Beef producers considering restocking herds should do so slowly, allowing time for pastures to recover and effectively choose cattle that are a right fit for their operation, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
At the Brazos Valley Beef and Forage Expo and E.D. “Doug” Davidson Hay Testing program held recently at the Brazos County Expo Center, a number of experts discussed topics of interest to area ranchers. Dr. Ron Gill, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist in College Station, said producers need to choose replacement heifers and cattle that are best adapted to their environment.
“You also need to find cattle that you can breed to the right bull, producing the calf quality and traits that you need,” he said. “Appropriate frame size is another thing to consider. We tend to get cattle that are big. When we go back in and restock, get some cattle that are more moderately framed perhaps so (ranchers) can run more of them on a given piece of land and produce more calves. Your total pounds produced per acre normally goes up when you have smaller cows on an operation. If you look at total pounds produced, that’s the business we are in—selling pounds and getting more pounds per acre.”
Gill said some Texas ranchers are holding off and patiently waiting before restocking.
“I think they are waiting and I’m encouraging them to wait until the timing is right,” he said. “We need to be ready to rebuild and look for some bargains.”
Gill said some cattle shipped out of state last year during the Texas drought may need to come back to the Lone Star State as drought has ravaged the Midwest and parts of the southeastern U.S. He said ranchers may see potential to pick up some cattle at bargain prices for these type of cattle, but overall urges producers to ease back into restocking and be mindful of good biosecurity practices.
“Biosecurity is a huge component to this restocking deal,” he said. “It’s also another reason to ease back into it.”
Gill advised producers to be aware of trichomoniasis or “trich,” a sexually transmitted disease that can cause female cattle to abort.
“If you are buying bred females in the last two-thirds of gestation, trich is normally not an issue,” he said. “If you are buying open cows or short-bred cows, trich is something you should be concerned about because they can abort.”
Cattleman should be mindful of Bovine Viral Diarrhea when purchasing cows, Gill said.
“If a cow has been exposed to it during a small window during gestation, the calf could become persistently infected or the (purchased) cows could be persistently infected themselves,” Gill said. “If you are bringing in a set of cows, I strongly recommend they be tested. When you buy cattle, don’t mix with your home cattle until you are sure they are straight. Be sure and get with your veterinarian and develop a biosecurity program to take every precaution you can to prevent introduction of health problems into your herd.”
Gill said generally cattle producers should be cautious and stock conservatively. “Don’t jump back in as most pastures haven’t recovered anyway,” he said.