In descending order, by date published.
4/1/2021 (major revision)
Authors: Darrh Bullock
In principle, genetic improvement is a straight-forward exercise that results from using above-average selection candidates as the parents of the next generation. In practice, the devil is in the details. Both bull breeders and bull buyers need to consider their breeding objectives, defining the list of traits that need to be modified to advance the towards their goal.
Various factors such as delayed planting, early frost, drought or suppressed market prices may lead one to consider feeding soybeans to cattle. Soybeans can be fed to beef cattle as an energy and protein source. Depending upon the stage of development, soybeans will have varying degrees of feed value and a feed test for nutrient content is recommended.
3/23/2021 (major revision)
Authors: Les Anderson, Michelle Arnold, Darrh Bullock, Kenny Burdine, Roy Burris, Ben Crites, Jimmy Henning, Steve Higgins, Steve Isaacs, Kevin Laurent, Jeff Lehmkuhler, Lee Moser, Gregg Rentfrow, Kylie Schmidt, Ray Smith, Chris Teutsch, Lee Townsend, Katherine VanValin, Paul Vijayakumar
Kentucky is ideally suited for cattle production. The main feed for cattle is a renewable resource Kentucky has in abundance--forages. The majority of the state's terrain favors cattle production over row crops. Kentucky farms cover 14 million acres, with approximately half of that occupied by forage grasses and legumes. Our natural resources and climate permit the growth of most cool-season and warm-season species. Water is readily available in all areas of the state, and we have a relatively long growing season.
Departments: Agricultural Economics, Animal and Food Sciences, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Entomology, Plant and Soil Sciences, Veterinary Science
Series: Interdepartmental (ID series)
Tags: beef cattle, livestock
Size: 4.50 mb
Once wheat and other small grains adapt to cooler weather in the fall, they are relatively tolerant of cold temperatures and freeze injury. Frost injury in the spring normally occurs when February and March are unusually warm and small grains initiate growth earlier than normal or from an unusually late frost event. Freezing temperatures during sensitive growth stages can significantly impact grain yield. In some cases, the impact on yield can be moderate to severe.
Departments: Animal and Food Sciences, Plant and Soil Sciences
Series: Interdepartmental (ID series)
Tags: beef cattle, farm crops, grain crops, livestock, nutrition and health, small grains
Size: 429 kb
Authors: Joshua Jackson
On cattle operations, the use of a scale system to weigh animals is vital to the proper administration of health products such as dewormers and antibiotics, and for making management decisions. A scale system mounted to a chute allows animals to be securely restrained for measuring weights accurately and minimally impacts cattle flow through the working facilities. Excitable animals can be properly restrained and, with their movement limited, cattle can be weighed accurately.
Kentucky is in the upper transition zone which allows for the growth of warm- and cool-season forages. Corn, a warm season grass, grows well in the state and may be harvested for either grain or silage. Corn harvested as silage can be an economical alternative for beef cattle. Implementing sound management strategies and determining the nutrient content to balance rations will allow for successful feeding of corn silage to beef cattle.
Beef cattle production is directly affected by soils, but active soil management is limited. Most producers' soil management decisions are limited to submitting a soil sample, getting the analysis back, and then applying the tons of fertilizer or lime recommended at the bottom of the sheet. Meanwhile, producers request assistance to reduce or eliminate mud, weeds, gully erosion, and compaction (if they have identified compacted ground). Occasionally, producers don't have enough forage or hay to get cattle through drought or winter because of low forage production. These issues may have little to do with soil fertility but instead be directly related to soil properties.
Authors: Steve Higgins
A typical cow-calf grazing operation needs to feed and water cattle on a daily basis. Ideally, this is accomplished by rotating cattle from field to field and providing them with a convenient source of water to drink. Cattle operations can better manage cattle when facilities are designed to meet the needs of cattle and the producer. Land use-planning can increase production and reduce production costs.
Kentucky has several bourbon distilleries and one fuel ethanol plant. The spent grains from the production of ethanol is utilized as a protein source in livestock feed. Shutdowns for fuel ethanol plants may also occur as a result of unfavorable profit margins when crude oil prices are low. Most distilleries and fuel ethanol plants will have a scheduled maintenance shutdown each year. During a shutdown, availability of distillers grains and other coproducts from these plants may be limited or unavailable. So, the question is what else can I feed in place of distillers grains?
The growth of the bourbon industry has provided an increase in distillery byproduct feedstuffs that can be utilized by cattle as a source of energy and protein. Learning the nutritional characteristics of these feedstuffs will facilitate proper feeding, allowing for improved cattle performance.
Understanding soil mechanics and management in winter-feeding areas could improve beef cattle production, with less effort on the producer and cattle. This publication is intended to guide evaluating soil strength for winter-feeding areas, the pollution potential of winter-feeding areas, and to provide solutions for correcting structural deficiencies and reducing mud on both the ground and on the cattle.
Authors: Steve Higgins
The benefits of lanes can be applied to pasture-based Kentucky cattle operations of any size. Lanes can be used to move cattle from pasture to pasture, and to access structures or barns, handling facilities, load-out areas, and areas with shade.
Heat stress is prevalent in most livestock species, but especially in dairy animals where large quantities of energy are necessary to sustain milk production. Both dairy goats in lactation and meat goats, which are being fed for growth, are susceptible to heat stress. Knowing the physiological signs to observe (like panting or excessive drinking) can make heat stress more apparent.
Authors: Steve Higgins
Livestock housing, whether simple or sophisticated, must perform the required functions. It should meet the thermal and physical needs of the animal; it should provide a place to store and feed materials without damage or loss; it should increase the performance of cattle; and, it should allow the producer to conduct all chores associated with cattle production efficiently. A building can contribute to management efficiency and animal performance, which itself is defined by productivity, health and welfare. The building should create optimum environmental conditions for cattle by providing light, air flow, appropriate flooring, space, and ventilation.
Cattle-handling facilities should be designed to match the management goals of the operation. The safety of workers and cattle should be the highest priority when designing or reworking a handling facility. A well-designed facility will make working cattle faster, safer, less labor intensive, and less frustrating.
Authors: Michelle Arnold
Anaplasmosis is a disease caused by Anaplasma marginale, an organism that invades cattle red blood cells (RBCs), resulting in severe anemia, weight loss, fever, abortion and death in adult cattle. Anaplasmosis is considered a "tick-borne" disease because ticks transmit the organism when feeding on cattle. However, spread of this disease can be by any method that moves fresh blood from infected to susceptible cattle. In addition to ticks, the Anaplasma organism may be spread by biting insects (mosquitoes, horse flies, stable flies) or using blood-contaminated tools such as dehorners, ear taggers, castration tools, and implant guns without disinfection between animals. A very common method of transmission is using the same hypodermic needle on multiple animals when administering vaccines to the herd. Transmission may also be from cow to calf during gestation.
Authors: Steve Higgins
Barn floor design is critical to the physical and thermal comfort, health and safety of cattle. Generally speaking, barn flooring is the surface on which an animal stands, lies down, and excretes its urine and manure. Therefore, to meet animal needs, it must be durable, not slippery, and well drained, as well as comfortable, warm, and dry. In addition to providing animal comfort, the flooring should easily be cleaned. No single material, from concrete to soil, meets all of these specifications.
Authors: Steve Higgins
The loose housing system increases the productivity of the replacement herd and the stockman by providing the optimum environment for production and management. While there is work in creating the system upfront, the design will reduce effort later by creating greater efficiency, flow, and movement of materials.
Authors: Steve Higgins
The creation of a creep pen or pasture area can be accomplished using various methods and materials. Using what is on hand and/or revitalizing an unused area of the farm that has infrastructure may reduce expenses. The cost of one fallen calf could pay for the implementation of the practice. This practice may benefit spring calves over fall calves, so that might be a consideration when choosing a time to plan construction of your creep area.
Weaning is the process of separating suckling offspring from their dam. Weaning is a management procedure applied by the herd manager. Cattle are herd animals and their gregarious nature can lead to stress as a result of this separation. Managing the weaning process can aid in reducing stress for the animals and livestock managers.
Winter feeding of cattle is a necessary part of nearly all cow-calf operations. In winter months, livestock producers often confine animals to smaller "sacrifice" pastures to reduce the area damaged from winter feeding. A poorly chosen site for winter feeding can have significant negative impacts on soil and water quality. Such areas include locations in floodplains, such as those along creek bottoms or around barns near streams. These locations are convenient, flat areas for setting hay ring feeders; however, their negative effects on water quality outweigh the convenience.
Departments: Animal and Food Sciences, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
Series: Interdepartmental (ID series)
Tags: beef cattle, equipment and structures, livestock, nutrition and health
Size: 737 kb
One of the most challenging and costly aspects of beef cattle production in Kentucky is winter-feeding. Many producers complain about the time required to feed stored forages, the mud, the drudgery that it creates for the operator, and the decline in production. The intense traffic associated with winter-feeding on unimproved surfaces causes mud, compaction, erosion, and loss of desirable vegetation, often resulting in annual pasture renovations to address areas impacted by winter-feeding practices. Fenceline feeding systems offer an alternative to traditional in-field bale feeding during the wet winter conditions that Kentucky often experiences. These structures can be utilized to reduce the impact of winter-feeding on pastures and improve the operational efficiency of a winter-feeding area.
