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News Update

April 3, 2013

Beef Cattle Researchers Explore Nutritional
Strategies to Time Puberty in Replacement Heifers

Cattle producers typically wean replacement heifers at seven months of age and raise them with limited nutritional input before their first breeding. This managerial strategy is often associated with delayed puberty, particularly in tropically-adapted Bos indicus-influenced cattle, according to researchers.

In Texas, Bos indicus influence generally comes from Brahman genetics, but can involve the Nelore breed, as well. To maximize successful pregnancies in replacement heifers early in their first breeding season, studies conducted at Texas A&M University and at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station–Beeville are evaluating nutritional strategies to promote puberty consistently by 12-14 months of age in Bos taurus × Bos indicus crossbred heifers.

Marcel Amstalden and Gary Williams, reproductive physiologists at Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Research, along with doctoral students Rodolfo Cardoso and Bruna Alves, are evaluating mechanisms that lead to the early onset of puberty in heifers. The goal of the work is to use newfound fundamental knowledge of heifer development to optimize pregnancy in replacement heifers by 15 months of age and increase the proportion of heifers calving early in their first calving season.

“Nutrition plays an important role in the developmental controls of puberty in heifers,” Williams said. “Breed type is a factor, as well, and there are dietary strategies that can help us time the onset of puberty.”

Recent research has shown that age at puberty in Bos taurus beef heifers is reduced to approximately nine months of age by early weaning calves at three to four months of age and feeding high-concentrate diets that promote increased rates of body weight gain for as little as 70 days, according to the researchers.

“A similar response is observed in heifers with Bos indicus-influence,” Williams said. “Our studies have indicated that early weaning, combined with elevated intake of high-concentrate diets, is associated with enhanced propionate production in the rumen and increased concentrations of the fat-derived hormone leptin in circulation.”

For more information and the full release, click here.

Communities and Livestock Workshop

Agriculture and rural communities are essential to the Michigan landscape. Finding solutions to the challenges of modern livestock farms and rural residents coexisting within the same community is vital to Michigan’s future. This conference will explore the most recent science on the issues impacting communities and livestock.

The workshop fee is $85 per person and will be at the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health: 4125 Beaumont Road, Lansing, MI 48910. For more information you can contact Jerry May at or 989-875-5233.

Colorado State Forest Service Accepting
Proposals to Protect Private Forestlands

The Colorado State Forest Service is now accepting Forest Legacy Program proposals from Colorado landowners. The program authorizes the USDA Forest Service or the CSFS to purchase permanent conservation easements on private forestlands to prevent those lands from being converted to non-forest uses.

The purpose of the Colorado Forest Legacy Program is to protect environmentally important private forest areas that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. The program provides an opportunity for private landowners to retain ownership and management of their land, while receiving compensation for unrealized development rights.

The application deadline is July 26, 2013, for federal fiscal year 2015 funding. Forestlands that contain important scenic, cultural, recreation and water resources, including fish and wildlife habitat and other ecological values, and that support traditional forest uses, will receive priority. Landowners who elect to participate in the program are required to follow a land-management plan approved by the CSFS.

Activities consistent with the management plan, including timber harvesting, grazing and recreation activities, are permitted.

The Colorado State Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee will evaluate proposals and recommend to the state forester those proposals that have sufficient merit to forward to the USDA Forest Service. Forwarded proposals will then compete at a regional level; those selected at the regional level will compete nationally for funding.

For additional information or to obtain an application packet, contact Naomi Marcus at 970-491-6303. Applications also are available under the “Funding Opportunities” link at

Completed proposals must be submitted by mail and received no later than 4 p.m. July 26.

Jared Decker, Geneticist, Joins MU Extension
to Help Cow Herd Owners Breed Quality Beef

Owners of commercial beef herds baffled by all those numbers in bull sale books should meet Jared Decker.

Decker joined the University of Missouri (MU) Extension beef team as a geneticist, filling a long-vacant position. He’s already attending producer and industry meetings — and bull sales.

