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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies

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Too Late for Frost Seeding?

The first week of March is traditionally when many in central and northern Illinois are frost seeding clover. However, this year has brought a dry, mild winter and the grass as even started to green up. It feels like spring, and the plants feel it too. The question has come up quite a bit in the last two weeks, "Is it too late to frost seed or overseed clover?" My reply is… it depends. I think it is important that farmers planning to over-seed in the coming weeks realize that there are some...
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Backyard Beef: A guide to small-scale feeding

As the desire for locally grown, niche marketed beef grows, many people are considering feeding cattle for personal consumptions or local sale. Here are some things to consider before you get into finishing beef cattle: Raising your own beef will not guarantee that it will be less expensive than the grocery store. Costs include purchasing the animal, feed, medicine, bedding, harvest or slaughter expenses, labor, and others. Homegrown beef has the potential to be profitable in a well-managed...
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Stages of parturition

Calving season in Illinois offers an array of uncontrollable challenges such as cold, windy weather and mud. However, being knowledgeable and prepared during calving season is completely controllable and is one of the most important preparations. Understanding the three stages of parturition will help you know how and when to assist during difficult labor situations. Stage 1: Dilation of the Cervix Generally, this stage will go unnoticed and can take anywhere from 2 to 24...
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Calving season tips

  Calving season is here! Breeding decisions made the previous year are finally coming to life and are showcased through newborn calves. Although there are year-round management strategies that can impact calving season success, here are some short-term, in-the-moment calving tips for success this year: Prepare a calving kit. The last thing you want to be is unprepared during calving season. Having all calving equipment clean, ready to use during calving season will prevent last minute...
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Planning and managing to avoid dystocia

Dystocia, meaning “difficult birth,” often results in the loss of a calf or complications after birth of a live calf. Some examples of complications after a difficult birth can include aspiration pneumonia, joint damage, nerve damage, and hypoxia. Another big problem can be failure of passive transfer resulting from inadequate colostrum intake and the calf not wanting to stand or nurse. We know that not every dystocia can be prevented, but there are some management factors that can help reduce...
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Factors influencing cow nutrient requirements

Drought, elevated feed prices, and overall inflation of costs continue to put financial pressure on cow/calf producers. For these same reasons, cow liquidation has occurred and many economists are forecasting better cattle prices ahead. Thus, cow/calf operators likely have profit opportunity in the coming years if they can maintain production while keeping costs moderated. This is easier said than done! Formulating a balanced, least cost ration will be vital to controlling feed costs. While...
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Breeding tips for fall-calving cows

For fall calving herds, breeding season is upon us. Successful reproduction is the forefront of a cow/calf operation and heavily impacts an operations profitability. Investing time and resources into ensuring breeding season success will prove to be profitable. Fall calving operations share similar general breeding practices as spring herds. General breeding tips Maintain cows in a body condition score of 5 or 6. Avoid negative planes of nutrition. Cows who are losing weight at the time...
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Managing winter feed costs

Approximately 60% of a beef cattle producers’ expenses are due to feed costs. Keep feed costs in check while keeping cows in an appropriate body condition score is a key strategy in enhancing an operation's profitability. Especially over winter months, feed costs can pile up. Consider the following strategies to be most efficient throughout the winter. Determine forage quality. Forage intake differs based on palatability and quality. The higher the quality, the more cattle...
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Getting the most out of cull cows

As with all markets, there is fluctuation in the price of cull cows. In general, market lows occur during times of highest supply. Since most Illinois producers cull cows in the fall after weaning, the prices in fall are typically lower than other times of the year. Price is also affected by body condition of the cow. The following are USDA cull scores: Breakers – Highest conditioned cows (BCS 7 or greater) Boners- Moderate condition (BCS 5, 6, and 7)...
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Common questions about cornstalk grazing

Grazing cornstalks is arguably the best cost-saving strategy Midwestern cattlemen can deploy. Here are some common questions pertaining to utilizing cornstalks. Q: How long can I graze cornstalks? A: This depends on stocking rate and available dry matter. At 150 bushels an acre, approximately 1 acre of cornstalks are needed to feed the cow for 30 days. To feed the same cow on cornstalks for 60 days, 2 acres would be needed. These are good numbers for budgeting. I challenge...
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