Ewes on vacation should remain healthy, but not become obese. Keeping them in a BCS of 1.5 to 2.0 will not be an easy chore because all they have to do is graze and deposit body fat. Limiting forage dry matter consumption to 2.0% of body weight daily through stocking rate management and rotational grazing is the best way to keep ewes from becoming excessively fat. If ewes have an optimum BCS at the beginning of nutritional flushing, and are flushed correctly, 95 to 98% of the ewes will conceive in a short period of the breeding season and lambing rate can be increased by 15 to 20% above that of less intensely managed ewes.
Keeping laying hens in the backyard is popular, but along with a daily supply of eggs, the hens also produce a large supply of manure. Fresh poultry manure has an unpleasant odor and will attract flies. Bedding material, such as pine shavings, is put down on the coop floor to help control odors and flies, but eventually the litter (manure and bedding material) needs to be replaced. While poultry manure can be an excellent fertilizer, it should not be used fresh. "Raw" manure can burn plants and may contain pathogens that could contaminate any plants being grown for consumption. Composting makes the manure safe to use as a fertilizer on any lawn or garden. Composting involves a process by which billions of beneficial soil organisms decompose the organic material. Simply piling up waste is not really composting. With the right proportions for materials, the process has minimal offensive odor and destroys most of the pathogens in the manure. Compost is both science and art.
Reproduction is the beginning of a series of significant events involved in the production of lambs for market. Obviously, the higher the reproduction rate in ewes, the greater the chances of achieving maximum profit. A knowledge of the mating (breeding) habits of the ewe can improve the chances for higher reproductive rates, marketing more pounds of lamb per ewe, increasing the efficiency of labor use, and ultimately increasing the chances of greater profit.
Kentucky has the resources required for successful sheep production systems. The state has a vast forage production potential, under-utilized labor and facilities, and access to a well-established market. Many Kentucky farmers should consider the sheep enterprise and its benefits, particularly if they want to make more efficient use of their forages, labor, and facilities. In developing this enterprise, the following must be considered: feed supply, labor, facilities and equipment, foundation stock, and the production system.
The terms urban poultry and backyard poultry both refer to flocks kept on a residential lot. Keeping chickens in urban areas is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country. The main reasons given for keeping chickens are as pets and for egg production--pets with benefits. Small numbers of hens kept in the backyard can provide an urban family with entertainment, eggs, and fertilizer. For those with children, backyard poultry flocks can also teach them responsibility and be used for 4-H poultry projects.
Molting is a common event in the annual life cycle of most avian species. Each year chickens lose feathers and grow new ones, and this occurs in both wild and domestic birds. During molt, laying hens go out of egg production and feathers are replaced. Molting, regardless of what stimulates it, is more than just the replacement of the plumage. Hormonal and physiological changes occur as well.
There are several things to consider before starting an egg production operation. The most important is market availability. Before you start production you need to have a market that your production can supply, in terms of both quantity of product and the price you need to get in order to be profitable. You will need to make sure that local regulations allow for poultry production on the land available to you. Cash flow is also an important consideration. A flock will require a considerable investment before the hens start to lay eggs to produce an income. You also need to have a way to deal with the manure produced, and any dead birds. You also need to have a plan for the hens after they have finished laying (referred to as spent hens).
Animals eat in order to get the energy and nutrients they need to live, grow and reproduce. Animals use energy to perform normal body functions such as breathing, walking, eating, digesting, and maintaining body temperature. Different types of nutrients provide energy as well as the building blocks needed for the development of bone, flesh, feathers, and eggs. These nutrients include: water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Each of these components is important and a deficit of even one can have serious health consequences for poultry.
It is important that you comply with all the laws and regulations with regards to the marketing of eggs. Eggs are capable of carrying bacteria such as Salmonella enteritidis. As a result, eggs are considered a hazardous food and their sale is regulated. With regard to small-scale producers, if you sell more than 60 dozen eggs in any one week, you will require an egg handler's license. You will also need an egg handler's license if you sell to someone who sells eggs to someone else. This would include grocery stores, restaurants, or wholesalers. The same will hold true if you sell to a bakery, confectionary or ice-cream manufacturer.
