Beef Cattle Browsing – January 2021

January Beef Cattle Browsing 
Edited by: Dr. Stephen P. Hammack, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Emeritus, Stephenville, and Dr. Joe C. Paschal, Extension Livestock Specialist, Corpus Christi.

Scientists at the U. S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), Clay Center, NE, studied effects of passive immunity in calves. Blood samples were collected 24 hours after calving to assess amount of passive maternal immunity obtained from colostrum, the first milk produced at birth. Calves were classified as either “Inadequate” or “Adequate” passive immune status based on that blood sample. Rate of gain and health were monitored from birth to weaning, and after weaning through finishing.

Lowest levels of passive immunity were in calves that were sick or died prior to weaning.  Calves with Inadequate passive immunity had 6.4 times greater risk of sickness during the first 28 days of life, a 3.2 times greater risk of sickness any time prior to weaning, and a 5.4 times greater risk of death before weaning, compared to calves with Adequate passive transfer.  Passive immune status also was indirectly associated with rate of gain through effects on health. Sickness during the first 28 days after birth was associated with a 35-pound lower expected weaning weight.

Based on 24-hour proteins (most of which are antibodies or immunoglobulins) in the blood, risk of sickness in the feedlot was also three times greater for Inadequate compared to Adequate calves.  Respiratory disease in the feedlot resulted in 0.09 lb. lower expected average daily gain. Thus, passive immunity obtained from colostrum was an important factor in health both pre- and post-weaning and indirectly influenced rate of gain during both periods.

Some factors to consider in passive immunity are:

– Calves born to first-calf two-year-old heifers can be more likely to have lower passive immunity. Breeding heifers to known or documented calving-ease bulls should reduce difficult births and sluggishness in calves at birth. Such calves can be reluctant or unable to nurse as soon as desirable and thus do not receive adequate colostrum.

– Cow calf producers can benefit themselves and any future owners by properly growing replacement heifers, providing a good health program for cows and heifers, and providing natural or commercial colostrum products to calves that do not receive it in adequate quantities.

Most transfer of antibodies from colostrum to the calf occurs in the first 6 hours after birth. The first day sets the stage from there on!

Source: Wittum and Perino. 1995. Amer. Jour. Of Vet. Research. 56:1149. Summarized from Oklahoma State Univ. Cow-Calf Corner Newsletter, Jan. 4, 2021, Dr. Glenn Selk

“I want you as an operator to get outside your box. Think outside your operation,” Greg Goudeau, owner and manager of Navasota Livestock Auction in Navasota, Texas, told a packed house at the 2019 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course.

Goudeau shared with producers some key insights he has received from a lifetime of working in several facets of the cattle industry. He said that marketing calves doesn’t take away the flexibility of selling calves whenever the time is right. “You can be a marketer and still bring them to the sale barn any given day.”

  1. Know what the industry is looking for: quality –

“Auction markets do not work against you. We want you to make money. We want to reward you, but we can only work with what you bring us,” he said, and reminds producers that as a cattle buyer, he works on commission. “The higher the price that we can get for you, the better we do, and the better you do.”

Goudeau stressed that knowing what the industry is looking for is critical to marketing your calves. Thanks to success stories like the Certified Angus Beef program, black-hided cattle are en vogue at the moment, so keep that in mind when planning for next year’s calves.

“You have got to stay out of the elimination categories. You have got to stay in the mainstream because that is what the order buyers want,” he said. “They get paid on commission. Do you think they really want to sit there and watch a whole bunch of spotted calves at the sale if they don’t have an order for them?”

  1. No novelties –

Goudeau says “novelty breeds,” including but not limited to miniature breeds, dairy breeds, longhorns, Corrientes and show cattle will face severe discounts in the sale ring and are not generally wanted in the feedlot. Additionally, Goudeau said packers don’t like breeds with big-base horns, including longhorns, Corrientes and some Brahman-influenced cattle because the big horns can make cattle difficult to process and can slow down production, so cattle buyers working for packing plants will be hesitant to buy such cattle.

