The University of Nevada Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources with financial support from the USDA Risk Management Agency and local sponsors hosted the 2020 Cattlemen’s Update at Reno, Sierra Valley (California) Fallon, Elko, Wellington Ely and Winnemucca and via interactive video to smaller communities earlier this month.
The Cattlemen’s Update is an annual educational program designed to provide cattle producers current information about important management practices and issues that may affect the efficiency, productivity profitability and sustainability of their businesses
Sessions began with a fascinating tutorial on virtual fencing by Dr. Paul Meiman, extension specialist, Livestock-Wildlife Interactions of UNR. This technology is not readily available in the United States, yet, but has been used in Australia.
It is similar to the invisible dog fence with the possibility of it being operated by solar power. Cattle wear a collar that uses a combination of audible and shock cues to influence behavior. The “fence” is radio frequencies to create a boundary. When cattle enter the boundary, an audible tone is issued. Once they attempt to cross the boundary, a shock is emitted. Researchers are finding that the cattle learn quickly what the audible tone means.
This technology may give producers the opportunity to graze target species at optimum times of growth, to graze fire breaks, or even for grazing after fire damage. Currently, this practice is not readily available to producers, and most likely cost prohibited. More research is being done.
Dr. Mozart Fonseca discussed epigenetics. In biology, epigenetics is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. The Greek prefix “epi” in epigenetics implies features that are on top of or in addition to the traditional genetic basis for inheritance. Epigenetics most often involves changes that affect gene activity and expression, but the term can also be used to describe any heritable phenotypic change.
Such effects on cellular and physiological phenotypic traits may result from external or environmental factors or be part of normal development. The standard definition of epigenetics requires these alterations to be heritable in the progeny of either cells or organisms. Fonseca explained how the use of epigenetics can affect cattle growth and production.
Keynote speaker Leo McDonnell of Columbus, Mont., and Midland Bull Test explained that frame size of cattle does not matter in beef production. He strongly believes that the animal must fit its environment and that the RFI (Residual Feed Intake) Index is the best selection tool we have when selecting replacement cattle for our herds.
RFI is the measure of feed intake needed for maintenance and production. It is a calculation of true feed utilization indexed within a group of cattle. A negative number is more efficient than a positive number. While RFI is not a standalone efficiency indicator, it needs to be balanced with production traits, it allows producers to look at a large group of bulls of various weights, gain and feed conversions to find your most efficient animal.
The Nevada Beef Council updated attendees on their Meat Substitutes Research and Strategy. Beef consumption has risen by four pounds per capita since 2015 and continues to rise. Even though the price of beef continues to rise, demand continues to rise with it. Even though celebrities influence markets, they aren’t impacting beef. Vegan stars aren’t recruiting more people to a vegan lifestyle.
Beef substitute growth at retail is still growing but has slowed drastically. While people are trying meat substitutes, they are still eating meat. The health industry has been the biggest ally when it comes to deterring plant-based proteins like fake meats. Beef is clearly one of the top sources of protein in our diets. The percentage of vegans and vegetarians are as low as they have ever been!
The good news of the afternoon was delivered by extension educator Steve Foster, University Nevada Cooperative Extension, Pershing County. The 2020 Cattle Outlook is good. Cow numbers for 2020 are slightly lower than 2019 and fewer calves at the market make for slightly better prices than in 2019. The quarterly feeder steer prices for 2020 are projected at: $140 in the first quarter, $142 in the second quarter, and $147 in the third quarter. It is assumed that exports for beef, pork, chicken and turkey will all establish new all-time highs.
Sponsors included American Ag Credit, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Carter Agri-Systems, Churchill County Cowbells, Humboldt County Cattlewomen, Intermountain Beef, Kirby Manufacturing, Inc. Cattle Feeding Equipment, Lahontan Valley Veterinary Clinic, MWI-Animal Health, Neff Mill, Nevada Beef Council, Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, Nevada Rancher Magazine, Snyder Pinenut Livestock Supply, Plumas Sierra County Cattlemen’s Association, Producers Livestock Marketing Association, Progressive Rancher, Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District, Smith Valley FFA, Snyder Livestock, Steptoe FFA (Ely), and White Pine Veterinary Clinic.