahoma State University at the below address for identification. The local county extension office as well as your veterinarian can be contacted to assist in the collection. Also, when sending the tick, the best method is to place the tick into a sealable vial with 70% ethanol. The sample should include where the tick was collected (GPS coordinates or street address), type of animal or if it was collected from a person, and the date of collection. All of this will be required for identification.  If a possible tick is presumed to be the Longhorned Tick then the State Veterinarian office within the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry will be notified as to the location of the positive tick sample.  Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Laboratory

ATTN: Justin Talley

Entomology and Plant Pathology

Oklahoma State University

127 NRC

Stillwater, OK  74078

(405) 744-9961 

Find out what’s happening on the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Calendar at https://calendar.okstate.edu/oces/#/?i=2

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Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; Phone 405-744-5371; email: eeo@okstate.edu has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies.  Any person who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

Do Bigger Cows = More Weaning Weight and More Profit?

 There is increasing concern about the long-term trend toward heavier beef cows. A recent study by Maples, Lusk and Peel (2016) shows that heavier carcasses have cost the U.S. beef industry $8.6 billion due to reduced consumer demand. Studies consistently find that consumers want thick-cut steaks. However, large ribeye and loin cross-sectional areas prevent retailers from serving thick steaks while maintaining desired portion size.

We recently evaluated how heavier cows impact the profitability of cow-calf producers. Data from the American Angus Association demonstrates that EPDs for mature weight have increased steadily since the late 1970s while frame size is unchanged. The data shows the genetic trend for Mature Height (MH) is relatively flat while Mature Weight (MW) has increased by nearly 40 pounds. Since frame size is un-changed, that means that the cow herd has added more muscle, bone, and visceral organ mass. Concurrent with the increase in weight, comes increased nutritional requirements and reduced stocking rates. The question then is: Are higher cow-weights economically justified given heavier weaning weights?

Using data on 3,000+ cows from three research stations in Oklahoma and Arkansas, we recently estimated calf weaning weights as a function of mature cow weight. The resulting function shows a less than linear increase in weaning weight as cow weight increases. This means that each additional pound of mature cow weight adds less to calf weaning weight. Weaning weights increase, but at a decreasing rate. So, increasing mature cow size from a 950# cow to a 1000# cow increases weaning weight by 6.8 pounds. However, increasing mature cow size from a 1750# cow to an 1800# cow increased weaning weight by only 4.7 pounds. Both increase mature weight by 50 pounds, but with different results.

Given that stocking rates decline as cow weight increases and weaning weights are concave in cow weight, heavier cows are unlikely to be the most profitable on a per acre basis—and our analysis confirmed this suspicion. Over all of the scenarios we considered (spring and fall calving, Angus cows and Brangus cows, native pasture and Bermuda pastures), lighter cows outperformed heavier cows over a ten-year time period when profits are computed per acre. Our model also considered the higher cull value of heavier cows, differences in stocking rates and supplemental feed costs, and price variations over time. In figure 3, per acre net present value of beef cows by mature weight is presented. Values fall from $39.75 per acre per head for 950# cows to $22.63 per acre per head for 1800# cows.

While results will differ for individual producers, the economics are pointing to reducing cow weights to improve economic returns. Even if our analyses are off by 20%, the economically-optimal mature cow weight is under 1200#.

So, how does a producer with heavy cows adjust cow weight? Just as it has taken the industry several years to reach the current situation, producers will need to adjust over time. Reestablish a maternal line in the herd. Breed cows with desirable phenotypic and genotypic traits to moderate

MW EPD bulls and retain heifer calves that are both phenotypically and genotypically attractive but have a lower projected mature weight. It could take up to ten years to replace heavy cows, but the economics point to improved profitability. (Source: OSU Extension Master Cattleman Quarterly newsletter; Volume 39, June 2018)

     The take home message is that heavier cows are not the path to heavier weaning weights. There is a point of diminishing returns and it is a very inefficient process. Put simply, in my best Economist language, more/bigger/heavier is not always better or more profitable. Just as “variety is the spice of life”, moderation is the key to longevity and sustainability.

Find out what’s happening on the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Calendar at https://calendar.okstate.edu/oces/#/?i=2

Follow me on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/leland.mcdaniel

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; Phone 405-744-5371; email: eeo@okstate.edu has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies.  Any person who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

How Does Rain Impact Hay Quality?

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Summer afternoon rain showers are both a friend and foe for hay producers. While most farmers certainly won’t turn down a year with ample rain, the frequency of rainfall can pose a challenge to putting up high-quality hay for the winter months.

Rain can cause the following to occur when hay is being cured in the field prior to baling:

Leaching – Hay that is closer to baling, or more dry, is more susceptible to leaching losses than fresh cut forage. Nutrient leaching causes dry matter loss, increased fiber and decreased energy value of forage.

