Welcome to the May issue of Beef Cattle Tips.  Beef Cattle Tips is a monthly newsletter designed to remind you of timely production practices that could benefit your operation.  Items presented in this newsletter should be completed sometime this month, if it has not already been addressed.
Tips for Beef Cattle Herds
  • Fall born calves are often weaned during this time of year.  A good practice is to give initial vaccinations 2 to 4 weeks before weaning and booster vaccinations should occur at weaning time.  Fenceline weaning is an option that can result in less weaning feed cost.   Studies have demonstrated improved weight gain and health with fenceline weaning; however, growth performance over traditional weaning methods were not observed in some studies suggesting weaning environment may be critical to weaning performance. 
  • Implant feeder cattle that will be retained for at least 45 days (Fact Sheet 3019) and also provide a medicated feed additive such as Bovatec, Gainpro, or Rumensin to improve weight gains (Fact Sheet 3012).
  • Fly populations often increase this time of year.  Options for fly control include tags, sprays, and feed supplements fortified with insect growth regulators.  Pour-on dewormers often help with fly control early.  The insect growth regulators in feed work best with isolated herds.  The economic threshold to treat cattle for fly is 150 to 200 flies per animal.
  • For spring calving cows monitor body condition. The condition of cows during the breeding season affects their reproductive performance in terms of services per conception, calving interval and the percentage of open cows. General speaking as spring forage arrives, forage quality and quantity improve and so will the cow's body condition. Throughout the spring breeding season provide free-choice mineral.
  • Throughout the breeding season monitor the bulls. Make sure the bulls are maintaining their body condition, are free of injury (feet and legs, eyes, etc.), or other conditions that would prevent them from seeking and breeding cows.
  • Process spring born calves. Practices such as castration, dehorning, vaccination (blackleg, etc.), implanting are cost effective.

Forage Management Tips:

Fertilizing alfalfa:

  • Fertilizer should be applied after the first and third harvest.
  • Apply fertilizer immediately before regrowth sets in to avoid damaging the alfalfa crowns.
  • Don't apply at times when soil is too soft and physical damage to plants may be likely
  • Split the application if large amounts of fertilizer are required. This split can be avoided by keeping track of soil fertility status over time.

Fertilizing bermudagrass:

  • Fertilize specific pastures when night time temperatures reach 60°F for a week.
  • Fertilize after each hay or grazing harvest as needed depending on seasonal production goals.
    • Fertilize according to soil test recommendation
      • Use appropriate crop code

Hay management:

  • Get equipment ready
    • Check on gear boxes and replace oil if necessary
    • Grease where necessary based on owner's manual
    • Replace knifes and check on rollers in mower/conditioner equipment
    • Replace broken fingers on rakes and tedders
    •  Check on belts in balers

Begin grazing perennial warm season grasses:

  • Start rotationally grazing pastures at green-up.
    • Rotational grazing improves forage utilization over continuous grazing
    • Begin grazing at 6" - 8", terminate grazing at 3"- 4"


Establish Bermudagrass for forage:

  • Plant between May 1 and June 15.
  • Seeding rates are 4 to 8 pounds of pure live seed per acre.
    • Seed can be drilled or broadcast on a conventional tilled firm seedbed or planted with a no-till drill on killed grass sod.
    • Planting depth of 1/4 inch or less is recommended
    • Variety blends provide faster sod cover and higher seeding year yield.
      • At least 1 variety in the blend should be winter-hardy
      • Winter hardy varieties in AR include; Wrangler, Cheyenne, KF 194, & CD-90160.
      • For more information refer to Fact Sheet 19, Establishing Bermudagrass for Forage
      • For step-by-step instructions on calibrating drills or broadcast planters, refer to Fact Sheet 3111, Calibrating Drills and Broadcast Planters for Small-Seeded Forages.

Implement a summer annual/perennial weed control program:

  • For identification and control recommendations, refer to MP 522, Pasture Weed Control