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We are a Registered Black Angus seed stock operation that takes genetics all the way to the dinner table.

Angus Bulls

American Angus Assn announces acquisition
New feeder calf program will grow market share by increasing use of Angus bulls
PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 6, 2017

Cattle feeders need metrics that align with the traits most valuable to their business, specifically gain and grade, Moczygemba explains. The Angus feeder calf program will provide a simple tool that validates the genetic potential of feeder calves. (photogramma1, Flickr/Creative Commons)
FORT WORTH, Texas — American Angus Association announced today it has entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of Verified Beef, including its proprietary Reputation Feeder Cattle® program. The deal underscores the Association’s commitment to programs that increase the use of registered Angus bulls in the commercial segment, growing value for the Angus breed and the entire membership.

Association CEO Allen Moczygemba says establishing a feeder calf program built on the use of registered Angus bulls that ties calves back to superior Angus genetics was a strategic priority set by the board in 2016.

“By marrying the advanced technology platform and proprietary software from Verified Beef with the strength and scale of the Angus brand, the Association will deliver a feeder calf program that is not only invaluable to commercial cattlemen but is unmatched in the industry,” he says.

Cattle feeders need metrics that align with the traits most valuable to their business, specifically gain and grade, Moczygemba explains. The Angus feeder calf program will provide a simple tool that validates the genetic potential of feeder calves.

The Association will build on the Reputation Feeder Cattle® program. While the current offering is based on a dollar scoring system, its underlying data analysis methodologies and computer modeling can be adapted to alternative scoring systems, such as the indexing system envisioned by American Angus Association.

“We’re confident that as cattlemen better understand the overall performance of Angus genetics, they’ll replace other breeds in their bull battery with Angus bulls,” Moczygemba says.

According to Tim Watts, chief executive officer of Verified Beef, “Selling calves the old fashioned way, without genetic data, doesn’t work.”

“Top Angus calves are consistently undervalued by several dollars per cwt. or more,” Watt says. “Calves from several other popular breeds are often significantly over valued, and the only way to fix this broken marketplace is for the AAA to implement an industry-changing feeder calf program.”

The program, which will be configured and integrated with existing Angus systems, is expected to be available in summer 2018. An index scoring system will replace the estimated dollar values currently offered. Herds will receive three genetic indexes: average daily gain, quality grade and a score for replacement heifers.

Moczygemba says, “The index scores will help our ultimate customers, commercial cattle feeders and cattlemen, make informed decisions, even in the fast-paced sale barn.”

