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Beefs and Beliefs

One more opportunity for confined-cow learning

Eng symposium on confined cow production is Oct. 5-6 in Nebraska. Here's how to register.

If ever you've thought of using confinement production for a cow-calf operation, your chance to learn from a bunch of experts, including producers, is coming up Oct. 5-6.

The Eng Foundation will host its third and possibly final symposium on confined cow production -- this time in Lincoln, Nebraska.

I went to the second symposium last year in Oklahoma City and thought it excellent. Economics have changed a great deal since then, but I can still imagine some potential for confined cow production.

One idea that intrigued me was the used of cow confinement by Ron Crocker and his family in central Texas. They use the practice to let them keep the ranch fully stocked in an erratic rainfall environment. Crocker explained at last year's symposium that they rotate cattle through numerous pastures on the ranch but when rainfall and pasture growth fall short, their "reserve" pasture is actually to bring the herd to the house and feed them. When pastures are recovered, they can go back out again.

Incidentally, I do not understand this to be the Crockers' plan for feeding through a drought, but instead a plan to be certain they have adequate recovery on their forages and healthy rangeland under normal variations.

The thing that surprised me about the Crockers and others is they can move cattle back and forth between full grazing on pasture and limit-feeding in confinement with just a little time for adaptation.

Others have chosen to raise cows and calves in full confinement, but of course economics will determine that in the long run.

Here are some takeaways from last year's symposium:
• Nearly all the speakers, many of the confined cow keepers or nutritionists with consulting experience with such cows, said confined cows can be kept with 40-50% decrease in feed because they don't need to graze and they can be fed more nutrient-dense diets.

• All the speakers said they found surprisingly high calf and cow health in confinement. Some of this derives from the ability to better control nutrition, they suggested. Even under total confinement, it's possible to work out protocols to have very healthy calves.

• Old, broken-mouthed cows can be kept well under such conditions if they are fed succulent feedstuffs, such as a high proportion of silage.

The possible negative is the economics, as I suggested. Last fall, Rabobank economist Don Close estimated when 550-pound calves were priced at $220 per hundredweight, this engendered a slight loss in total confinement operations.

I contacted Close three or four weeks ago and asked him if he has recalculated using new data and he told me he has not.

Here's the schedule in Nebraska.


Cow-Calf Programs for Improved

Efficiency, Sustainability and Profitability

Symposium Agenda

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

8:00 a.m. - Registration will be open Wednesday October 5, 8:00 a.m. through Thursday October 6, 10:00 a.m.

12:00 p.m. - Opening Remarks – Kenneth Eng

12:10 p.m. - Welcome and Introductions – Dr. Larry Berger, University of Nebraska

12:20 p.m. - Current cow/calf systems research focused on stalk grazing plus confinement – Karla Jenkins

1:00 p.m. - Effects of early weaning on cow and calf efficiency – Terry Klopfenstein

1:30 p.m. - Response to systems of feeding calves from confined cows to slaughter – Galen Erickson

2:00 p.m. - Break

2:15 p.m. - Welcome and Introductions – Dr. Russell Cross, Texas A&M

2:30 p.m. - Do Antimicrobials Contribute to Sustainable Beef Production? - Jason Sawyer

3:15 p.m. - Comparison of Beef Cow Feeding Scenarios: Decision Support for Cow-calf Producers - Tryon Wickersham

4:00 p.m. - MERGING COW-CALF and FEEDLOT OPERATIONS – Moderator, Kenneth Eng, Kelly Jones & Paul Defoor - Cactus Feeders

5:00 p.m. - Consulting & Producers Panel Question & Answers – Bob Bryant, Bill Dicke, Dave McClellan & Jim Simpson

5:30 p.m.- Reception

7:00 p.m. - Adjourn

Thursday, October 6, 2016

7:30 a.m. - Coffee and Pastries

8:15 a.m. - Welcome and Introductions – Dr. Gerald Horn, Oklahoma State University

8:30 a.m. - Energy Requirements of Lactating Beef Cows Managed in a Controlled Environment System - Miles Redden            

9:15 a.m. - Matching Cows to the Environment – David Lalman

10:00 a.m. - Mike McDonnell Memorial Presentation - Dave McClellan & The Camelot Group

10:15 a.m. - Break


10:30 a.m. - Larry Corah – Certified Angus Beef

11:15 a.m. - Bill Fielding & Jordan Beeman – American Akaushi Association and HeartBrand Beef, Inc.

12:00 p.m. - Question & Answers

12:45 p.m. - Concluding Statements - Larry Berger & Kenneth Eng

1:00 p.m. - Adjourn

For further information, visit

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