Cattle production is largely a part-time business in the U.S., with almost 72% of cow-calf operations serving as a supplemental source of income for the operators. And almost 14% operate for reasons other than income, such as pleasure.

That's one of the tidbits in the first of a series of reports to be generated from the latest National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) study of the U.S. cow-calf sector. The report, “Highlights of Beef 2007-08. Part I: Reference of Beef Cow-calf Management Practices in the U.S., 2007-08,” is now available at nahms.aphis.usda.gov/beefcowcalf/

The report focuses on health and management practices in U.S. beef operations in 24 major beef-producing states, and represents 79.6% of U.S. cow-calf operations and 87.8% of U.S. beef cows. A total of 2,872 cow-calf operations participated.

Other reports to follow will provide further data and compare results – and highlight some trends – based on NAHMS' 1997 study and its 1992 “Beef Cow/Calf Health & Productivity Audit” (CHAPA).

Among the latest survey's six study objectives, ascertained by exploring literature and contacting stakeholders about their informational needs and priorities during a needs-assessment phase, were to:

  • Describe trends in beef cow-calf health and management practices.
  • Evaluate management factors related to beef quality assurance.
  • Describe record-keeping practices on cow-calf operations.
  • Determine producer awareness of bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and management practices used for BVD control.
  • Describe current biosecurity practices and producer motivation for implementing or not implementing biosecurity practices.
  • Determine the prevalence and antimicrobial resistance patterns of potential food safety pathogens.
Those factors will be addressed in a series of at least six reports and a number of fact sheets to be released over the coming year. Release of the next report – on calving and breeding management, injection practices and biosecurity – is expected in early March, with the trends report set for release in May.