Animal Industry News Update - December 2012

Theresia Lavergne, Page, Timothy G., Hutchison, Charles F., Harborth, Karl, Navarre, Christine B., Walker, Neely, Pruitt, J. Ross  |  12/19/2012 10:34:26 PM

Diagnostic Plan for Weak and Stillborn Calves

newborn calf

Dr. Christine Navarre 

For the majority of Louisiana beef cattle producers, calving season is just around the corner. One problem that could be encountered is weak and stillborn calves. One or two weak or stillborn calves in a 50- to 100-cow herd would not be considered abnormal. But when those numbers increase, it is time to get concerned and get some answers.

Weak or stillborn calves can have both infectious and noninfectious causes. The most common noninfectious cause is poor body condition in cows. When cows drop below a body condition score of 5 at calving, the chance of having calf health problems rises. And it makes both cows and calves more susceptible to infectious diseases. Other potential causes of weak and stillborn calves are brucellosis, anaplasmosis, neosporosis, BVD, IBR, Blue Tongue disease and nitrate toxicity.

Cattle producers should have a diagnostic plan in case this occurs. While a diagnosis is not always reached, “negative” results can help rule out some problems. Sometimes it is necessary to collect samples from multiple animals to tell the whole story.

The following is a suggested list of common tests needed to solve this issue. Producers should consult with their own veterinarian to see which tests are indicated.

· Test for brucellosis
· Test for anaplasmosis
· Test for BVD
· Send any fetus/dead calf and fetal membranes to a diagnostic lab
· Collect serum from any fetus/calf born dead
· Collect pre-colostral serum on weak calves
· Collect paired serum samples on cows that abort or deliver a premature, stillborn or weak calf
· Test feedstuffs and water for nitrates
· Rule out cyanide toxicity

“New” Bedding for Broilers


Dr. Theresia Lavergne

LSU AgCenter faculty are evaluating new sources of bedding for the commercial broiler industry. These beddings are being evaluated at the Central Research Station Poultry Unit in Baton Rouge and at the Hill Farm Broiler Demonstration Houses in Homer. One of the beddings is a pelleted pine wood fiber, and the other bedding is a pelleted blend of recycled newsprint and recycled “old corrugated container” (OCC) cardboard. The recycled OCC cardboard has a chemical applied to it prior to bird placement. This chemical allows the fiber to increase its absorption of urea and phosphorus.

At the Central Research Station Poultry Unit, we have grown two flocks on the beddings, and the third flock will be placed in January. We are comparing broilers reared on wood shavings, rice hulls, pelleted pine wood fiber, and pelleted blend of recycled newsprint and recycled OCC cardboard. At total of 28 pens are being used with seven pens (replicates) of each bedding type. For the first flock, broilers reared on the pelleted wood fiber bedding were heavier at 42 days of age (5.25 lbs. vs. 5.05 lbs.), had higher average daily gain, and had higher average daily feed intake. Also, litter moisture, litter ammonium nitrogen, litter total phosphorus and litter water-soluble phosphorus were lower in pens with the pelleted pine wood fiber bedding and the pelleted blend of recycled newsprint and recycled OCC cardboard, compared with pens with wood shavings and rice hulls. There were no foot pad lesions on any broilers on any of the bedding sources.

In the second flock reared on the used beddings, there were no differences in broiler growth performance. Body weight, average daily gain, average daily feed intake and feed efficiency were the same for all broilers no matter which bedding source they were reared on. Litter moisture and litter ammonium nitrogen were lower in the pens with the pelleted pine wood fiber bedding and the pelleted blend of recycled newsprint and recycled OCC cardboard, compared with pens with wood shavings and rice hulls. The litter is being analyzed for total phosphorus and water-soluble phosphorus. Again, there were no foot pad lesions on any broilers on any of the bedding sources.

At the Hill Farm Broiler Demonstration Houses, a demonstration is being conducted to compare the pelleted blend of recycled newsprint and recycled OCC cardboard bedding with wood shavings for commercial broiler production. The first flock has just been sold, and bird growth and performance information will be available soon. Preliminary information indicates that the pelleted blend of recycled newsprint and recycled OCC cardboard had lower moisture content at the end of the 63-day grow-out period compared with the wood shavings. However, foot pad lesions were seen in broilers reared on the pelleted blend of recycled newsprint and recycled OCC cardboard. Several more flocks will be reared on these used beddings.