–American Angus Association

March 22, 2017 In the last 25 years we have covered a variety of topics in our newsletters. Today we have a very different subject to share. Many of you are aware of the wild fires in the Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado prairies. Imagine tonight when you go out to do chores, that all of a sudden your house is burned to the ground, your fences are gone, many of your cattle lay dead in the field, and your pasture and hay supplies are gone. Some estimates say 2 million acres were destroyed. Perhaps as many as 200,000 cattle died. The cattle that didn’t die needed to be put down because of their extensive burns. So with all that on your mind, now you spend a few days shooting injured cattle to put them out of their misery. In some cases your family members died in the fire. People, as well as cattle, will suffer from respiratory aliments, such as pneumonia. Our friends the Gardiners are suffering through this nightmare, near Ashland, Kansas. When I spoke with one of the ranch hands about sending hay he said, “We need it desperately but I do need to tell you one thing. If the Gardiners think their neighbors need it more than they do they will share it with them. That’s just the kind of folks they are.” “Randall Spare, the family’s veterinarian, said the Gardiners have long been known for taking exceptional care of their customers. “Now it’s their turn to repay them,” Spare said of the customers. “The Gardiners are the cream of the crop, like their cattle. I’m not surprised so many people are wanting to help them.” According to Kansas news reports, at least a dozen times Greg Gardiner answered his cell phone as his pickup slowly rolled across a landscape that looked barren. Many were clients who called to ask what they could send or bring and to ask how the Gardiners were holding up. “It’s really something, when you hear a pause on the end of the line, and you know it’s because they’re crying, because they care that much,” Gardiner said. “It gets like that with ranching. It’s like we’re all family.” But it’s the fact that all of his family is still alive that causes the weathered, 58-year-old to stop the truck, think for a bit and sob. On Monday afternoon, he watched his brother Mark and his wife, Eva, disappear behind a wall of fire as they tried to save their horses and dogs at their home, which was destroyed by the fire. “I had no choice but to turn around and drive away, with the fire all around me,” he said softly and slowly. “For a half-hour I didn’t know if my brother and his wife were dead or alive. I really didn’t.” He and some firefighters gathered in the middle of a field of wheat, so short and green it wouldn’t burn. “It was so smoky I didn’t even know exactly where we were at,” he said. “But then a firefighter came driving by and told us everybody made it out. That’s when I knew Mark and his wife were alive. That’s when I knew everything would eventually be all right. I’m telling you, that’s when you learn what’s really important.” Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/state/article137397593.html#storylink=cpy How do you start putting your life back together? March 24, 2017 about 35 semi loads of supplies headed to Ashland, Kansas from Ohio to help the Gardiners and their neighbors. Efforts of folks like Kyle Munson and Britt Buhler from Rushville, IN and many others donating hay and delivery make the difference. Enclosed with this newsletter is information on how to make a donation. A cash donation is what is most needed at this point. They have many expenses that need paid with no real income. Please consider a donation of any size if you can. Thank you, Bill & Bev Roe Kansas Disaster Relief Fund, Kansas Livestock Foundation 6031 SW 37th Street, Topeka, KS 66614 (785) 273-5115, (785) 273-3399 – Fax Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation, Fire Relief MEMO LINE P.O. Box 82395, Oklahoma City, OK 73148 For Texas: WRCA Working Ranch Cowboys Assn. 408 SW 7th Avenue, Amarillo, TX, 79101 Phone: (806) 374-9722, Contact email: wrca@wrca.org Texas Department of Agriculture, 1700 North Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78701 Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation, Attn: Disaster Fund 9177 E. Mineral Circle, Centennial, CO 80112 Make checks payable to Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation and note “Disaster Fund-CO Wildfire” in the memo line . www.coloradofarmbureau.com/disasterfund

Newsletter December 2016

December 2016

Replacements and expansion are different

Our newsletter in 2012 encouraged expansion over the next 4-5 years.  The 4th year seems right on target.  Prices dropped quickly as we have all seen.  There has been some upward movement lately, but it will be a slow recovery.  Now a key for profitability is to maintain a very productive herd.  That means replacing your weakest link with a disciplined approach.  Replace cows before they become unproductive.   If your herd is 10-15 head, you will probably replace    1-2 females every year.  You can do this either by keeping back a couple of heifers or buying bred replacement heifers.

Don’t fall into the trap of having a large percent of your herd in need of replacement at one time.  It never fails when you are in this situation, you will end up with more open cows than you had planned.  This cuts your income from those lost calves.

Top 3 reasons bulls are replaced

Keeping daughters is the number one reason for why bulls are replaced.  This is especially true when the operation only has one herd bull. However, we want to remind you of barbed wire injuries.  Six bulls needed to be replaced due to barbed wire injury over the last 14 months.  Generally the bulls are 3-4 years old.  Try to keep barbed wire out of the breeding pasture, and replace it with a hot wire.

Create your own “good luck” against feet and leg injuries.  Bulls that run in creek bottoms or have access to standing water seem to have a higher rate of foot injuries.  Leg injuries seem to be more common in the areas where steep hills are in the breeding pastures.  Obviously some farms don’t have a pasture without a hill.  But if you plan a breeding pasture with fewer steep hazards, you can help eliminate exposure to leg injuries. We have observed that over-weight bulls almost always are the ones with leg injuries.

DNA will be used to identify healthier cattle

The dairy industry now has DNA profiles to identify animals that tend to be healthier than others based on certain traits (such as mastitis). A health-based 50K DNA program for beef cattle is on the horizon. When this program starts, we will be one of the first beef herds in the country to make selections using probable health considerations.

We can think of a whole host of diseases we would like to reduce by breeding genetically superior animals. The changes coming for the future of animal health are exciting.

