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Craig County OSU Cooperative Extension Service

Ag Newsletter December 2016

Craig County                                        Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service                              December 2016

210 W. Delaware, suite 107    



Ag News               Ag Newsletter

Thank you to those of you that have requested your newsletter be e-mailed to you. You know one of the advantages of getting your news through the email is that I can send out notices to you faster and send more current information and you not having to wait for a month.

We all know that the State of Oklahoma is going through some budget problems which trickle to the Oklahoma State Cooperative Extension Service. To help save on postage for our office I am asking each of you with the capability to receive your newsletter via email to please send me your email address to; walter.white@okstate.edu

I do realize not everyone has internet service and for this reason I will continue to mail out the Ag Newsletter to those who don’t have internet service and also to those who prefer to receive a hard copy.

Fall Calving Coming Soon

Earl Ward, NE Area Livestock Specialist


There is a lot of debate about the appropriate cow size across the beef industry. Every producer has their ideal cow size in mind and none of them are wrong. The argument is simply how much can she produce in relation to the amount of nutrient intake required.

Most people would look at a large cow and say that she requires more supplementation than a smaller cow. However the opposite is true due to the fact that the larger cow should be able to consume more nutrients from forages. On average a normal beef cow will consume about 2.5% of her body weight in forage dry matter. This means that a 1,100 pound cow will consume approximately 27.5 lbs. of dry matter and a 1,400 pound cow would eat 35 lbs. of dry matter. Let’s assume that the hay we have put up tested 88% dry matter, 8.5% crude protein (CP), and 56% total digestible nutrients (TDN). The 1,100 pound cow would eat all the forage she wanted but will still need approximately 3.1 pounds of a 20% cube to meet both of her CP and TDN requirements. The 1,400 pound cow would only require 2.9 pound of a 20% supplement to meet her requirements. This simple calculation shows that the mindset of big cows require more supplementation is false, but it does show that her requirement of more forage is elevated compared to the smaller cow. In one year the 1,400 cow will consume approximately 2,735 pounds more of forage than the 1,100 cow. If that forage is valued at $35 per 1,000 pound bale that equals an extra $95 in forage costs to run the bigger cow for the year.

I assume there will always be a great debate in coffee shops across the mid-west about the appropriate cow size. I say there is no right or wrong side because every operation is different and the cow that works best for one environment will not be the best for a different environment. Producers do need to understand where their nutrients are coming from whether it is from the forage or from supplementation. For help determining your forage quality and supplemental needs for your herd please contact your county’s OSU Extension office.


Will Pasture Legumes Eliminate Purchasing Nitrogen Fertilizer?

Brian Pugh, Northeast Area Agronomy Specialist


The cost of Nitrogen fertilizer has soared over the last decade, leaving many producers wondering if there is a cheaper way of producing the forage they need for their grazing animals. Many are looking at legumes as a way of bridging the gap in the production of their grass pastures since they have reduced nitrogen fertilizer inputs.

Legumes have the ability to produce their own nitrogen with the help of a bacteria that lives on their roots. This bacteria has the ability to convert nitrogen from the air into a usable form for the plant. Most of this nitrogen is taken in by the legume plant itself and is used in the production of above ground forage and for growth of its roots. Nitrogen credits attributed to legumes can be as high as 200 lbs of N per acre for white clover, 110 lbs. for red clover and 100 lbs per acre for crimson and arrow leaf clovers. The legume plant itself is using most of this N production for its own growth, while providing high quality forage to the grazing animal. Contrary to popular opinion, very little of this nitrogen leaks out from the roots and is available for grass growth. We do receive some nitrogen recycling from legumes in animal urine and manure, but about 50% of this nitrogen is lost through volatilization and is not available for forage grass uptake. In a pasture that has been in legume production for several years, there will however be decaying roots and bacteria nodules that will provide nitrogen to the soil that is available for the grass crop to use. The amount returned to the soil by this decomposition varies greatly with the previous year’s production of legumes. The nitrogen credit to that soil can vary from 20 to 50 pounds of N per acre from decaying plant root material and recycled animal waste.

So are legumes a good way of reducing the need for fertilizer inputs? The answer to that is yes, but not because it puts large amounts of N in the soil for your grass to use. What is does is replace the grass production you used to get with nitrogen fertilization with high quality legume production, which is probably better for your grazing animals in the long run. Will it reduce your cost of production? Well that depends, in order to grow legumes, your soil will have to have the proper ph, phosphorus and potassium levels in order to survive and thrive.

If your pastures fertility is not in good enough shape to produce legumes and you are not willing to spend the time, money and effort to get them established properly, then don’t waste your time buying expensive legume seed. Without the proper soil fertility environment, your legume stand will not survive.

Using legumes in a balanced forage system will in the long run save you on nitrogen inputs and will provide your grazing animals with high quality forage. It will take some proper management in order to work well over the long haul. Get a soil test and visit with your local county extension educator before jumping off head first into a legume

forage system. They will help you pick the proper legume for your geographical location and soil type. They will also be able to provide you with the proper management plan to keep your legume pastures healthy and productive.




Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD)


I realize most of you know what the

Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) is by now. But I need to remind you that this goes in effect on January 1st 2017.


The VFD process is a simple one designed by a coalition of animal agriculture specialists to ensure new therapeutic animal drugs are used safely and in accordance with current science. Feed manufacturers, dealers, retailers, producers and veterinarians must insure there is adequate control of VFD products.


Correct forms must be utilized, correct information must be provided, mixing

instructions must be followed and records must be maintained for the specified time frames. Failure to perform one of these mandatory and important functions may result in not only regulatory sanctions, but could result in FDA further restricting VFD product use or FDA failing to approve more of these important animal health products.


The VFD process is vital to animal producers who need new therapeutic agents. The process also assures the consuming public that new, therapeutic agents will be safely and correctly used.

Remember, take time, read and follow directions for all animal health products.



 The Impact of Dressing Percent on Cull Cow Marketing

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist


Last week’s Cow-Calf Corner newsletter discussed cull cow grades.  Remember cull cows that are destined to go to the packing house are graded by their fleshiness.  The fattest cows are called “Breakers”.  Moderately fleshed cows are “Boners”.  Thin cows are called “Leans” or “Lights”, depending upon the weight of the cow. Most years there will be price differences among these four grades.  This fall, the price differences between grades (of average dressing percentage cows) seems to be narrowed

However, within each grade, large variation in prices per hundredweight will exist because of differences in dressing percentage.  Cow buyers are particularly aware of the proportion of

the purchased live weight that eventually becomes saleable product hanging on the rail.  Dressing percentage is (mathematically) the carcass weight divided by the live weight multiplied by 100. Key factors that affect dressing percentage include gut fill, udder size, mud and manure on the hide, excess leather on the body, and anything else that contributes to the live weight but will not add to the carcass weight.  Most USDA Market News reports for cull cows will give price ranges for High, Average, and Low Dressing Percents for each of the previous mentioned grades.  As you study these price reports, note that the differences between High and Low Dressing cows and bulls will generally be greater than differences between grades.  Many reports will indicate that Low Dressing cows will be discounted up to $10 to $14 per hundredweight compared to High Dressing cows and will be discounted $4 to $10 per hundredweight compared to Average Dressing cows. 

These price differences are usually widest for the moderate to thin cow grades (Boners, Leans and Lights). 

As producers market cull cows and bulls, they should be cautious about selling cattle with excess fill.  The large discounts due to low dressing percent often will more than offset any advantage from the added weight.           




How many heifers to keep??

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist


Each year commercial cow/calf operations must decide how many replacement heifers are grown out to be put in the breeding pasture.  Individual ranches must make the decisions about heifer retention based upon factors that directly affect their bottom-line.  Stocking rates may have changed over time due to increases in cow size.  Droughts have reduced pasture condition in many areas of the Southwest.

Matching the number of cattle to the grass and feed resources on the ranch is a constant challenge for any cow-calf producer.  Also producers strive to maintain cow numbers to match their marketing plans for the long term changes in the cattle cycle.  Therefore it is a constant struggle to evaluate the number of replacement heifers that must be developed or purchased to bring into the herd each year.  As a starting place in the effort to answer this question, it is important to look at the “average” cow herd to understand how many cows are in each age category.  Dr. Kris Ringwall, director of the Dickinson, North Dakota Research and Extension Center reported on the average number of cows in their research herd by age group for a period of over 20 years.  The following graph depicts the “average” percent of cows in this herd by age group.

 The above graph indicates that the typical herd will, “on the average”,  introduce 17% new first calf heifers each year.  Stated another way, if 100 cows are expected to produce a calf each year, 17 of them will be having their first baby.  Therefore this gives us a starting point in choosing how many heifers we need to save each year. 

Next, we must predict the percentage of heifers that enter a breeding season that will become pregnant.  The prediction is made primarily upon the nutritional growing program that the heifers receive between weaning and breeding.  Researchers many years ago, found that only half of heifers that reached 55% of their eventual mature weight were cycling by the time they entered their first breeding season.   This data was reinforced with data from Oklahoma State University.  If these heifers were exposed to a bull for a limited number of days (45-70), not all would have a chance to become pregnant during that breeding season.  Therefore, it would be necessary to keep an additional 50% more heifers just to make certain that enough bred heifers were

available to go into the herd.   As soon as possible the heifers should be pregnancy checked and the open heifers marketed as stocker heifers. 


However if the heifers were grown at a more rapid rate and weighed 65% of their eventual mature weight, then 90% of them would be cycling at the start of the breeding season and a much higher pregnancy rate would be the result.   Even in the very best scenarios, some heifers will be difficult or impossible to breed.   Most experienced cow herd managers will always expose at least 10% more heifers than they need even when all heifers are grown properly and weigh at least 65% of the expected mature weight. 

The need to properly estimate the expected mature weight is important in understanding heifer growing programs.   Cattle type and mature size has increased over the last half century.  Rules of thumb that apply to 1000 pound mature cows very likely do not apply to your herd.  Watch sale weights of culled mature cows from your herd to better estimate the needed size and weights for heifers in your program.  Most commercial herds have cows that average about 1200 pounds or more.  This requires that the heifers from these cows must weigh at least 780 pounds at the start of their first breeding season to expect a high percentage to be cycling when you turn in the bulls. 


This discussion is meant to be a STARTING PLACE in the decision to determine the number of heifers needed for replacements.  Ranchers must keep in mind the over-riding need to understand what forage base resources that they have available to them.


Craig County OSU

Cooperative Extension Service

                                                                                                                         C W White


210 W. Delaware, Suite 107                                                                       Craig Co. Extension Ed

Vinita, OK. 74301                                                                                         Agriculture/4-H/ CED

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Issued in furtherance of cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. This publication is printed and issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the Vice President for Agriculture Programs and has been prepared and distributed at the cost of 0.01 cents per copy based on 250 copies. 09/16





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