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'Cattle Heaven' greets cattlemen in Florida

Gene Johnston Updated: 02/07/2013 @ 1:16pm On the scene at the 2012 Cattle Convention, Nashville

Several thousand beef producers are gathering in Tampa, Florida, this week for the annual Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show. While drought and high feed prices are high on their minds, they’re finding plenty to celebrate, too, with record high cattle prices for the third year in a row.

This convention doesn’t come to Florida often -- it’s in Nashville, San Antonio and Denver more often. But cattlemen are really warming up to Tampa this week, with 80 degree temperatures and plenty of green grass. Florida is one of the few places in the country that has largely been spared the drought.

Here are some of the highlights from Cattle Convention activities on Wednesday.

Reproductive tips. At the Cattlemen’s College seminar, one of the learning tracks involved cow breeding performance. University of Missouri reproductive expert Mike Smith reminded producers that cow breeding performance is still the biggest factor in herd success or failure. If a high percentage of cows don’t breed and wean a calf, there’s nothing you can do to make up for it. One of the big problems is late-calving cows, those that fall out of the first 60-70 days of a calving season. As they fall farther behind from one year to the next, they become a bigger and bigger drain on the herd. “Have a goal of a bigger percentage of early-calving cows,” says Smith, “within the first 20 days of the start of the calving season. “One day to do this is with estrus synchronization and timed artificial insemination to get more pregnancies on day 1 of the breeding season.” And, he says, begin breeding heifers 2-3 weeks before cows, to give them a better chance of becoming early-calvers throughout their lifetimes.

Using technology. A panel of beef producers told a packed meeting room how they use newer technology to enhance their herds. Mark Gardiner, a large Angus breeder from western Kansas, explained that he and his wife, a veterinarian, have learned to use ultrasound technology to do early pregnancy checks (about 55 days after breeding) and also determine the sex of the calf at that time. “There’s a small window from day 55 to about day 100 when you can see the sex of the calf on the ultrasound image,” says Gardiner. “After that, the calf moves below the pelvic bone and you can’t see it.” The ultrasound machine also lets their herd know early if a cow is not pregnant, and move her. “The ultrasound was an expensive investment, and it paid for itself in the first month of use,” says Gardiner.

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