Category Archives: Livestock

FSA – Livestock / Forage Disaster Program

This notice from Thomas County FSA in an effort to help cattleman producers. Please contact Thomas County FSA for more information:

Producers in Thomas County are eligible to apply for 2016 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) benefits on native pasture or improved pasture.

LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who suffer grazing losses for covered livestock due to drought on privately owned or cash leased land or fire on federally managed land.

County committees can only accept LFP applications after notification is received by the National Office of qualifying drought or if a federal agency prohibits producers from grazing normal permitted livestock on federally managed lands due to qualifying fire.  Eligible livestock producers must complete a CCC-853 and the required supporting documentation no later than January 30, 2017 for 2016 losses.

Additional Information about LFP, including eligible livestock and fire criteria, is available at your local FSA office or online at:

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How Much Hay Will A Cow Consume?

We are pretty much past the point of being able to establish winter forages with our drought persisting. We generally don’t feed hay until Thanksgiving, but our cattlemen have been feeding hay for a while now. Here is a great article by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist.
Estimating forage usage by cows is an important part of the task of calculating winter feed needs.  Hay or standing forage intake must be estimated in order to make the calculations.  Forage quality will be a determining factor in the amount of forage consumed.  Higher quality forages contain larger concentrations of important nutrients so animals consuming these forages should be more likely to meet their nutrient needs from the forages.  Also cows can consume a larger quantity of higher quality forages.

Higher quality forages are fermented more rapidly in the rumen leaving a void that the animal can re-fill with additional forage.  Consequently, forage intake increases.  For example, low quality forages (below about 6% crude protein) will be consumed at about 1.5% of body weight (on a dry matter basis) per day.  Higher quality grass hays (above 8% crude protein) may be consumed at about 2.0% of body weight.  Excellent forages, such as good silages, or green pasture may be consumed at the rate of 2.5% dry matter of body weight per day.  The combination of increased nutrient content AND increased forage intake makes high quality forage very valuable to the animal and the producer.  With these intake estimates, now producers can calculate the estimated amounts of hay that need to be available.

Using an example of 1200 pound pregnant spring-calving cows, let’s assume that the grass hay quality is good and tested 8% crude protein.  Cows will voluntarily consume 2.0% of body weight or 24 pounds per day.  The 24 pounds is based on 100% dry matter.  Grass hays will often be 7 to 10% moisture.  If we assume that the hay is 92% dry matter or 8% moisture, then the cows will consume about 26 pounds per day on an “as-fed basis”.  Unfortunately we also have to consider hay wastage when feeding big round bales.  Hay wastage is difficult to estimate, but generally has been found to be from 6% to 20% (or more).  For this example, let’s assume 15% hay wastage.  This means that approximately 30 pounds of grass hay must be hauled to the pasture for each cow each day that hay is expected to be the primary ingredient in the diet.

After calving and during early lactation, the cow may weigh 100 pounds less, but will be able to consume about 2.6% of her body weight (100% dry matter) in hay.  This would translate into 36 pounds of “as-fed” hay per cow per day necessary to be hauled to the pasture.  This again assumes 15% hay wastage. Accurate knowledge of average cow size in your herd as well as the average weight of your big round bales becomes necessary to predict hay needs and hay feeding strategies.

Big round hay bales will vary in weight. Weighing a pickup or trailer with and without a bale may be the best method to estimate bale weights. There are other calculations that can be helpful in estimating hay bale weights as seen in the chart below. Visit What Does A Round Bale Weigh to read more information from UGA Forage Specialist Dr. Dennis Hancock.


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Screwworms Back In Florida

It’s literally been a few generations ago that we last dealt with screwworms. There has been a reinvasion in South Florida, and an eradication program is underway. UGA Extension Livestock Entomologist Dr. Nancy Hinkle has good information on the current situation.

In late September the USDA’s National Veterinary Services confirmed that New World Screwworms had been found in deer on Big Pine Key in south Florida. Additional screwworm-infested animals have been located in the same area since.


Screwworms will lay their eggs on any wound in an animal–even an area as small as a tick bite. They are unusual in that the maggots feed only on living flesh (while other types of maggots consume necrotic tissue). Once the maggots have gotten as big as they are going to get, they crawl out of the wound, fall to the ground, burrow into the soil and pupate. A few days later the adult fly will emerge from the pupal case, seek a mate, and start the life cycle all over again.


