Beef cattle

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Eric Bailey and Jordan Thomas, University of Missouri Extension beef specialists, usually team up to teach heifer care. At the Missouri Livestock Symposium Dec. 6-7 in Kirksville, Missouri, they will tell about feeding and breeding cows as well.

Bailey will dispel feeding myths about calving. Thomas will shift from reproduction themes for Show-Me-Select heifers to management of all cows, according to an Extension news release.

David Lalman, with Oklahoma State University, will talk about cow size during beef-focused sessions of the annual symposium. That affects upkeep costs and return per cow. Lalman, who graduated from MU, knows Missouri cows. He's seen changes in cow size and knows the research.

All speakers will focus on profits in Missouri's beef herd.

Missouri ranks No. 3 in cow numbers. But based on cows per acre, Missouri is No. 1, Thomas says. A profitable enterprise this big helps the whole state.

Farmers attending the meeting should bring a notebook, advises Zac Erwin, MU field specialist based in Kirksville. Erwin manages the program along with farmer Garry Mathes, who leads the planning committee.

Nutritionist Bailey may start on the myth that cutting feed slows unborn calf growth. Producers think less feed makes for easy calving. The opposite happens. An underfed heifer may not have energy to push her calf out at birth. That makes more "pulled calves."

Bailey says a pregnant heifer, still growing, needs feed for growth plus feed for her unborn calf.

By December, spring-calving cows may be on poor rations if they aren't grazing stockpiled pasture. Instead, they may be on poor-quality hay. To keep heifers and unborn calves healthy, diets may need supplements, Bailey says.

Thomas, MU Extension reproduction specialist, takes a broad view. Farmers should know where every cow ranks on profits in their herds, but few keep detailed records, he said. When tough times hit and a herd needs culling, rankings assure the losers, not winners, are sold.

"Most industries keep records of profits and losses. Too few herd owners do that," Thomas says.

At Show-Me-Select heifer sales, Thomas sees both buyers and sellers who benefit with quality beef. Both MU specialists promote the SMS heifer program. It teaches development and genetics in replacements, they say. That adds calving ease to benefits, and well-managed cows stay in herds longer.

Bailey notes that too many cows fall out of their herd after five years.

"That's three calves at best. It takes five or six calves before profits kick in," he says.

The symposium starts 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and runs through Saturday. Opening night starts with a beef dinner. The event also includes a trade show.

Temple Grandin, famous for animal welfare work, will return for the keynote speech Friday night. The focus teams, from horses to goats, are Saturday.

The event is free, with no preregistration. Details are at or from MU Extension in Adair County, 660-665-9866.

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