New Research Proves The Old Research

Scientific research has shown that it’s still good advice to keep cows in good body condition for better breeding, calving and mothering results.

It seems logical to assume all that, but with changes in things like breed preferences, selection methods, feed availability and prices, researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Nebraska and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service wondered if the old advice still was as relevant as it used to be.  So, they set out to find out.

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist, wrote in the OSU Cow/Calf Corner that the researchers put their heads together to see whether at least three decades of research into the subject still were valid.  They published their results in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science.




The researchers combined on a two-year study utilizing 120 mature, Angus/Hereford crossbred cows per year.  The cows were fed in such a manner as to expect half of them to be in a body condition score of 6 entering the last trimester.  The other half were fed to have a body condition score of 4 at the same time.

The actual outcome of their management schemes resulted in the high condition cows averaging a 5.7 body condition score (1243 pounds) and the low cows averaged 4.4 (1106 pounds).

They then subdivided each of the two groups and fed half of each group the equivalent of two pounds a day of dried distillers grains with solubles.  The supplement was fed in appropriate amounts three times a week.

All cows received access to 28 pounds per day of hay testing 6.4% crude protein during the last trimester.  After calving they were placed in a common pasture and exposed to a 60-day natural breeding season.




The small amount of DDGS had only a small effect on the cows’ productivity by increasing fall weaning weights in calves nursing supplemented cows.  Body condition in the last trimester, however, had a more dramatic effect.

High body condition cows had 10% more live calves at birth and weaning than did low body condition cows.  Birth weights were higher in the high body condition cows but certainly did not increase birthing losses.

Total weaned calf weight per cow was 57 pounds greater for the cows in better body condition prior to calving.  At current calf prices this represents a sizeable dollar difference in productivity and should more than pay for the additional nutrition the cows received.

But there’s more.  The rebreeding percentage of cows in better body condition, at 92%, was significantly greater than the percentage of the thin cows’ 79%.  Cull cow weights also were greater at weaning for cows that were adequately fed the previous fall.




No fed cattle sold Wednesday on the Livestock Exchange video auction.  Last Wednesday, a couple lots sold at $120 per cwt, up $4.

Cash cattle traded last week at $120 per cwt on a live basis in the Plains, steady to up $1 from the bulk of the previous week’s action.  Dressed-basis sales were reported at $190 to $191 per cwt, up $2 to $3.

The USDA’s choice cutout Wednesday was down $1.00 per cwt at $201.60, while select was off $0.41 at $190.42.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $11.18 from $11.77 with 109 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $148.36 per cwt, down $0.36.  This compares with Wednesday’s Jan settlement at $145.17 per cwt, up $0.77.