Prevention vs. Treatment

We are focusing on PREVENTING illness vs.TREATING disease. By keeping a high level of immunity, it makes it harder for “bugs” to overcome your cattle. Being proactive to prevent disease will reward you financially with lower medical expenses, better growth and fewer headaches (or even death loss).

Feeding prebiotics and probiotics focuses on feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut to crowd out and starve the pathogen causing bacteria (called competitive exclusion).  This protocol works from birth thru vaccination time.  It isn’t a treatment method and shouldn’t be used in a disease outbreak.

Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drug use

Call your Veterinarian today because the VFD rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.  Don’t wait until you have an emergency outbreak and discover you can’t purchase your “go-to fix” without a prescription.

A VFD is a statement from your veterinarian, authorizing you to feed a medically important antibiotic, for a period of up to 6 months. This includes tetracycline, penicillin, neomycin and tylosin, to name a few. This VFD rule eliminates the use of medically important drugs for feed efficiency or growth-promotion. VFD drugs may only be used to treat, prevent or cure disease.

This does not include Bovatec, Rumensin, or any drug used to treat/prevent coccidia, such as Decox. Water soluble drugs (sulfadimethoxine, for example) will become prescription products (not VFD), and should be available through your veterinarian like any other prescription product. Injectable over-the-counter antibiotics, such as LA-200 (tetracycline) are not affected by this rule.

To receive a valid VFD, you need to have a veterinarian that works on your cattle operation, has enough knowledge to help make clinical judgements for your animals, and is available for follow-up. Mineral preparations and salt blocks containing medically important antibiotics will also be included in the VFD regulation.

Protect against the cold

We use straw, corn stalks or poor hay to bed down our cattle during extreme cold. We spread the bedding in natural windbreaks on top of the snow or frozen ground. Extra bedding will protect your bulls’ scrotums. Just think of it as insurance on your breeding investment.

 

Fall Herds

October 20, 2016 

Markets fluctuate and producers must adjust.  But, adjusting doesn’t mean destroying your business model.  When we were in the restaurant business, we watched very successful companies make the mistake of cutting too much.  The easy things to cut were, reduce staff and watch service go down hill.  Cut portions,  and food quality and customers simply don’t come back.  In some cases the cleaning staff was reduced to the point the local health department would close a restaurant.

If you need to put off buying a new rake until another time, that’s one thing.  But, stopping your vaccination program, eliminating your mineral program or cutting back on hay to save a few dollars will come back to haunt you.  Instead of knee-jerk reactions, look at ways to reduce waste.

For example, don’t over fill the hay feeder so you don’t have to put out hay as often.  Improving your hay storage will save a significant amount of hay.  Years ago my brother-in-law told me studies showed a 20-25% savings on good quality hay if it was stored inside. That didn’t seem possible until we started putting our hay in barns, and now I agree with him and the studies. We have a ramshackle old lean-to on a knoll in the woods that we use for storage. So it doesn’t have to be fancy.

Could you do a better job of grazing? Does your mineral feeder work well in wet conditions or do you waste 15% because it has no top?  When vaccinating, do you have the Vet do your vaccinations or do you?   Vaccinations usually come in 5, 10 or 50 doses.  One 10-dose is generally less expensive than two 5-dose units. 

Low performance herds have lower return on investments. Don’t skimp on your Genetics.  Why would you want to wean 450 lb. calves instead of 550 lb. calves if your fixed cost are the same?  This soft market is the most economical time to improve your herd genetics.  Heifers are a bargain for producers that take a long-term view.  Be sure to buy bred heifers that have been verified by a third party.  The sire also needs to have low birth weight  (BW) and good Calving Ease (CE). 

Fall calving is becoming more popular, depending on your geographical location.  Many producers want to get away from early spring mud and cold weather. Ten years ago, about 5% of our buyers were calving in the fall. Now about 25% are calving in September-October.  Since we do both, our view point may surprise you. Lets look at the benefits of both.

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Spring Calving:  Our calving season for Spring is usually about 45 days.  We plan for our first calf about March 1.  By April 15 we are generally finished calving, and the grass is ready for the cows and calves.  Once they are on a clean pasture, any sickness caused by confinement seems to go away.  Rate of gain is almost always better for the spring calving herd.  Grazing animals just do better on good pasture.  When cows are grazing, they are also exercising and staying in better shape.  Generally there are more opportunities to sell calves that are weaned in the fall.