Broiler Production Continues to Face Positives & Negatives


Dr. Ross Pruitt

Broiler chicken production in 2012 was expected to experience approximately a 2% decline, but ready-to-cook (RTC) production is only 0.8% lower than a year ago through October. Depending on RTC production in the last two months of 2012, broiler production could be slightly higher than 2011. While it is unlikely that RTC broiler production in 2012 will exceed 2011, various factors at the beginning of 2012 pointed to a reduction, so why is broiler production so close to last year’s level of production?

Year-on-year reductions in U.S. broiler egg sets that started in the middle of 2011 continued for most of this year until early September. Since the beginning of September, egg sets have been even with last year but are 7% below the 2006-10 average. Although there was speculation that this year’s drought would reduce egg sets because of higher feed costs, there has not been a noticeable decline in egg sets or chick placements since the beginning of July, which corresponds to the beginning of reductions in 2011. Egg sets in Louisiana are actually 0.5% higher year-to-date but are 7.3% below the 2006-10 average. While egg sets (and therefore placements) have been lower this year, average live weights are slightly higher and have likely been kept in check by higher feed costs.

Component and whole-bird prices are higher than a year ago as the production cutbacks were able to limit supplies resulting in higher prices. Even though most component prices are higher than a year ago, vertically integrated firms are likely operating at break-even levels of return. The volatility in cuts destined for the fast food markets in recent months has made that portion of the chicken industry operate in the red, while whole-bird prices have been stable enough to let that portion of an integrator’s business operate in the black. Wider-than-normal grain basis levels as a result of the drought are also a factor in current profitability levels for integrators.

Export markets also have been receptive to U.S. chicken so far this year, posting a 4.5% year-to-date increase through October. Countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union (Russia, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States) and China have led the way in year-on-year increases in exports. Mexico also has posted a 22.5% increase this year. The increase in U.S. chicken exports to Mexico has somewhat offset the 25.6% decline in U.S. beef exports to Mexico this year. Combined with favorable exports despite continued worldwide economic concerns, the amount of chicken in cold storage continues to show year-on-year declines. For October, chicken in cold storage was 7% lower than a year ago.

As 2013 begins, the U.S. chicken industry still faces some significant challenges. Restoration of domestic demand through improved economic outlook would go a long way to helping restore profitability for all phases of a vertically integrated firm’s business. Continued high grain costs are another factor all animal feeding industries are facing and will not see significant relief in until at least September. Despite the positives, vertically integrated firms appear to be very cautious on expanding in the current business climate. The estimated hatchery supply flock through May 2013 is at least 3% lower than the corresponding month in 2011 or 2012. This corresponds to a minimum decline of 4.6% from the 2006-10 average. No more than 61.3 million broiler hens are forecast to be in production through May, which is the smallest since 2004 for the first five months of a year. How intensively those birds are used remains to be seen, but the broiler chicken industry appears to be holding steady for the first half of 2013.

Basic feeding for horses in winter


Dr. Neely Walker

Winter has arrived! In most other parts of the world that means increased stable time, decreased riding time and significantly different nutrient requirements for our horses. Despite Louisiana’s mild winters, decreased temperatures and wet conditions will affect the demands on the horse’s body for heat production. The energy requirements of a horse start to increase once the temperature drops below the animal’s critical temperature or the horse’s natural comfort zone. Your horse’s “critical temperature” will depend on its current nutritional status, environmental temperatures, wind and wet hair coats. When planning your winter menu for your horse, keep in mind that the lower critical temperature for a horse is approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F). For every one degree lower than this critical temperature, you should increase your horse’s feed intake by 1% of its body weight.

For example a 1,000-pound horse should receive an additional 2 pounds of hay when the temperature drops 10 degrees (from 40 F to 30 F).

It is LESS effective to feed concentrates (grain) to maintain a critical temperature. Hay (forages) is a MORE effective way to maintain critical temperature. Forages contain higher fiber content than concentrates. The digestion of fiber results in a greater amount of heat being produced than the digestion of grain. Therefore, feeding hay will keep the horse’s critical temperature stable despite the environmental conditions. Horses kept on adequate pasture should not have a problem grazing enough to maintain critical temperatures.

During cold weather, horse owners may also notice a greater frequency of impaction colic. One of the main causes of impaction colic is dehydration. Reduced water intake, combined with increased hay consumption, can lead to more incidence of colic. Maintaining the temperature of water sources at 50-65 degrees F will encourage adequate drinking (12 gallons a day).

Proper nutrition is important during the winter months. Remember that a horse will only need an additional 2 pounds of hay for every 10 degrees below 40 degrees F. It is easier to maintain body condition throughout the winter than it is to catch up if a horse is underweight. Always provide good quality forages and fresh water to maintain your horse’s health throughout the winter. Take advantage of the cooler weather and go ride!

