Tag Archives: cattle


We had a big calf born during the night with intestines exposed. It was dead when I found it. I assume this was a herniation of some sort, as it was near the umbilical cord. Was this just a fluke of nature or some sort of inherited disorder?


This sounds like an umbilical hernia that broke open or was so large the skin never covered it. This is more common with a difficult birth and increased pressure on the hernia sac. It’s one of the most frequent congenital problems we see in calves and is more common in Holstein cattle and in certain breeds of dogs.

While no one has proven umbilical hernias are hereditary, I do not think anyone doubts they are. Even if hereditary, you may not see a problem again with the same mating. Just to be safe, I would use a different bull if possible.

I have repaired a bunch of these calves through the years—even a few with exposed intestines. The prognosis is usually poorer if the hernia is open. Unless a hernia is strangulated, or the intestines are exposed, I wait until a calf is a little older and stronger before fixing.

Casey Schuhmacher wants to do the best job he can feeding cattle while limiting feed costs. With soybean prices low, thanks to large global stocks and recent U.S.-China trade disputes, the Chadron, Nebraska cow-calf and stocker producer has considered adding soybeans to some cattle rations.

“I have looked into using beans to replace dry DDG (distillers dried grains) in a backgrounding ration for protein,” Schuhmacher told DTN.

Despite the low cost and large supplies, cattlemen have a lot to consider before feeding whole soybeans to their animals. Cost of the feedstuff, handling logistics and storage concerns, and the issue that beans can have too much protein for cattle rations all have to be considered.

In our “Tariff Realities” series, DTN is looking at challenges facing U.S. farmers and grain elevators this fall as they market, store and transport soybeans under conditions related to China’s 25% retaliatory tariffs. Even as the trade dispute continues, the market has to absorb a projected record soybean crop of 4.69 billion bushels and larger-than-expected stocks of 438 mb of old-crop beans.

Cattlemen are looking at how the large soybean crop situation can be used to their advantage.


Jason Warner, a nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. based in Eagle, Nebraska, said soybeans can be fed to beef cattle, depending on price relative to other protein feeds such as DDG.

Feeding three to four lbs./head/day of soybeans to beef cattle can be an excellent source of supplemental protein and energy.

Most soybeans test around 40% crude protein and 20% fat, with the fat content being a limiting factor for soybean inclusion in most rations, he said.

“In most rations for beef cattle, dietary fat levels in excess of 6% to 6.5% dry matter basis can have a negative effect on fiber digestibility,” Warner said. “Soybeans should be limited to 25% of the ration and probably closer to 5% to 10% in most situations depending on other feeds in the ration.”

Warner said soybeans do not need to be processed or heat-treated, they can be fed raw to cattle.

However, beans do contain anti-nutritional factors that interfere with protein digestion in mono-gastric animals and animals without a fully functional rumen. Cattle nutritionists say to avoid feeding raw beans to nursing calves or calves less than 300 to 350 lbs., he said.

Soybeans also contain the enzyme urease, which converts urea to ammonia, Warner said. The amount of urea included in a ration from other sources needs to be considered when feeding soybeans.

Warner said an important consideration with feeding soybeans is the protein the feed contains and how it is utilized by the animal. The protein in soybeans is mostly rumen-degradable (RDP), with a lesser amount being rumen-undegradable (RUP), or bypass protein, he said.

“Research has demonstrated that growing cattle will respond positively to additional rumen undegradable protein supplementation,” he said.


The real question is does feeding whole soybeans to growing or finishing cattle make economic sense right now? In nearly all cases, the answer is clearly “no,” especially with the adoption of DDG as a source of protein in cattle diets, according to Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University Extension Beef Feedlot Management Associate.

The feeding of DDG has completely changed how feeders have operated the last 20 to 25 years, at least in terms of proving a relatively inexpensive source of protein, he said. As long as DDG are inexpensive to feed, soybeans remain a more costly protein source in many rations.

Rusche pointed to the current price of DDG, which is around $125/ton in his region of South Dakota. With this DDG price, the soybean price would have to drop to $3.83/bushel to be economically completive. If DDG were to increase to around $150/ton, the soybean price to be economically feasible would have to be $4.90/bushel.

“About the only situation in which beans could be a viable, economic option would be if the beans were damaged, from like a freeze,” Rusche said.

Rusche said there could also be cases in certain Northern Plains locations where marketing channels become so congested that cash bids dry up and storage options become limited. In this case, feeding soybeans may be a strategy to move the crop and avoid cash outlays for purchased feeds, he said.


Rusche said the other issues keeping cattlemen from feeding soybeans is the ability to store beans and the logistics of feeding it as a feed. While many cattlemen maybe have bins to store beans, they don’t necessarily have the facilities set up to feed beans, he said.

Schuhmacher, the Nebraska cattle producer, said his issue with feeding soybeans wasn’t storing the whole bean, but once it was run through the roller miller the oil would start to spoil and go bad. As long as it could be fed in under seven days, this could be an option but he didn’t always think this would feasible, he said.

He would use beans in a grow ration with dry hay and corn and then substitute DDG with soybean. The DDG price would have to increase to around $195 to $200/ton to make soybeans feasible as an economic feed source, he said.

“I talked to several nutritionists and they said feeding soybeans could be an acceptable replacement (for DDG) in a growing ration,” Schuhmacher said. “They did say too much rumen-degradable protein, however, would prevent it from being an efficient finishing ration.”

While soybeans are piling up on some areas of the country, they’re not generally available to all cattle feeders.

Schuhmacher said that while the Nebraska Sandhills he calls home aren’t a hotbed of soybean production, he does have access to them as a feed source. The local soybean price is around $6.70/bushel currently in his area, he said.

The North Dakota State University Extension report on feeding soybeans to cattle can be found at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/…

Doug Sieck learned about grazing standing corn 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until prices reached break-even levels in 2016 that he decided it was time for him to try feeding corn right from the field.

The rancher works a 3,000-acre operation in north-central South Dakota, where recent years have seen him convert about 600 acres of cropland back to grass for cattle. Sieck prefers cattle to crops, though he still raises corn, soybeans and hay across about 1,000 acres.

The rancher’s decision to let the herd graze standing corn goes back to a grassland workshop he attended at the University of Nebraska. Today, Sieck jokes it only took him a decade to put the strategies he learned into practice.


When corn prices are low, grazing a standing crop is an economical way to feed cows. Sieck calculates he’s able to feed his 300-head cow herd for $1 per head per day. That’s based on grazing corn that yields between 100 and 120 bushels per acre.

“My cows do fine on 10 pounds of corn plus 10 pounds of corn fodder per day,” Sieck says. “In a field producing 100 to 120 bushels of grain per acre, corn stover amounts would range from 3 to 4.5 dry tons per acre.”

Before Sieck started feeding standing corn, he systematically calculated what it would take to support his cow herd. He harvested all but 30 acres of his corn crop, looked at overall yields and calculated paddock size needed to provide 10 pounds of corn (plus 10 pounds of stover) each day for each cow. With that figure in mind, Sieck used his combine to create a checkerboard pattern across the 30 acres.

“Across the length of the field, I combined six rows and left 28,” Sieck says. “Then, I went across the field, combining a path for fences every 80 or 90 yards. That created 60 paddocks with alleyways that separated the paddocks and left room for fencing. I rotated cattle through those paddocks, moving them every day, over a period of two months.”

The practice was so successful and kept winter feed costs so low, Sieck has continued to use the practice. Before he started grazing standing corn, the producer notes he fed his cows about 10 large bales of hay a day at a cost of $480 per day. Having those same 300 cows on a half-acre of 107-bushel corn and adding a couple of bales of alfalfa to maintain nutritional levels, he estimates he spends around $262 per day, equaling a savings of some $218 each day he’s feeding.


Bruce Anderson, agronomist and Extension forage specialist at the University of Nebraska, agrees grazing standing corn is an economical way to feed cattle and add value to the crop—especially when commodity prices are low. He recommends taking some precautions, however, to ensure cattle don’t break out of a paddock and gain access to too much corn at one time.

“Fencing needs to be visible to cows, especially when there’s very tempting material on the other side,” Anderson says. “One method some producers have found effective is the use of electric tape rather than electric wire, or electric tape with electric wire. The tape greatly increases overall visibility of the fence. You can also tie flags on the fence to make it more visible.”

Volume of volts delivered to either (polytape or high-tensile wire) depends on the charger used. Both can deliver the same voltage, and cost is comparable. The greatest benefit of the tape, Anderson says, is its visibility; although in areas with frequent high winds, it’s more susceptible to wind damage.

“In grazing standing corn, it’s key to restrict the amount of corn allotted to the cattle at one time,” he stresses. “You don’t want the cattle to trample a large amount of the corn, wasting it.”


Paddocks not only help preserve standing corn from waste, they help avoid rumen acidosis or grain overload. If cows are moved from a pasture setting to standing corn, it’s important to restrict the amount of corn consumed those first few grazing days to prevent acidosis.

