While cost should be the primary factor, the correct answer depends on numerous factors. The list below helps illustrate these factors.

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Calving season is either here or fast approaching for many Illinois cattlemen. I would just like to share a few tips that I have gathered through some of our winter meetings. Perhaps the most important tip is to have a good relationship with your local veterinarian. Sometimes the difficult decisions during calving season are best made by your veterinarian.

Just a few of the basic things:

One of the most popular questions I get asked is "What is your ideal cow?" This question always spurs quite the debate. Factors like breed, cow size, milking ability, and a long list of phenotypes are discussed. Comments like "We don't want to go back to that kind of cattle" typically dominate the conversation.

Have you ever watched a person walk a tight rope? The balance and precision that it takes to make it from one side to the other is incredible. Focus and attention must be combined with talent and practice. If any small thing goes wrong… balance can be lost and the goal of making it across is gone.

I have been having conversations with producers about grazing cornstalks. I wanted to share some frequently asked questions.

Q: How long can I graze cornstalks?

The dry fall weather has been optimal for farmers harvesting crops. However, it has left pastures without needed moisture to grow fall forage. As a result, it is becoming glaringly evident that cattle producers need to inventory feeds and make sure they have the needed amounts of stored feed in case they are forced to start feeding cattle earlier than expected.

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Source: Richard Gates, 217-244-2791, rsgates@illinois.edu

News Writer: Leanne Lucas, 217-244-2862, llucas@illinois.edu

· Hydrogen sulfide and methane gasses from liquid/slurry stores can be lethal.

· Remember key safety rules before agitating and emptying manure stores

· Make sure new or inexperienced workers are trained in safety

Written by Dr. Dallas Duncan-Meteer DVM, Mt. Sterling Veterinary Clinic

As the temperatures and humidity elevate, it is important to understand and manage to prevent heat stress in your cattle herd. Heat stress can lower performance and in severe cases cause death. Here are some recommendations to keep heat stress at a minimum.

Management tips to reduce heat stress:

Winter feed stores are dwindling and the urge to get cows to grass is escalating. Turning cows out on immature forages too early can have consequences. The biggest challenge is to avoid permanent damage by overgrazing. If forages are overgrazed early, permanent damage of the stand is likely. Delaying turn-out until forages have reached eight inches in height is recommended. Even more important is rotating cows through pastures to maintain four or more inches of stubble height and giving the plants a rest period.

2016 Northwest Illinois Grazing Conference Slated for March 2

Join the University of Illinois Extension for the 2016 Northwest Illinois Grazing Conference on Wednesday, March 2 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 223 E Front Ave, Stockton. The Conference will begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude by 3:30 p.m. This year the theme is "Jump Start to a Good Year" providing timely topics to help you start the grazing year off right.

The best way to utilize cornstalks is to graze them. Cattle graze selectively, looking for the more palatable feedstuffs. The more palatable parts of the plant are also more nutritious. Cattle first eat the remaining corn grain, then husks, then leaves, and finally the stalk.

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a national program designed by cattlemen and cattlewomen, delivered by cattlemen and cattlewomen, for cattlemen and cattlewomen. BQA equips producers with production strategies and general skills to maintain a quality, wholesome food supply.

Flies irritate cows. They cause cows to stomp and swat which takes energy away from gain and performance. This performance loss can be quite significant if some method of fly control is not deployed. Research has tagged over $800 Million dollars of lost revenue annually due to flies. These losses are mostly in reduced performance, lower ADG, Pinkeye, and lower milk production.

There are four main types of flies that bother cattle: Stable fly, Horn fly, Face fly, and Horse fly.

Mowing, raking, and baling. I wish hay-making was that easy. For me, that sequence is too often interrupted by cussing the weatherman, tedding, and more raking. Making hay is a consuming summer-time task. As farmers prepare to sharpen the pencil, I think it is important to look at what hay costs to produce.

Every ton of hay contains approximately 40 lbs. of N, 20 lbs. of P, and 50 lbs. of K. However, it is important to calculate N losses at about 75%, thus only about 10 lbs. of N are returned to the soil. The values of P and K are accurate to what would be returned.

