Backgrounding calves on pasture garners more dollars, New Mexico State University researchers find.

Scientists conducted a three-year study involving a total of 250 calves (520 lbs.) to compare a low-input pasture backgrounding system (PAST) to a high-input drylot backgrounding system (DLOT).

The objective was to evaluate performance and profit during the backgrounding (42-45 days postweaning) and finishing phases. DLOT calves were fed a corn and wheat midds-based pellet, plus 1.5-2.5 lbs. alfalfa hay. PAST calves were supplemented with a 32% crude protein range cube (1.25 lbs./day; three times/week).

During backgrounding, DLOT calves gained significantly more weight and had greater final value, but feed and total costs were four times greater. Net income during backgrounding was $45 greater for PAST than DLOT.

During finishing, PAST steers had greater average daily gain (ADG, 2.80 vs. 2.36 lbs./day) through interim weight (74-94 days on feed), but subsequent ADG was similar. There were no significant differences in days on feed, overall ADG, carcass characteristics, or percentage of steers treated for sickness. However, DLOT steers had significantly greater death loss (7.6% vs. 0.0%). During finishing, PAST steers earned $113 more gross income ($946 vs. $833/carcass) and had a net return advantage of $103/head.
Mathis, et al, 2008, Professional Animal Scientist, 24:169.

Treating dry cows for mastitis at weaning improved udder health and increased body weight gain of calves during the subsequent lactation, researchers from Oklahoma State University say.

Spring calving Angus and Angus X Hereford multiparous cows (n=196, average age 5.3 years) were utilized to determine the effects of intramammary treatment with penicillin G procaine and novobiocin at weaning on udder health and calf growth after the subsequent calving. Cows were stratified by age and breed and assigned randomly to receive intramammary treatment (n=99) at weaning or as untreated controls (n=97).

Quarter milk samples were collected at weaning and at 8 to 14 days after calving. Milk samples were analyzed for somatic cell counts (SCC) and mastitis-causing bacteria.

Dry-cow treatment decreased the number of cows infected after calving. Treatment decreased the number of cows that developed new infections and reduced the number of quarters with mastitis causing bacteria after calving that were infected at weaning.

SCC after calving were greatest for cows infected with Staphylococcus aureus. Treatment did not alter SCC of quarters after calving that were infected with S. aureus at weaning but reduced SCC after calving of quarters that were infected with coagulase-negative staphylococci at weaning.

Body weight of calves during early lactation was increased if cows with intramammary infection were treated at weaning. Treatment of noninfected cows at weaning increased adjusted 205-day weaning weights of calves after the subsequent lactation when compared with untreated noninfected cows.

Researchers conclude that dry-cow therapy decreased udder infections of beef cows at the subsequent calving by eliminating infections that exist at drying-off and reducing the incidence of new infections during the dry period. The SCC of quarters infected with mastitis-causing bacteria at drying-off were reduced with dry-cow therapy, indicating that dry-cow treatment improves udder health of the beef cow. Administering intramammary antibiotics to beef cows at drying-off can reduce the incidence of udder infections in beef cows after calving and increase body weight of calves during the subsequent lactation.
Lents, C.A. et al, 2008, Journal of Animal Science, 86:748.

The use of a blind helped reduce the reactivity of steers undergoing routine neck injections, Canadian researchers say.

The objective of the study was to evaluate the aversiveness to 1) the visibility of the stockperson, and 2) a neck injection using different behavioral reactivity measurement techniques.

To evaluate whether cattle react to the proximity of the stockperson or to the actual injection, 120, 10-month-old Angus steers averaging 657 lbs. were assigned to one of four treatment groups using a partial crossover design (neck/sham injection X blind/no blind) replicated over two days (three days apart).

Steers were restrained for a total of 60 seconds in a squeeze chute, with treatment being administered 20 seconds after entry. Animal reactivity was rated using two scoring methods, including a visual and an electronic score, for three, 20-second intervals (pretreatment, treatment, posttreatment intervals). Flight speed (meters/second, [m/s]) was used as a measure of aversion to the treatments and was taken upon release from the chute.

No interactions were observed between the blind and injection treatments for any of the measurements taken. No treatment or day effect on flight speed (2.7 vs. 2.6 m/s) was observed; however, the correlation between days was significant. Visual scores indicated that injected steers were more agitated during the treatment interval than were the sham injected steers (1.9 vs. 1.6, respectively).

However, no differences were found between injection and sham injection treatments for any of the electronic scores. Steers exposed to the blind had lower electronic reactivity scores than those not exposed to the blind, which was in contrast to the results obtained for the visual scores. Discrepancies between the reactivity scores may be due to the difficulty of accurately assessing minor animal responses using the visual method.

Researchers conclude that the use of a blind may help improve handling ease, particularly with cattle having to undergo repeated aversive procedures and in cattle having little previous experience with humans.
Müller, et al, 2008, Journal of Animal Science, 86:1215.

Steers weaned and provided supplemental concentrate on pasture before shipping to the feedyard had improved performance, researchers from Florida discover.

The objective was to evaluate the effects of four preweaning management systems on plasma acute phase protein concentrations (ceruloplasmin, haptoglobin and fibrinogen) and the performance of weaned, transported steers during a 30-day feedlot receiving program.

A total of 96 steers, approximately seven months old, were allocated to one of four weaning management strategies:

  1. control: weaned on the day of shipping;

  2. creep-fed: allowed free-choice access to concentrate before weaning and shipping;

  3. preweaned: weaned and provided supplemental concentrate on pasture before shipping; and

  4. early-weaned: weaned at 70-90 days of age and kept on pasture.

On the day of shipping, steers were loaded together onto a commercial livestock trailer and transported 994 miles over 24 hours before being received into the feedlot. At the feedlot, steers were penned by treatment (four pens/treatment) and provided access to free-choice hay and concentrate in separate feeding spaces.

Blood samples were collected on day 0, 1, 4, 8, 15, 22 and 29 relative to shipping. Steer performance was assessed over the receiving period, including dry-matter intake (DMI) of hay and concentrate, average daily gain (ADG), and gain-to-feed (G:F) ratio.

Overall ADG was greater for early-weaned vs. control steers (3.06 vs. 1.94 lbs.). In week one, early-weaned steers consumed more concentrate and less hay compared with control steers, and preweaned steers consumed more concentrate but a similar amount of hay compared with creep-fed steers.

Average DMI was greater for preweaned compared with creep-fed steers (2.84% vs. 2.50% of body weight) and tended to be greater for early-weaned compared with control steers (2.76% vs. 2.50% of body weight).

Feed efficiency of early-weaned steers was greater than that of control steers (G:F = 0.17 vs. 0.12) but similar for preweaned compared with creep-fed steers.

Plasma ceruloplasmin concentrations were less in control vs. early-weaned steers on day 0, but increased sharply after shipping and were greater in control vs. early-weaned steers on day 15 and 22. Creep-fed steers also experienced greater plasma ceruloplasmin concentrations than preweaned steers on day 29.

This data suggests early-weaned steers have improved performance in the feedlot compared with steers weaned directly before transport and feedlot entry. Researchers conclude differences in preshipping management appear to significantly affect measure of the acute phase protein response in steers.
Arthington, et al, 2008, Journal of Animal Science, 86:2016.