Fall will continue warm but wet

I know that the severity of the drought across the state ranges from “What drought?” to “Extreme” (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?NY). For those needing rain the most recent Extended Weather Outlook from CattleFax shows warm wet weather through mid-Fall. They predict “temperatures to +2F through mid-fall; precipitation rising to 120% of normal by early fall.”

Drought affected corn – feed alternative?

Value of alternative feeds: corn silage
Michael J. Baker PhD
Cornell University Beef Extension Specialist

Corn silage without ears
In certain areas of the state, corn that was planted for grain, has not had enough moisture to pollinate, or if pollinated will not fill adequately to justify harvest. For cattle producers this may be a source of feed. Corn without ears that is ensiled is similar to grass hay though lower in protein. Read More.

10 beef cattle to-dos if drought spreads into fall

Stock Notes: Plan and prep now with these 10 pointers for more drought if a weak La Nina develops this fall.

Published on: Aug 11, 2016, Farm Progress Wallaces Farmer, http://farmprogress.com/wallaces-farmer, by Dave Nanda

Agriculture owes its existence to a few inches of topsoil and those once-in-a-while rainfalls. Unfortunately, that “once in a while” also includes “here and there” in the Northeast this year.

Rainfall has been spotty all across the region. Here in central Pennsylvania, you can hear a lot of “music” from cows who are not happy with the pasture situation.

Continued dry weather could have a major impact on silage and grain yields. Obviously, prospects for later hay cuttings are bleak without a major change to wet weather early this fall.

Forecasters are predicting a weak La Niña to develop late this fall and into the winter. If that happens, drought is likely to return to a large portion of cow country. Beef producers should plan and prep now for that possibility. So consider these 10 drought management pointers:

  1. Estimate your winter feed shortfall; cover it now. Purchase winter feedstuffs as soon as possible before prices rise as the drought worsens or winter sets in. One of the benefits of “spotty rainfall” is a neighbor a few miles away may have good yields and excess feedstuffs available. It may be possible to buy your needs right out of a nearby field — often your cheapest option. If possible, obtain a feed nutrient analysis so you know the quality before writing the check!
  2. Avoid overgrazing during drought. Careful stocking in normal precipitation years leaves a forage reserve that helps maintain pasture productivity during a drought. Overgrazing during and after a drought only delays pasture recovery. In some cases, it can permanently impair land productivity.
  3. Watch younger animals closely. Replacement heifers, bulls and first-calf heifers have a higher nutrient demand than mature cows. They should be grazed and fed separately and provided supplemental feed to keep them growing if needed.
  4. Increase your culling pressure. If you haven’t already done so, have the herd pregnancy-checked, and then cull all open and problem cows. When feed supplies are short, it doesn’t make sense to give a problem animal “one more chance.” Try to avoid the usual cull cow marketing time. Prices usually are at seasonal lows in October and November.
  5. Consider creep feeding. If grain prices are reasonable compared to forage prices, it may pay to take some pressure off the cows by creep-feeding calves.
  6. Weigh early weaning. Nutritional requirements of the lactating cow are high. Removing her calf will allow her to get by on less forage. But resist the temptation to sell early-weaned calves too soon at unprofitably light weights.
  7. Keep and winter-feed those calves. It sounds contradictory, but under certain circumstances it may be profitable to retain ownership and feed those calves through winter. The best course may be to not “follow the herd” and do what everybody else is doing, especially if unusually large numbers of calves to go to market in your area. Feed grain prices may be reasonable over the coming winter, especially with a large national crop. You may be able to ship in and feed corn, and then sell calves later at an increased profit.
  8. Watch for alternative forage sources. Potential feed sources might include Conservation Reserve Program land released for emergency grazing or hay production. Corn that’s severely stunted and not worth the cost of harvesting might be available for grazing. Corn harvested for grain might also be available for stalk grazing. Byproduct and commodity feeds are another option in many areas.
  9. Minimize feed wastes. When large hay packages are fed unprotected on the ground, losses can exceed 35% to 40%. Use a well-designed hay feeder.
  10. Carefully monitor cow body condition score. You can’t afford to let cows get too thin. Poor condition may not seem to affect a dry cow much this fall, but it will cost you dearly as calving approaches with weak calves and failure to return to heat. You’ll never “starve a profit out of them.” Crop insurance is a risk management tool to help cover extra feed costs in event of drought. But if you don’t have it, it won’t be of help this time around. And you may end up paying more for extra feed than it would have cost.

How retained beef calf ownership pencils out
When evaluating whether to retain ownership or sell weaned calves, value of that extra gain is a key factor. It’s calculated simply as the difference in final versus initial value of the animal, divided by the pounds of weight gain. Consider this example of a 650-pound steer that will be grown to reach 850 pounds by winter’s end.

  • Initial value: 650-pound steer at $1.35 per pound = $877.50
    • Final value: 850-pound steer at $1.20 per pound = $1,020
    • Difference in value: $142.50
    • Weight gain: 200 pounds
    • Value of gain: $142.50 divided by 200 pounds = 71 cents a pound

So, if you can put on, say 4 pounds average daily gain for less than $2.84 a day, retained ownership could be a viable option. Remember to include all costs such as labor and housing, not just feed.

Dr. Harold Harpster is a beef cow-calf producer and retired Penn State animal scientist.

For more resources go to http://blogs.cornell.edu/beefcattle/producer-resources/.


