The January 1 USDA cattle inventory report showed 89.3 million cattle and calves in the U.S. – a 1.6% drop from 2012 and the smallest amount since 1952. This resulted in only 34.2 million calves born in 2012 available for feeding and market in 2013 and 2014 – nearly 3% less than a year ago.
Cattle feeders have been looking into several methods to compensate for fewer calves, like feeding cattle to heavier weights to attempt to maintain beef production, and utilizing growth-promoting technologies to increase the red meat production potential. "I think we've had renewed interest in some of our technologies, such as implants and beta-agonists to improve efficiencies in the yard," says Denise Schwab, Iowa State University Extension beef specialist. "If you've got some facilities that are maybe less efficient, they might be letting those sit empty to use the ones that are more efficient."
A rising interest in finishing dairy steers
Some have taken another approach. According to the 2011 National Animal Health Monitoring System survey, 6% of the feedlots with less than 1,000 head and 17% of the feedlots with over 1,000 head fed dairy and beef steers. "I think that's one of the options some producers have considered as they're looking for ways to keep yards full," says Schwab.
To address the rising interest in feeding dairy beef animals, two ISU Extension programs will be held in northeast Iowa. One will take place in Monticello at the Jones County Extension Office on August 6 and at the Howard County Extension Office in Cresco on August 7, both from 9:15 a.m. to about 3 p.m. "Because we have such a large dairy population in northeast Iowa, we thought that would be a good partnership to talk about," Schwab says. "We're kind of in the region where those calves would have a shorter trucking distance from states like Wisconsin and Minnesota."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The meetings will focus on the differences in feeding dairy steers. "One of the big differences will be intake and ration balancing from the standpoint that dairy steers have a little higher intake and tend to be a little less efficient," Schwab says. Facilities management will be addressed, as Holsteins tend to handle cold weather differently. They also aren't as heavily muscled. "So we will cover what opportunities are out there from the technology to help muscle development as well as marketing options."
A lineup of speakers will present research findings, record analysis and performance data:
*Steven Rust, professor of beef cattle nutrition and management from Michigan State University and the keynote speaker will describe MSU's research and experience in feeding Holstein steers for the beef market, including feeding systems, rations, and housing.
*Shawn Walter, owner of Professional Cattle Consultants of Hydro, Oklahoma will share closeout and performance data comparing Holsteins to beef cattle. PCC has over 35 years of feedlot data with over 120 million head of cattle in its database and represents over 2.5 million head of feeding capacity from over 100 feed yards.
*Darren Katzung, veterinarian with Southwest Vet Services in Lancaster, Wisconsin specializes in dairy calf health and will share experience with calf health and its impact on feed yard performance.
*Lee Schulz, ISU Extension livestock economist will talk about current feeder calf availability including both beef and dairy calves, and share his outlook on the fed cattle market and profitability in the feedlot industry.
*Dan Loy, ISU beef specialist will explain the use of growth-promoting technologies such as implants, ionophores and beta-agonists in dairy beef steers, and the impacts of those technologies on marketing options. The day will end with a panel discussing dairy beef marketing options.
Registration for either location is $20, which covers lunch and materials, and is requested by August 2. Support from sponsors Merck Animal Health, Big Gain Feed, Iowa Beef Center, Innovative Ag Services, Silver Edge Coop, Cargill Feeds, CUS Bank and Cresco Bank and Trust help defray speaker expenses. To register for the August 6 Monticello program, contact the Benton County Extension office at 319-472-4739. To register for the August 7 Cresco program, contact the Howard County Extension office at 563-547-3001.