Quiz 25: Feeding and Managing Beef Cattle
The beef industry is successful only when the cattle are able to convert the feed it consumes into a nutrient rich food for humans. The cattle can survive by feeding on forage and by product feeds. They can be fed on lands which are not fit for cultivation. However, to ensure some profitable returns the cow calf manager needs to focus on the below mentioned seven critical areas: 1) Herd nutrition : Good nutrition is the key to derive a profitable and productive herd. Both reproductive and genetic potential gets hampered in the absence of good nutrition. Reproductive performance is enhanced by proper nutrition. The cow calf producer should be aware of the animal physiology, nutritional requirement. This basic knowledge will help him in exploring alternative feeds and supplementary foods. 2) Pasture and range management : A pasture is the first requirement to keep a livestock. Range is a piece of land on which grasses, shrubs and forbs grow. Ranges usually have a low precipitation and shallow soil. The pastures can be easily maintained by grazing animals. The soil in the pastures gets nutrients through the urine and fecal matter of animals. Grazing of leaves will ensure re-growth of the foliage. The water retaining capacity of the soil is increased due organic matter. Hoofs of animals will loosen the soil and seed germination becomes easy. This was pastures and ranges should be left open for grazing by livestock. 3) Herd health : To derive profitable returns looking into health and hygiene of the cattle is also as prime aspect. Giving vaccination before and after pregnancy, vaccinations for preventive disease and for infectious diseases etc is a routine expenditure. It is very expensive to manage a disease once the outbreak has occurred. Prevention of diseases is a better option than to cure it. Cattle also undergo stress and it is important to manage their stress levels for better productivity. 4) Financial management: The cow calf manager should have a sound knowledge of the production costs. The cow calf manager should have sufficient money to manage various expenses like feed cost, labor cost, veterinary expenditure, marketing expenses, fuel, oil and interest related expenditure. He should also cater for the non productive months of the year. This is the time when he should be willing to spend only on inputs without expecting outputs. ________________________________________________________________________ 5) Marketing : Once the cattle are ready with the produce it should be marketed. There is certain expenditure even while marketing the products. Money needs to be spent on commuting. The products may not always sell for profit. The cow calf manager should be able to withstand the loss in the market as well. 6) Production management: When the reproductive phase begins there is a whole lot of expenditure. Right from mating to birth, money has to be spent at every stage. Only if vaccinations are given at the right time and check up are done regularly a healthy progeny can be expected. During the pregnancy the nutritional requirements should also be looked into with utmost care. The herd cannot be healthy if the pregnant cow is neglected. 7) Genetics: Last but not least, the genetics which determine the performance of the cattle. Many tools are used to improve the genetic constitution. Breeding and cross breeding programmes are carried out to modify the genetic composition. Every cross or mating involves expenditure. Genetic diseases are studied and identified. Thereafter, some measures are taken to eliminate these disorders in the next generation.
Firstly there are two seasons in which calves are born. The two seasons are known as fall calving season and spring calving season. Fall calving season is the period from September to November. The young heifers give birth in early September while the mature cows deliver towards last week of November. Spring calving season is the period from February to April. The young heifers calve in the beginning of February. The mature cows calve in March and April. Each of the calving seasons has its own advantages and disadvantages. A cow calf producer has his hands full round the year. All activities relating to breeding and rising the herd have to be well planned to get good returns. The calendar of a cow calf producer is discussed below according to the calving seasons. Firstly, there are certain activities which go on round the year for both spring as well as fall season calves. The following activities need to be attended all 12 months of the year. January -December : Planning and assessing goals and record analysis, maintenance of equipment and looking after facilities for the cattle, updating cash inflow and outflow, providing salt and mineral nutrients, working out on management plan, continuously updating himself. All these activities are applicable for both spring and fall season calves. April : Fertilizing pastures (grazing grounds) of cattle for both spring and fall season calves. Jun, Jul and Aug : These are the months for getting the cattle vaccinated for Pink eye disease for both spring and fall season calves. Jun : Fly control tags are put up in this month for calves of both seasons. The schedule for remaining activities differs according to fall or spring season calves. These activities are as tabulated below:
Break-even price is the minimum price at which the animal should be sold in order to recover the amount of cash invested in one year. By calculating the break-even price the cow calf producer will be able to take better decisions in future. The Break-even can be calculated if we know three important values: 1) Annual cost of keeping a cow: By keeping a record of all the expenditure in an entire year the annual cost of keeping a cow can be derived. 2) Annual calf crop: This the number of calves produced in a year. It can be obtained by dividing the number of calves sold or kept by the number of cows taken for breeding. 3) Average weaning weight: Average weight of all the herds taken at the time of weaning from mother's milk is called Average weaning weight. Once these 3 statistics are known it is easy to calculate the break-even price. The formula to find out break-even price is as follows: