Maximizing Cattle Production on your Beef Operation

Published on Mon, 03/07/2022 - 4:21pm

Maximizing Cattle Production on your Beef Operation.

 Article courtesy of Central Life Sciences.

To maximize production on a beef operation, operators must have a comprehensive management plan in place. This starts with a thorough evaluation of your property and resources followed by setting feasible long-term goals. A successful management plan accounts for every moving part of an operation, knowing that they all work together to drive up production.

Proper Record Keeping
Keeping organized records will allow you to know if you’re on track to meet your goals. Your records should include an annual inventory of your herd, cow ages, and calf data. Minimum calf data include ear tag numbers, date of birth, sex, birth weight, weaning weight, and color. This information will allow you to calculate pregnancy rates, calving rates, and weaning rates.

Routine Soil Analysis
Conducting routine soil tests on your pasture will provide you with up-to-date estimates of available nutrients in your soil along with accurate fertility recommendations.

Choosing the Right Cattle for Your Environment
One of the most important decisions related to cattle selection is finding a breed that is adapted to your production environment. Looking at traits related to reproduction, maternal ability, growth, and end-product are all essential for cow-calf operations. This information can be used to develop a crossbreeding program that aligns with your production goals.

Proper Foraging
It’s important to choose forages that are adapted to the soil and other environmental conditions of your operation. Choosing the right forage for your operation will allow you to have more grazing days per year.

Maintaining Herd Health
The health program for your herd will vary based on the class of animals in your operation, so it’s important to build a relationship with a local veterinarian to find one that fits all of your herd needs.

Controlled Calving Seasons
By implementing controlled calving seasons, you can prolong the health and breeding season of your herd. Calving within a 60 to 90 day period will increase the efficiency of your operation, saving you time and labor costs.

30/30 Approach
The 30/30 approach helps account for the variability in weather patterns to maximize control of overwintering fly pupae. Once spring arrives, an earlier start to your fly control program protects against temperatures warming earlier than you anticipated, putting you behind schedule right from the start of your fly control program.

Start an IPM Program
Flies on beef cattle cause reduced weight gains, lower productivity, and decreased feed efficiency. To keep cattle performing their best and to maintain control of your bottom line, an integrated pest management (IPM) program should be put into place. An effective IPM program should include these three key components:
1. Cultural Control
There are many cultural practices for fly control. The most essential component of cultural efforts is proper manure management in order to limit a primary food source and breeding ground for flies. Other essential cultural efforts include landscape maintenance and routine cleaning of spilled feed and other vegetative buildup from cattle area.
Marty Reichenberger of Diamond R Cattle runs a small calving and cow operation raising Angus and Hereford cattle. He understands the value of maintaining sound cultural practices for fly control.

“In manure management, we pasture rake,” said Reichenberger. “I will run a pasture harrow along to break up any manure which will help enter it into the soil once the winter breaks.”

Flies rest in weeds and tall grasses, so regularly maintain the pasture. When grass or other organic materials clump together, clear or spread them out so that they no longer serve as fly breeding sites.

“We’ve got a good deal of fescue,” Reichenberger said. “We will either spray it or we will let the fescue mature and flip the pasture to keep it rejuvenated.”

2. Biological Boost
Incorporating naturally occurring fly enemies like parasitic wasps and predatory beetles into control efforts is a form of biological control. This natural fly control helps to limit fly populations with no adverse effect to animals or humans.

3. Chemical Containment
Once the first two components of the implementation phase are in place, it’s time for the chemical phase. Feed-through fly control products, such as Altosid® IGR, work by delivering a key active ingredient to cattle, which is passed through to the animal’s manure where flies lay eggs. The active ingredient interferes with the fly life cycle, preventing adult pests from emerging from the manure. Feed-through fly control can be supplemented with other products in the chemical phase, including fly baits, perimeter sprays and fly traps. Incorporate a balanced mix of fly-control modes of action throughout the operation, and ensure a rotation of active ingredients to prevent resistance.

Reichenberger turned to Altosid® IGR after trying some other fly control methods. “The summer is too hot and humid to be bothering with ear tags, and I haven’t had any luck with pour-ons or back rubbers.”

Not only has Reichenberger found Altosid® IGR to be the easiest fly control method to apply, it’s also been the most effective. Fly populations have dropped significantly, and cattle health and comfort has increased.

“I grow animals for money, but I want them to be comfortable most of all. I want my cattle to eat and grow and not gather up in the pond all day, avoiding the flies. When you start looking at the number of bites a day on a cow, that’s got to be a hard day.”

After a proper integrated pest management program has been established and put into action, it’s important to continually monitor fly populations to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Track fly populations with speck cards and fly traps, and adjust the program as needed to maximize control efforts. Once operators have determined what steps have proven successful and where they have areas for improvement, the IPM program can be adjusted to maximize fly control efforts moving forward.

Become proactive with your herd to stop the suffering brought about by horn flies. By following these tips, you can maximize production on your beef operation and keep your cattle comfortable.