All hands on deck! The Dickinson Research Extension Center is hosting a Beef Cattle and Forage Day on Monday, Aug. 19. Like many cattle events, producers like to come to see what is going on.
The beef industry has been a site/sight-specific industry for a long time.
However, these words can have two meanings. Site-specific is relative to location, while sight-specific is the need to physically see what is going on.
In reality, both are right. Beef production is site-specific and beef producers like to see what is going on, so all are invited.
The focus of the event will be on cattle and grass. The grass part is perhaps a little more broad based because annual crops also will be noted. The topics of the day will interweave soil, soil health, grass, annual crops and beef.
Starting with soil, the obvious is not always the obvious because there is a lot going on under our feet. The cattle may not appreciate all the effort that goes into keeping high-quality forage in place, but it is critical to a beef operation.
The center's beef program under the leadership of Doug Landblom, Dickinson REC animal scientist, has been managing yearling steers the last couple of years.
The steers are overwintered on a growing ration that has kept gains to less than a pound a day.
Basically, the steers have had access to cornfields and supplemental forage.
Their health and vigor has been excellent, but they're just not growing very fast.
One-third of the steers were sent directly to the feedlot in early spring and harvested in early fall. The other two-thirds of the steers were turned out to cool-season grass followed by warm-season grass.
The grass steers then were divided. Half of the steers were removed from the warm-season grass and sent to graze on annual crops until the end of the grazing season in late October. All the grass steers were shipped to the feedlot in November and essentially harvested in early winter.
The steers that grazed on annual forages where harvested about a month earlier than those steers that were on perennial grass. The thought behind the research was to evaluate the potential to keep steers on the home place longer than traditionally done, which is to background the weaned calves through the winter months and then send them to the feedlot.
In visiting with Doug, these past couple of years may have been a little tough on the traditional system because of escalating feed prices, but it is what it is.
The center lost about $300 a head on those early feedlot steers. Their performance was fair. They gained 3.8 pounds a day, had feed conversions of 6.9 pounds fed per pound of gain and an average yield grade of 2.4, and graded out at 65.6 percent choice quality or better.