Fall Calving:  Our calving season for Fall is usually about 30 days because we always have better conception rates.  We believe this is because they are being bred in cool weather, right after Thanksgiving.  Calving starts about September 1.  We have almost no sickness in fall calving, since the cows calve on clean dry  pastures. In March we have had -15 degree nights, snow, mud and rain which requires calving in the barn or corral.  Calf weights are lighter in the Fall, so there are far fewer calving problems or death loss.

Our pastures usually still have some grazing until late October and sometimes as late as November. Then we move cows to our sacrifice bluegrass pasture with feeding pads of concrete surrounded by geotextile covered stone. This is also a great time to take advantage of grazing your fescue pastures. Good quality hay is much more important with fall calving.  If we had our choice, we would only do Fall calving.  It just makes life easier.

Fall Yearling Bulls are ready for delivery.  The great pasture this summer has been very beneficial to rate of gain.  The group has some of the best yearling weights we have seen on our fall calving groups.  These bulls have the highest Heifer Pregnancy (HP) EPD ever achieved — in the top 3% of Angus Bulls.  When prices are lower, every pregnancy can make the difference between profit or loss.

For Fall Calving herds, you need to be doing Breeding Soundness Exams on your bulls right now. The expense far out weighs the risk of going into a breeding season with a bull that can’t do the job.   Finding open cows next spring is a cost you cannot afford.  I have several analogies to persuade you:

  1. Why would you check the oil in your truck? It’s never been empty before.
  2. Why would you have insurance? You’ve never had a house burn down before.
  3. Why would you lock your car? You’ve never had one stolen before.

Every calf counts in today’s’ market.

 

 

Contingency Plan

Contingency Plan

Creating Your Own Good Luck

Let’s talk about your contingency plan.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Your bull is lame, or perhaps broke a leg, or maybe died in an accident.  It’s in the middle of breeding season, and you need to exercise your contingency plan.

Don’t tell me you don’t have one because I know you always plan for things like this.  You know… health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, a back-up generator in case the electric goes out; so I’m sure you have a plan in case you need to replace your injured bull.

Chances are you don’t have a plan.  Many producers don’t until they have been caught in the middle of breeding season knowing every day they wait is dollars lost.  Forget about your tight calving season, and maybe forget about all your cows even getting bred this season.

Those that become desperate buy just anything to “GET THEM THROUGH.”  They usually regret that action.  They end up buying a bull that nobody wants and for good reason.

So lets talk about that plan:

First off, everybody will probably go through this at least once, and in some cases several times over a producer’s life time.  The key word is planning.

Refresh your plan to create good luck rather than bad luck during your breeding season.

Remember that a bull will reduce his effectiveness as you increase females in his breeding group over his optimum. We suggest mature bulls breed up to 30 cows — if and the key word here is if — you want a tight calving season. Our idea of a tight calving season is 45 days.  But this is up to you and your goals.

If you go too far past the optimum number of females, you will risk over working the bull. The result might include the bull going sterile for 45 days during breeding season, breaking a penis due to overexertion, leg damage including stifle, and even breaking a leg if your terrain is rough such as steep hills or creeks. Older bulls tend to be heavier and those back leg muscles are not as strong as they were when they were 2-year olds.

Ideal breeding conditions include a lower bull-to-cow ratio, breeding pastures that don’t include ponds, steep creeks, steep hillsides or areas that have very deep mud when it rains.

Suggestions:

If you have 35 plus cows, consider using two bulls.  Use your young bull for heifers and then start working him into the herd bull position.  If one bull stops breeding during breeding season, you have an option to simply create one breeding group.  Hopefully by the middle of breeding season, most females have been bred.

Find a friend who calves in the fall, if you are spring calving.  That would give both of you a back up bull if something goes wrong.  Talk about this before you need to borrow someone’s bull.   Planning and details are important to make this work.

Although your first thought is to simply call your seek stock supplier, the market is very tight, and bulls are not always in available.