Screwworms were a scourge of the Southeast from the 1930s to the 1960s. Cattlemen funded an eradication program to eliminate screwworms using the sterile insect technique, successfully eliminating screwworms from the Southeast in 1959. They were eradicated from the rest of the U.S. in the 1970s, and by the mid-80s screwworms had been eradicated from all areas north of Panama, where they have been maintained since. South American countries still have thriving screwworm populations, so risk of reintroduction persists.

This is a reportable disease, so veterinarians are being particularly vigilant. Cattlemen can watch their animals to ensure that screwworms do not develop in their herd. Other livestock such as goats, horses, swine, etc. can also be infested by screwworms, so should be checked regularly.

Back in the 1950s screwworms killed over 60% of white-tailed deer fawns born every year. Hunters may want to keep a ziploc bag with them in the field to scoop maggots out of wounds on deer they kill, so they can be submitted for identification.


Pet-owners should keep an eye on their animals to avoid screwworms infesting their pets. Contact your veterinarian to have any suspicious maggots checked out.

Any suspect maggots should be put into a container of alcohol and submitted to the County Extension office. Don’t just scrape the maggots off on the ground and let them crawl away! We want to eliminate these pests before they have a chance to re-establish in Georgia.

Screwworms can be treated and the animals will recover fully, if the infestation is caught in time.

Again, other types of maggots can be found in wounds, but screwworms are the only maggots that feed on the living tissue and enlarge the wound. Screwworms cannot live in dead animals. The University of Georgia will be glad to identify any maggots of concern.

Current Situation

We have several factors working in our favor. (1) Fortunately the screwworm infestation is hundreds of miles south of Georgia, so the risk is small. However, we realize that thousands of vehicles move from Florida through Georgia every day, including many with pets or other animals. When these stop at service stations, restaurants, or welcome centers there is the risk that any hitch-hiking maggots could disembark and try to make a home in Georgia. (2) We’re moving into winter, so it will soon be too cold for screwworm flies to survive in Georgia. (3) And we have a very vigilant network of veterinarians who are attentively watching to ensure none of their patients have screwworms. We can anticipate that Florida will eradicate screwworms this fall and by the time spring begins to warm Georgia, there will be no risk of screwworms moving north to our state.

Additional Information

If you want to know more about screwworms (and how much we don’t want them back in the Southeast), talk with someone whose family had cattle back in the 1950s. They can tell you about digging maggots out of calves’ navels and smearing insecticides in dehorning and branding wounds. Florida has lots of good information about screwworms on their website at

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Feeding Cattle During Drought

All of GA has seen some level of drought this summer. Down here, we have been fortunate to get recent rains from afternoon thunderstorms recently. In any case, drought affects hay producers by not having pastures to graze and also not being able to harvest hay. With the ebbs and flows of cattle industry, UGA Extension Animal Scientist Dr. Lawton Stewart has some information on managing to minimize effects of drought on farm’s finances. It is important to maintain the nutrient requirements of the herd through a drought so animal performance is not compromised in upcoming seasons.

What if hay is not available? The key is to develop a ration that meets the nutrient requirements of the cows. 

  • The stage of production of your herd is critical to knowing exactly what to feed.  Table 1 lists some example rations to use for different stages of production.
  • Consider early weaning to reduce the nutrient requirements of the brood cows.
  • Utilize a roughage source such as wheat straw, conttonseed hulls, crop residue, grazing drought stressed crops, gin trash.
  • Examples of energy and/or byproduct feed include: grains such as corn, oats, etc., soybean hulls, citrus pulp, wheat midds, hominy.
  • Examples of protein feed include: soybean meal, cottonseed meal, corn gluten feed, dried distillers grains, whole cottonseed.


Is buying hay the economic choice?

  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask for a forage analysis and/or test the hay before purchasing it.  If not, you may be paying a premium for something that will not meet the requirements of your cows.
  • Take into consideration the cost of the supplement AND hay.
  • Also, take into consideration the method of feeding hay.  If hay is not fed in a ring or other way to minimize lost, hay losses can be as high as 30%, or more.
  • Table 2 compares the cost of buying hay versus feeding a hay replacement diet
  • Note that if hay is being wasted, it is more economical to buy a replacement ration.  This is point is not necessarily to steer you towards the feed, more so, to show the value of proper handling of purchased hay.


