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Cow-Calf Update and Tips

May 21, 2015

I traveled with Bob to the McNay Research Farm in Clariton, Iowa, yesterday to attend a beef cattle research day for veterinarians. Much of the material could be helpful for anyone with a cow-calf herd. Here are some highlights.

4 Steps to Selecting Bulls Are you buying bulls that really help your herd? Become a better match-maker. Here are tips:

1. Determine the best bull breed for your operation (not just what is popular)

2. Evaluate bull performance using EPDs and other data. Don't forget the Docility EPD. "You better look at it if you have trouble getting over a 5-strand barbed wire fence," says Patrick Wall, Iowa State Extension beef specialist. Small herds, especially those owned by families with kids, do not want aggressive bulls.

3. Visually evaluate bulls and how that fits with your cow herd.

4. Who is your customer? (Define the market strategy for your beef product.)

Foot problems in bulls and cows are becoming more common. Two main issues are shallow heels with long toes and scissor/corkscrew claws. Data is being collected in the cattle industry and EPDs will be provided as soon as sufficient data is submitted. Meanwhile, before you buy a young bull ask about his genetic history as relates to feet problems.

Tall Fescue is a growing problem in pastures. The fescue belt is moving north. Fescue toxicosis is a health disorder, not nutritional, but you must meet cow mineral requirements. Fescue toxicosis causes narrowing of blood vessels, foot problems, low feed intake and rate of gain, birthing problems, poor milk production and more. Seed head and stems are the worst, but alkaloids are in the entire plant. Pasture management is crucial. Please see more information here.

What is the #1 Concern for beef cow herds in Iowa? Availability of grass. In five years, between the last two Census of Agriculture reports, Iowa lost 21% of its pastureland, mainly to row crops. YIKES.

Here is a new Grassroots Grazing Program for young and beginning graziers: http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/news/GrassrootsGrazing2015.html

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