Technology in today's world of nano-this and wireless-that is tough to tame, especially if most of the day is spent at the pasture or pen working all types of cattle in all types of conditions in hopes of penciling in a profit.

But the recent Cattle Industry Tradeshow in Reno, NV, attests to the fact that companies are harnessing new technology to provide producers and feeders with hands-on products and services aimed at improving cattle performance.

The BEEF New Product Tour covered territory from enhanced fly control products to new DNA markers to determine feed efficiency genetics. Making the tour to critique the new offerings were BEEF staff and two independent observers — John Schafer, a Buffalo Lake, MN, Hereford producer; and Clay Mathis, New Mexico State University Extension livestock specialist in Las Cruces.

Revalor®-XS growth implant from Intervet

Implanting cattle is a proven performance-enhancing tool, and reimplanting has provided an extra boost for cattle after the midway point of feeding. But reimplanting can cause added stress on cattle. The answer could be Revalor®-XS, a steer implant containing both the initial and second implant pellets.

It's the first combination, delayed-release implant for steers fed in confinement that delivers reimplant performance in just one application, says Jim Miles, Intervet Inc. marketing manager for beef cattle.

“It delivers the proven Revalor performance technology of trenbolone acetate and estradiol that cattle feeders trust to improve cattle-performance traits,” he adds.

The new product provides the same dosage as a Revalor-IS implant followed by a Revalor-S. There are four uncoated pellets and six pellets with the X-7 polymer coating for delayed release. At about 70 days, the same time reimplanting would take place, the coated pellets are released at rates to provide performance benefits.

“We're getting the value of enhanced performance of the two implants, in addition to removing the hassle of the two-implant process,” says Eric Alsup, vice president, Intervet's Animal Health Business.

Schafer, who also feeds out calves, says the new implant concept should work very well. He's waiting on additional data from Revalor-XS expected for commercial release by mid-summer. “If it looks favorable, I'll probably try this implant,” he says.

Mathis says cattle feeders “will embrace this new technology, primarily because it has the potential to reduce the labor involved with reimplanting.”

The new implant's cost wasn't yet established at press time. For more on Revalor-XS, visit www.intervetusa.com.

ClariFly® from Central Life Sciences

A new larvicide designed to control house and stable flies, ClaiFly® is a feed-through product with the active ingredient Diflubenzuron.

Launched last fall, its primary focus is confined cattle. It passes through the cattle's digestive system into manure where flies breed. Larvae consume the active ingredient, which prevents them from developing into adults.

“It interrupts the fly cycle,” says Central Life Sciences' Mark Taylor. He says farmer-feeder and dairy trials indicate ClariFly used in a good Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program gives the producer “a favorable level” of fly control.

“These are nuisance flies that transmit disease and affect beef cattle productivity,” Taylor says. “Losses can be attributed to reduced weight grains and decreased feed efficiency caused by loss of blood and excessive energy expenditure from battling flies.”

The product controls organophosphate- and pyrethroid-resistant flies. “It's a management tool in a complete IPM program,” Taylor says. Cost of ClariFly is about 4¢/head/day.

“It should fill a niche for cattle in confinement during the fly season,” Schafer says. “I like the product's safety for humans, livestock and the environment. I'll be trying ClariFly this summer.”

For more on ClariFly, visit www.centralflycontrol.com.

GrowSafe Beef® individual animal management

GrowSafe Systems introduces a unique system for measuring individual animal performance with its GrowSafe Beef® system. It features fully automated real-time technology that continuously monitors and measures individual performance in the pen.

Set up at pen watering areas, an animal's front legs activate the system when it comes to drink. The animal's partial body weight is scanned and converted to the full body weight. In a typical day, at least 4-6 weight points are measured by the system.

The system allows feedyards to determine when cost of gain begins to exceed the value of gain. “This provides the feedyard with a unique growth curve and prediction into the future,” says Alison Sunstrum, GrowSafe vice president. “We also monitor an animal's frequency and duration at the water trough. We can get a better idea if it's becoming sick.”

The University of Missouri's Monty Kerley is among animal scientists from three universities observing the GrowSafe system, which is also under test at five commercial feedyards. “We've never had a chance to say ‘when is that calf ready to go to market?’ With this system, we can calculate average daily gain after 15 days on feed, then project that growth accurately 45 days into the future,” Kerley says.

GrowSafe data shows that marketing cattle when the gain cost exceeds the gain's value results in an average profit increase of $15.26/head.

Sunstrum adds that when an animal becomes sick, it's automatically marked with spray paint. Pen riders can easily remove the marked animals.

GrowSafe data shows that marketing cattle when the gain cost exceeds the gain's value results in an average profit increase of $15.26/head.

Sunstrum adds that when an animal becomes sick, it's automatically marked with spray paint. Pen riders can easily remove the marked animals.