His first priority, he says, will be to help cow herd owners improve breeding decisions. He’ll teach how to use expected progeny differences (EPDs). Those numbers ease decisions when buying bulls, semen or replacement heifers.

While those numbers have been around awhile, they are not widely understood by many producers. “EPDs help make good decisions,” Decker says.

Even more important will be to understand EPD accuracies. Not all carry the same weight, he says.

There are “paper EPDs” based on pedigrees. More accurate EPDs are based on production of offspring. The more calves evaluated, the higher the accuracy. The latest are genomic-enhanced EPDs. Those include previous information plus analysis of the animal’s DNA.

By pulling hair samples from a bull or heifer’s tail, thousands of DNA markers can be examined.

That information, combined with data from pedigrees and progeny testing, give one EPD number to guide selection. Genomic information adds value by reducing chances of making a bad buying decision.

More accurate EPDs lead to lower risks and better opportunities to provide high-quality beef.

The amount of available genetic information has exploded.

Initially, EPDs covered predictions of a few traits, such as birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight and milk.

Now breed associations continually add EPDs for new traits, such as meat quality. The American Angus Association offers 16 EPDs.

For more information and the full release, click here.

Day Camps to Teach Farm Safety to Kids

School-aged kids across Ohio will have the opportunity to take part in a series of day camps sponsored by Ohio State University (OSU) Extension this spring and summer focused on how to stay safe on the farm.

Farm Safety Round-Up Day Camps are designed to offer youth real-world experience and emphasize farm safety with a goal of teaching kids how to avoid injury, said Kathy Mann, an OSU Extension program coordinator in agricultural safety and health.

The day camps seek to educate kids about the possible hazards they might encounter on the farm, whether they live on the farm or just visit one, Mann said.

“Farm safety is important year-round, but spring kicks off the Ohio Farm Safety Round-Up Day Camp season,” she said. “Each year, the camps help some 1,000 youths statewide learn how to protect themselves and their family members from dangerous situations that can occur on or near farms.”

Some of the issues the day camps will examine include: all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety; how quick equipment moves compared to how fast a human can react; working safely around livestock; and important safety rules for the farm, Mann said.

The day camps are free, with some being open to the public while others are offered to school districts for class field trips, she said.

For more information and the full release, click here.

Plan to Put Tax Refund to Work for You

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported that it expects 147 million individual 2012 tax returns to be filed. It also estimates about 75% of taxpayers who file will be entitled to a refund.

While the popularity of direct deposit has simplified the tax refund process, Elizabeth Kiss, Kansas State University Research and Extension family resource specialist, encourages taxpayers to consider using the refund to improve their financial situation before rushing to spend it.

A tax refund often will be the largest single sum of money a taxpayer will have access to during the course of the year, and that’s why it’s important to take time in deciding how to put it to work for you, said Kiss, who noted that a tax refund is a sign that withholding from earnings (for taxes) has exceeded a taxpayer’s liability.

While some who have difficulty saving look to an annual refund as forced savings for a specific purpose, Kiss encouraged taxpayers to review their saving and spending habits and decide whether they want to continue to provide a no-interest loan to the government, or meet with their employer’s human-resources specialist to adjust withholding to match their tax liability and have more money in their budget throughout the year.

She also advised reviewing personal finances, including earnings, account balances, assets and liabilities, and, then, identifying short-term (0 to six months), medium-term (six months to two years) and long-term (more than two years) financial goals.

Such goals might include paying off a balance on a credit card or loan, saving for a down payment on a more dependable vehicle, establishing or adding to an emergency fund for unexpected repairs and expenses.

A weekend get-away or family vacation also might be a goal, said Kiss, who noted that having a goal in mind — and being able to picture it — can inspire saving, and advised placing a picture of your goal on the household bulletin board or front of the refrigerator as a reminder.

For more information and the full release, click here.


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