Following the (new) rules
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER – Cattle producers across the state are witnessing industry changes, including the way they manage their cattle yards.
Iowa State University Extension, along with the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, hosted field days to teach producers what they need to know in order to be a part of – and remain competitive in – the beef industry.
The training is known as Beef Quality Assurance and is much the same as that which pork producers have undergone.
Doug Bear, director of industry relations for the Iowa Beef Industry Council, told producers at a feedlot near Spencer recently that this training would determine market access.
“It is coming,” said Bear, adding that companies such as Cargill will no longer buy cattle that have not been BQA-certified or from producers who have not performed a feed yard assessment by 2018.
The regulation involves not only the owner of the feed yard, but all employee as well.
“It’s a whole-systems approach,” said Bear, adding that this will also act as a safety net for producers. “What if something were to happen to you? Do you have enough records to leave behind so someone else can step in and continue the care for your cattle?”
Bear said documentation of all things done is paramount, in light of consumer demand.
“We are now three generations removed from the farm,” he said. “(Children today) don’t even have grandpa’s farm to go and visit. We need to increase consumer trust.”
Eric Loe, nutritionist for Midwest PMS in Merrill, said feed bunk management is key, and that the feed bunk manager should ensure adequate bunk space is available for all animals for optimal performance.
The bunk manager should work with a nutritionist to ensure diet formulations are reassessed regularly and that the proper amounts of feed are distributed.
He said a scoring system should be used to calculate the amount of feed given each day to ensure proper nutrition and rate of gain.
The scoring system, based on information from South Dakota State University, runs on a scale of 0-4 and rates it from the bunk being “slicked” clean (0), to a thin layer of feed remaining in the bunk bottom, to feed being virtually untouched (4).
“If you short cattle on their feed for long enough it can show up on the marbling process,” said Loe. “Bunk scoring is important because it gives you insight into how much you should be feeding your cattle.”
Kris Kohl, an ISU Extension ag engineer, said feedlot buildings in which a step has been created along the inside of the bunk prevents cows from backing up and “doing their business” in the feed bunk, keeping bunks clean and reducing wasted feed.
“An animal won’t back up onto a step,” Kohl said.
Beth Doran, an ISU Extension beef specialist, said drinking water quality should be checked regularly. She said the water doesn’t need to be crystal clear, but it should also not be dark-colored and saturated with sediment.
“Good, clean water allows them to eat more and gives them a better rate of gain,” she said. She likened it to eating popcorn at the movies – the more popcorn eaten, the more pop consumed, usually.
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