Respiration – Losses to respiration occur when moisture levels exceed 30%. When forage is re-wetted by rain, this keeps the forage moisture level high enough for respiration to continue or be prolonged, which results in carbohydrate losses in hay.

Leaf loss is generally more significant in legume forages than grass hay, and amount of loss is often quite variable. Additional handling of windrows to encourage drying post-rainfall contributes to leaf loss.

Rain damage increases with the amount, duration of a rainfall event, and timing relative to when hay was harvested. If rain occurs shortly after cutting, this is usually less damaging than hay that has already had significant drying time in the field. A research trial at the University of Arkansas reported that a short delay in harvest of perennial warm-season grasses had a more negative influence on hay quality than a single rainfall event ranging from 0.5 to 3 inches. Repeat instances of rain cause more damage than a single rainfall event. This is generally where more significant quality and dry matter losses occur, especially for hay that is still above 30% moisture that continues to respire.

Even if hay has been rained on multiple times, it is important to get the forage out of the field to minimize the impact of excessive thatch on forage regrowth for the next potential hay harvest. Higher moisture bales may undergo heating, and they also provide a favorable environment for mold growth. Collect a forage sample from rain-damaged hay to send in for nutrient analysis to determine overall feed value and suitability. Rain-damaged, low-quality hay should be used for cows in the herd with the lowest nutrient requirement.

It is a good idea to check for nitrate levels on forage that has gone through drought conditions followed by a recovery of a rainfall event.

Contact your County OSU Extension Educator for further assistance in obtaining proper forage samples.

Find out what’s happening on the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Calendar at https://calendar.okstate.edu/oces/#/?i=2

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Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; Phone 405-744-5371; email: eeo@okstate.edu has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies.  Any person who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

Sign up for the ranch tour now!

Cattle producers in south-central Oklahoma should register now to take part in the May 30-31 Master Cattleman Ranch Tour, which will visit area ranches ranging in size from 10,000 to 35,000 acres. Ttour participants will see interesting contrasts of vertical and horizontal integration, genetic selection, stocker health management, fall versus spring calving seasons, wintertime feeding strategies, native range management and the use of Rx fire to enhance animal performance, as well as controlling brush.

Although the focus is on beef cattle production – including cow-calf, stocker, purebred seedstock and backgrounding operations – the tour also is an opportunity to see and discuss some of the issues in this region regarding invasive plant species, groundwater and surface water resources such as the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, and landscape requiring management measures that can be challenging to implement.

Participants are asked to register no later than May 23. Cost is $30 per participant. Online registration is available at http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/marketplace through the OSU Department of Animal Science.

On May 30, the vans will depart at 12:15 p.m. from the Ardmore Convention Center, located at 2401 Rockford Rd. and travel to the Chuckwagon Barbecue Restaurant, located at 101 Hargrove St. and State Highway 7 in Velma, prior to continuing on to the first ranch site.

 Out of respect to our gracious ranch hosts and in the interest of logistics, we ask participants to ride in the vans provided. If you must caravan in your own vehicle, please drive a pickup able to handle the terrain and carpool as much as possible.

The vans will return to the Ardmore Convention Center at approximately 8 p.m. The second day of the tour will kick off at 8 a.m. and finish early in the afternoon of May 31.

Ranch sites on the tour include Sugar Loaf Ranch in Velma, Sparks Ranch in Hennepin, Coffey Ranch in Davis, Daube Ranch in Ardmore, Eddie Parker Angus Ranch in Waurika, Wilson Cattle Company in Ringling and Howard Cattle Company in Claypool.

Anyone interested in obtaining additional information about the tour should contact me by email at leland.mcdaniel@okstate.edu or by phone at either 580-223-6570 or 580-228-2332.

Register Now for May 30-31 Ranch Tour! . . .

Beef cattle producers in Oklahoma will have the opportunity to learn first-hand more about their industry by attending the 2018 Master Cattleman Ranch Tour on May 30 and 31. Any cattle producer may register and learn from some of the state’s master cattlemen and cattlewomen. The cost of the tour is only $30 and is presented by OSU Animal Science Department and the Carter/Jefferson County OSU Extension Offices.. 

This is a unique opportunity to see some very progressive, scenic, and historic beef cattle ranches of south-central Oklahoma.You will appreciate the environmental and ecological diversity that will be on display from ranch-to-ranch. Although the focus is on beef cattle production, including cow/calf, stocker, purebred seedstock, and backgrounding operations, it will also be an opportunity to see, up close and personal, some of the issues in this region of the state regarding invasive species (Eastern red cedar), groundwater/surface water resources (Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer), and some very challenging landscape to implement control measures.

The ranches range in size from about 10,000 to 35,000 acres. There will be some interesting contrasts of vertical and horizontal integration, genetic selection, stocker health management, fall vs. spring calving seasons, winter feeding strategies, native range management, and the use of Rx fire to enhance animal performance, as well as controlling brush.

Please find the linked flier on the upcoming Master Cattleman Ranch Tour, presented by the OSU Animal Science Department and the Carter/Jefferson County OSU Extension Offices. For details about the seven ranches to be visited and key topics discussed, click on the link below to a flier that gives more important information about the tour:  http://beefextension.com/temp_files/2018MasterCattlemanRanchTour.pdf. In addition, there is an online registration link, that it will be limited to the first 100 registrants. Registration Link: http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/marketplace. Register now, don’t delay.

Comparing Weaning Dates for Fall-Born Calves . . .

Producers with fall-calving herds have traditionally weaned the calves at 9 to 10 months of age. When forage growth is limited due to drought, questions arise about the feasibility of weaning the calves at an earlier date. The effect on the cow as well as weaning weight of the calf must be considered when the impact of the weaning date is considered.

Oklahoma State University animal scientists evaluated weaning dates of 158 Angus fall-calving cows over a 4 year period. Cows were allowed to nurse their calves for about 210 days (April Weaning) or 300 days (July Weaning). All cows calved in September or October and were weaned in mid-April (April Wean) or mid-July (July Wean). April-weaned young cows had greater re-breeding percentages (98.4% versus 89.3%) than July weaned young cows. However, there was no advantage in the re-breeding performance of April-weaned mature cows compared to July-weaned mature cows (90.2% versus 96.7%). April-weaned cows were heavier and fleshier at calving than July weaned cows.

Calves weaned in July were 90 days older and 204 pounds heavier (642 lb versus 438 lb) when weaned than were the April-weaned calves. The April-weaned calves were allowed to graze native pasture after wean-ing and weighed 607 pounds in mid-July. For most years, it appears more advantageous to delay weaning of calves born to cows 4 years or older to July while maintaining April weaning for cows 3 years of age or younger.

Drought conditions (or burned pastures) in some areas of the Southern Plains very well may suggest the earlier weaning date could be considered for all ages of cows. In those areas of Oklahoma that have received adequate rainfall this winter and spring, the answer may be different. In those regions, the prospects of good forage growth would suggest that the later weaning date would result in heavier sale weights of calves and still excellent re-breeding of adult cows. Source: Hudson and co-workers. Journal of Anim. Sci. 2010 vol. 88:1577.

When is the Best Time (Age) to Castrate Bull Calves? . . .

Britt Hicks, OSU Extension Area Livestock Specialist, recently offered a good discussion of when to castrate bull calves and I wanted to share it.

Beef Quality Assurance Guidelines recommend that bull calves that are not herd sire prospects be castrated as early in life as possible (preferably, between birth and four months of age).  It has been speculated that delaying castration until weaning may improve performance since intact bull calves may grow more rapidly than steer calves.  However, several studies suggest that there is no lifetime performance advantage to waiting to castrate calves until weaning.  In fact, most research show that late castration (at weaning) decreases feedlot arrival gains and increases morbidity (sickness).

In 2011, University of Florida research investigated whether timing of castration in nursing calves affected calf performance and weaning weight.  In this study, 93 Angus and Brangus calves were either surgically castrated early (average age of 36 days) or late (average age of 131 days).  The age of the early castrated calves ranged from 3 to 73 days and the age of the late castrated calves ranged from 84 to 180 days.  At the time of castration, the average body weight of the late castrated calves was 356 lb.  Actual weaning weight (456 vs. 452 lb), adjusted 205-day weaning weight (512 vs. 504 lb), and average daily gain from birth to weaning (2.00 vs. 1.92 lb) were all similar between early and late castrate treatments, respectively.  These researchers concluded that this data indicates that producers have some degree of flexibility in determining when to implement castration.  The data showed that castration at or near birth did not have a detrimental effect on calf performance or weaning weight.  These authors also suggested that producers should realize that delaying castration until calves are approximately 131 days old will not bring added weight at weaning despite some producer philosophies and marketing claims that endorse such management practices.

In 2015, joint research between the University of Arkansas and West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) evaluated the effect of castration timing (near birth or at weaning) on lifetime growth performance and carcass quality of beef calves.  In this study, calves were surgically castrated near birth or at weaning.  All calves were weaned at day 214 of the study to undergo a 56-day weaning period.  For the first 28 days after weaning, the calves were fed hay ad libitum and a supplemental ration intended to achieve approximately 1.5 lb of gain per day.  After 28 days, the calves were moved to a mixed-grass pasture to be maintained for an additional 28-day period to complete the 56-day weaning phase of the study.  After this weaning phase, the calves were shipped 480 miles to the WTAMU Nance Ranch and grazed on native grass and sorghum-Sudan grass for a 111-day backgrounding period until entry into the adjacent WTAMU Research Feedlot.  The calves were fed a common feedlot ration throughout the finishing period (average length of 128 days) and harvested at a commercial processing plant.

