Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Winter Feeding & the Cow Calf Operation

Winter Feeding & the Cow Calf Operation
Dan Shike, Beef Specialist - University of Illinois

Winter nutrition for the cow calf operation is key. Todd Gleason reports from Urbana, Illinois it may be the best opportunity to positively affect real income.

This was the message heard during the annual…
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This was the message heard during the annual Beef & Beyond conference. It was clear and concise. The winter feeding program at a cow calf operation separates profitable farms from less profitable operations. It depends a lot on stored feed says University of Illinois Beef Cattle Specialist Dan Shike.

Shike :12 …what’s the least cost approach.

Quote Summary - How much stored feed are they having to purchase and what is their winter feeding program. We would like to graze as many days as we can, but if we can’t graze we have to feed them something. What’s the least cost approach.

Least cost only works if the cows meet acceptable performance standards. These are to maintain appropriate body condition, to calve once a year, and to wean off as heavy a calf as possible, but there’s more.

Shike :43 …has lifelong impacts on the progeny.

Quote Summary - We’ve not given much consideration in the past to the fetus. We’ve focused on the cow. We’ve focused on the calf that is nursing on her, but she’s also been bred and has a developing fetus inside of her. So, the nutrition management of the cow impacts the development of the fetus. There is plenty of data from human epidemiological studies and other animal models that maternal nutrition, or nutrition during gestation, has lifelong impacts on the progeny.

The results with beef cattle are mixed in this area of study and varies from region to region mostly as it relates to available forages. This seems obvious, but the clear message is if the cows are in poor body condition and not being fed enough there is a great deal of risk to hurting the calf. Under winter feedlot conditions this means the properly managed cow produces a calf which eventually yields better marbling. Heifer calves kept for breeding benefit from good nutrition in the womb, too. They weigh more, mature earlier, and have better conception rates.

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Shike :61 …the appropriate nutrients to the fetus.

Quote Summary - All these benefits come later in life at a year or two of age. It was set when the fetus was 3 to 4 months of age during mid-to-late gestation. All because the cow was in good body condition. A condition score of 5 or 6. On the flip side, a short term restriction in nutrition of a cow already in good condition isn’t particularly harmful. If the cow is already thin, say a body condition score of 4 or less, you should anticipate you’re restricting the fetus. If she is in good condition, even if her nutrition is restricted, the cow will mobilize body reserves to supply the appropriate nutrients to the fetus.

The body condition score runs from one to nine with scores of five or six considered optimum. Scores of eight or nine are too fat, scores below four are too thin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Final Days of the USDA Report Data

The Final Days of the USDA Report Data
Mark Schleusener, Illinois State Statistician - USDA NASS

Tuesday the Department of Agriculture will release one of its most anticipated reports of the year. It began collecting data from farmers at the beginning of this month. Todd Gleason tells the story on how the crop acreage data is compiled, encrypted and transferred to Washington, D.C.

USDA contacts more than 80,000 farmers across the…
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USDA contacts more than 80,000 farmers across the United States in March. It asks them a series of questions. One in the series is about which crops and how many acres of each they expect to plant this season. The agency sends all those farmers a letter to do this. Those not responding get a phone call, and then if they still don’t respond receive a face-to-face visit. The collection was completed Wednesday March 18th. Last Friday the Illinois and Missouri National Agricultural Statistics Service staffs, if the schedule went as Mark Schleusener expected, should have been reviewing the information.

Schleusener :49 …and the report comes out March 31.

Quote Summary - The last few days before publication there is an analysis period. Friday morning we are going to look at a balance sheet. We’ll add up all the corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, etcetera, and CRP. In Illinois the total is pretty constant across years with the mix of crop acres changing from one year to the next. So, we’ll make estimates on acreage in each, add them up, and compare it to previous years to see if the sum of the parts makes sense. We’ll do that Friday morning and then submit our estimates in an encrypted file to our Washington, D.C. headquarters. There will be more analysis done under secure conditions and the report comes out March 31.

This analysis is done by National Agricultural Statistic Service staff. Schleusener says the staff is primarily gifted in two area; statistics and agriculture. And he says the sum of those two qualifications is what’s required to do a good job for NASS. Schleusener serves at the NASS Illinois State Statistician.

Schleusener :29 …makes sure we don’t go in that direction.

Quote Summary - So, we are looking at what the number shows. What comes out of the computer, and how that compares to previous surveys and other factors. For instance, this balance sheet approach is a way to make sure we don’t go off-the-rails by being a little bit too high on each crop and a lot too high overall. The balance sheet makes sure we don’t go in that direction.

It gives the analysts a chance to see errors before the Prospective Plantings figures are reported up the chain or out the door. The Prospective Plantings report will be released in Washington, D.C. at noon eastern time Tuesday March 31, 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How USDA NASS Counts Acres

How USDA NASS Counts Acres
Mark Schleusener, Illinois State Statistician - USDA NASS

USDA has just wrapped up its survey of more than 80,000 U.S. farmers. Todd Gleason reports how the agency uses the information to develop the March 31st acreage forecast.

In the spring USDA’s National Agricultural…
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In the spring USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service division contacts farmers in hopes of learning how much of each crop they expect to plant. The agency contacts farmers across the United States. Corn and soybean farmers are of particular interest. This year more than 4000 Kansas farmers were tapped, along with around 3700 in Nebraska and about 3000 in each of the Dakotas, Iowa, and Illinois. Another 2000 farmers each were contacted in Indiana and Ohio.

Schleusener :06 …so we use what’s called a stratified sample

Quote Summary - Our goal is to make sure we are measuring small, medium, and large farms. So, we use what’s called a stratified sample.