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Risk Of Grass Tetany

With warm weather back, UGA Extension Beef Scientist Dr. Lawton Stewart warns us about potential for grass tetany. Here is an article by Dr. Deidre Harmon and Dr. Stewart:

I’m putting out High-Mag mineral, but cows are still going down?

What is grass tetany and why is magnesium important?

Grass tetany, also known as grass staggers, magnesium (Mg) tetany, hypomagnesemia, and wheat pasture poisoning, is a nutritional disorder caused by either 1) an inadequate amount of dietary Mg, or, 2) other mineral related factor that is preventing (antagonizing) dietary Mg from being properly absorbed or utilized.  Magnesium is considered a macro mineral and is needed in beef cattle diets to insure proper growth, reproduction, and metabolic function.  When dietary Mg is low or utilization is inhibited, neuromuscular function becomes impaired and leads to the clinical symptoms of staggering, muscle twitching, convulsions, and in severe cases, can lead to death.  This disorder is most common during cool, cloudy, and rainy weather, and frequently occurs when cool weather is followed by a warm period.

Why is magnesium an issue during this time of year?

  • Mg is essential, especially during lactation – Spring calving cows are highly susceptible to grass tetany because they reach peak lactation (require increased amounts of Mg) during the same time as the spring green. This onset of abundant lush forage is associated with decreased amounts of forage Mg. Older cows are more susceptible because they cannot mobilize Mg from reserves in the bone as quickly as younger cows.
  • High potassium (K) content is also associated with lush, growing forages. Although K is essential, in large amounts, it can work as an antagonist to reduce Mg uptake from the soil and Mg absorption in the rumen.

I’m putting out High-Mag mineral, but I am still losing cows?

  • Not consuming enough – There may be a palatability issue, especially when Mg is increased in the mineral.  However, cows typically do not voluntarily consume as much mineral this time of year.
  • High-Mg mineral if fed year-round – Sometimes, the strategy is to put high-Mg mineral out all year as an “insurance policy” – High-Mg mineral is only needed during the short period of time that grass tetany may occur.  Feeding the miner year-round may condition cattle to not consume enough during the time they really need it.
  • Not enough salt – Magnesium transport across the rumen wall can be reduced if 1) there is not enough salt in the diet, and, 2) if there is too much K in the diet. Collectively, too much K and too little salt can cause grass tetany, even if Mg intake is adequate.

What can I do?

  • Know exactly what cattle are consuming – Do the math based on how much mineral you’re putting out, how many cows, and how fast it is being consumed. Calculate the mineral on an oz/hd/d basis and determine whether or not their consumption meets requirements. Table 1 illustrates calculated consumption based on different feeding rates and herd sizes.
  • Increase intake (if need be) by mixing with feed and/or salt.  Again, do the math to ensure the correct intake.  OVER CONSUMPTION WILL NOT FIX THE PROBLEM.
  • Add salt – In addition to increasing the mineral intake, additional salt will ensure that the sodium requirement is being met and thus, help to maximize absorption of Mg. DO NOT DO THIS IN PLACE OF HIGH MAG, rather in addition to. This can be as simple as putting out plain white salt blocks.
Table 1. Calculated weekly consumption amounts for different feeding rates and herd sizes.

Table 1. Calculated weekly consumption amounts for different feeding rates and herd sizes.

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Calculating Winter Forage Needs

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We’re moving toward our winter season now as cattlemen have been testing forage for quality and supplemental needs. At this time, we can still make changes if needed. Here is a good article written by Effingham Ag Agent, Sam Ingram, on winter forage needs:

“It was my understanding that there would be no MATH!”

To begin the process of calculating the hay inventory needed for the winter, a producer does not need to do math! The first step is simple, send a forage sample in to a certified lab to determine the forage quality. The cost of this analysis is minimal and the lab does the math for you. The quality of the forage will determine the amount needed during the winter feeding period.

Once the producer receives and understands the forage quality analysis, they then can determine how much hay they will need to supplement. A simple example below shows how a producer can determine their hay needs:

A producer has 50 mature brood cows at 1,200 lbs., 2 bulls at 2,000 lbs and 10 weaned replacement heifers at 500 lbs. If we assume these animals must consume 2.5% of their bodyweight per day, we can say that:
Brood Cows will require 1500 lbs./day (= 1200 lbs X 2.5 lbs of DM/100lb of b.w. X 50 brood cows)
Bulls will require 100 lbs./day (= 2000 lbs X 2.5 lbs of DM/100lb of b.w. X 2 Bulls)
Yearling Heifers will require 125 lbs./day (= 500 lbs X 2.5 lbs of DM/100lb of b.w. X 10 Heifers)
So, daily hay required would be 1725 lbs. of dry hay (that is at 0% moisture or on a dry matter basis).

The calculation of 1725 lbs. of forage is on a dry matter basis. This means that if we bale the hay or receive hay at 85% Dry Matter (DM), 15 % is water and we do not account for that during feeding. So, a 1,000 lb. bale at 85% DM, would be 850 lbs. on a dry matter basis.

To continue on the calculation we need to estimate our feeding period. For this example we will say a producer needs to feed 120 days. So, if we multiply this number by our daily requirement we get an estimation of 120 days X 1725 lbs. = 207,000 lbs. of DM. If we assume the producer has 85% DM hay, then the as fed total would be approximately 244,000 lbs.

To account for storage loss and feeding loss (assuming barn stored and fed with a hay ring), we can conservatively add another 15% to the “as fed” total and get a total of 280,600 lbs. In this situation, for this moderate size herd, we need roughly 280 – 1,000 lb. round rolls of hay.

Now, depending on where the producer’s brood cows are in their calving season during the winter feeding period will determine if further supplementation is needed. A great option to decrease the need for stored forage or hay is to grow some high quality winter annual grasses. A cow is much more cost-effective at harvesting forages than we are with machinery and these annual grasses can save time producing and feeding hay.

In the end, producers need to think about their current hay inventory and start calculating for this coming winter. With current grain prices, a concentrate supplement may work to stretch hay more cost-effectively. Either way, a producer needs to plan their winter feeding program to avoid overpaying for any forage or supplement when supplies get tight.

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Don’t Forget The Minerals

Last year, we had many discussions and questions about supplementing minerals. Here is some information on this topic from UGA Extension Animal Scientist Dr. Lawton Stewart:

I have heard several comments that producers are cutting P out of their mineral, because they are using poultry litter as fertilizer. Although there is potential to improve the P levels in forage with little, assumptions are being made on the ability of the plant to make the P available to the animal. This is one of the examples of how we need to make sure we’re cutting cost and not cutting corners in our production system.

In fact, some producer may cut minerals out all together to help cut cost, because performance does not appear to change. Short term maybe, but the long term consequences may be more costly. If you look at a cow/calf annual budget, minerals represent only about 3.5%; a very small cost to insure health and performance. The greener pasture we’re seeing may reduce the feed bill, but we need to remember many forages in the Southeast are deficient in several minerals. Although minerals represent a small cost in total budget, we can cut some extra expenses by taking a second look. We can learn a lot by getting our forages tested and reading the mineral tag.

Forage Testing is the cheapest initial investment you will make. We must have a starting place if we want to know what minerals, and how much we need in our minerals.

  1. Calcium and Phosphorus – These are two macro minerals that need to be addressed together due to their interaction in the biological processes. On well managed pastures, forages are typically close to meeting the requirement of brood cows, but are deficient for growing cattle. However, almost as important as the quantity of these is their ratio. The ratio of Ca to P needs to be greater than 1.5:1.
  2. Sodium and Chlorine – More commonly referred to as salt, these minerals are the only ones cattle will crave and need to be offered daily.
  3. Magnesium – This is a crucial mineral when cattle are transitioning into and during lactation. Generally, extra Mg is only needed during this lactation while grazing lush pastures. Often times, producer do not realize they are feeding Mg unnecessarily through the summer.
  4. Sulfur – Although S is essential, it is not usually limiting in the diet. However it may be present in mineral mixes due to inclusion of other minerals as sulfates. The concern with S is its antagonism with copper, selenium, and the B vitamin thiamin. Therefore, it sometimes is necessary to feed additional copper and selenium to compensate this antagonism.
  5. Micro minerals – These mineral needed in smaller amounts such as copper, zinc, and selenium. Most forages are deficient in these minerals and need to be offered as a trace mineral pack.



Read the mineral tag

  • We can learn a lot by reading the mineral tag. Usually, the mineral company makes mixes to fit general needs. Some of these may fit your operation; however, there may be times your’re paying for ingredients you don’t need an/or not getting what you need.
  • Check for the right mineral levels. Going back to our forage test, make sure you are getting the appropriate levels of each mineral and Ca:P ratio. If a supplement is being used, make sure you consider the mineral content. For example, if distiller’s grains or corn gluten feed is being utilized, P should be adequate, but Ca should be supplemented to maintain the proper Ca:P ratio.
  • Look for additives. Often additives such as ionophores (Rumensin, Bovatec), antibiotics (chlortetracycline, GainPro), and fly control compounds (IGR) are administered through mineral mixes. Although these may improve performance, they may not be wanted in your operation and come at additional cost.

If the local feed store doesn’t provide the mineral that fits your production system, many will work with you to formulate a custom mix to provide the nutrients you need. The table below presents an example of a free choice minereal for lactating cows grazing in bermuda pastures. Remember, our goal is to cut cost and not corners to survive in the cattle business. For a complete description of both macro and micro please refer to the UGA publication Mineral Supplements for Beef Cattle.


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Supplementation With Low Quality Hay

We have run quite a few samples of hay to test forage quality these last few weeks and had many questions about supplementation. We were originally concerned about nitrate levels with end of season drought stress. However, we have not found any toxic nitrate levels, but have observed some low quality hay. Here is some information from Effingham County Ag Agent Sam Ingram:

Like many of us, annual and perennial grasses are anxiously awaiting warmer temperatures and more sunshine in the day. But as of now we  are still waiting, and this means our beef cattle producers are still feeding hay from last season which may be low in quality. This time of year there are calves on the ground nursing and bulls in the pasture breeding brood cows. With the demand set high for the brood cows, good nutrition is essential during this period. If a producer is feeding lower quality hay from last year, extra supplementation may be needed. Dr. Jacob Segers and Dr. Lawton Stewart developed a simple sheet to help producers decide if supplementation is needed in addition to their hay. A forage sample should be taken from your hay to determine the quality, a simple “estimation” is not enough to accurately supplement for the cattle.


The table above shows that majority of our cows can maintain body weight and a calf on their side with average forage. But as our quality starts to drop and our total digestible nutrients (TDN) falls below 50%, we need to look at supplementation. Those disgetible nutrients can be traced back to maturity of the grass and when it was cut. The last cutting of hay tends to be the lowest quality and that last cutting is now what most producers are feeding. If a producer wants to increase their quality, fertility is a great place to start but also cutting the forage at the right time will maintain good quality.

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Avoiding Grain Loss When Grazing

Oats 003

Here is some Coker 227 oats grown for seed but are also grazed. A critical decision that is make this time of year is when to stop cows from grazing so plants can produce seed. This decision is somewhat influenced by planting date but mostly by growth stage.

Oats Jointing

Oats Jointing

Small grains germinate and grow as seedlings before tillering. Following the tiller stage, the plant will begin the stem elongation phase. During this phase, the a node, or joint, will form at the base of the stem. This is a thickened area on the stem and is the growing point. If cows graze below the joint (growing point), this plant will not produce seed.

The first thing we want to do is look for joints. The decision to remove cows is based on grazing height and joint position on the stem. If joints are seen on stems but low to the ground and below the grazing height, cows do not need to come off the field yet. If joints are higher position and grazing is lower than joints, it is time to remove the cows. It would be a good idea to avoid grazing on a small area to observe growth the growth stage.

This field was planted in mid-November and is still in the tiller stage. Plants are 4-5 inches in height. We only found a joint on one stem, so this field can be grazed much longer removing cows.

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Filed under Forages, Grain, Livestock

How Much To Pay For Cow/Heifer?

We had a great meeting and heard great presentations at the Thomas County Beef Cattle Update on Thursday by UGA Extension Specialist Dr. Jacob Segers and Dr. Curt Lacy.

I wanted to share the UGA Replacement Female Calculator link from Dr. Lacy’s presentation. You can find it on the Southeast Cattle Advisor’s website, then click on “Decision Aids.” That takes you to the UGA Econ page, then scroll down to” UGA Replacement Female Calculator.”


Beef Cattle Summary from Dr. Lacy:

  • Expect less beef and more meat production in 2015
  • Higher prices
  • Higher profits
  • More heifer retention
Thomas County Beef Cattle Update

Thomas County Beef Cattle Update

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