She says the cost of the program is about $5/head and will soon be commercially available. “We put all our technology through rigorous testing before it goes to market. We want scientific and producer validation.”

Mathis says GrowSafe technology “has tremendous value as a research tool.” He also sees great potential in its behavior-monitoring capability for early diagnosis of sickness in feedlot cattle.

Schafer says he sees many possible applications for this technology, “and would love to have it” when it becomes cost-effective for small operations. “The possibilities for data collection in research projects are enormous, and it should be of great use in large feedlot groups. As a seedstock producer, I would love to have one in each pasture.”

To learn more, visit www.growsafe.com.

Digi-Star StockWeigh 4600EID scale indicator

Digi-Star's new scale indicator helps expedite entering and measuring of data on cattle visual ID, premises ID, group/pen numbers, multiple code fields and Quick Data notes.

The indicator features an alphanumeric keypad and is compatible with major electronic ID readers. It also offers Bluetooth wireless compatibility and data export via the industry standard .csv format, and can store data for 10,000 animal files.

Greg Cook, Digi-Star software technician, says when an animal steps on the scale, the handler can read electronic ear tags or enter visual ID to collect data. Data can then be entered into the StockWeigh 4600EID.

“The new indicator easily calibrates to all Digi-Star StockWeigh load-cell systems through its menu, and offers cattlemen an economical tool for collecting basic animal management data,” he says, noting the basic unit cost is about $1,000. “Data can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet on your PC or incorporated into leading herd management software.”

Hard-copy data printouts can make measuring and recording shrinkage and other factors of shipping cattle more efficient.

“There's no question data collection and utilization will become increasingly important in the beef industry,” Mathis says. “This scale head is among a number of tools that can help producers more easily collect and manage information.”

Schafer likes the fact that units have been tested in -60 °F weather, and passed. “It appears to be solidly built,” he says. “The keyboard looks convenient, and keys are big enough for use while wearing gloves.”

For more on the StockWeigh 4600EID, visit www.digi-star.com.

GeneSTAR® feed efficiency marker

The ability to measure DNA and cattle traits is among the most advanced technological feats of the past few years. GeneSTAR's new marker panel test for feed efficiency from Bovigen, LLC is the newest offering.

“We have identified four markers for feed efficiency,” says Calvin Gunter, director of Bovigen corporate development. “It tests for feed intake (or residual feed intake). It identifies differences related to the amount of feed or forage an animal eats while keeping gain, yield, quality and everything else the same.

“So, for the first time, producers can make genetic selection and sorting decisions based only on which animal will eat less, with all other things the same.”

In the GeneSTAR feed-efficiency program, an animal that eats less while gaining the same as others would have a negative net feed intake, or “superior feed efficiency,” Gunter says. And tests on bulls at a Childress, TX ranch indicate the most “negative” performers had close to a $40/head advantage over more “positive” performers.

“With the quality-grade markers and tenderness markers, it depends on what someone will pay for a premium for the added value,” Gunter says. “With GeneSTAR Feed Efficiency, it's truly a product for low cost of production. It works for those focused on being low-cost producers, including those looking at retained ownership.”

A producer submits cattle hair, tissue, semen or blood samples to Bovigen. The feed-efficiency test is included in the quality-grade and tenderness test. Sample DNA marker readings are taken. Producers receive test results in about a week, which can help indicate which animals can perform well on less feed. Cost is about $65/head for the feed efficiency, quality-grade and tenderness marker testing.

Schafer believes DNA testing will have a big future impact, but he's waiting on further advances. “As tests for more of the many genes affecting feed efficiency are added, I'll definitely be interested in using this test as a supplement to other feed-efficiency data,” he says. “I would also like to see more independent research trials to verify the data.”

Mathis says that with the increasing cost of feed, improving feed efficiency becomes even more important. “Any reasonably priced tool that helps in selecting cattle for efficiency, when balanced with other important selection criteria, has potential benefit,” he says.

Visit www.bovigen for more information.

QuikStrike® Fly Scatter Bait

Central Life Sciences QuikStrike® Fly Scatter Bait is “a new, fast-acting weapon against nuisance flies,” says Mark Taylor, business manager for Central Life Sciences. QuikStrike is also designed to fit into an IPM program; its active ingredient is Dinotefuran, a broad-based insecticide.

“QuikStrike scatter bait goes after house flies, which are sugar feeders,” Taylor says. “The active ingredient is new to the market to provide an additional tool for fly control.”

In the control program, sugar granules containing the insecticide and an attractant are scattered over an area or placed in a Starbar bait station. Flies land on it, consume the sugar, then die within seconds.

“It appears this product should provide good control and is acceptable for use around humans and animals,” Mathis says. Schafer adds he could see using the product around his stables. “Our cattle have fly tags,” he says, “and this product could help break up the insecticide rotation even more.”

For more on QuikStrike, go to www.starbarproducts.com.

Larry Stalcup is a freelance writer based in Amarillo, TX.