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R2R 001 - The Maiden Voyage

The Maiden Voyage

As the first of many Research to Ranch newsletters is sent off, we break a metaphorical champagne bottle on its hull as we christen it for a safe and successful trip from us to you.


Giving you the down-low on cattle price lows

TL;DR:

  • New Mexico cattle market shows a 6 yr price cycle between low and high prices. Prices increase in wet years and decrease during dry years.
  • More cattle were being fed & bred during the three wet years, and many more cattle were sold during the three dry years.

What you need to know: In the cattle industry, we have seen cattle prices rise and fall. We have witnessed many good and bad years, even seasons, of cattle prices. Researchers in New Mexico studied these price trends and found that cattle prices are consistently changing seasonally, with the lowest prices being October through January.

The research found that price fluctuations weren't just seasonal, however. There was also a consistent, almost predictable, rise and fall in prices every six years. Prices were increasing for three years, then decreasing for three years. So why the decreases?

A one-two punch caused price changes: wet years, where ranches bred and calved out more cows due to extra feed availability, followed by dry years that forced a high number of calves and cows to be sold. The wet year cattle retention rate increased the cattle prices in wet years, and the major sell-off during dry years negatively impacted cattle prices as there were too many cattle in the market.  

Industry Application: Communication between ranches and government organizations across our industry could help ranchers avoid these pitfalls. Cattle prices are higher during wet years when ranches are keeping calves on feed longer and focus on increasing their herd size. This research suggests ranches should sell more calves during high moisture conditions and expect historical price changes to repeat when droughts occur.

Read more about it: Beef Cattle Price and Production Patterns in Relation to Drought in New Mexico


Hybrid vigor, how much is more?

TL;DR:

  • The effect of cross-breeding Angus with Hereford was 2% higher BW, 3% higher WW, 12.6 kg larger carcass, and 2.1 cm2 larger loin-eye area.
  • There was a significant effect of cross-breeding, even after years of genetic improvement in purebred cattle.

What you need to know: When crossing two breeds, the sum becomes more than the parts. In other words, hybrid vigor is the idea that the cross-bred offspring are better than either of the purebred parents. But how much better are we talking?

When comparing offspring of Angus dams bred by either Hereford or Angus bulls, the performance of crossbred offspring, the hybrid vigor factor, was significantly better. Crossing an Angus and a Hereford increased birth weight (2%), weaning weight (3%), carcass weight (12.6 kg), and loin-eye area (2.1 square cm) when compared to their purebred Angus counterparts.

Industry Application: Even after years of genetic improvement in purebred cattle, cross-breeding continues to have a significant effect on industry-relevant traits. This data demonstrates that there is still value in cross-bred cattle being brought to market.

Read more about it: Genomic analysis of purebred and cross-bred Angus cattle demonstrates opportunity for multi-breed evaluation


Leaving an imprint on your heifer and your bottom line

TL;DR:

  • Early breeding of a dam can impact the performance of her offspring.
  • Heifers born to dams bred early in their development had lower growth rates, pregnancy rates, and pre-calving weight.

What you need to know: Just like we leave an imprint of our boot in the snow, nutrition can leave an imprint on the fertility of our cattle. Nutritional imprinting describes how poor nutrition of a dam can impact the performance of her offspring—in this case, how choosing to breed our heifers early might affect the fertility of her offspring.

Angus heifers were either bred early in their development (660 lbs) or later in development (780 lbs); these represent 55% and 65% of the mature body weight of an average cow. Additionally, their daughters were either bred in early or late development.

And the results? Both generations of heifers bred early in their development had lower pre-calving body weight, 4% and 5%. Both generations of heifers bred in early development also had calves with lower weaning weights, pre-calving weights, puberty rate, pregnancy rates, and 21-day calving rates.

Industry Application: Breeding a heifer early to increase generation interval and derive offspring sooner can cost ranchers money due to the decreased reproductive performance of the dam and her progeny. Additionally, feeding a heifer to 65% of the 1200 lb mature cow weight before breeding may be beneficial to consider in a breeding program.

Read more about it: Difference in Body Weight at Breeding Affects Reproductive Performance in Replacement Beef Heifers and Carries Consequences to Next Generation Heifers


Live yeast might be the answer you need

TL;DR:

  • The addition of a live yeast supplement can improve the transition of a calf from ranch to a feedlot.
  • Steers fed live yeast supplement had improved rumen fermentation, nutrient digestibility, and immune function.

What you need to know: Yeast is a fungus commonly used in baking and brewing due to the ability of yeast to ferment sugars, consume oxygen, and releasing carbon dioxide. Also, yeast is fed to cattle for various reasons. Today, however, we will focus on its ability to improve feedlot performance.  

Simental steers were fed a ration with or without an active (live) yeast product for 60 days in dry-lot pens. The animals given the active yeast product had a higher average daily gain (2.68 vs. 2.52 lbs/day) and an improved gain to feed ratio (5.18:1 vs . 5.41:1), which is the pounds of feed required for 1 pound gain in bodyweight.

These improvements were likely due to improved fermentation, specifically the production of more propionate, used for animal energy and fat production, and an improved immune function. Yeast can help ward off minor bacterial infections in the digestive tract, decreasing the animal's energy spent on fighting infections.

Combined, these changes in the gut free up more energy for the animal to put towards the growth of muscle and fat, improving average daily gain and feed efficiency.

Industry Application:  Yeast products can improve feedlot performance when supplemented for the receiving period of a feedlot. Depending on the price of an active yeast supplement, there could be cost benefits of using it as a supplement in receiving diets.

Read more about it: Active dry yeast supplementation improves the growth performance, rumen fermentation, and immune response of weaned beef calves