Rumen acidosis occurs when ruminants have a sudden shift in diet from high-fiber roughage (grass or hay) to low-fiber, high-carb grain (corn, barley, wheat). More mature corn crops increase the risk, as kernels are more easily dislodged, and the whole cob is less likely to be eaten. More mature kernels also have more starch, another contributor to acidosis.

It’s important producers monitor cows grazing standing corn to spot problems early. Signs of acidosis may include wandering, panting, excessive salivation, diarrhea, falling, kicking at the belly, etc. To avoid acidosis, move cows frequently, every day to two days, to backgraze stalks or hay.

It may also be important to provide a protein supplement when grazing cornstalks. Anderson says while cows will get plenty of energy from grazing standing corn, they may or may not be getting adequate protein. The only way to know for sure is to check nutrient levels and supplement accordingly.

When cows are first moved from an all-you-can-eat forage system, they often need a few days to adjust to eating less volume of feed. They essentially find a new satiety point when feeding on grain. Producers shouldn’t be surprised if cattle in this scenario are somewhat restless the first few days. Anderson notes in some cases, there is a higher risk of cows breaking out of a paddock if they’ve never grazed corn stalks.


Beef producers considering grazing standing corn should thoroughly calculate every economic aspect of the practice before trying it. Anderson adds that if the primary goal is to avoid a break-even year on corn production, lowering input costs may be an effective strategy, too.

“Use of bin-run corn or non-GMO corn as a seed source can greatly reduce corn production costs,” Anderson explains. “Yields are lower with this type seed, and if corn is intended for grazing, it could be a significant way to further minimize costs.”

As a cost comparison, for 2017, the University of Missouri Extension Service estimates non-GMO seed cost at $61.25 per acre, GMO seed at $96.25 per acre.

Anderson says Sieck’s long-term planning and detailed management for cows grazing standing corn is the right approach. Monitoring cows during their time in these paddocks helps determine how long it takes to clean up a paddock and whether paddocks should be larger or smaller. Those are the kinds of details that can help refine a program, making it even more cost effective.

While monitoring and moving cattle in standing corn involves daily labor during winter, there’s no need to harvest, transport or store the corn. And, there’s no manure to haul out of a feedlot. The nutrients cattle deposit on paddocks are considered another benefit in the practice of grazing standing corn.

Sieck, who’s used to moving cattle through paddocks all year, sees the system as a positive trade-off.

“There are years when cattle are just break-even, too,” he says. “But, if I have to be in a break-even situation, I’d rather do it with cattle than with crops.”

Mother Nature turned the tables this year in Kansas as eastern Kansas cattle producers dealt with diminished grass for their livestock while central and western regions of the Sunflower State flourished with pastures nourished by abundant rain.

In southeastern Kansas, Jim DeGeer, veteran cattleman from Neosho County, says a long, cool spring delayed native grasses (used for summer grazing) from taking off and growing like they normally do. And when it finally did warm up, conditions were so dry, these grasses never had the opportunity to grow.

“Our pastures were extremely short all summer,” DeGeer says. “I know the guys who cut prairie hay throughout our regions and they told me production amounted to only a third to one-half the normal output.”

Yep, forage availability has been tight in much of southeastern Kansas beginning in June and running into August.

“It’s been dry most of the summer,” the veteran cattleman says. “We were drier and had less grass this summer than during the bad drought years beginning in 2011 and running through 2013.”

Then in mid-August, it started to rain, and the grass began growing and greening up a bit, DeGeer says. By the end of September, the pastures looked like they should have.

Despite the dog days of summer, DeGeer says his cows managed to stay “looking pretty good.”

So, what will this dry spell mean to cattlemen like DeGeer in the long run?

“We’re starting to pregnancy check our herd and we’re seeing more open (not with calf) cows than we normally do,” the long-time cattleman says. “I’m sure weaning weights on the calves will be less this year as well.”

While this scenario is not one any cattleman wants to be faced with, DeGeer will live with the hand he’s been dealt, make changes and move ahead.

This will mean reducing the family cow herd this year. In turn, this will allow the pastures a chance to recover from the dry summer of 2018.

Buying additional feed for his livestock will also mean steeper prices for big round bales. Prices for this coveted commodity have jumped from $30-35 a bale to $75-100 each.

“We buy a lot of hay anyway,” the Neosho County cattleman says. “We’ll need to pay the piper to keep our cow herd well fed.”

DeGeer isn’t the Lone Ranger when it comes to cutting cow numbers. Neighbors and other livestock producers are faced with the same dilemma.

“I laugh to myself this year,” DeGeer says. “I grew up in south-central Kansas, in the Gypsum Hills around Medicine Lodge, and cattlemen have received more rain out there than we have in south-eastern Kansas during the summer.”