These researchers reported that average daily gain from birth to weaning (214 days) was similar between treatments (1.81 vs. 1.85 lb/day for steers and bull calves, respectively).  Furthermore, there was no difference in weaning weight between the bulls left intact (483 lb) or the non-implanted steers castrated near birth (475 lb).  These authors suggest that this observation indicates that testosterone-enhanced growth in bulls vs. steer cohorts is not realized until bulls reach ages beyond the typical weaning age.  However, during the 56 day weaning period, calves castrated near birth gained faster than calves castrate at weaning (2.25 vs. 2.04 lb/day, P = 0.04).  Summer grazing and feedlot finishing performance and carcass measurements did not differ between treatments.  Theses researchers concluded that the results of this study indicate that castration procedures should be performed as early in life as possible to minimize performance loss.

Research from Nebraska (2005) has shown that as age of castration increases, weight loss resulting from the procedure increases (Figure 1).  In addition, reviews of marketing data show that bull calves marketed through conventional channels have historically suffered a price discount of ~5% compared to steer calves (~$5.00 to $7.00/cwt discounts) since surgical castration of calves after arrival at a feedlot decreases daily gains and increases morbidity.

Research conducted at the University of California, Davis (2017) assessed the effect of age on healing and pain sensitivity after surgical castration of beef calves.  In this study, beef calves were surgically castrated at 3 days of age (range of 0 to 8 days) or 73 days of age (range of 69 to 80 days).  The results of this study showed that calves castrated soon after birth experienced more tissue swelling and showed more signs of pain, but their incisions healed sooner (39 vs. 61 days) and their weight gain 77 days after castration was greater (1.54 vs. 0.66 lb/day), when compared to animals castrated around 73 days of age.

Collectively, these studies suggest that there is no lifetime performance advantage to waiting to castrate calves until weaning, but there is a high probability of receiving lower prices when marketing intact calves through conventional channels. When considering how age at castration affects animal welfare, the consensus is that the younger the calf is at time of castration, the less impact castration has on its welfare and performance.

Find out what’s happening on the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Calendar at https://calendar.okstate.edu/oces/#/?i=2

Follow me on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/leland.mcdaniel

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran, in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid, and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity, 408 Whitehurst, OSU, Stillwater, OK 74078-1035; Phone 405-744-5371; email: eeo@okstate.edu has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies.  Any person who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator 405-744-9154.

Key Factors Affecting the Percentage of Cows Cycling at the Start of Breeding . . .

 The spring breeding season is upon us. May 1 is often the bull turnout date for many Oklahoma herds.  Cows that are cycling early in the breeding season are more likely to get bred this year, raise a heavier calf at weaning, and rebreed on time in future years.  

The most important factors that determine if, and when, a cow returns to cycling activity were analyzed by Kansas State University physiologists. Over a period of 7 years, Kansas State scientists used more than 3000 beef cows in estrous synchronization studies. As a part of these studies they determined which cows were cycling before the start of the breeding season both before and after synchronization treatments. They then looked at the previous data about each cow and determined the major factors that influenced the likelihood that she would have returned to heat by the start of the breeding season. The research indicated that three main factors were the most important determinants as to whether the cow would recycle before the breeding season began. Body condition, age of the cow, and the number of days since calving were the biggest influences on incidence of cycling activity before breeding. 

Body condition: Cows ranged in body condition score from 1 (extremely emaciated) to 7 (very fleshy). As body condition score increased the percentage of cows cycling increased in a linear fashion. The Kansas data reported that there was an 18% increase in percentage cycling for every 1 full condition score improvement. 

Age of the cow: The percentage of first calf two-year-olds cycling was about 10% less than mature cows that were having at least their second calf. The extra nutrient requirement for growth clearly limits the cycling activity at the beginning of the breeding season of two-year-olds. Also, two-year-olds are in the stage of life where the baby teeth are being replaced by permanent teeth. Some of these young cows have problems consuming roughage similar to “broken-mouth” older cows. This explains why many producers choose to breed replacement heifers ahead of the cow herd and therefore give them more days before the breeding season begins for mature cows.

Numbers of days since calving: Cycling activity was also influenced by the number of days since calving. For every 10 day interval since calving (from less than 50 days to 70 days) the percentage cycling increased by 7.5%. A short calving season is important because it allows a higher percentage of cows to be cycling by the start of the next breeding season.

Find out what’s happening on the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Calendar at https://calendar.okstate.edu/oces/#/?i=2

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