What is this calf worth?

feeder calves

Dr. Tim Page

What is the value of a calf that is black, red and white painted with a little sheath and ear? Really, imagine a calf marked like this at 600 pounds. What is it worth? What will a buyer pay for it? As the seller, what would you expect for it?

Not many days pass without hearing from a beef cattle producer that there are biases against certain calves when selling them. Some of the biases that I routinely hear about are color (wrong color? not black?), too much ear (how much ear is too much?), and calf weight (too light? too heavy?). Are these biases real or imagined? In many cases, I strongly believe they are real. I regularly see buyers discount ($10-$18/cwt) calves for color (not black), ear (too much ear) and weight.

One problem might be that the buyers do not know the genetics of a calf (no matter what color, ear, etc.) or how it will perform on grass or in the feedlot. They do not know how it will grow, convert, yield and grade down the road. To me, an even bigger problem is that most cow/calf producers do not know how their calves will perform after they are weaned and sold. They may know their sire and dam genetics, but they have no clue how their cattle will perform (daily gain, feed conversion, cost of gains, dressing percent, yield grade, quality grade) when they leave the farm. As a producer, how can you rightfully claim bias against your calves unless you know what they are worth (how will they perform?)?

What is this calf worth? This may seem to be an imponderable question and would depend on whether you were selling or buying. If you were going to buy a truckload of black calves from a producer (please notice that I just mentioned "black" and not any particular breed) and this calf was mixed in with the load, would you wonder about the genetics of the entire load and therefore bid less due to preconceived perceptions and notions?

How about selling or marketing this calf? Looks like you had better take this calf off the load so as not to detract from your load of "black calves." The point here is if you do not know what you are selling, you have no way to determine a price for your product.

How about this as an example? A cattle producer’s wife gave her husband a box of shirts and told him to go sell the box of shirts. The producer cannot look in the box to see what he is trying to sell because the box is sealed and he has no way of knowing what type of shirts he is going to sell. For all he knows the box could contain old torn t-shirts or brand new white dress shirts. The producer finds some people gathered at the barber shop and decides to auction off the box containing the shirts. He hopes he can find someone to bid on the box of shirts. Luckily, there are some shirt vendors at the barber shop, and he starts the auction. He sells the box of shirts for 10 dollars and goes home happy. On the buyer’s end of the equation, the shirt vendor goes home and opens the box and finds to his surprise that he just made the deal of the century. The box was full of brand new white dress shirts. The other shirt vendor found out what was in box and determined that he would bid more next time, since he now knows what was in the box. It appears that the producer lost some money on this trade. If the producer had any idea of what was in the box and could have relayed this information to the buyers, his chances of increasing profits would increase dramatically. Everybody involved learned a lesson. The shirt vendors started coming to the barber shop more often, hoping to buy more boxes of shirts from this producer, knowing that they are going to make a favorable deal. And since the buyers know each other, they would really prefer not to mention exactly what was in the box to the producer, therefore continuing to make great deals.

This probably holds true for most Louisiana beef cattle producers. The calf described in this article went to the feedlot. It had an average daily gain of 3.40 pounds, feed conversion of 5.27 pounds/pound of gain, hot carcass weight of 755 pounds, 66.93% yield, yield grade of 2, quality grade of choice, marbling was Modest 00, rib eye area of 13.30 square inches, and back fat of 0.35 inches. This calf hit the industry ideal right down the middle. Had the producer not known the genetics and what type of calves he was producing, he would have been in the same situation as the producer selling shirts.

There are many ways that producers can find out how their calves perform after they leave their farm. One such way is through an educational program sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The program is the Louisiana Calf to Carcass Program. This program was started in 1992 by Mr. Dave Foster and the LSU AgCenter. It allows small producers to nominate calves into the program and retain ownership throughout the entire feedlot and slaughter process. A producer who has calves in the program will receive information on daily gains, feed conversion, cost of gain, health issues, yield grades, quality grades, rib eye area, back fat and profits/losses over feeder calf value. This valuable information then allows the producer to make more informed management decisions on herd health program, bull selection, and nutrition. As a producer, you get to find out "what’s in the box."

As a producer, if you know and have the facts about how your calves will perform, you can use the information with potential buyers to demand top dollar for your calves, no matter the color and/or the ear.

For those interested, the cow described was an F-1 Holstein X Brahman bred to a black Lim-Flex bull producing a white calf with four red stocking feet and head. Go figure!