Contingency Plan

Contingency Plan

Replacing your bull in 24 hours

The unthinkable happens… in the middle of breeding season your bull dies in an accident.  All of us have either experienced it, or known someone who has.  You need a replacement bull right now.  Your first thought is: “The good ones are all gone.  Where do I start now?”

You can have some peace of mind if you have ever bought a bull from Pedro’s Angus.  We understand TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE when it comes to getting a replacement bull.  Every day without the bull can mean an extra breeding cycle and longer calving season.

All current or previous buyers can get a replacement bull within 24 hours.  Of course we can’t replace the bull for free when the tree falls on him.  What we do, is offer you a bull of high quality that can be at your farm within 24 hours.

We just want you to know you can always count on us to be there when you need help.

Feed Efficiency RFI

Imagine an entire herd that takes 20% less feed to achieve the same growth.  This is regardless of the feed, hay, pasture, corn etc…

The highest scoring bull for Residual Feed Intake (RFI) at the West Virginia Wardensville Bull Test is an A.I. son of our (Pedro’s Angus) Exclusive K179.  RFI has been used for years by the poultry and hog industries to improve cost of gain efficiency. Bull Reg #17925782 is owned by Snuffer & Sons Surveyor, W. VA.  His RFI score is -8.39.

For complete details of RFI, please read the article below: 

Feed Efficiency in the West Virginia Bull Test Evaluation Program 2/17/15

By E.E.D. Felton, J.E. Warren Jr., W.R. Wagner and J.W. Yates  

 The profitability of beef production systems is a function of both minimizing inputs and maximizing outputs. Genetic improvement of the beef herd has generally targeted traits that increased outputs such as weight gain, live-weight, carcass traits and meat quality. Feed costs account for an estimated 60-70% of total beef unit operating costs and are the most significant cost item in most production systems. Furthermore, in beef production systems the weight of the animal is the single most important component in determining value. It has long been known that efficiency of energy usage is different for maintenance and growth and is different for the type of tissue deposited during growth. Thus, the ability to accurately identify and propagate cattle that are efficient in converting feed into weight gain is an important component of a successful production program. Improvements in feed efficiency selection should be attainable since feed efficiency/feed conversion ratio is considered a moderately to highly heritable trait (heritability = 0.30 to 0.46).  Even so, feed efficiency is generally not measured in beef cattle performance testing programs because the amount of feed consumed is extremely difficult and labor intensive to measure on an individual basis.  Recent technological advances are making the collection of the necessary measurements attainable.

The “GrowSafe 4000E” system was installed and used to measure individual feed intake during the 2003-2004 West Virginia Bull Test Evaluation Program. This system of hardware and software consists of feed troughs mounted on load cells. An antenna grid is incorporated in the trough, and animals are fitted with electronic ear tags that are read by the antenna grid. An animal feeding at a trough is identified at five second intervals and feed available in each trough is weighed every second with an accuracy within 50g. The animal identification and feed consumed data are sent wireless via a communication panel to a computer with software to compile individual feed intake and individual feeding events. Bulls arrived at the test station in mid-October, 2003. Following a 3-week acclimation period, bulls were weighed on d 1 and 2 (averaged for on test body weight (BW), 42, 77, and 104 and 105 (averaged for off test BW). During the acclimation period and the 105-day test, bulls were fed ad-libitum a total-mixed-ration containing 13.6% crude protein and 73.6 and 45.0 Mcals of NEm and NEg per cwt, respectively.  Of 117 bulls completing the 105 d test, 113 were Angus, 2 were Hereford and 2 were Charolais.  Means (standard deviation) for age of bulls at the end of test, initial and final BW, total and average daily weight gain, and feed consumed as percent of body weight were 370 (24) days, 811 (108) and 1268 (115) lb, 454 (49) and 4.32 (0.46) lb, and 2.6 (0.27) percent, respectively.  Raw feed efficiency measured as units of feed per unit of gain (F:G) ranged from 4.49 to 8.93 (mean of 6.50) over the entire 105 d test and was correlated (P< 0.01) with age (0.42), birth weight   (-0.32), and average daily gain (-0.60).  During the middle 35 d period when most bulls should have been on the straight line proportion of their growth curve, F:G ranged from 4.14 to 12.75 (mean of 6.08).  Since raw F:G is not independent of rate of gain and birth weight it should not be used as a single selection criterion.  This could result in concomitant selection for increased mature body size of brood cows that is generally not desired by the industry.  Residual feed intake (RFI) is calculated as the difference in expected intake versus actual intake.  When based upon the 1996 NRC beef cattle model, which included adjustments for mature size, age, and degree of finish, RFI ranged from -35.25 to -1.03 suggesting that all bulls tested were above average in efficiency compared to animals used to develop the model.   However, this method does not eliminate the relationship of feed efficiency to animal gain and mature weight.  RFI was also calculated based upon linear regression of the experimental group body weights and gains over the test period.  By this method, animals of different physiological age, breed and mature size can be accurately compared in terms of metabolic efficiency of energy use.  Animals are compared based upon the average of the contemporary group (mean of 0).  RFI calculated by this method ranged from -8.39 to +7.22.  This method allows selection for feed efficiency independent of other important production variables, particularly rate of gain and mature body size.  

