Style matters when managing a cow herd, say Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. Proper management techniques help develop a calm herd and lead to other benefits.

ARS animal scientists in Watkinsville, GA, used their resident Angus herd for forage research. But an indirect result of that study led to the conclusion their cattle-handling style contributed to the development of a calm herd.

The 250 cows have been disposition-scored for the past five years by the finishing outfit, Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity in Iowa. Calves are given a score from 1 to 5, with 1 denoting a calf so calm it could sleep in the chute. A 5 signifies an uncontrollable calf. The Watkinsville steers received scores between 1.0 and 1.9, with the majority below 1.5.

Management methods at Watkinsville have been modified to keep the herd relaxed. “Working cattle can be rough or calm, and we feel the fastest way to work cattle is to do it slowly,” says animal scientist John Stuedermann.

The ARS scientists long ago threw away any aids to hurry cattle through the chute. Instead, they conditioned the cattle to move through the chutes for monthly weigh-ins without the threat of pain.

Along with calm dispositions, Tri-County also found the Watkinsville cattle have excellent health and above-average daily gain (ADG). In the five years of custom feeding at Tri-County, 816 head of steers and heifers posted ADGs of 3.1 to 4.6 lbs., and only 30 of the animals graded Select. The other 774 graded Choice or better, with 381 earning the Certified Angus Beef label.
ARS News Service

The increasing availability of dried distillers grains (DDG), a feed-grain by-product resulting from the conversion of grain into ethanol, brings the question of where they can fit into cattle production environments.

Kansas State University (KSU) researchers used 346 steers (572-lb. average) — to evaluate DDG's performance in an early intensive grazing system. The pelleted DDG was from sorghum grain.

After a brief preconditioning/backgrounding period at a commercial yard, the cattle were grazed from May 1 to Aug. 3, 2005 at KSU.

Four treatments were randomized over 16 pastures — no supplementation (CON), a supplemental rate of 0.3% of body weight of DDG (LOW), a supplemental rate of 0.6% of body weight of DDG (MED), and a supplemental rate of 0.9% of body weight of DDG (HIGH); as-fed basis.

Supplement treatments were fed June 15-Aug. 3, once daily in feed bunks located in each pasture. Weights were estimated based on a projected average daily gain (ADG) of 1.8 lbs./day from May 1 to June 14. Supplements were adjusted every two weeks based on an ADG of 2 lbs./day during the supplement period of June 15 to Aug. 3.

Grazing trial results suggest providing DDG as a supplement at 0.3% body weight results in about a 0.2 lb./day increase in daily gain relative to non-supplemented cattle. Feeding at higher levels increases daily gain and may allow for higher stocking density. The researchers recommend prospective users conduct a partial budget analysis of DDG and its delivery costs to determine its financial feasibility.
— KSU Beef Tips newsletter, May 2006

Scientists working several years to eradicate brucellosis from cattle and bison herds have been stymied by outbreaks in wildlife. ARS scientists in Ames, IA, working on a new solution, which involves shooting bison.

They aren't aiming to kill the bison; they're attempting to vaccinate them without individual restraint. Using a vaccine-filled projectile, the scientists are firing it at close range into the bison's muscle tissue.

It's part of an effort by ARS scientists seeking better ways to remotely inject free-ranging bison with RB51, the most effective brucellosis vaccine. The projectile is biodegradable, and the vaccine is encased in a gel pellet, rather than a compressed pellet, to protect the live bacteria in the vaccine.

Brucellosis, a problem for cattle ranchers since the 1840s, is almost eradicated. But it's again spreading via wildlife, worrying producers who suffer severe economic loss when their herds are infected.

The National Park Service is conducting an environmental impact study to gauge whether this new projectile can be used in Yellowstone National Park to vaccinate free-ranging bison against brucellosis.
— ARS News Service