“When you bring us these novelty breeds, we sale barns will take them and do the best job that we can to get them through,” Goudeau said. “But you are a true price taker, not a marketer, when you get down to this.”

  1. Herd health is a must –

Implementing a herd health program is critical to setting calves up for success. Goudeau advised including both your vet and your buyer when working up a herd health program. The buyer, who is in tune with the cattle market and has the inside track on what is and is not desirable in a calf at the sale, and who, at the end of the day, will be the one buying calves, will have valuable insights on what a good vaccination program should include.

A solid herd program also starts while the calf is still on the cow. Don’t wait until it’s time to send them to the sale barn to start their health program. Goudeau stressed the use of modified vaccine on calves. As a buyer, he says he won’t buy calves that haven’t been vaccinated. “Proper vaccination is your responsibility, and in my opinion, a major part of animal welfare,” he said. “We do a great job as producers of going to a bull sale and buying the best bull, the best cows, buying everything – and forgetting herd health. We have got to get these calves prepared; we have got to get them ready for the next level.”

  1. Castrate –

Castration is also a must. Goudeau gave an example of the price difference castration makes. If a 780-pound bull calf brings $1.05 per pound, and a 780-pound steer brings $1.25 per pound, there is a price difference of more than $150. “You became a price taker by sending that bull calf there. You would have been a marketer, even in a sale barn, if you had made him a steer and brought him to the barn as a steer.”

  1. Don’t tolerate crazy cattle –

Goudeau told producers to “quit being a hero” and get rid of their wild cows ¬– the ones that lurk at the far end of the pasture and are the first to jump and run – even if they produce a calf every year. “There are way too many cattle in the industry to be dealing with something like this,” he said. “They produce genetics too. What do you think their calves are going to be like?”

  1. Load them properly –

Loading cattle properly can make a big difference in stress levels and condition when they get to the sale barn. “You’ve worked hard to raise these calves, and when they arrive at the sale barn all stressed and dirty, it does not reflect well on you.” Goudeau encouraged using the separator gates in stock trailers to keep calves from piling on top of each other during loading and transit and avoiding overcrowding loads.

  1. Global markets –

The price of calves at the sale barn is constantly changing. A lot of different factors impact the sale price, and staying aware of those factors, whether they directly affect you or not, helps you keep tabs on the current cattle market. “We are in a total global market these days.” Keep up with the market via the reports that are easily accessible online from most livestock auctions or ag publications.

  1. Market timing –

Avoid selling your cattle during fall run. “As a rule of thumb, do not sell calves between Labor Day and Thanksgiving,” Goudeau said. “The whole system is not set up to handle all of these calves from everybody at one time that are unvaccinated, unweaned and high risk.” Also, the temperature swings during the warm days and cold nights can wreak havoc on travel-stressed calves.

  1. Traceability –

Is animal ID coming, or is it already here? Goudeau said the transition to an active animal disease traceability program will have to be market driven. “If they find out that a tagged calf is worth 150 dollars more a head, all of a sudden, we’re going to get a lot smarter on tagging,” he quipped. “If they’re worth 5 dollars more a head, the response might not be as enthusiastic.” Although the USDA has suspended their national traceability plan for the moment, the issue is not going away.

  • No weak, sick or injured animals –

Goudeau strongly advised disposing of extremely sick and injured animals at the ranch instead of sending them staggering into the sale ring, where their poor looks and performance reflects negatively on both the sale barn and the rancher, from a consumer standpoint. “Don’t expose her to the rest of the industry. Don’t jeopardize everybody else by the decision that you make to try to get another 25 to 50 dollars,” he says. “It’s not worth it to the whole industry.”


