Bull Management Question

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SRBeef

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Beginner bull management question:

Background: I bought a bull last year - first one I've had. Previously rented one - in and out in 6 weeks or so. My purchased bull is a polled Hereford with a good disposition (so far - for a bull).

Current situation: Bull was put in with the cows and yearling heifers in July and been with them ever since. They have been grazing standing unharvested corn since early October with plenty of good hay, minerals and water. They seem to have developed a way of controlling their corn intake and do eat some hay but hay consumption is greatly reduced from last year with the grazing corn.

Weaned steer and heifer calves have been in an adjacent pasture with good hay and mineral, good wind protection and water with occasional grain based feed.

I want to get the cows off of the corn by the end of the month so their last trimester is on hay and mineral only. This is best done moving the cows into the weaned calf pasture. I was going to separate the weaned steer calves and put them in the field as the bull. The bull would not change pastures but his girls, all pregnant, will be on the other side of the fence. The bull will now be together with a bunch of steer calves.

Question: Am I likely to run into any problems with the bull being switched from being with his ladies to being with a bunch of steers? There is a good very hot 5 barb + electric fence between the two pastures. Will the bull be likely to harm any of the steers? What should I expect or will things go smoothly?

I am hoping to keep the bull and steers on the corn and hay until the frost starts going out in March when I will keep them out of whatever corn remains and they will be hay only until grass is ready about May 1 and everybody gets back together again in July. Does this sound like a workable system?

A couple of the steers are very good sized - maybe 900 lb now - and I may harvest a few when they come off of corn if I have buyers for the beef which it looks like I may have. They may be about 1100 lb by about April 1 on the hay/corn combination.

I appreciate any responses
 

KNERSIE

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Firstly, when do you start calving and how fat is the cows and especially the first calvers now?

The open heifers in the adjacent pasture is much more likely to cause problems than running the steers with the bull.
 
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SRBeef

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KNERSIE":1zv09wkw said:
Firstly, when do you start calving and how fat is the cows and especially the first calvers now?

The open heifers in the adjacent pasture is much more likely to cause problems than running the steers with the bull.

I put the bull in on the 4th of July so if my calculations are right, calving should be sometime around mid April?

They are all about in the same body condition as #77 in my avatar. This picture was taken about 2-1/2 weeks ago.

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Is this about a BCS 6 or 7? The heifers look about the same - not a lot of bones showing but not sloppy fat either. They are getting pretty wide. But they do get their exercise! They cover a lot of ground every day. Time to get them off of the corn, don't you think?

If the cycling heifers is the main issue for the bull I can add a couple more very hot wires to both sides. I think a couple are starting to cycle now at about 10 months - the steers showing some interest. Bull has not shown any interest in them yet though, and they are just across the fence.

Thanks for your reply, Knersie.
 

CattleHand

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I think you should be fine having the steers with the bull. He will make them know the order of things quick enough.

Knersie is right the only potential problem I see would be the heifers since the cows are all pretty far bred.

If i were you I'd say you could gamble that the bull will stay in the corn field with the steers. But there is always that slim chance he could decide he doesnt want to. But that chance is always there.
 

angie1

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I have had this exact same set up you are talking about and it works just fine. I had 3 strand electric between them and nobody bothered. Steers with the bull and heifers with the cows. Your cows look in fantastic condition and yes, it is time for them to come off the corn.
 
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SRBeef

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CattleHand":gs2o9mlv said:
I think you should be fine having the steers with the bull. He will make them know the order of things quick enough.

Knersie is right the only potential problem I see would be the heifers since the cows are all pretty far bred.

If i were you I'd say you could gamble that the bull will stay in the corn field with the steers. But there is always that slim chance he could decide he doesnt want to. But that chance is always there.

I guess that is the answer I was hoping for. Yes, I realize there is a chance. But I'm getting pretty good at stringing hot wires!

One thing about rotational grazing: it's not long before you end up with shelves full of every bit and piece and type of wire, insulators, connectors, standoffs...known to mankind! I can put up more hot wires almost in my sleep (well, not quite but you get the idea)!

Thank you for your reply.
 

KNERSIE

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I'll leave all the bred females including the first calvers on the corn till 15 Feb and from then on just hay and it doesn't need to be great hay either, no protein supplement required. 2 months on just hay is long enough not to worry about excessive intra-uterine growth in the first calvers and they will have enough reserves for good quality colostrum and to start cycling soon after calving.

Personally I would be very tempted to put the weaned heifers back with the cows on the corn to get as much growth and condition on them prior to the breeding season as possible. Depending on how they have been fed now off course.

If your fences are good enough you might be OK, but very few fences will stop a mature bull when there is heifers in season on the other side of the fence.
 
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SRBeef

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KNERSIE":2vhhm094 said:
I'll leave all the bred females including the first calvers on the corn till 15 Feb and from then on just hay and it doesn't need to be great hay either, no protein supplement required. 2 months on just hay is long enough not to worry about excessive intra-uterine growth in the first calvers and they will have enough reserves for good quality colostrum and to start cycling soon after calving.

Personally I would be very tempted to put the weaned heifers back with the cows on the corn to get as much growth and condition on them prior to the breeding season as possible. Depending on how they have been fed now off course.

If your fences are good enough you might be OK, but very few fences will stop a mature bull when there is heifers in season on the other side of the fence.

Thanks for the response. I have been concerned about excessive calf growth from the heifers and cows on the corn. I am glad to hear 2 months should be enough "withdrawal" time. I do think that I will do the cow/steer swap in the corn with the bull in the next week or so however more because I want to get the steers on the corn as soon as I can so they have as much time as possible in corn before the frost leaves.

I strip till and plant continuous corn in this field without conventional tillage. If I have any animals in the corn field in the mud season those hooves can cause a lot of damage to my field.

I'll feed the cow/heifer group the best hay for a couple weeks then gradually switch to the "weight watchers" diet for the last two months ahead of calving.

Originally I had a fence plan that would allow both groups, cows/yearlingheifers/bull and weaned steers/heifers in different areas of the corn field at the same time but something went wrong in that plan (must have been martians landing that let them in the wrong field!) and right now there is no way to allow both groups corn access and water access but kept separate.

Your idea of using the corn to build up the weaned heifers prior to July breeding is a good one and I will make sure I allow for that next year. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

Angie, I'm glad to hear from someone who has done the same thing. Thank you.
 
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SRBeef

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jedstivers":3c6ovmqq said:
How do you keep them from eating to much corn? Post over on Ranchers.net talks about cows in down but harvested corn and cows dying. Just wondering Thanks

I could not see the post you mentioned on Ranchers. This has been an experiment for me.

There are two basic concerns with grazing unharvested corn: possible nitrate poisoning and overeating the corn ears. When limiting mine to a small area early in the season - trying to get them to really clean up the still green corn stalks and all, I had one cow show signs of nitrate poisoning after a couple days in 35% still green corn. I quickly closed the gate and kept them of for a few days and fed lots of good hay.

Fortunately this one came back ok. After that I don't try to limit their access so much. The nitrate problem is most severe in the stalks. On down, high yielding probably way over N fertilized corn this may force them to eat more stalk and result in nitrate poisoning.

I reopened the stalk field a week later and did NOT limit them very tightly but let them eat the full ears - and basically as much as they want. Generally they will NOT get nitrate poisoning from eating ears.

This more or less free access to ear corn caused some major tummy aches at first - judging by the manure pattys. However with good hay nearby and plenty of water and protein/mineral tub nearby, the cows and bull seem to have learned to limit themselves. They daily rotate between grazing for corn ears (still standing above the approx 2ft of snow), then go over to the hay feeders for awhile, then water, then mineral, lie down for their noon break then go through the cycle again.

The cobs provide a fair amount of roughage and while their hay consumption is half or less of last year at this time they still do eat hay and look pretty good as you can see #77 above.

This was an unusual year in my area - due to flooding and other factors I did not get the corn planted until mid June which is really too late in WI. the plan was to have them graze the harvested stalks for awhile after combining and before the snow got too deep like it did quickly last year.

I think if the corn plants had been less green when I started, as they will usually be in Oct, and I had not restricted them so much to "clean up their plate" there would not have been the nitrate problem. With a few changes I plan to do this again next year. You get a lot more grazing per acre with corn and in a needed time window than if this had been more pasture or harvested corn. I think there is somewhere over 200-250 cow days grazing per acre there and when combined with reduced hay consumption, probably getting over 300-350 cow days per acre at a time when I really need it.

I purchase all hay so I am looking for ways to grow more grazing and purchase less hay.

This is a long answer to your question but hope it helps. I wonder if you could post a link to the Ranchers thread you were talking about, I'd like to read it. If you try this grazing standing corn be careful and start slow but it can work. Dekalb Seed has a lot of info and promotes this in western Canada. Best of Luck.
 

cypressfarms

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With the fence you mentioned, I wouldn't worry at all about putting the bull with the steers. As others have mentioned, having a bull with steers will cause no problems. The bull will be interested in the heifers, however, the hot wire will let him know what's going on . Being a hereford, he should be a little less likely to come un-guled and want to bust through the fence. Having said that, he is a bull. If the bull doesn't respect a barbed wire and electric fence, then he should leave the farm.
 

jedstivers

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Thanks SRBeef, that post on ranchers is a guy in the Dakotas but I haven't been able to find it. He says he limits his to two hours a day but at his neighbors turned theirs in free choice and had several dead. I will be running in harvested corn but here we harvest so early in the year that by frost we have volunteer corn starting to tassel, we also lose a lot of corn that's left on the ground to rot. the earlier I con turn them in the more they can use but I will have to do nitrate test unless I wait till frost. Thanks again.
 
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SRBeef

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jedstivers":1gic1mgy said:
Thanks SRBeef, that post on ranchers is a guy in the Dakotas but I haven't been able to find it. He says he limits his to two hours a day but at his neighbors turned theirs in free choice and had several dead. I will be running in harvested corn but here we harvest so early in the year that by frost we have volunteer corn starting to tassel, we also lose a lot of corn that's left on the ground to rot. the earlier I con turn them in the more they can use but I will have to do nitrate test unless I wait till frost. Thanks again.

I think the nitrate test is a good idea. Also have some hay or pasture available to them also.

Many folks graze harvested corn stalks in the fall and have for years without problems. The cattle will clean up any combine wasted grain/ears on the ground and then eat the leaves and husks then the stalks.

Putting the cattle in un-harvested corn as their only source of food is probably not a good idea. And putting them into un-harvested GREEN, highly fertilized corn as their only source of food and limiting them so they have to eat high nitrate stalks is definitely not a good idea.

If given a choice with hay or pasture, I am amazed at how my cattle have learned to control their own corn intake.

One possible issue also is that if given free range through the cornfield or a larger area of the cornfield there will be a lot more stalks left standing in the field when they are "done" with the ears. Your tillage plan for next year in this field needs to be able to handle these stalks.

I like your plan. Just get them in the AR harvested stalks before you get much of this volunteer corn coming up and don't over fertilize the corn to begin with. You will get manure on this field also.

Good luck.
 

rockridgecattle

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I would not put the open hiefers with the bred cows due to calve.
1. you might get a dumb hiefer with a dumb idea, and clean up on a cows colostrum. That's 5 weeks of hard work for a cow to make good colstrum for it to just ended up in that dumb hiefers gut doing no good, but packing on the pounds.
2. If the hiefers decide to come into heat, you'll get the boss cows thinking they should go bulling that hiefer. We have always had problems when that happens. With in 24 hours we see premies, or backwards calves. Never fails.
3. hiefers and cows should be fed differently. The cows you have do not need an abundant of protien. The hiefers however are still growing and need good protien to grow but not too fast or too fat. The idea is to get them into good condition to get bred (if that is what you want). They should not have to establish themselves in the cow pecking order.
 

dun

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rockridgecattle":21crwa7e said:
3. hiefers and cows should be fed differently.

Our heifers are fed exactly the same as the cows, that stands to reason since after they're weaned they're turned right back in with the cows. We've never had a problem with a heifer developed that way not turning into a good doing cow. They get AIed right along with the cows and are expected to keep up. Very rarely do we have one that doesn;t.
 
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SRBeef

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I've been wrestling with this one - Knersie suggested keeping the cows on corn until 2 months prior to calving - that would mean the cows should be in corn until about Feb 15, 2 months ahead of Apr 15 calving.

On the other hand I really want to get the steers on corn ASAP to maybe finish a few off and have something to sell in March and April. (sell as freezer beef for the summer)

So this afternoon I split the difference and sorted the steers from the heifer and put the steers on standing corn in with the cows and bull. I figured it would also make the transition easier with the bull rather than making the double switch at one time.

As Angie pointed, out there really was no problem between the steers and bull. The bull just made a point of herding the steers around a little then everybody went back to grazing the corn.

The steers entered the new section of corn I opened up for everyone and looked like they just got let in the candy store! They were jumping like they do when changing to fresh pastures in the summer (except for the couple feet of snow on the ground)!

Here are some pictures for anyone interested. The cows and bull were lounging on some hay in an adjacent field but the bull especially got up to come over and check out these new steers.

By the way, one observation I made as a first timer doing this is that the calves did not seem to run over to their cows nor did the cows seem to seek out their own steer calves. They were fenceline weaned 11/1/08. Everyone just dove into the new area of standing corn I opened up.

Bull T21 coming over to check out the steers

Bull%20T21%20coming%20to%20meet%20steer%20012109%20IMG_3900_3.JPG


Steer chomping on an ear of corn - I can hear my grandmother saying "chew with your mouth shut!"

Steer%20in%20fresh%20corn%20012109%20IMG_3902_4.JPG


The bull herded some of the steers around for a while then everybody focused on the corn

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One of the cows pulling an ear of corn off of the stalk in the new area

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Couple other steers had retreated to the woods when being followed by the bull but decided to come out and slug through the snow to get some corn themselves

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Pretty soon everyone was focused on the corn

Group%20of%20Cows%20entering%20fresh%20corn%20012109%20IMG_3917_6.JPG
 
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SRBeef

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Angus Cowman":3iub87oi said:
Looks like you are doing something right they all look to be in good shape
Good looking Bovines

Even if they are Herfs :lol:

We run some BWF in there too... I was going to go all red but there are some BWF weaned heifers that seem to have the disposition I am looking for and are turning into just gorgeous heifers. I guess we'll have some black around for quite some time. I bought some bred Hereford cows (3-fers) from a friend a few miles away. He has a real top notch Angus bull.

The steer in the foreground of the last photo is a BWF from the friend's Angus bull and one of my Herford cows.

The friend's Angus bull's offspring seem to always look great but several were just impossible to handle. They invented the term "turn out". A few of the BWF weaned heifers however seem to have inherited their Hereford dam's disposition and they look like keepers.

I am really looking forward to this years calf crop from my bull shown above, and then his calves from the BWF heifers in 2010. Man, it takes a long time to get going in this business if you build your own!

Thanks for the kind words.
 

cypressfarms

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Nice looking cattle there SRBeef,

I'm curious about the corn. Did you plant this corn specifically for the cows to have for the winter? We don't really see that done down here. Not sure if that would be better/worse than ryegrass, but I'd be interested in finding out. I'm not really set up to plant row crops, but I bet with the old big Ford tractor, something could be worked out.
 
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