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October 2013 Archive for Noble News and Views

RSS By: The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Beef Today

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is an independent, nonprofit institute headquartered in Ardmore, Okla. Founded in 1945, the Noble Foundation conducts direct operations, including assisting farmers and ranchers, and conducting plant science research and agricultural programs, to enhance agricultural productivity regionally, nationally and internationally. www.noble.org

Expenses add up when raising replacement heifers

Oct 31, 2013

by Job Springer 

The Southern Great Plains has seen better forage growing conditions in 2013 than in many recent years. This has been, in part, due to less wind, cooler temperatures and more rainfall. Many ranchers are beginning to chomp at the bit to use these additional forages and are thus looking to rebuild their cow herds. For ranchers looking to rebuild their herds from within the ranch, the question arises as to how much it will cost to raise their own replacement heifers. While every ranch has its own set of unique resources, this article addresses the question of how much it will cost an average-sized ranch in the Southern Great Plains to raise replacement heifers in 2013 and 2014.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the average herd size in the Southern Great Plains is approximately 43 head. A rancher trying to expand his herd will need to exceed the typical attrition rate of 17% (seven head). In this example, 14 heifers will be used as the initial selection number of potential replacement females.

Replacement heifers need to be approximately 65 percent of their mature weight at the time of breeding. Therefore, a typical herd in the Southern Great Plains would see heifers being bred around 750 pounds. This is a pivotal point when the rancher can either sell a feeder heifer or decide to keep the heifer on the farm as a replacement A spring-calving cow herd will see many heifers being covered as early as March or April. According to the futures market, these 750-pound heifers would be worth $151 per hundredweight or $1,132.50 per head.

During the next nine months, several operating costs will be incurred by the ranch, including use of owned or leased forage at $162 per heifer; supplemental feed when standing forage is limited or requires supplementation at $79.20 per heifer; free-choice mineral at $39.15 per heifer; pre-breeding vaccinations, fly control and dewormer at $8 per heifer; a 1 percent death loss at $14.24 per heifer; sickness at $1.25 per heifer; a pregnancy test at $6 per heifer; labor at $207.92 per heifer; breeding bull’s annual depreciation at $36.79 per heifer; and the annual cash expenses associated with the bull at $42.86 per heifer. The accumulated expenses so far are $1,729.91 per heifer.

Other expenses are incurred to the ranch when replacement heifers are raised on the ranch. These expenses include a loss on replacement heifers that were not bred or abort at $48.34 per heifer; utilization of ranch resources during the year a replacement heifer is raised instead of running productive cows at $112.50 per heifer (raising replacement heifers, instead of purchasing, displaces productive cows or other livestock); and a forgone implant at weaning of heifer calves that would have added weight and value had the heifer been sold at $46.30 per heifer (replacement heifers should not be administered an implant).

When all expenses are considered, the average-sized ranch in the Southern Great Plains will have approximately $1,937 tied up in each productive replacement heifer produced on the ranch in the coming year. Many ranchers have experienced sticker shock when they have priced replacement heifers from other ranches. However, if a rancher is able to locate replacement heifers elsewhere at a lower price, it would be worth considering the outside purchase, depending on the goals of the operation.

A similar evaluation should be made on your respective operation to determine whether or not it makes economic sense to raise or purchase quality replacement heifers.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have at jdspringer@noble.org. ?



Does selecting related cattle increase calf uniformity?

Oct 31, 2013

by Bryan Nichols and Ryan Reuter

Excellent rainfall in most parts of southern Oklahoma and northern Texas during the 2013 growing season has prompted some producers to consider increasing their cow numbers. Selecting replacement females is no small decision. Their breed type, fertility, conformation, mature size, milking ability and color will all play a role in the future profitability of an operation.

One frequent topic in discussions of bull and female selection is choosing closely related animals, such as half-siblings, to increase uniformity of the offspring. Increasing uniformity of the calf crop is important to cow-calf producers because more uniform lots may receive higher sale prices at market. Lack of uniformity has also been cited as a primary quality concern for industry segments from packers to restaurateurs, according to the 2005 National Beef Quality Audit. It is logical that as offspring become more related, genetic variability decreases and, hence, the phenotypic variability of animals will decrease. However, it is very important to further explore the details in order to judge the magnitude of change that can be expected.

Since this is a quantitative genetics question, math can be used to estimate the phenotypic changes a producer could expect, given certain breeding situations. The two values that must be known to make these estimates are the coefficient of genetic relatedness (GR) and the heritability of a given trait. Genetic relatedness is the probability that two individuals share an allele due to recent common ancestry. As GR increases, the variation in a trait will decrease in proportion to the trait’s heritability. In this article, the decrease in variation will be expressed as a percentage relative to a group of unrelated animals, where the unrelated animals equal 100 percent. Therefore, as the percentage gets smaller, the variation of the trait decreases, i.e., the animals are more uniform. This percentage is calculated as:

Table 1 shows that an unrelated bull battery bred to an unrelated cow herd has a genetic relatedness of 0 percent; therefore, the calf crop expresses all of the expected variation. As the genetic relatedness of the calf crop increases, the expected phenotypic variation decreases. A fairly common practice used is that of selecting all half-sibling bulls. Table 1 shows that if breeding half-sibling bulls to unrelated cows and evaluating a trait with high heritability (40%), variation in the calf crop for that trait is only expected to decrease by 1.3% (100% - 98.7% = 1.3%).

This value is likely much less than what most people would expect it to be. If taken one step further by selecting half-sibling females and breeding them to half-sibling bulls, variation is still only expected to decrease by 2.5 percent. Interestingly, if one went as far as producing a calf crop that is all full siblings, variation would still only be reduced by 10.6 percent compared to an unrelated calf crop.

These numbers indicate that substantial advances in calf crop uniformity will likely not be attained very quickly by using closely related breeding stock. Cattle producers who wish to increase uniformity of the calf crop through genetic selection should likely focus on selecting animals with optimal values for desired traits (i.e., similar expected progeny differences) regardless of their genetic relationships. Producers are encouraged to select commercial females that are accompanied by little or no genetic information based on phenotypic traits (e.g., frame size, conformation, docility) that match their goals and production environment. ?


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