Farm Progress

Cattle producers can benefit from improvement programCattle producers can benefit from improvement program

February 3, 2006

3 Min Read

The Arkansas Beef Improvement Program (ABIP) has helped many Arkansas cattle producers over the last 13 years to improve the efficiency, productivity and knowledge of their operations.

“Producers who haven't gone through the program can also benefit from what has been learned since ABIP was first adopted in 1992,” said John Richeson, who coordinates the program for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Richeson listed 10 significant items addressed on every ABIP whole farm project that can help every producer:

  1. Goal setting — Goals can range from improving the carcass quality of your calves to producing better quality hay. It's important to identify specific goals you want to achieve for your operation and write them down.

  2. Soil testing — Rising fertilizer costs have made it too expensive to estimate the amount of nutrients needed for different forage production levels. Soil testing takes little time and is free of charge through your county extension office.

  3. Field inventories — A field inventory is a tool to identify main forage and weed species in each field and the amount of bare ground. Field inventories provide guidelines for weed control or fertilization timing.

  4. Forage testing — Seventy percent of Arkansas hay is deficient in energy (TDN) for an 1,100-pound lactating beef cow at peak milk production. It's a gamble if you're trying to make it through the winter and early spring on hay alone. Your county Extension agent can help you with a forage test. Then, a least-cost supplement can be formulated to meet the requirements specific to your cow herd based on the test.

  5. Mineral supplementation — An analysis of forage samples submitted from ABIP farms indicated that sodium (salt), selenium, copper and zinc were deficient in over 50 percent of the samples. These minerals are necessary for proper enzyme and immune function, and mineral deficiencies can lead to poor reproductive performance.

  6. Stockpiling forage — With proper preparation, stockpiling forages such as fescue or bermuda can provide a high-quality feed for the winter, while reducing hay requirement by as much as 60 percent. Stockpiled forage projects across Arkansas have helped save producers an average of $19.53 per animal unit.

  7. Cow herd performance testing — This is one of the best management tools available to improve the productivity and genetics of the cow herd. Cull from the bottom one-third of your herd, and use replacement females from the top one-third of the herd. The performance data is summarized into a spreadsheet program available from your county agent or at

  8. Enterprise budgets — A budget sheet is needed to determine costs, returns and profitability of a beef cattle enterprise. Without a budget, it's nearly impossible to know the break-even price of calves or to identify excessive costs.

  9. Production calendars — A production calendar will improve the efficiency of the ranch. Planning allows additional time to acquire products such as vaccine, fertilizer, seed or a new herd bull. Developing a production calendar involves simply recording major farm activities for the year.

  10. Controlled breeding season — Reducing the breeding and calving season to 90 days or less is the first step in improving beef cattle management efficiency. Without a controlled breeding season, it's difficult or impossible to implement many of the recommended management practices.

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.

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