Calf market trends, forage production highlight clinic

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BRENHAM – Beef cattle producers from throughout the South Central Texas region learned more about producing calves that fit the current market as well as enhancing forage production throughout the year at the 46th South Central Texas Cow-Calf clinic in Brenham.

The cow clinic is sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the beef and forage committees in Austin, Brazos, Burleson, Fayette, Grimes, Harris, Lee, Waller and Washington counties.

This year’s clinic featured a panel of cattle buyers that provided participants current market trend information, what buyers are looking for in the calf market and ways for cow-calf producers to monitor market prices.

Cattle buyers Dr. Larry Herd with Caviness Packing Company and Bubba Fritsch with Fritsch Cattle Company, led a morning discussion on current market trends and producing a calf that fits the market.

Dr. Jason Cleere, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, College Station, moderated the program.

One aspect of calf production is purchasing a herd bull that fits current trends in the market in terms of frame size, color and potential weaning weights, they said. However, there is a risk of too many sire traits showing up in calves and in the overall herd, which may or may not be desirable.

“We see this happening,” Cleere said. “A rancher buys a bull from a particular breed that is most popular at that time, keeps replacement heifers out of him, and now the calf crop from the herd is three quarters from this breed and starting to look more purebred.”

Another topic discussed was animal health. Both Herd and Fritsch advised cow-calf producers to vaccinate their calves to prevent sickness throughout the supply chain. They also advised weaning them before marketing and putting them on feed for added weight gain and to alleviate weaning stress.

Both Herd and Fritsch told producers to pick up hay strings and plastic bags in the pasture as curious cattle will end up eating them and causing digestive problems later in life. They also said to watch and monitor the cattle markets either online, and use of smartphone apps, printed publications or other sources such as calling the owner of the livestock auction.

Dr. Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist from Corpus Christi, discussed adding pounds and dollars to a calf crop by increasing forage production. Earlier in the morning, Dr. Philip Shackelford, AgriLife Extension interimregional program leader, gave an overview of the AgriLife Extension Path to the Plate program, an education program that helps consumers understand how their food choices impact their health.

The afternoon sessions covered vaccination programs featuring veterinarian Dr. Peter Wunderlich of Washington Animal Clinic in Brenham. Cleere discussed backgrounding/preconditioning programs.

Mark Bryant was the grand door prize winner, winning a heifer purchased at the Washington County Fair and donated by the Washington County Extension Beef Committee and Texas Farm Credit.

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