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Title: Range Cattle REC newsletter
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089215/00019
 Material Information
Title: Range Cattle REC newsletter
Series Title: Range Cattle REC newsletter
Physical Description: Serial
Creator: Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Publisher: Range Cattle Research and Education Center, University of Florida
Publication Date: March 2004
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Bibliographic ID: UF00089215
Volume ID: VID00019
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Full Text

Calendar of Events
Month Date(s)
March 25
May 5-7
May 19
June 16-18

NFREC Beef Field Day
Beef Cattle Short Course
STARS Field Day
FCA Annual Convention

Marianna, FL
Gainesville, FL
Brooksville, FL
Marco Island, FL

LJ -- -- 5-_*-~ ---- -
Declining Overall Cow Herd Trend Continues: Beef Herd Remains Stable ....................... 2
W eight G ains for C ow s in Spring ............................................................................... .. ...... 3
Pasture and H ayfield W eed Control .................................................................................... 3
Using Charolais Crossbred Heifers as Replacements...................... ..... .............. 4
Liveweight Gain of Meat Goats Grazing Leucaena-Bahiagrass Pasture ..................... .... 5
The Use of Organic Trace Minerals in the Commercial Cowherd ....................................... 6
P astu re In sect P ests of C on cern ................................................................................................... 7

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University of Florida, IFAS
Range Cattle Research and Education Center
March 2004
Volume 7, Number I

Rsna Ca!IsRE N W14~tg

Declining Overall Cow Herd Trend
Continues: Beef Herd Remains Stable

In the past, I have mentioned the tell
tale sign of a new cattle cycle is an increase
in heifer retention. Twice a year the USDA
releases its cattle inventory estimates. These
estimates give the reader a glimpse into the
industry psychology and of what to expect
for the next couple of years.
The National Agricultural Statistics
Service (NASS) branch of the USDA
released its latest cattle inventory numbers
and estimates on January 30. They show
that cattle inventories have continued the
downward trend that began in 1996. The
cattle industry is into the 15th year of the
cattle cycle, and there are no clear
indications of a herd expansion. However,
there are signs of stabilization particularly in
the beef herd.
Florida's cattle inventory numbers
were in line with the national trend. Overall
2004 Florida cattle and calves inventory is
estimated to be down one percent to 1.74
million head from 1.75 million head in
2003. All cows that had calved are
estimated to be down 10,000 head to just
under 1.1 million. Beef cows that had
calved totaled 950,000, down less than one
percent from 2003, and milk cows that had
calved totaled 140,000, down five percent
from 2003. Calf crop numbers show a one
percent decline from 930,000 head in 2002
to 920,000 head in 2003.
Heifer hold-backs are a key indicator
of potential herd expansion and the
inventory numbers show little evidence of
such a trend beginning. Beef cow
replacements in Florida are up from 130,000
to 140,000 head. Milk cow replacements
held steady at 40,000 head. However, this is
not consistent with the national figures beef
and dairy replacement heifers were down

two percent each. Nationally, there is every
indication that the current cycle will last into
2005 and beyond which can potentially
translate to continued strong cattle prices for
at least two more years barring any
unforeseen negative impacts. The already
tight fed beef supplies will only get tighter
as a result of these shrinking numbers
further helping maintain prices in the current
economic conditions.
One significant change is that cattle
on feed are up four percent from 2003. At
the same time, all calves under 500 pounds
along with non-replacement heifers and
steers over 500 pounds not on feed is down
four percent. This is a reflection of the very
strong prices at the end of 2003, but it is
partly a reflection of the BSE impacts in
Canada and the US on the beef supply.
First, fewer cattle are not on feed because
supplies tightened with the closing of the
border to Canadian cattle. While, the
closure of foreign borders to US beef has
allowed the supply to the domestic market to
loosen a bit. Couple these factors with the
strong prices, and there is little reason or
incentive to keep of age cattle off feed.
This year's USDA inventory report
did not include figures on the number of
cattle operations.
With the inventory numbers showing
a continued decline in the national herd and
not any evidence of herd rebuilding, the
implications on the market are favorable for
the industry to continue to deal with the
closed borders. Last year's beef production
fell as a result of lighter carcass weights, but
a higher slaughter rate helped keep beef
production over 26 million pounds.
Outstanding prices in 2003 allowed every
sector of the industry to enjoy robust profits.
With little price and no demand impact as a
result of BSE in Washington State, the
profitability should remain favorable. When

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foreign markets do reopen on a broader
scale, supplies will tighten again. Shrinking
calf crops still translate to shrinking
supplies. This means that prices should
remain strong through the next couple of
year. The decline in calf numbers will also
continue impact the total beef production.
With beef demand continuing to be strong,
do not be surprised to see another rise in the
retail price of beef over the next 12 months.
The only question that remains is how high
can retail beef prices get before demand is
severely impacted?

Weight Gains for Cows in Spring

The rate of weight recovery by cows
after winter can be astonishingly great with
good bahiagrass pasture. At the beginning
of March 2003, Braford cows wintered
(October to February) on range at the Range
Cattle REC weighed an average 939 lb with
a body condition score (BCS) of 3.6. By
June first at the end of the 90 day breeding
season, their weight was 1123 lb with a BCS
of 5.1. While these cows received 5
lb/hd/day of natural protein-molasses slurry,
bahiagrass pasture growth was excellent.
Rainfall totals for March, April, and May
were 1.1, 1.8, and 1.7 inches above the 61-
year means for these months. Minimum
monthly temperatures for these months were
all above the long-term means, especially
for March when the average low
temperature was 9.2 oF warmer than normal.
This combination of weather conditions
along with 300 lb/acre of a 16-4-16 fertilizer
in February 2003 meant abundant, highly
nutritious bahiagrass-carpon desmodium
Early spring fertilization pays and
can provide the most economical, nutritious
bahiagrass pasture possible. While results
are dependent on weather, you can only take

advantage of the benefit if you take the
initiative to fertilize. You may not need to
fertilize all bahiagrass pastures each year,
but limit fertilization to what is needed to
meet grazing needs for March to June.

Pasture and Hayfield Weed Control

Weed control is essential for
establishing and maintaining high quality
pasture. Weeds should be controlled in
established pastures annually or at least
biannually to reduce competition with
desirable grasses for plant nutrients, water,
sunlight, etc. Uncontrolled weeds produce
high concentrations of seed in the soil. For
example one large tropical soda apple (TSA)
plant will produce about 450,000 seed/yr. If
each seed germinated and occupied 1 ft2 a
10+ acre area could be covered by TSA
Weed management can be
accomplished by cultural, mechanical, and
chemical methods. Seeding or planting
pasture grasses at a high density will help
control weeds (cultural). Mowing
(mechanical) is the most popular method
and can be quite effective on some weeds.
Mowing prior to flowering stage will
eliminate seed formation and prevent weeds
from spreading. Mowing will generally
provide more effective control of
broadleaves than grasses and annual than
perennial weeds.
Currently, there are few herbicides
(chemical control) available for use in
pastures. The most popular broadleaf
herbicide is Weedmaster which is a
combination of 2.87 lb/gal 2, 4-D and 1.0
lb/gal dicamba. This chemical formulation
can be purchased under various trade names.
Weedmaster is generally used at a rate of
1.5 lb/A or 1.5 qts/A (4 lb/gal formulation).
This rate will control dog fennel from 6 in to

Page 3 of 8

2 ft along with Oldfield toadflax, Primrose
willow, Carolina geranium, Wondering
cudweed, Spreading dayflower, young
pigweed, lambsquarters, Mexican tea, etc.
However, there are numerous weeds not
controlled by Weedmaster. Best weed
control is obtained when weeds are
sprayed at the immature stage generally
mid to late March in central Florida. The
combinations of 2, 4-D + dicamba can be
used on most perennial pasture grasses, but
not on limpograss/Hemarthria or seedlings
of suerte/atra paspalum.
Broadleaf weed control in
limpograss requires 0.75 to 1.0 lb/A and
seedlings of suerte 0.5 lb/A dicamba.
Tests at the Ona REC during the
spring of 2003 revealed that Cimarron at
0.3 oz/A + Weedmaster at 1 lb/A + 6
oz/100 gal water of silicone surfactant
provided excellent control of numerous
broadleaf weeds including goatweed. This
herbicide combination can be used on
stargrass, bermudagrass, and pangolagrass
pastures but not on Pensacola bahiagrass.
Cimarron at 0.3 oz/A + 6 oz silicone
surfactant/100 gal water provided good
broadleaf weed control including goatweed
in limpograss with only a very slight
suppression. Cimarron provides good
control of hard to kill weeds like thistle,
pigweed, Florida pellitory etc.
Redeem R & P at 1.5 lb/A + 6 oz
silicone surfactant/100 gal water will also
control selected broadleaf weeds and is
especially good on Black nightshade.
Redeem has no effect on limpograss,
stargrass, bahiagrass, or bermudagrass
(except Florakirk) which experiences some
suppression. Remember regardless of
herbicide used try to apply in mid to late
March after weed emergence but before
plants attain heights beyond 12 in.
Smutgrass and Tropical soda apple control
will be discussed in the next issue. For

additional information call 863-735-1314.

Using Charolais Crossbred Heifers as

In crossbreeding plans involving
Charolais bulls the term "terminal cross" is
often used. "Terminal cross" means that all
calves, both steers and heifers, will be sold
at weaning with no heifers kept for
The most popular continental breed
used in the U.S. is the Charolais, a French
breed. Charolais gained popularity in the
1950's and 1960's, but fell out of vogue in
the 1970's for a number of reasons.
Charolais has regained much of its
popularity in the last fifteen years, primarily
from the use of Charolais bulls in
commercial crossbreeding programs. In
Florida, Charolais bulls have been used in
many cow herds containing Brahman and
English crossbred brood cows.
In 1963, Mr. Mac Peacock initiated a
crossbreeding study at the Range Cattle
REC at Ona that involved Charolais,
Brahman and Angus breeds. The study was
designed to evaluate the three purebreds and
all possible two-way crosses between the
three breeds..
One outcome of the study was that
Brahman genetics is very important for
adaptability whether in combination with
Angus or Charolais breeds. It was also
observed that Brahman x Charolais
crossbred cows performed equally well as
Brahman x Angus crossbred cows. These
comparisons were for both cow reproduction
performance and calf weaning weight.
These research data indicate that
heifer calves resulting from crossbreeding
Charolais x Brahman will make good
replacements into a commercial breeding
herd. Another acceptable breeding plan

Page 4 of 8

could involve breeding Brangus or Braford
type cows to Charolais bulls. Heifers from
these crosses could be bred to Angus or
Hereford bulls. This would likely be a
"terminal cross" because the level of
Brahman genetics may be too low for cows
in south Florida. However, these heifers
should make good brood cows in the more
temperate climate of north Florida and other
areas in the Southeast.
Recently the author visited the
Lightsey Ranch near Lake Wales, Florida.
This ranch has a large herd of crossbred
brood cows developed by breeding Braford
cows to Charolais bulls. This herd is bred
back to Angus bulls and has an excellent
weaning rate of heavy feeder calves that
attract top dollar when marketed.
In summary, a production plan
involving breeding Brahman or Brahman
derivative breeds to Charolais bulls will
produce replacement heifers very acceptable
for use in commercial breeding herds in
south Florida. If these heifers and cows are
then bred to Angus, Hereford, or back to
Charolais bulls resulting females should be
marketed for feeding and slaughter. They
could possibly be marketed as breeding
stock in north Florida and other temperate
regions in the Southeast.

Liveweight Gain of Meat Goats Grazing
Leucaena-Bahiagrass Pasture

We wanted to evaluate the value of
incorporating a browse plant in the diet of
grazing Boer goats. The browse plant was
leucaena K636, a new selection of Leucaena
leucocephala, a tropical leguminous shrub
that is dependable and produces nutritious
forage in south Florida. The selection K636
has proved to be one of the most productive
and adapted selections in central and south
Florida. Between July and November of

2003, we grazed recently-weaned, three-
quarter Boer x Spanish wethers and does
(average weight 38 lb at start) in
leucaena+bahiagrass pastures. Leucaena was
planted in three rows (rows 3 ft apart
between and within rows) with a 16-ft alley
of bahiagrass between the triple rows.
Liveweight gains of the goats were
compared with those of two other groups
that grazed bahiagrass with soybean meal
supplementation at 50% daily requirement
(50% protein) or without supplementation
(control). Goats in all three treatment groups
were stocked at 11 goats/acre, and received
one-third of their daily energy requirement
through a mixed ration of cracked corn, soy
hulls and molasses. Goats on bahiagrass
were continuously stocked while those on
bahiagrass+leucaena sequentially grazed
two equally-sized paddocks, and moved
between paddocks every 28 or 56 days,
depending on the availability of leucaena
leaves. Goats on bahiagrass+leucaena were
inoculated with the "leucaena bug"
(Synergistes jonesii, a bacteria necessary to
fully digest leucaena in the rumen) prior to
the start of grazing.
Available bahiagrass averaged 4500
lb dry matter/acre in the 50% protein and
control pastures and 3200 lb dry matter/acre
in the bahiagrass+leucaena pastures. At the
11 goats/acre, grass was not limiting
throughout the grazing period. Leaves
available from the leucaena varied between
90 lb dry matter/acre in July to 21 lb dry
matter/acre in October, but the goats had
access to enough leaves to provide
supplementary grazing at least 30% of their
daily dry matter requirement. Previous
studies in central Florida showed that K636
leaves contain no less than 30% crude
protein and had in vitro digestibility of about
50 to 55%.
Goats on leucaena+bahiagrass
gained 19 lb/head during the grazing season

Page 5 of 8

compared with an average of 9 lb/head on
50% protein and control treatments. The
trend in the average daily liveweight gain is
noteworthy. In August, the first month of
grazing, goats on all pastures had similar
weight gains. In September and October,
goats on leucaena+bahiagrass had gained
twice as much as those on 50% protein and
control treatments. By November, goats on
leucaena+bahiagrass maintained their
summer weight gain whereas those on 50%
protein had lost weight. Low gains of cattle
on bahiagrass in July and August is a well-
known phenomenon, and is thought to be
due to the combination of flooding, high
ambient temperature, and low nutritive value
of grass. Even in our situation where grass
was abundant, the goats barely maintained
their weights (at lower levels than in
leucaena+bahiagrass) during the summer,
but lost weight by early fall as the nutritive
value of bahiagrass continued to decline.
Thus, access to leucaena is one means of
maintaining improved weight gain of goats
throughout the summer and early fall.
However, it needs to be emphasized that
leucaena use as a forage plant in Florida is
still in experimental stages only and has not
yet been recommended by the University of
Florida. Many aspects of leucaena utilization
and its management under grazing still need
to be understood and worked out before its
potential can be fully exploited.

The Use of Organic Trace Minerals in the
Commercial Cowherd

Organic mineral is a generic term
used to describe the condition whereas an
inorganic, soluble salt is joined with an
organic carrier, typically a portion of a
protein, sugar, or amino acid. This
completing action may occur in a variety of

manners, most of which are defined and
controlled by the American Association of
Feed Control Officials. Often the term
"chelated mineral" is used to describe all
organic mineral sources. This is a
misnomer. Some common organic mineral
categories include, trace mineral amino acid
complexes, trace mineral amino acid
chelates, and trace mineral proteinates. The
trace minerals commonly found in
commercially available supplements include
zinc, copper, manganese, and cobalt.
The theory behind the benefit of
organic minerals is based on improved
efficiency of absorption compared to the
traditional inorganic counterparts. This
improvement in mineral availability is
thought to have an impact on cowherd
reproduction, calf weaning weight, immune
function, and structural soundness (i.e. hoof
Conclusive research supporting the
benefits of organic mineral inclusion in
commercial cow-calf supplements is
lacking. Although some studies show a
benefit to organic mineral supplementation,
many do not. With this concept in mind, we
have completed a three-year study using the
Braford cowherd at the Range Cattle REC.
In this study, we compared the effectiveness
of organic versus inorganic trace mineral
supplements on cowherd performance. Over
the entire study, the organic mineral
treatment had no effect on reproductive
performance, cow body weight or body
condition, or calf weaning weight.
However, performance improvements were
realized when young cows were considered
separately. Young cows nursing the first or
second calf experienced an 18% average
increase in pregnancy rate (84 versus 66%)
and a 16 d shorter calving interval (364
versus 380 d; Table 1).
The results of this three-year study
suggest that organic trace minerals may be

Page 6 of 8

an important management tool for the
commercial cattlemen. Our results suggest
that due to the increased cost of organic
trace minerals, their use might be most
economically effective on the young cows in
the herd. If young cows are separated from

mature cows then this management option
may be simple and effective alternative to
traditional inorganic trace mineral

Table 1. Effect of trace mineral source on post-partum interval and pregnancy rate in grazing Braford


Yr 2

Yr 3

Item Young b Mature Young b Mature Young b Mature
------------------------------ Postpartum interval, d ----------------------------
Organic d 355 341 363 359 374 374
Inorganic d 374 d 337 367 366 400 d 360
SEM 2.0 2.0 4.5 4.5 4.2 4.2
------------------------------ Pregnancy rate, % (= n) ---------------------------
Organic d 75 86 89 c 91 88 e 98
Inorganic d 76 95 57 d 95 65 f 92
a Pregnancy determined by rectal palpation and rate calculated using only lactating females.
b Young cows are 3 and 4 yr old. Mature cows are all ages > 4 years.
c,d Means with unlike superscripts within yr differ, P = 0.02.
efMeans with unlike superscripts within yr tend to differ, P = 0.15.

Pasture Insect Pests of Concern

The weather is warming up and the
cycle of insect pests on pasture will soon
resume. We need to watch out and protect
our pasture against major insect damage.
The most common pasture insect pests that
occur in south-central Florida are the chinch
bugs, spittle bugs, caterpillars, mole
crickets and white grubs.
Mole crickets have just awaken
from their dormant winter sleep. They are
feeding and flying around bahiagrass
pastures to mate and breed. These mature
mole crickets will lay millions of eggs in
underground chambers between March and
May before they die out about the end of
June. But they will be survived by the
millions of nymphs that hatch from eggs in
Southern chinch bugs are most
abundant in dry years and prefer thin stands
of grass. The adult chinch bug has a black

May and June unless we act together to
control the adults now. The UF-IFAS, the
Florida Department of Agriculture, the
Florida Cattlemen Association, and the
Florida Turfgrass Association established a
partnership in 2002 for the commercial
production of the mole cricket biological
control product, Nematac S by Becker
Underwood. This spring's nematode
product is marketed from mid-February to
May. The team also established a
commercial strip-application by Ingram
Grove Services and a network of nematode
vendors throughout Florida. Sales
information on nematodes can be obtained
from your local vendor, but technical
information on proper application methods
and the custom applicator can be obtained
from your local Ag. Extension Office.
body and white wing covers, each with a
black triangle at the middle of its outer
margin. Nymphs are reddish with a white

Page 7 of 8

band across their backs, and older and
larger nymphs are reddish-brown with a
white band. If you observe the appearance
of black-white-red ants on the thatch of your
damaged bermudagrass pasture, it is most
likely caused by chinch bugs. The chinch
bug overwinters as adults and large nymphs
in thatch of infested fields. Activity resumes
in spring when temperatures exceed 65 F.
The bugs suck plant juices from grass
resulting in yellowish to brownish patches
usually beginning with the driest part along
the edges of the field. The damage expands
to new areas as the bugs migrate. Control
measures include monitoring for the insect,
close mowing (3") and spraying the affected
area plus a 5-ft buffer with recommended
The adult two-lined spittlebugs are
black with red eyes and legs and have two
orange transverse stripes across their wings.
The nymphs are yellow or white with a
brown head and are enveloped in a mass of
white frothy spittle that they secrete for
protection. The majority of the spittle
masses are not readily visible since they are
located near the soil surface at the base of
the thatch. Damage to grass is caused by
adults and nymphs piercing and sucking
juices from the plant. The insect also injects
toxic salivary substances into the plants.
Infected grasses wilt and tips turn yellow
and eventually brown. Limpograss,
pangolagrass and rhodesgrass are very
susceptible especially under high humidity
conditions. Close mowing or grazing in
summer will reduce the dense thatch mat
and the spittlebug problem. Burning off the
dense mat of dry grass in late-February or
early March is an alternative control
measure. The protective spittle makes
biological control of this pest very difficult.
Caterpillars or worms are the
immature stages of grayish-brown moths.
These are migratory pests that often move in

large numbers from one area to another in
search of food. They can cause extensive
defoliation of N-fertilized foliage and prefer
N-demanding grasses such as bermudagrass,
stargrass and pangolagrass. We will discuss
the details of the problem with armyworms
and loopers and their solution in the summer
as their season approaches.

Martin B. Adjei
T. E. Anton, Editor
John D. Arthington
Ike Ezenwa
Lockie Gary1
Rob S. Kalmbacher
Paul Mislevy
Findlay M. Pate
Mimi Williams2

1 University ofFlorida/IFAS, Hardee
County Extension Office.
2 USDA-ARS Subtropical Research Station.

Page 8 of 8

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