This year is one DeGeer is looking forward to closing the book on. He does not relish paying top dollar for feed at the close of the year especially when some will not even be the best quality.

“It’s kind of been one of those years,” the veteran cattleman says with a shrug of resignation in his shoulders. “Next year’s going to be better.”

Gelbvieh cattle breeders Jerry and Karen Wilson have filed a lawsuit against Jonathan Beever, a University of Illinois professor and founder of Agrigenomics, a livestock genetic testing company. The registered breeders say they culled more than 70 animals based on genetic tests that found the animals positive for the genetic defect Contractural Arachnodactyly (CA).

According to the suit, the Wilsons were later told the CA test was not accurate. One of the animals the Wilsons culled was the most heavily used sire in the Gelbvieh breed at the time, Post Rock Granite 200P2.

CA is commonly known in the industry as “fawn calf syndrome.” It is a genetic condition caused by a mutation affecting Angus and Angus-influenced cattle. Carriers can be indistinguishable from those free from the condition without genetic testing.

Beever is well known in the industry for developing DNA tests based on the CA mutation back in 2010. The Wilsons, based at Ava, Illinois, said they relied on the CA test developed by Beever, and sold through a Nebraska-based genetics company, to cull the herd of carriers in October 2013.

Humble Law is now handling this case. It’s a work close to the heart of attorney Dustin Kittle. His family farm at Geraldine, Alabama, raises black and red Gelbvieh cattle, and is a long-time leader in the breed. Kittle said he hopes the suit can help the Wilsons rebuild a reputation damaged through inaccurate assertions that CA was a problem in their herd’s bloodlines. Damage to the Wilsons is estimated at $150,000, but that could change.

“We’re a registered Gelbvieh farm,” said Kittle. “This is a personal case for us. We got licensed in Illinois so we could handle this case. It affected our farm and the entire Gelbvieh breed. People like the Wilsons paid to have their animals tested, then they culled them. Then they were told the findings were false. That’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Beever, who spoke with DTN regarding the lawsuit, said in 2013 the American Gelbvieh Association, implemented guidelines for testing that included the CA mutation. He agrees the Wilsons had some animals with positive test results, one being that purebred Gelbvieh bull.

“I was asked to retest the animal (Wilson’s bull) to see if he was a carrier. I was sent a straw of semen on the bull, tested the bull and he came out a carrier. The question became why,” said Beever. “We did DNA sequencing on that bull and we learned the test we were using was recognizing a DNA sequence that matched the Angus sequence. There was no other explanation as to why that bull was a carrier other than that he was black, could have had Angus genetics in his pedigree and the DNA sequence matched the DNA sequence of Angus cattle.”

Beever adds he offered to test the Wilsons’ entire herd “at our cost,” because the bull had been used extensively in their bloodlines. He insists the Wilsons’ decision to sell the cattle when they did (2013 and 2014) was “an inappropriate management decision based on incomplete information. He didn’t wait till we understood what happened,” said Beever of Wilson’s decision.

“I believe he made a decision based on economic opportunity. At the time there was no justifiable reason to cull animals of high genetic merit that might have had a mutation, when we know it can be managed.”

Following this, Beever spoke before the American Gelbvieh Association in January 2014, and told them the test should be considered “unreliable” for Gelbvieh breeders. He noted that for Angus and Angus-composite cattle the test is valid.

Kittle said the Wilsons, having the No. 1 bull in the breed at the time, lost revenue on the bull, but also on the semen.

“This impacted them more than a lot of other breeders,” Kittle noted. “They sold a lot of semen for three years, and they have not sold any since. They destroyed a lot of it based on these results.”

Kittle added he believes there’s a measure of damages to be considered with regards to the stigma associated with a bull that is a CA carrier, and said this event has hurt the Wilsons’ reputation as breeders.

Beever, a professor with the Animal Sciences Laboratory at Urbana, Illinois, said the suggestion is “I knew all along the test wasn’t working properly in Gelbvieh, but decided to market it anyway for economic gain, and that this was more important to me than solving a problem in the beef industry. This is a charade.”

The researcher added for now he has terminated research into solving the CA problem for the Gelbvieh Association.

Genetic tests are available for everything from birthweight to carcass weight, so it’s tempting to select your next herd bull based on those results alone. Just think, no more driving all across the country to look at pen after pen of yearling bulls. Or, you could build your dream herd of females off a spreadsheet of genetic predictions for maternal traits. Then again, maybe not.