Note: Bull I.D .#37  is an A.I. son of Pedro’s Angus Exclusive K179. Bull No. 37 had the best RFI results from all bulls tested with a -8.39. 

In beef production systems the weight of the animal is the single most important component in determining value. Thus, the ability to identify and propagate cattle that are efficient in converting feed into weight gain becomes an important component of a successful production program. Because a one pound improvement in dry matter feed conversion of feeder calves reduces feed cost by as much as $50 per head, improved feed efficiency in cow-calf operations will reduce input cost and enhanced profit potential for beef producers. Furthermore, the production of offspring is the driving force behind most cow/calf operations. Thus, improving the efficiency of maintaining brood cows and of production of their offspring is of vital importance to the economic success of any cattle operation.  Appropriate means of analyzing feed efficiency must be employed to account for differences in stage of growth, maturity, and body type when growth and feed consumption are measured.

Helping cows bond with calves

We warmed and dried a newborn in our laundry room a couple of times when the temp was -20 degrees. Then Momma had trouble bonding with her calf. After 24 hours of helping him nurse, they were OK.  This is a great article by Heather Smith Thomas for BEEF Magazine Jan 27, 2011. 

The bonding process is how a cow identifies her new calf and commits to caring for and protecting it. It’s a complex blend of hormonal-induced and learned behavior. Mature cows are more apt to quickly and successfully mother their offspring than first-time heifers. Older cows tend to be more consistent mothers and have more maternal drive than heifers, but hormones are the key factor.

“The cow is most receptive to wanting her newborn calf when she gives birth,” says Joseph Stookey of Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. “But, some cows become receptive up to a week before calving. Their hormone pump is already primed, and maternal hormones are reaching a level that makes them receptive to any new calf, even if it’s not theirs.”

At the other end of the spectrum are cows that lack the proper hormone profile or levels, or simply don’t want their calf. “We see this most often in heifers, or in females we assist or deliver by C-section. If it’s a rodeo getting the cow in for assistance, or she undergoes too much trauma, she may be less interested in the newborn calf,” Stookey says.

There also may be other hormones overriding the whole system due to stress and pain, or perhaps some of the drugs used during a C-section, he adds.

Oxytocin is  trigger

Changes in progesterone and estrogen levels initiate the birth process, but rising oxytocin levels released during calving trigger maternal behavior. “Oxytocin’s presence in the olfactory bulb of the brain helps explain the important role of smell and odor in the bonding process. A cow recognizes her calf by smell; she can always pick her calf out of a group,” Stookey says.

He says cervical stimulation is crucial for proper hormonal triggers, as stretching or stimulation of the cervix and birth canal causes release of oxytocin. “With a C-section there isn’t much cervical stimulation, since the fetus doesn’t come through it,” Stookey says.

Additionally, first-calf heifers produce less oxytocin than experienced cows. “Giving birth seems to prime the system and allows for release of larger quantities of oxytocin with subsequent births. Thus, heifers have two disadvantages – they’re less experienced than cows and have lower levels of oxytocin released in the brain during calving,” he explains.

While some heifers seem initially indifferent to their calves, they become more motherly within 12-24 hours as their milk comes in. If a heifer is indifferent or actively rejects her calf, assisting the calf in nursing generally helps a heifer become more receptive, as it stimulates release of oxytocin.

