Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
October 28, 1999

Alternatives for the 1999 Calf Crop

The alternative for the 1999 spring calf crop is being determined largely by the weather conditions. The dry weather conditions we have experienced have taken their toll on the ability for fall pastures to be grazed as we normally experience.

Determining the marketing time for many producers depends largely on the amount and type of forage available, feed sources available for the calves, amount of labor available, size of the calves, and facilities available for retaining ownership. It is well documented that it is much cheaper to feed a dry cow and a weaned calf as compared to feeding a cow nursing a calf. Maintaining a dry cow requires only a nominal amount of forage, and the type can be crop residue or other areas of available forage that need removed from pastures or farming areas.

Having palatable forage available is very important when starting calves on feed. Frequently calves going through the weaning phase require extra attention. This added labor requirement oftentimes determines the decision to sell or not to sell.

If you have corn silage available, the marketing of this feed has to be considered. Corn silage generally has only one market. That is to be fed at or near the storage area. Transporting this feed for a distance is expensive and not practical for many producers. Several producers this year harvested corn in the form of silage due to the drought and reduced potential for yields. If you have this product then retaining ownership of beef cattle through the growing phase or later into the winter often is feasible. However, be sure to check a major consideration of retaining ownership: Where does marketing cattle in another calendar year place your operation concerning taxes?

Even though corn is considered cheap, this may not be the most desirable feed available for developing rations. First we need to check the availability of other feeds for making rations. We may be able to develop a ration using soybean hulls and corn gluten feed that is very palatable and cheaper compared to using corn.

Frequently I get questions asking what the determining factor is for weaning calves. The age and weight of the calf largely determines this. Calves born in February through April should be large enough to wean and start on feed. Calves born June through August require other management unless the cow/calf pairs are currently grazing very short pastures. Then it may be feasible to wean the calves and start them on a nutritious and palatable feed. If this is the management tactic decided on, keeping a close eye on the newly-weaned calves for respiratory and digestive problems is a must. Frequently coccidiosis or dust can trigger a major upset for newly weaned cattle. The occurrence of either one of these maladies often is the predecessor for other health problems that become a major concern for calves of this age.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - October 28, 1999
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT102899.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004