If you or any of your producers are interested in participating in the Louisiana Calf to Carcass Program or the Louisiana Calf to Carcass Program tour (March 24-27, 2013), please contact Dr. Tim Page at or (225)578-7906. The tour will be very enjoyable and educational. We will visit ranches, stocker operations and feedyards.

Dairy Update


Dr. Charlie Hutchison

Milk Prices, Production and Cow Numbers

The Class I price for December milk production has been announced at $25.19/cwt which is $0.69 higher than the previous month. The Class I price average for 2012 is $21.26/cwt which is $1.67/cwt lower than the 2011 average of $22.93/cwt. The uniform blend price shows a similar trend with an average price for 2012 of $19.87/cwt through 11 months, which is $1.92/cwt lower than the 2011 price of $21.79/cwt.

The average pay price for November milk for Louisiana producers was $23.00/cwt depending on deductions, butterfat and premiums. The November pay price was the highest price for 2012 and was about $1.50/cwt higher than the October price. However, feed prices, in particular, along with fertilizer and fuel continue to keep input cost high, resulting in very slim profit margins. Even though the Class I price for December is higher than the November Class I price, the cash prices for cheese and butter along with Class III futures have declined significantly in December. This could result in lower prices for Class II to Class IV and a lower pay price for December milk.

The culling of dairy cows continues to be strong, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cow Slaughter under Federal Inspection by Region and U.S. Total Report released on December 13 (for the week ending December 1). A total of 65,100 dairy cows were culled, up 4,100 head (6.7%) from the previous year. The eastern United States culled 36,700 cows, which is an increase of 1,500 head (4.3%) compared to this time last year. Western states culled 28,400 dairy cows, up 2,600 head (10.1%). To date, 2.8 million cows have been culled, up 165,900 (6.2%) compared to the same time last year.

Milk production in the 23 major states during October totaled 15.2 billion pounds, down slightly from October 2011. September revised production at 14.7 billion pounds was down 0.6% from September 2011. The September revision represented a decrease of 19 million pounds or 0.1% from last month's preliminary production estimate. Year-over-year gains by Colorado (5.8%), Kansas (5%), Wisconsin (4.6%), Minnesota (2.8%) and Michigan (2.6%) led production. Idaho was up 0.8%. All 23 states were up an average of 3.5%. Production per cow in the 23 major states averaged 1,791 pounds for October, one pound above October 2011. Twelve states gained an average of 33.5 pounds, eight dropped an average of 38.7 pounds, and three states were unchanged.

The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major states was 8.47 million head, 10,000 head fewer than October 2011, and 8,000 head fewer than September 2012. Year-to-year, 11 states added cows and 10 states culled more. Since September, only Iowa added cows, with 5 states culling.

Milk Hauling Cost

A study was conducted by Corey Freije, with the Federal Milk Market administrator’s office in Minneapolis, on milk hauling charges in the Upper Midwest (Federal Order #30). The analysis reports that dairy farmers pay an average of $0.32/cwt for milk hauling.

Numerous factors go into hauling charges: pounds shipped per month, distance to plants, competition among handlers and the number of dairy farms in the market. But two things are certain: Upper Midwest dairy farmers generally pay less – much less, in fact – than producers in other regions. And the more milk a Midwest farm ships, the lower the hauling rate per hundredweight.

For example, farms shipping less than 50,000 pounds of milk per month pay a weighted average hauling charge of $0.49/cwt. Farms shipping 5 million pounds of milk per month pay a weighted average hauling charge of $0.11/cwt.

Wisconsin producers also pay the lowest rates. On a simple average basis, they pay $0.25/cwt. If you calculate the average on a weighted basis (by volume shipped per month), the Wisconsin average hauling rate drops to about $0.12/cwt.

North Dakota’s hauling rates are the highest. The simple average rate is $1.11/cwt. The weighted average is $0.56/cwt.

In 2012, producers in Louisiana paid an average of $0.95/cwt for milk hauling.

Seniors Got Milk?

A recent study conducted by European researchers analyzed the health economics of increased dairy foods boosting dietary calcium intake. The latest research reported in the journal Osteoporosis International indicates that increasing consumption of dairy foods helps to prevent hip fractures and reduce health care costs. The study was based on a new analytical model that links nutrition, fracture risk and health economics. It was based on data from the Netherlands, France and Sweden – all countries that have varying levels of dairy product intake in the population. According to coauthor Professor Rene Rizzoli, “Our study likely underestimates the potential cost savings of increased dietary calcium in that it relies on existing figures for the senior population and does not take into account the long-term benefits to the younger generation.”

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