Editor’s note: This was a session at the 2019 TAM Beef Cattle Short Course

Dr. Rhonda Miller, Texas A&M Animal Science Professor and Meats Scientist, raised several important points in a review of the history and of animal cell cultures and potential issues with their use as food. The culturing of cells is not new, since the 1970s cell culture tissues have been used in research to “understand basic muscle tissue growth, the impact of disease states on tissue growth and development, and the development of medical treatments”.

Dr. Miller addressed the meat science challenges with cultured meat including the classification of cell-cultured products as “meat”. How does the conversion of cells into meat occur? Meat contractile state, pH, and color are all affected by the process and all affect shelf life, meat palatability, and consumer acceptance.

Another factor of tremendous importance is cross-contamination. In traditional harvesting and processing, the strategies, or interventions to prevent cross contamination of meat are well documented and time tested and may not be applicable to cell cultured products. In addition, there is a concern about the nutrient content of the product and how the product would react to different cooking or preparation methods (curing, smoking, drying, etc.). Knowing all of these factors are vital to consumer acceptance.

Dr. Miller discusses in detail regulatory issues and the responsibility of USDA and FDA and summarizes the history and products of several current cell culture food companies. She indicates that initially these products were seen by the food animal industries as competitors, and there still could be some competition, in the short term the cell cultured protein industry will be providing a product for specialty markets or up-scale or sustainability-minded customers. She reminds us that as the world population grows, the cell cultured protein industry may provide ways to locally produce animal-based protein in areas where livestock production is limited.

Miller, R.K. 2020.  A 2020 synopsis of the cell-cultured animal industry.  Animal Frontiers, Volume 10, Issue 4, October 2020, Pages 64–72,

Editor’s note: Culturing of animal cells to produce food is a very hot topic to touch on, especially in a beef newsletter. However, beef producers need to know the expectations and limitations of their competition if they are to feed the world.

Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification or genetic manipulation, is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genes using biotechnology. It is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms. New DNA is obtained by either isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using recombinant DNA methods or by artificially synthesizing the DNA. A construct is usually created and used to insert this DNA into the host organism.

Agency: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Department of Agriculture (USDA); Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA. Advance notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comments.

Summary: We are soliciting public comment on establishing regulations for the movement of certain animals modified or developed by genetic engineering. Under the regulatory framework being contemplated, the United States Department of Agriculture would promulgate regulations using the authorities granted to the Department through the Animal Health Protection Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). Pursuant to these authorities, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would conduct a safety assessment of animals subject to the FMIA or PPIA that have been modified or developed using genetic engineering that may increase the animal’s susceptibility to pests or diseases of livestock, including zoonotic diseases, or ability to transmit the same. The Food Safety and Inspection Service would conduct a pre-slaughter food safety assessment to ensure that the slaughter and processing of certain animals modified or developed using genetic engineering would not result in a product that is adulterated or misbranded. We will consider all comments that we receive on or before February 26, 2021.

Full text: (United States Animal Health Association, 12/30/2020)

Editor’s note: Some people are concerned about genetic engineering of livestock and other animals. Concerns include possible negative effects from consuming product derived from animals receiving such procedures. Such concerns have not been validated by facts found through research. Others simply do not like the idea of artificially changing genetic makeup. Regardless, USDA plans to develop regulations in this area. Production and marketing of products derived from genetically engineered livestock could be influenced by such action.

BQA Tip for January
Dr. Jason Banta, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Overton

Unfortunately dealing with drought is part of being in the cattle business. During droughts it is important to make decisions with both the short- and long-term success of the operation in mind. Take inventory of forage and feed resources and cow needs and consider if it makes sense to purchase feed to stretch supplies or if some herd reduction is needed. In most droughts early reductions in herd size are best from a financial standpoint. Regardless of what decision is made be mindful of cow BCS and the impact it has on selling prices or future pregnancy rates.


Contact Us!

Contact us at 979-314-8507 or for any questions.

Follow Us!

Sign Up!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Website Design By Ranch House Designs, Inc.

Copyright © 2022. Beef Cattle Short Course. All rights reserved.