“Phenotype is more critical now than ever,” seedstock producer Dave Nichols says. “It is what you can see and measure. In order to make gene discovery for growth and carcass merit, we have to have birthweight, weaning weight, performance and ultrasound or carcass data. Genomics add to the accuracy of what we already know.”

As an example of the importance of phenotype, the Bridgewater, Iowa, cattleman cites a multiyear National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium (NBCEC) study designed to find genetic markers for susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease (BRD), or pneumonia.

Researchers first identified sick cattle the old fashioned way, by observing them. Then, they took nasal swabs to confirm the diagnosis. Without first identifying sick cattle by phenotype, they probably wouldn’t be able to find genetic markers responsible for resistance to the costly disease.

Phenotype The Bull

Just as phenotype continues to be critical for researchers, it should also be high on producers’ lists when selecting bulls.

University of Georgia animal scientist Ronnie Silcox stresses “even genomically enhanced, expected progeny differences (GE-EPDs) don’t tell you everything you need to know. When I talk to commercial producers, I tell them EPDs are the first thing they need to look at. Use them to narrow down to a smaller group.”

Down to a manageable few, make the final bull selection with the eyes of an experienced cattleman.

“They must be functionally sound,” Silcox says. “Do both eyes work? Look at their feet and legs. Make sure they’ve had a Breeding Soundness Exam. It doesn’t matter how good a bull is, he’s not going to do you any good if he can’t get a cow bred.”

And, because most commercial producers sell feeder calves, Silcox says it’s important to consider whether a bull has enough muscle to grade like a No. 1 feeder calf. The same approach applies when selecting replacement heifers, whether those heifers come from your own herd or another producer. Narrow your selection using EPDs, then look hard at the heifer. If she can’t carry and raise a calf, she isn’t going to help your herd.

A Strong Combination

Phenotype continues to be vital in cattle selection. However, it’s the combination of EPDs and phenotype that’s moving herds to the next level. “EPDs are better than they’ve ever been. If you add the results of DNA tests to actual performance data, it can increase the accuracy to that of a bull that has produced eight to 10 calves,” Silcox says, describing what’s commonly known in the industry as GE-EPDs.

Consider a calving-ease yearling bull to use on heifers. If all you have are EPDs based on pedigree, and he is an embryo-transfer calf (his own birthweight doesn’t factor in) expect accuracy of just 5%. Add genomic test results to that, though, and accuracy can shoot up to around 40% for the same bull.

The less heritable the trait, the more genomic testing can improve accuracy. Auburn University animal scientist Lisa Kriese-Anderson says, “With lowly heritable traits like the reproductive traits, fertility, gestation length, age at first calving, genomic testing increases the accuracy of the EPD value as if the animal has had 10 to 12 calves on the ground.”

She says with the moderately heritable traits like weaning weight and average daily gain, adding genomic test results to the EPD analyses is like looking at 5 to 8 progeny of the animal. With highly heritable traits like carcass traits, or rib-eye area, marbling and fat thickness, genomic tests increase the accuracy at a rate of 2 to 3 progeny.

Even with this boost in accuracy from GE-EPDs, Kriese-Anderson believes, like Dave Nichols and Silcox, that there remain compelling reasons to keep phenotype in the selection process.

“We don’t know what every gene in the bovine genome is doing yet. We find a panel of markers that go with a trait, but not every gene that affects that trait is known. We still need actual measurements,” she says. “Not every purebred animal will get DNA-tested. We have to have the phenotype information to validate and compare with the genomic information. Someday, we may be able to just take DNA samples. But for now, we need both, and that’s OK.”

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.1 million head on September 1, 2018. The inventory was 6 percent above September 1, 2017, USDA reported Friday.

Listen to Jerry Stowell of Country Futures break down the report: http://bit.ly/2OP2uPO

This is the highest September 1 inventory since the series began in 1996.

Placements in feedlots during August totaled 2.07 million head, 7 percent above 2017. Net placements were 2.02 million head. During August, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 430,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 335,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 460,000 head, 800-899 pounds were 475,000 head, 900-999 pounds were 240,000 head, and 1,000 pounds and greater were 130,000 head.

Marketings of fed cattle during August totaled 1.98 million head, slightly above 2017.

Other disappearance totaled 55,000 head during August, 12 percent above 2017.

To view the full Cattle on Feed report, visit https://www.nass.usda.gov/…

USDA Actual Average Guess Range
Cattle on Feed:
On Feed Sept. 1 106.0% 105.3% 104.2-105.9%
Placed in August 107.0% 104.0% 101.1-107.0%
Marketed in August 100.0% 100.1% 99.8-104.3%