Once you have decided you are going to go into egg production, you need to determine what breed of chicken will best suit your needs. A variety of different commercial breeds are available for use in small-scale commercial egg production operations. Most lay a brown-shelled egg, which is typically preferred by the people purchasing eggs produced in alterative production systems. Most of these commercial chickens are hybrids selected specifically for these systems.
Many livestock producers would say that mud is a natural part of livestock production. But the creation of mud costs producers money and makes them less competitive. Livestock that walk through mud require more feed for energy but actually eat less because walking in mud requires more effort to get to feed and water. Therefore, mud decreases average daily gains. Mud accumulation on the coat increases the amount of energy needed to generate heat in the winter or to keep cool in the summer. Also, it can lower sale prices due to hanging tags. The creation of mud also increases animal stress and leads to a variety of health problems, including protozoan and bacterial infections. It is essential that livestock producers understand that mud hinders cost-efficient livestock production and efforts should be made to limit the creation of mud. This publication explains how mud is created and describes different types of hardened surfaces and pads that agricultural producers should use to reduce mud creation and ultimately increase production efficiency and protect natural resources.
There has been an increased interest in pasture-raising poultry for both meat and egg production in the last decade. Raising poultry on pasture was a common occurrence until the latter half of the 20th century. Fresh forage provided an important ration balancing factor during the years before poultry nutritionists fully understood the required essential vitamins and minerals for growth and optimum meat and egg production. With the development of balanced rations, poultry no longer require access to pasture and year-round production of meat and eggs is possible. However, there are still some benefits from the lush forage, invertebrates, and exercise that pasture provides. In addition, we continue to learn more and more about the positive influence that fresh grasses and legumes have on fatty acid profiles and general bird health. As a result, there is an increased interest in pasture-raised poultry for both meat and eggs.
Body condition scoring is a system of classifying breeding ewes on the basis of differences in body fat. While it is subjective, with practice it can be accurate enough to indicate the nutritional status of individual ewes as well as the entire flock. Thus, it allows the shepherd to identify, record, and adjust the feed intake of ewes determined to be thin, in average flesh, or fat. In the long run, this can save money for producers and/or prevent problems attributable to ewe condition.
Kentucky's abundant forage and extensive stream system have helped the Commonwealth become the largest beef producing state east of the Mississippi River. While streams and ponds serve as a water source for many operations, livestock can quickly degrade soil and water quality by trampling streambanks and defecating and urinating in and around waterbodies. These actions increase sediment, pathogen, and nutrient loads to streams, rivers, and lakes which in turn can causes eutrophication. To help protect the health of Kentucky's soil and water, producers can implement best management practices (BMPs). These practices help reduce the sources of pollutants and/or the transport of pollutants to waterways. One such practice or BMP is limiting cattle access to streams and ponds. When producers exclude livestock access to stream and ponds and their associated riparian buffers, an alternative source of water is required. Automatic water fountains are one commonly used means of providing cattle with water from an alternate source. A water tank constructed using a heavy equipment tire may serve as a viable option for supplying livestock with an alternate source of water.
Authors: Garry Lacefield
For most livestock producers, extending the grazing season for their animals, or otherwise filling gaps in pasture forage availability to reduce stored feed needs, should be a high priority objective. This publication outlines strategies that can be used in some or many areas to extend grazing and reduce stored feed needs, thus increasing profit.
Before purchasing chicks (or chickens) it is important to consider the cost of keeping them. Much of this cost is in the feed they consume. So the key question is, "How much will my chickens eat?" Chickens need a complete feed that contains protein (with the right balance of amino acids), energy, vitamins, and minerals. Today we know more about the nutritional requirements of chickens than any other animal. The amount of feed they need will depend on several factors.
Because feed costs are the major cost of producing beef, making the most efficient use of feeds is of prime importance in determining profits. Rations must be properly balanced for cattle to use feeds most efficiently. Ration balancing is another management tool the efficient producer can use to maximize profits.
Proven management practices such as castrating, dehorning, pregnancy examination, controlling parasites, implanting, vaccinating, etc. are essential if profits are to be realized in beef herds. Although most practices are relatively simple, they cannot be done easily without some type of restraining equipment which will prevent injury to both man and animal. The absence of cattle handling facilities probably contributes more than anything else to failure to perform these money-making procedures.
Will pasture-finished beef eventually become a commodity with lowered product prices? These and other questions must be evaluated by those considering pasture-based beef finishing. As with any new enterprise, however, the learning curve is steep, and success requires a commitment to working through the many production, marketing, and processing details. This reference guide provides a foundation for this process.