“If you can stimulate milk letdown a few times by assisting the calf in nursing, the hormone comes on board and improves maternal behavior,” Stookey says. “Oxytocin can switch off the heifer’s aggression, reluctance or fear and turn its interest to mothering.” 

Understand bonding

The dam reacts to sensory clues provided by the calf and birth fluids. If she’s lying down as the calf slides out, she’ll generally raise her head to get a glimpse of the calf.

“Any movement of the calf (raising or shaking its head) is a strong stimulus to the cow to get up and turn around to smell the calf and start licking it. A vigorous calf elicits a stronger response than a weak or dead calf,” Stookey says.

Stookey explains in a study of more than 200 cows and heifers that required veterinary assistance (C-section or pull), a significantly higher percentage of calves judged as weak at birth were rejected, compared to calves judged average or strong.

“The smell and taste of birth fluids is another strong attractant that drives maternal behavior and stimulates the cow to lick the calf,” Stookey says. “If the mothering process is interrupted before she licks the calf, likelihood for rejection increases. Females that had difficult deliveries and required human assistance more often reject their calves.”

If you pull a calf, it helps to smear birth fluids across the muzzle and tongue of the dam following delivery. “This seems to jumpstart the maternal response. Simply placing the newborn in front of the mother may not be sufficient stimulus to start maternal behavior, especially for some first-calf heifers.”

Pouring feed onto a newborn calf may entice some reluctant mothers to approach the calf and eventually come in contact with birth fluids as they eat the feed, he adds.

If cows are closely confined in groups, they don’t get a chance to isolate themselves to calve. Jack Whittier, Colorado State University Extension beef specialist, says that allowing cows and heifers plenty of room can help prevent problems. Some cows may try to claim another’s newborn. If older cows intimidate a heifer, she may not mother her calf.

“First-calf heifers are more likely to isolate themselves from the herd. Researchers who have studied this behavior suspect that heifers leave the herd to move away from more dominant individuals that might disturb the bonding process,” Stookey says.

“There are always a few individuals, particularly heifers, that initially lack a strong mothering instinct,” Whittier explains. “Allowing them to calve out in the field by themselves is best. If they don’t bond quickly, moving them into a pen with their calf can sometimes work – so they can continue the bonding process without interruption by herdmates. Getting from point A to point B can be a challenge, however, and may confuse a heifer more and make it worse than if you’d left her alone,” he says.

If it’s cold or windy and the calf’s survival is at risk, you may have no choice but to bring the pair in for shelter. “In a blizzard, the need for protection overrides everything else,” Whittier says. If weather necessitates shelter, it’s best to quietly move each calving female to a private place to calve – such as her own barn stall. Moving her and her calf afterward can be more disruptive, especially for a heifer.

Older cows are more likely to follow you and the calf, especially if you put the calf in a sled or some other conveyance low to the ground so the cow can follow and keep sniffing her calf. But heifers may become confused, especially if they haven’t had time to lick and bond with the calf. She may run back to the birth site to seek her calf, rather than follow you or allow herself to be herded to the barn.

“You can’t just take the calf in the house to warm, then put it in the barn and move the heifer to the barn and expect her to mother it. She’s more apt to accept the calf if you take it back to the birth site. If you grabbed the calf before she filled in that template of recognition/bonding, she may not recognize the calf in the barn as hers. She’ll try to get back to the spot where she gave birth to find her calf,” Stookey says.

Make sure the cow has a chance to smell the calf. “If you move a calf from the birth site, make certain the cow follows. And, don’t totally dry a newborn because birth fluids are a strong stimulus in eliciting maternal behavior,” he says.

Tricks to get cows to claim calves

There are a number of tricks to get a cow to claim a calf, such as ranchers grafting an orphan calf onto a cow, says Jack Whittier, Colorado State University Extension beef specialist. Some of those methods can help with a bonding problem. Proximity is number one – keeping them close to one another – as sometimes hormonal triggers are slow to kick in.

There’s a complex hormone system involved in causing birth and initiating lactation. Like any biological system, it can get a little out of sequence; so just giving the heifer a little time may work things out, Whittier explains.