Grass Finishing Beef Field Day to be held August 25, 2016

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County, in partnership with the Watershed Agricultural Council, will be hosting a field day looking at pasture forage production as it relates to animal performance.  The focus will be on grass finishing beef.  The event starts at 2:00 pm on Thursday, August 25 at Squan Farm (Ron Cieri), 931 Davis Road, East Meredith, New York.

The afternoon will consist of three presentations:

  • At 2:45, Dr. Mike Baker, Cornell Beef Cattle Extension Specialist will speak on “Beef Nutrition from Weaning to Finishing for Grass-fed Cattle”. He will cover the basics of nutrition for the steer or heifer that is being fed a forage only (no grain) diet and will focus on energy, protein, and minerals from weaning to finish.
  • At 3:30, Josh Lucas of Lucas Cattle Company will speak on “From Conception to Weaning—Management Choices that Result in Calves that Perform on Grass. Josh will share his years of experience producing calves that finish well on grass.  He will discuss his genetics, cow management strategies, and weaning process and how those choices result in weaned calves that perform on grass.
  • At 4:15, Rich Toebe, Delaware County Extension Livestock Educator and Jim Ingram, Manager of Squan Farm will report on their “Grazing Study” on the farm. This on-going study has been collecting weekly forage samples and periodic steer weights throughout the 2016 grazing season.  Estimated performance is compared to actual weight gains.  Data on two finishing groups is being collected:  rotationally grazed versus set stocked.

Squan Farm and Adirondack Grazers Cooperative are providing a meal featuring grass-fed hamburgers from the farm at 5:00 pm.

Following the meal, participants will look at some forage plots that have grass at various maturities.  Predicted average daily weight gains will be posted at these plots allowing the participants to connect information shared earlier in the day with how it looks as standing forage in a pasture.  The field day will conclude with a walk of the pastures where the research is taking place.

There is no cost to attend.  To guarantee yourself a meal and materials, you must register by 4:30 pm, Monday, August 22 by calling Kim Holden at 607 865-7090 or emailing at kmh19@cornell.edu   A brochure with more information can be found at www.ccedelaware.org

Feeder Futures much improved

Daily Livestock Report, Vol. 14, No. 154 / August 5, 2016. www.DailyLivestockReport.com

Feeder cattle futures have been on a tear recently and yesterday almost hit $150/cwt before retreating. Still the nearby contract settled higher for the day and it is up $7.5/cwt (+5.4%) for the week. Demand for feeders shows some improvement given gains in fed cattle values and lower corn prices. Current feeder futures hold a nice premium over what fed/corn values imply, evidence in our view that markets are counting on a) continued expansion of the cattle herd (fewer heifers available for feeding); b) a large negative basis for corn (already a reality in some areas and could get worse in the fall); c) further growth of the farmer‐feeder sector as producers look for ways to add value to their crops (this is a corollary of point b.); and a reflection of above average pasture conditions. Full report can be found here Feeder_Futures_Up.

Farm households vary in their reliance on income from farming

Commodity Specialization

A farm’s specialization is determined by the one commodity or group of commodities that makes up at least 50 percent of the farm’s total value of agricultural production. In any given year, production and market conditions will vary for farms that specialize in different commodities. Differences in household income across commodity specialization, however, may also stem from basic differences in the types of households that specialize in specific commodities. For example, with its extensive and ongoing time demands, managing a dairy farm rarely permits an operator to work many hours off-farm and is a main reason why farm income is a large share of total income for dairy farm households but not for households involved in the production of many other commodities. Consequently, operators with a high paying off-farm job, or the potential to obtain one, are more likely to specialize in an activity that, unlike dairy farming, readily permits working many hours off the farm.

Download higher resolution chart (4171 pixels by 3333 pixels, 600 dpi)

Households associated with farms specializing in cash grains such as corn, soybeans, sorghum, or wheat had a median total household income of $100,343 in 2014. Median total household income was $78,615 for those specializing in rice, tobacco, cotton, or peanuts. Dairy and hog producers had the highest median total household income for livestock producers, at $109,539 and $104,099, respectively.

For full report go to: http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-household-well-being/farm-household-income-(historical).aspx.

Source: Economic Research Service United States Department of Agriculture


Reminder: BQA training at Empire Farm Days, Tuesday, Aug. 9

The New York Beef Council is once again partnering with Cornell University Beef Extension Specialist Dr. Mike Baker to offer Beef Quality Assurance training at Empire Farm Days at 4 pm on Tuesday, August 9, at the showgrounds at Rodman Lott and Son Farms in Seneca Falls, NY.

The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Program helps beef producers develop consumer-oriented production systems that combine technology, common sense, and animal well-being practices. The 3-hour educational program at Empire Farm Days will include classroom and chute-side training with live animals on how to properly administer injections to assure animal health and beef quality.

To receive BQA certification, participants will need to demonstrate their ability to give a subcutaneous injection during the chute-side session of the training.  The 4-7 pm training will conclude with beef sandwiches for participants in the Beef BBQ Tent at the 300-acre showgrounds.

To register for the training, contact the New York Beef Council at 315.3339.6922 or email cgillis@nybeef.org.

Drought Management – Early Weaning Decision Guide

Does early weaning pay? This spread sheet is designed to help you decide if weaning early is financially viable. The assumption is that by weaning early and providing the best feed for the calves you can provide less expensive feed to the cows thus reducing cost and/or extending pasture. To download and use this tool click on: EarlyWeanDecisionTool. Note that there are two sheets in the workbook: Original and “Your Farm”. Either will work, but now you have two copies in the event you make a mistake with one!