During the winter season most cattle are supplemented with dry forages, grains, and co-products. This ration is balanced and delivered to cattle. Then spring comes along and cattle are put out to grass. While green grass solves a lot of problems associated with winter feeding (manure, pen maintenance, calf health, and labor demands), it can pose nutritional challenges. Lush, spring forage has three major challenges when it comes to meeting cattle nutrition requirements.

While I think everyone should have some hay on hand for emergency feeding, baling pastures may not be the best option. Forecasted dry weather makes it easier in some minds to cut hay and bale it up… because it won't get rained on. However, that weather pattern is not favorable to pasture regrowth.

Illinois is blessed with very fertile farmland. Higher land prices, soil health benefits, and the ability to grow more feed are incentives to add cover crops to a diversified farming operation. Using cover crops following cash crop production for added forage is one of the best opportunities for IL cattlemen to lower production costs.

Cool season forages, especially fescue, are excellent candidates for stockpiling. While fescue may garner a bad reputation for endophyte issues and poor production in the summer months, fall is a time to shine for fescue. Cool temperatures in the fall negate complications with elevated body temperatures when cattle are consuming endophyte infected fescue. Re-growth in the fall is primarily green leaf tissue and the plant is not putting on seadheads which are a feared, concentrated source of the endophyte.

All bulls that will be used in a breeding season need to be tested. Without a breeding soundness exam (BSE), producers are taking a huge risk. Breeding Soundness Exams are low-cost and provide a great return on investment. Bulls that are infertile or have poor fertility will fail to settle cows.

Evaluating bulls is crucial to making sure that cows get bred. A BSE should be conducted each year prior to turnout by a veterinarian. Environmental factors, age, and injury can all affect a bull's fertility from year to year.

Weaning is arguably the most stressful event in a calf's life. Combining stressors at weaning can inhibit immune response triggering health problems and shut off gains. Fortunately, cattle producers can understand stressing events and manage against the freeway pile-up that can occur at weaning.

Another potential hurdle is the loss of maternal antibodies that the calf receives through colostrum. This lowering of protection occurs around 120- 150 days. Thus, calves stressed around this time may be less capable of combating immune challenges.

I have had numerous reports of drier than normal corn silage this year. It is hard to post a blog that answers all the questions about corn silage. Nutrient analysis of corn silage, dry matter, nitrate levels, analysis of other feedstuffs, cow size, cow condition, environmental factors, and many more variables can impact the amount of corn silage you need to feed. I recommend you consult your nutritionist or extension specialist on your specific situation.

Here are a few things to consider when feeding corn silage:

Many producers are in the process of weaning spring-born calves or have this task accomplished. Coinciding with weaning calves, many cow/calf producers will select the next crop of replacement females. The keep/cull sort on heifers can be sometimes overthought.

This factsheet offers some tips for heifer selection and development.

The key to corn silage decisions is to keep the end in mind. At the end, corn silage should provide a high quality feed to livestock that properly ensiled. To achieve this goal, the harvest process is crucial.

The ideal time to harvest corn silage is dependent on numerous factors, but the most important may be whole plant moisture/dry matter. Most farmers will target a whole corn plant dry matter of 35% (moisture of 65%) for chopping.

In Illinois, spring rains can make putting up dry hay very difficult. Last year, many producers struggled to get hay up without it getting rained on. This brings me to discuss baleage as an option for hay making.

It is easy to see the reasons why you should consider baleage. Making hay at higher moisture allows you to bale closer to cutting and shorten the window of dry weather needed to get hay up. It also leads to less leaf loss, less nutrient leaching, and that makes for better quality hay. Wrapping bales also leads to less storage loss.

The Illinois Performance Tested (IPT) Bull Sale was the lead-off event at the 2016 Illinois Beef Expo held Feb. 25 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill. The sale had the second-highest overall average in the 48-year history at $4,109 on 45 lots.

"This sale continues to be one of the best sources for total performance genetics in the Midwest," said Travis Meteer, IPT sale manager. "During the past 48 years, the sale has sold 4,673 bulls valued at over $8.3 million."