“I prefer to wait and see, rather than immediately jump in and try to change something. There are occasions when you need to do that, of course, but I caution producers not to be too anxious. Let the mother and calf figure it out,” he says.

Whittier says producers with many years of experience in calving heifers often develop a “sixth sense” in assessing a situation. “There’s no substitute for experience. Inexperienced people would do well to work with someone like that, and be observant and teachable.” he says.

If a cow is aggressive and kicking or hitting the calf with her head, some type of restraint may be needed to prevent injury to the calf or to help the calf find the udder. Often, it just takes one nursing to change her mind, but some females are still determined to attack the calf. House the calf in a small pen next to the cow’s, or in a paneled-off corner of the barn stall, and let the calf out for nursing only while you can supervise.

Another trick is to feed the cow her hay at nursing time. If she’s interested in eating, she’ll focus less on attacking her calf or moving away. Stand guard while the calf nurses and then return it to its safe corner. You may need to hobble the cow so she can’t kick, until she becomes more accepting.

If the cow won’t stand still, leave a halter on her, dragging the rope. Then you can easily get hold of the rope, and tie her while she eats her hay, enabling the calf to catch up with her and nurse. After dragging the rope and stepping on it, she quickly learns to respect this restraint.

It may take up to two weeks to change her mind about motherhood, but she’ll eventually accept the calf. Once she starts showing interest, mooing at the calf or licking it as it nurses, you can leave them together. Leave her hobbled until you’re sure she won’t try to kick him.

Another trick with an aggressive heifer is to lightly tranquilize her during the first day. This may mellow her attitude to allow the calf to nurse, which will help stimulate the hormones of motherhood. Ask your vet about proper use of tranquilizers.

Sometimes, the problem is physical. A heifer with a painful udder may kick at her calf just because it hurts. Injured teats or frostbitten teats may be too sore to allow suckling.

“Patience, good husbandry, astute observation and being in tune with cattle are most helpful. Look for ways to overcome problems,” Whittier says.

Excerpts from Jan 27, 2011 by  Heather Smith Thomas for BEEF Magazine.

Profits

It seems like the perfect time to be in the cattle business.  We had a great year for pasture and hay; grain prices are moderate; while cattle prices are at record highs.  However, remember nothing lasts forever — including our current take-home paychecks.  Plan for the worst and hope for the best.  Now may not be the time to splurge on frivolous things, but rather invest in your business.

You might consider a head gate or working chute that will make working on cattle easier and safer for both you and the cattle. Consider pouring a little concrete where it is always a muddy mess around the hay feeder or water fountain.  Improve your pastures. There is also the opportunity to upgrade your genetics. You might want to wait a for a couple more good years before you take that trip to Hawaii.

The big question is always should — I BE EXPANDING now?  Our advice for the last five years has been yes, with moderation.  Now we are saying yes, with moderation and caution.  Don’t get caught up in the moment, but rather proceed with caution.  Buy quality and expand at a rate your operation can handle.  Don’t over stock and set yourself up for failure if we have a very dry growing season.  Even if the price for cattle stays high, you still need to feed them.

Culls now contribute to the bottom line like never before.  We just took an old herd bull to market and he brought almost $3,000.00.  Several old open cows yielded almost $2,000.00 each.  Good business planning tells you those cows will pay for their replacements.  Remember the old cows will tell you in advance when its time for them to go:

  1. They go from the first to calve to being the last to calve.
  2. Next, they don’t breed with the herd, and you think you’ll hold them over till the next breeding season.
  3. Have you noticed when all the other cows run to the gate for the new pasture, those old gals walk out last with a little struggle?  It’s time to go!  You don’t get           anything to bury them on the farm!

Our New website design has finally been completed.  We have even added an interactive posting Blog.  Yes, you can leave comments and suggestions about anything……….well almost anything.

We have continued to expand our fall calving herd to the point that spring and fall sales are about equal.  The increase in inventory has given us the opportunity to offer additional bulls and heifers in each bloodline.  Everything sold has a complete DNA 50K profile and has parent verification.  We believe we are currently one of the few cattle operations in the United States to offer this service.