Animal Industry News Update - December 2015

Theresia Lavergne, Page, Timothy G., Walker, Neely, Johnson, Rodney  |  12/21/2015 8:17:21 AM

Future Cattle Prices?

cash cow

Dr. Tim Page

As a young teen cattle producer, I can remember the “Old Guys” talking about cattle prices and cycles. At that early age I learned a basic concept about the cattle market: “cattle numbers up, cattle prices down; cattle numbers down, cattle prices up.” This concept still holds true today. Although, in the world we live in now, many more factors, such as political wrangling, weather conditions, corn supply, Wall Street, China’s economy, the Euro, the Yen, product safety, terrorism, “world peace” and maybe even the kitchen sink can and do affect cattle prices.

I have raised cattle all my life and have experienced cattle price cycles that lasted seven to 10 years. My imperfect attempt at drawing below perfectly illustrates cattle cycles. When one is up, the other is down. Over the past three years, cattle producers have enjoyed the highest profitability I have ever seen, or ever hoped to see. And despite the slight depression in feeder cattle and cow prices this fall, this is still true. Bottom line though, profits are still there. Heifer and bred heifer prices were astronomical this spring and summer, but that price has even dropped somewhat. Furthermore, I purchase bulls and heifers for producers every year but never as much as I have this past year. I bought over 45 bulls this spring and summer and over 550 heifers and bred heifers. If I am purchasing that many, then a lot of people are buying females with plans to increase their herds.

The feed yards are not at capacity by any means but cow numbers are increasing. Thus, we should expect placement into feedlots to increase gradually but not overnight. There will be some lag time before we see any significant increase in yard numbers. I have followed several respectable livestock economists over the years. However, they do NOT agree on the future of cattle prices. From everything that I can read and ask about, I sincerely believe that profits are there for the taking for the next few years. Also, I do not believe (some economists disagree) that we will see the traditional cattle cycles we have experienced in the past. Instead of real high cattle numbers and real low cattle prices or vice versa, I sense we will see moderation and fewer really lows and really highs.

Therefore, looking into my Wizard of ODD crystal ball, I predict the cattle industry will continue to be a great industry to be involved in for the foreseeable future. Quality producers will see quality profits. I do advise - whatever you do, do it in moderation. Increase herd numbers when you find the right quality at the right price. Become more knowledgeable cattle managers through genetics, nutrition, reproduction, herd health, value added and marketing.

The beef cattle industry has changed dramatically. The world demands not only more protein, but more quality protein, produced in quality environments. I close with the following statement that I adamantly believe in. In the future, the quality producers, that have quality cattle, that produce quality beef, will be the beneficiaries of quality profits.

Pregnancy Toxemia

ewe and lamb

Rodney Johnson

Pregnancy toxemia is a commonly occurring metabolic disease of pregnant ewes that are near term. The disease usually occurs in older ewes carrying multiple lambs and in extremely thin or overly fat ewes. Irregular feeding caused by inclement weather, or stress produced by dogs or predators, can precipitate an outbreak of pregnancy toxemia. The basic cause of pregnancy toxemia is a diet deficient in energy during late pregnancy when fetal growth is occurring very rapidly.

Ewes with early pregnancy toxemia are dull and lag behind the flock. They may grind their teeth and have labored breathing along with frequent urination. They have a general unsteadiness and may appear detached from their surroundings, and some animals tend to walk in circles or push against solid objects. In the later stages, the animals are unable to stand. Depressed activity complicates the ewe’s condition by further reducing grazing activity and feed intake. Animals that become recumbent usually die within several days.

Treatment is implemented to increase the blood sugar supply to the body. Treatment of ewes in the advanced stage of the disease is usually discouraging. If a flock outbreak appears to be occurring, concentrate feeding in the ration should be increased or initiated.

Pregnancy toxemia can be prevented by understanding the disease and utilizing proper nutrition and management. Producers should strive to prevent ewes from becoming overly fat in early pregnancy and to provide sufficient energy during the last four to six weeks of gestation.

Equine Insulin Resistance


Dr. Neely Walker

Feeding your horse is one of the most important factors in maintaining its overall health and performance. When horses digest feed, carbohydrates produce glucose (sugar), which becomes the horse’s main source of energy. Once the body recognizes the increase in available glucose, insulin is produced to regulate the glucose concentration and use throughout the body. Insulin resistance (IR) occurs when the body is no longer sensitive to the actions of insulin. Therefore, a horse that is IR will require higher quantities of insulin to properly utilize the available glucose from digested feed.

The cause of IR in horses is not fully understood, and it is likely that multiple factors contribute to this condition. These factors include diet, obesity, age, activity level and genetics. Modern feeding programs usually include high sugar/starch,which causes an increase in glucose and the amount of insulin required to regulate it. Researchers have shown that horses that are fed a high-sugar/starch diet are more likely to develop IR than horses that are fed a high-fiber/fat diet. Obese horses are more likely to become IR. However, even lean horses that can be classified as “easy-keepers” also can develop this disorder. Horses over the age of 20 are prone to developing endocrine dysfunction and as a result also develop IR. The level of activity your horse has also plays a role in IR development. Regular exercise will utilize the excess glucose causing a reduction of insulin; therefore, active horses have a reduced chance of developing IR.

Horses that are IR often have a body condition score of six or higher with irregular fat deposits, can be described as “easy-keepers” and may have bouts of unexplained sore hooves and laminitis. If you suspect your horse may be IR, it is important that you have your veterinarian diagnose it as soon as possible. If untreated, IR can lead to decreased pancreatic function and potentially cause the development of type II diabetes.

It is important to note that management practices utilized in the first 10 years of a horse’s life can predispose it to becoming IR. Prevention always is preferred. The following management techniques can help you treat and prevent insulin resistance.

· Avoid obesity (body condition score of 7 or higher) by adjusting your feeding protocol.

· Limit grazing, especially in the spring and fall when cool grasses contain the most sugar.

· Limit concentrates and feed grain with low sugar and starch (i.e. NO MOLASSAS) only if needed.

· Provide exercise and turn out time for your horse; Turn out should be done in a dry lot or an arena to reduce the chance of consuming high-starch grasses.

· Maintain adequate hoof care to help reduce future laminitis.

· Ensure a proper diet that is specific to your horse. Many IR horses that are fed a restricted diet do not get all of the required nutrients. Work with your veterinarian or a nutritional consultant to determine if additional supplements are needed.

Insulin resistance in horses can create a management challenge for owners, as well as decrease overall performance. If you suspect your horse may be suffering with IR, contact your veterinarian immediately. Maintaining a healthy balance between diet and exercise can help prevent insulin resistance in your horse.

1. Frank, N. 2006. Insulin Resistance in Horses. Endocrinology. Vol 52, pg 51-53.
2. Adams, M. 2009. Feeding the Insulin Resistant Horse. MFA Inc. FactSheet.
3. Treiber, K., Kronfeld, D., & R. Geor. 2006. Insulin Resistance in Equids: Possible Role in Laminitis. Journal of Nutrition. Vol. 136 no. 7 pg 2094s-2098s.

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