Now’s the time to look into beef production

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Column by Doug Shepherd, Hardin County Extension agent

Roy Burris, UK beef extension specialist at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton each month publishes a “Timely Tips” article for Kentucky beef producers. There are several items in his column this month that should be on the minds of local producers.

Many spring born calves were weaned early this year because of drought, but if your herd didn’t fall into that category you need to start the process of weaning spring-born calves. Stresses associated with weaning can be minimized by spreading out other activities commonly associated with weaning – vaccinations, deworming and, perhaps, castration and dehorning, which should already have been done. Therefore, this month is a good time to do a “preweaning” working of cows and calves.

Limited creep feeding can prepare calves for weaning because they can become accustomed to eating dry feed. That especially benefits calves you are going to keep for a short postweaning period – such as the CPH-45 program. And now is the time to start planning marketing of this year’s calf crop.

When planning preweaning working, consult with your veterinarian for advice on animal health products and procedures. Some procedures that can be done now are: pregnancy checking cows, which will allow time to make culling decisions prior to weaning time, and blood testing cows for herd certification. The remainder of work, such as booster shots, can be done at weaning time. Also now is when you should begin evaluating calves for herd replacements or culling. Each time you put them through the chute you can evaluate them for several traits, including disposition.

Those with fall calving cow herds should be watching for early-born, light calves because of drought this year. Fall-calving most likely started this month. If you haven’t already, cows should be moved to a clean, accessible pasture and watched closely. Tag calves soon after they are born and record dam ID and calf birth date, etc. Castration is less stressful when performed on young animals. Calves that are intended for feeders can be implanted now, too.

Move cows to best quality fall pasture after calving. Stockpiled fescue should be available to these cows in November-December to meet their nutritional needs for milking and rebreeding.

Do not feed corn plants (stover, silage, and/or residue) without checking for nitrates. Even though the majority of samples we’ve submitted thus far have nitrate test results in the safe level, your sample may test unsafe. Plan your winter feeding program — take forage samples of hay you will feed this winter, request protein and TDN analysis so supplemental feed needs may be estimated. Don’t wait until you run out of feed in February to purchase extra. Plan to minimize hay storage and feeding losses because feed is too expensive to waste.

To make best use of stockpiled fescue pasture, put fall calvers or thin spring-calvers on this pasture and strip graze. You also might consider seeding winter annuals in pastures that were damaged by drought.

Remember — don’t graze sorghum or sudan pastures between first frost and a definite killing frost because of the danger of prussic acid poisoning. Johnsongrass in stalk fields can also be a problem after a light frost. Grazing can resume after the sorghum-type grasses have undergone a killing frost and dried up.

Upcoming Beef Activities. The county extension services in Nelson, Washington and Marion counties are offering the UK “Master Stocker” program to interested producers in the area, and have invited anyone from Hardin County to participate. The program is built around the same framework as the highly successful Master Cattlemen program, except this program is targeted to producers whose beef enterprise is based on handling stocker cattle. For more information call one of the above mentioned offices.

Speaking of stockers, the Central Kentucky Stocker Conference is Oct. 1, beginning at 10:00 a.m. at the Fayette County Extension Service in Lexington. Topics include: New Strategies in the Prevention of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) by Dr. John Davidson, a Veterinarian with Novartis Animal Health in College Station, Texas, Risk Management Strategies and Using Corn Silage and Alternative Feeds. Lunch will be served, so pre-register by calling the Hardin County Extension Service at 765-4121.

The Hardin County Cattlemen’s Association will have its next membership meeting Oct. 16 at the Hardin County Extension Service. Rob Granberg, a chef and meat procurement person with Gordon Food Service, will be presenting the program that evening on value beef cuts, product preparation, and industry food service needs. Dinner is provided for those who register by calling (270) 765-4121 or at www.hardinag.org.

The Kentucky Beef Conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 23 at the Fayette County Extension Service. The main topic of discussion at this conference is the cattle marketing outlook. Randy Blach from Cattle Fax is featured speaker.

Doug Shepherd is a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture.