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Cattle management seminar educates Illinois beef owners

Illinois Correspondent

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Two years of drought have had massive impacts on the cow-calf supply in the state of Illinois. Travis Meteer, a beef educator with the University of Illinois extension, put together a seminar to assist beef herders with decisions as producers move into a new farm year.

“Selecting the right genetics and buying the correct bull will affect the level of premiums received for cattle,” Meteer explained. “Understanding the traits that will best fit the market in years to come could position a cattleman to see large profits.
“The program covered important information that producers can directly implement and turn into dollars in their pocket.” It was at Lincoln Land Community College on Feb. 6.

Jerry Cassady, regional field representative for the American Angus Assoc. (AAA), discussed the new sire-selection tools. “He shared how genomics is playing a role,” Meteer said. “The American Angus Association is the largest breed association in the world and have led the charge in incorporating genomics into selection.”

The AAA mission is to provide programs, services, technology and leadership to enhance the genetics of the Angus breed, broaden its influence within the beef industry and expand the market for superior tasting, high-quality Angus beef worldwide.

Cassady talked about how cattle selection has evolved over time. First, farmers used only visual appraisal, then incorporated weight, then EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences), and now are using genomics to help them understand what animal will result in more beef and more profits.

“Now we can draw blood from a calf and help explain what that animal is capable of passing on. We don’t have to wait for a lifetime of progeny. EPDs are more reliable than ever. This has helped take risk out of selection and will increase the rate at which cattle genetics improve,” Meteer said.

Dan Shike, U of I assistant professor of animal sciences, addressed physical trait selection and incorporating EPDs into bull selection. He discussed using economic indexes and how they can help producers focus on traits that are economically relevant.

Meteer discussed bull management and the importance of transitioning a bull after purchase. “The key is transition. Producers need to offer some grain and supplement to bulls,” he explained, adding that just sending the bull straight to pasture after he has been on development rations can result in less longevity and reduced fertility.

Kevin Devore of ABS Global, a provider of bovine genetics, reproduction services, technologies and udder care products, spoke with the cattle producers about future trends of the beef industry.
“He spoke about relevant topics and future trends,” Meteer added. “We have the lowest cow herd numbers since the 1950s and the lowest calf herd since the 1940s.”

The main reason behind these numbers is the drought over the last two years. He pointed out the decline in the Midwest is, in part, because of the incentive to plant corn and soybeans in pasture land, with the higher crop prices.

While low supply defined the challenges facing the beef industry, Meteer said Devore had good news, as well: “We are looking at increasing export markets. Japan is relaxing the age requirements on U.S. cattle, which previously limited the supply to Japan to cattle 20 months or younger.”

There is good reason to think beef exports should rise in the future, and Devore challenged beef herd owners to be aware and ready for change.

Mark Wellman of Vita-Ferm presented information about the advantages of a breeding season-focused mineral program. “Vita-Ferm offers a bagged mineral that contains a direct feed microbial, called Amaferm. Amaferm aids in fiber digestion in the rumen. It allows producers to get more out of hay and forages,” Meteer said Wellman reported.

A great addition to the program was veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Shirding, of the Petersburg Vet Clinic.

She discussed the importance of a breeding soundness exam for bulls before they enter the breeding season. Meteer said Shirding emphasized the importance of a bull’s physicality and athletic conditions, and of passing a semen test and scrotal circumference. “A breeding soundness exam ensure that a capable bull will be breeding cows” she stated.

For those with questions, Meteer can be reached at 217-823-1340 or by email at