That’s NASS Illinois State Statistician Mark Schleusener.

Schleusener :19 …one out of twenty-five of those.

Quote Summary - That is a fancy way of saying for the biggest farms, we are going to talk to all of them; for the large, but not biggest we will talk with one out of three of those and for the medium, maybe one out of ten; and for the smaller farms we might measure one out of twenty-five of those.

Each farmer surveyed is asked how many acres they operate. How much of that land they intend to plant to corn or soybeans, and how much might already be in wheat. They’re also asked about oats, sorghum, and hay. The response rate goal, and usually achievement, is an amazing eighty percent.

Schleusener :53 …in general, but also are more expensive.

Quote Summary - Yes, our goal is an 80% response rate on all surveys and we use several methods of data collection. Every producer in the sample receives a letter with a planting intentions questionnaire. The letter also has instructions for reporting to a secure internet website. These are both inexpensive ways of gathering data. The people that do not respond will be called. If this doesn’t work then someone will make a farm visit for a face to face. Both these methods are more effective, in general, but also are more expensive.

The biggest problem NASS faces when taking the acreage survey is that farmers usually haven’t yet made all their planting decisions. The agency knows this and is satisfied with best estimates. The individual reports are confidential by law and the data collected is exempt from legal processes.

The data can be aggregated at the county, state, and national level. Computers flag any large acreage changes at the individual level so that an analyst can check for a data entry error or make a follow up call. The state statisticians review the total number of crop acres for any major changes - total crop acres generally remain constant - and then submit the estimates in an encrypted file to USDA NASS in Washington, D.C. There more analysis is done and the final report is produced for release March 31.

Cold Weather Maintenance Diets for Dairy Calves

Cold Weather Maintenance Diets for Dairy Calves
Phil Cardoso, Dairy Specialist - University of Illinois

Feeding a heifer dairy calf properly during cold weather can mean up to 1500 extra pounds of milk during her first lactation period. Todd Gleason has more on the increased cold weather maintenance diet that results in such a gain.

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You can get more milk from a cow if you treat it right as a calf says University of Illinois Dairy Specialist Phil Cardoso. This is especially the case if those calves are fed a proper maintenance diet during periods of cooler (not necessarily cold) weather when they are very young.

Cardoso :32 ….some energy to him himself.

Quote Summary - The maintenance diet supplies all the energy needed for the development of the immune system, for growth, and for the calf to live. There is a thermal neutral zone in which the calves nutritional needs are flat, outside of this zone it needs more energy to generate more heat the winter or to cool down in the summer. During the winter the calf needs to generate energy to heat themselves.

The temperature at which additional feed is needed to keep the calf operating at a maintenance level for growth isn’t so low. It starts at 59 degrees fahrenheit. To this end ILLINOIS uses a simple table to guide dairy farmers in how much extra milk replacer a young calf would need when it is cold stressed. The table has temperatures on one side of the graph and the calf’s weight on the other.

Cardoso :22 ….now you need 4.26.

The supplemental energy is provided by the standard 20 percent fat / 20 percent crude protein milk replacer. An example of how the table works would be to find the weight of the calf, say 110 pounds, and the temperature outside. If it is 50 degrees the calf needs four quarts of milk replacer. If it is colder, 41 degrees, it would take 4.26 quarts.

The colder it gets the more milk replacer the calf needs in its regular maintenance diet, at least if the goal is to achieve an extra 1500 pounds of milk once the calf becomes a cow. Those wanting to view the easy to use University of Illinois dairy calf maintenance diet table will find it on the Dairy Focus website.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pork's Boom & Bust Price Cycle

Pork’s Boom & Bust Price Pattern
Chris Hurt, Purdue Extension Ag Economist

Markets can take your breath away and the hog market over the past year has left many breathless says one Purdue University ag economist. Todd Gleason has more…

A year-ago in March, the new PED virus…
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A year-ago in March, the new PED virus was the talk of the trade. Baby pig death losses of nearly 100 percent were the reality for some herds. The disease was not well understood and was spreading rapidly. There was trade talk, says a Purdue University ag economist, that death losses were so high it could account for 20 percent of 2014 pork production. It was a fearful and unguided time says Chris Hurt.

Hurt :23 …live price reaching $100 per hundredweight.

Unfortunately, in the early stages the pork industry had no way of measuring the national baby pig death losses. Fear set in among some pork buyers-“What if bacon was not available to put on fast food hamburgers, What if tasty BLT sandwiches have to become only LT sandwiches?” Hog and pork prices exploded to record highs with the national live price reaching $100 per hundredweight.

Contrast that number with the five year lows near $45 per live hundredweight hogs brought this winter. It is a price bust from the record highs a year earlier.

Hurt :33 …a classic boom/bust price cycle.

The market adage “Buy the rumor, and sell the fact” has played out once again. The inability to refute the rumors of massive death losses a year-ago contributed to prices overshooting to the upside. The reality that pork production was only down two percent in 2014 and is now moving up rapidly in 2015 helped create what may be the greatest collapse of hog prices ever. A classic boom and bust price pattern.

Now Chris Hurt says the market is deciding if prices overshot to the downside. Will they recover? Or will large pork supplies justify the price break?

February pork supplies were expected to be up about three percent, while actual supplies have been up seven percent due to four percent more hogs reaching the market than anticipated. The USDA’s inventory count in December appears to have undercounted the number of young pigs.

Pork producers, it seems, may have also expanded sow numbers and farrowing intentions more that USDA picked-up in the December survey. Based on that report, pork supplies in the last half of 2015 were expected to be up six to seven percent. If expansion has been more robust, this could mean eight to ten percent more pork in the last-half of the year and a continuation of weaker prices.