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Volume 6, Number 7 - July 2000

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Steps to Manage Short Forage Supplies

The spring season of 2000 provided very little moisture for growing forages for pasture or harvesting as hay. This lack of available forage is spread across much of the central United States. Many producers convey the message that the meadow production is cut by at least 50% compared to normal.

The following are suggestions for managing beef operations during drought conditions.

Forage Management
Forage that is available can be stretched several ways. Start with managed grazing, electric fencing is a cheap and effective method of managing the grazing areas for your livestock. Managed grazing increases only slightly the time required, but moving livestock requires less effort than hauling feed and water.

Forages need to be harvested when they are in the growing stage. Many individuals are thinking of delaying grazing or hay harvest and hoping for additional vegetative growth. This may occur, but it depends largely on the amount and timing of rainfall. Don't let the forage stand on the stump until it burns or becomes extremely dry. The nutritional value depletes rapidly to the point you are essentially feeding straw. Nutritional samples have indicated protein values can be reduced to 3.67% compared to the same specie of cool season grasses harvested at the early stage of 17.1%. Fiber content also increases drastically as maturity proceeds. The fiber factor increased from 31.8% to 53.0% on these same samples.

Summer Creep Feeding
Probably the most profitable time to creep feed calves is during a summer drought. If forage is limited, a full feed of a 16% protein grain mix is advisable – especially when grain is relatively cheap.

Early Weaning
Early weaning should be considered when a summer drought hits. Cows can be maintained on low-quality hay or what is left of the pastures. If the breeding season is still under way (in spring-calving herds), early weaning will help get the cows bred back. If the cows are already bred (in fall-calving herds), early weaning will help keep cows in condition for calving.

Retained Ownership
Retaining ownership of calves through the feedlot adds flexibility to your management program. When a summer drought hits, calves can be weaned early and sent on to the feedlot.

Supplemental Feeding
If the drought continues to the point that pastures are grazed close and cows are losing condition, supplemental hay should be provided. If you start feeding your winter hay supply now, consider planning alternative winter feeds – now. This illustrates the value of an emergency feed supply (in addition to the winter feed needs).

Cull Open and Old Cows
When feed shortage is a problem, pregnancy test and cull any open cows and cows that are over 10 to 12 years of age.

Alternative Feeds
When feed must be purchased to get through the winter following a long summer drought, producers should consider feeding grain, by-products, or commercial mixes to cows and heifers. Research has shown that feeding high grain rations will work, but a minimum of 4 pounds of hay should be fed to maintain normal rumen function. A ration of about 12 pounds of a 12 percent protein grain mix (92 percent corn and 8 percent soybean meal) and 4 pounds of hay can be used for mature dry cows, and 8 to 10 pounds of a 15 percent protein grain mix (85 percent corn and 15 percent soybean meal) and 4 pounds of hay can be used for developing heifers. Lactating cows will need 4 pounds of hay plus 15 pounds of a 15 percent protein grain mix.

(Sources: Randy Saner and Dale Watson, Livestock Specialists)

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Effect of Sorting and Mixing Strategy on Pig Growth Performance

The method of sorting and mixing growing pigs at weaning has caused considerable debate. Typically, pigs are sorted to ensure maximum growth rate, make efficient use of the pig space available, maintain or possibly improve pig health, and reduce the weight variation of the pen. The producer's weaning decision includes the number of pigs per pen, which pigs should be penned together based on age, weight, sex, or ancestry, and determine if the pig flow requires groups or pens to be mixed or resorted later. The main factor influencing these decisions is the nutrition program. Feed cost represents the majority (> 50 %) of the total costs of production. If pigs are grouped within a pen of similar age, weight and growth rate, the pigs will have similar nutrient requirements allowing for more efficient feed utilization.

The challenge is that the social environment has unknown impacts on the growth performance and the weight variation within the pen. Weight variation is expressed as the coefficient of variation (CV), which relates the standard deviation of the pen to the pen average. The decision of what pigs should be penned together is ultimately based on the marketing strategy of the producer since the packer usually pays a premium for a uniform group of market hogs or offers a lower price to those market hogs that were not in the ideal weight range being either too light or heavy. Variation in weight and rate of gain amongst a group of pigs penned together can vary as much as 10 to 15 %, resulting in a 25 to 50 lb. weight difference. Therefore, a producer may choose to market pigs over a wider range such as 3 to 4 weeks instead of 1 to 2 weeks to minimize the amount of weight variation. Efficiency of space used in a building is increased if the time between the first to last marketing is reduced. If altering the social environment can in anyway reduce the variation in weight, then the profitability of the operation will improve.

Sorting By Weight
A uniform weight group of pigs at weaning might not be the best option in order to reduce weight variation at market. Besides weaning weight, the age of the pigs grouped together may affect weight variation within the pen at market. Typically, an age range of 7 days will result in a weight variation of 11 to 15 lbs. at market. A study conducted by Gonyou (1998) evaluated weight variation at market looking at pigs weaned into pens with high weight variation (20 lbs) versus low weight variation (10 lbs) and ensuring that the treatments had similar average weights in a pen. The results of the study indicated that the weight variation between treatments were similar when the pigs reached market weight, indicating that a low weight variation in a pen is not maintained when sorting pigs by weight at weaning. The social strife in a pen appears to be the greatest between pigs of similar weight because the hierarchy structure of the pen is possibly pushed to increase variation until social order is established.

Sorting By Sex
More recently, producers have been sorting pigs by sex to reduce feed costs and better match nutrient supply with requirements since barrows grow faster and eat more than gilts. Several studies have been conducted to evaluate gender ratios among pens and the effect on performance. Overall, no differences in weight variation among a pen of pigs were observed when the pen contained various gender ratios.

Sorting By Litter
It has been known for decades that mixing pigs results in more aggression, which ultimately affects the productivity for at least the following 2 weeks. Unfamiliar pigs will fight for several hours after being sorted or mixed and can result in injuries or death. Therefore, maintenance of familiarity amongst pigs may be important when trying to maximize performance and reduce the weight variation of pigs at market weight. One way to maintain familiarity is to keep litters of pigs together at weaning. However, studies have shown no differences in performance due to the number of pigs coming from the same litter within the same pen.

Wean-to-Finish Technology
The objective behind the development of wean-to-finish facilities was to minimize the moving and resorting of the growing pigs between the nursery and finishing phase. Wean-to-finish buildings reduce labor on the farm as well as provide more space per pig. Earlier wean–to–finish research has only looked at the impact during the nursery period on growth performance. The research concluded that pigs housed in wean-to-finish housing system were slightly heavier in body weight at the end of the 8 week nursery period compared to pigs weaned into a conventional nursery. However, these pigs have now been finished out to determine if there is an additional improvement during the growing-finishing period.

An experiment was conducted using PIC crossbred barrows (n = 240) to determine the impact of wean-to-finish housing system on pig performance during the growing-finishing period with four replications of four treatments (Brumm et al., 2000). The four housing treatments were:

  1. Wean–to-Finish (WF) into 2.4 x 4.3 m pens (15 pigs/pen)
  2. Double stock wean-to-finish (Same pen)
  3. Double stock wean-to-finish (Move to new pen)
  4. Nursery (N)

The data suggests that the wean-to-finish response is a nursery phase response with no difference in growth performance between the housing (wean-to-finish) and mixing during the growing-finishing phase. Those pigs housed in a wean-to-finish building did have a lower coefficient of variation at market weight or when the first pig was removed from the pen, which could result in better market premiums or less sort loss applied by the packer.

Effect of Wean-to-Finish Housing System on Growth Performance
Item Wean-to-Finish DS-Same DS-Move Nursery
Initial Wt. (lb.) 63.14 59.18 59.18 60.94
ADG (lb./d) 1.87 1.89 1.84 1.85
ADFI (lb./d) 5.07 5.04 5.00 5.04
FE .812 .823 .812 .810
% Lean 51.5 51.6 51.3 51.6
CV within Pen 9.3 10.4 11.3 10.5

In conclusion, the need to maintain a social hierarchy within the group favors some degree of variation and it appears that weight is the contributing factor. As for the best method to sort or mix a group of pigs at weaning is whatever minimizes labor requirements and maximizes the pig flow of the working facilities. There appears to be no lasting impact of mixing or sorting on nursery or grower pig performance, however, regrouping pigs near-market weight (finishing phase) should be avoided. The bottom line for any swine operation on what the best sorting or mixing strategy to use is to assess the management factors that impact productivity such as if phase feeding and split-sex feeding strategies are implemented to reduce feed costs and the amount of nutrients excreted.

(Author: Marcia Carlson, State Swine Nutrition Spec.)

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Taxation Tidbits

Don't Get Stumped in a Sale of Standing Timber
The large quantity of logs being transported down the highways suggests there is a great amount of standing timber being sold from area farms. Professional assistance should be sought in determining the quantity/value of your timber and the potential tax liability resulting from the disposal of standing timber. Research at the University of Missouri suggests significant price variation in timber contracts offered in the Midwest.

The two most common methods which farmers utilize in disposing of timber are lump-sum contract and pay-as-cut contract. With lump-sum contracts, the farmer is paid a lump-sum for the timber regardless of the quantity or tree selection harvested. The pay-as-cut contract requires the timber purchaser to cut designated trees and to purchase them at an agreed upon unit price.

If the one-year holding period has been met, most sales of standing timber by farmers qualify for long-term capital gains treatment. If the sale qualifies for capital gains treatment, the income will not be subject to self-employment taxes.

From the tax standpoint, the most common and challenging issue involves determining the tax basis (cost basis) of the timber being disposed. Tax basis is subtracted from the sale proceeds to determine the amount of gain or loss.

If land is acquired that has standing timber, a portion of the acquisition cost should be allocated to a timber account, just as cost would be allocated to other improvements such as fences, water systems, or buildings. When standing timber is sold under the lump-sum or pay-as-cut methods, basis in the timber account is recovered and utilized in calculating the gain or loss.

Ideally, the timber account basis was determined at the time of land acquisition. However, if it wasn't, contact your accountant and/or a forestry consultant to determine a justifiable and reasonable amount of the acquisition cost to be allocated to your timber account.

Timber taxation is an arena in which few tax professionals specialize. Thus, it is important you educate yourself as to the basics. A good web site to begin your journey is, a national timber tax web site.

Your area Department of Conservation forester can be reached at the following locations:

Columbia Forest District (573-882-9880)

Clinton Forest District (660-885-6981)

Lake Ozark Forest District (573-346-2210)

(Author: Parman Green, Farm Business Specialist)

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University Outreach and ExtensionAg Connection - July 2000 -- Revised: September 30, 2002

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Publishing Information

Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Managing Editor: Kent Shannon.