Determining the Relationship Between and Economics of Consistent Rate of Gain and Intermuscular Fat (high in CLA - Omega 3)

2006 Annual Report for FNC05-563

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $17,195.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:

Determining the Relationship Between and Economics of Consistent Rate of Gain and Intermuscular Fat (high in CLA - Omega 3)


We will be weighing the cattle and computing rate of gain and costs of gain at least every two months for 21 months. We will be introducting Italian ryegrass into our grazing rotation and high moisture Inline wrapped round bales of alfalfa/orchard grass/fescue for some of our stored feed.

Richard Handeen and I had applied for a three year Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA)Grant that covered much of the same questions and had been approved several weeks before we found out that Richard, Luverne Forbord and I had been approved for the two year SARE grant.

I was very excited that we would have enough funds to do some significant work. I looked at the two grants and saw that if we worked them together, we could add one more producer and double the cattle numbers that we would be working with. This would greatly improve the results of the research. I contacted both MDA and SARE and submitted a joint budget for two years for four producers and approximately 120 cattle and the third year would be just Richard and I finishing the MDA grant.

We purchased five 14’ corral panels and a creep panel for each producer to use to help in corraling the cattle and to use as a “Creep Hay Feeder” in the fall and winter. We started by putting electronic ear tags in the ear of each animal and getting a starting weight of the animals at each of the four producers.

During the next 60-90 days we sent a sample of what the cattle were grazing to Dairyland Lab. The producers decided to use “Dairyland Lab” to test the forages. This lab would give – moisture, dry matter, ph, crude protein, ADF, NDF, Lignin, NDFd48, IVTDMD48, AD-ICP, ND-ICP, protein solubility, fat, ash, calcium, phos, mg, k, s, sugar an make calculations for TDN, ACP, N.F.C., N.E.L., N.E.G., N.E.M., D.D.M., D.M.I., R.F.V. and R.F.Q.

The tests proved very interesting and varied greatly depending mainly on weather conditions, plant species, and time of year. The grazing samples varied from RFQ of 120 to an RFQ of 254. The stored forage varied from RFQ of 120 to RFQ of 232. The sugars were definitely higher in the fall in both the legumes and the grasses, which looks important in both palatability and putting on finish.

I contacted Allen Williams to coordinate ultrasounding cattle at each producer’s farm. Clay Nash, who was going to do the ultrasounding, only wanted to set up in one site. I understand the challenge of setting up and working in four locations but hauling several loads of cattle 30-60 miles was not in our budget so we will look at a modified version next year. We may want to haul and ultrasound a limited number from each producer.

We have weighed all the cattle three times so we have daily rate of gain for two grazing periods and forage tests from each farm taken during those grazing periods. I just weighed my cattle for the fourth time on New Year’s Day. I was eager for the results because they had been eating very good baleage for two months. I was hoping for at least 2 lb. gain per day and they averaged 2.39 lb. per day so I was pleased. Todd Churchill had been to my place and looked at the cattle in November and thought they would be ready in January some time but when they did so well he was anxious to get some slaughtered before they got too big for his program.

During that two month period on baleage, the cattle consumed an average of 60lbs./day at $50/ton baleage so the cost of gain was $.66/per lb of gain. The cost of gain was more than I wanted but they were wasting some forage. I think a different style feeder could save 10% of the feed. I hope to try a “conserver feeder” soon.

When we last weighed the yearling cattle at each place, we weighed the 2006 calves too. This will give us a full year of records before most of them will start being marketed. This should be much more meaningful than the first group where some were only weighed twice before a few went to market. Two producers weighed cows too. Both were surprised how heavy the cows were.

SARE Grant Producers Data
Donald Struxness, Lead Producer
Farm, Date, Ave. Weights, Ave. Daily Gain, Min. Daily Gain, Max. Daily Gain, Forage Quality
#1-initial wt. 6/23/2006, 827
#1-2nd wt 9/13/2006, 912, 1.25, 0.6, 1.8, RFQ 153
#1-3rd wt 12/11/2006, 1,054, 2.3, 1.7, 3.2, RFQ 205
#1-initial wt 06 calves 12/11/2006, 569
#2-initial wt. 5/29/2006, 658
#2-2nd wt 8/30/2006, 834, 1.9, 1.2, 2.8, RFQ 162
#2-3rd wt. 11/4/2006, 994, 2.5, 1.6, 4.1, RFQ 175-230
#2-4th wt. 1/1/2007, 1,133, 2.39, 1.6, 3.5, RFQ 182-232
#2-initial wt 06 calves 12/27/2006, 492
#3-initial wt. 7/5/2006, 691
#3-2nd wt 9/11/2006, 774, 1.22, 0.5, 1.6, RFV 152
#3-3rd wt. 11/18/2006, 906, 1.94, 1.4, 2.4, RFQ 208
#3-initial wt 06 calves 11/18/2006, 432
#4-initial wt. 6/20/2006, 891
#4-2nd wt. 9/12/2006, 1,051, 1.9, 0.9, 2.7, RFQ 196
#4-3rd wt. 12/19/2006, 1,169, 1.2, 0.7, 2, RFQ 120
#4-initial wt. 06 calves 12/20/2006, 613

Farm #1 said: We need to duplicate the things we did when we got the good gains. I am encouraged by the gains in the second weigh period.

Farm #2 said: I need to work on increasing early forage quality. Next year our genetics should be more consistent. I am excited about the gains on baleage.

Farm #3 said: I want to continue the forage testing and regular weighing. I would like to do more meat testing and evaluation of carcass yields.

Farm #4 said: I can see I need to have higher RFQ in both my fall pasture and my stored forage to get the gains I want.

• Working the cattle takes longer than we had expected. But it goes smoother each time.
• At one farm we put off making the high moisture wrapped bales and consequently ran into some slower growing weather, cool and dry. The good hay was too short and then it froze. As a result, we wrapped some forage that was quite mature. It still was his best stored feed and it will give him a chance to work with the wrapped baleage.
• One farm had enough high quality dry hay and planned to graze most of the winter.
• One farm could not get anyone to bale high moisture so he baled it himself and had a lot of trouble with the hay wrapping on his rollers but got a pretty good feed.
• One farm wrapped four cuttings RFQ from 160-230.
• We had mixed experience with Green Spirit, an Italian rye grass, last year, especially where it was dry early in the growing season it just didn’t grow much at all until the late summer rains. On two of the farms, the perennial forage that had roots established, did better. On one farm the lambsquarter tried to take over the Italian rye so we cut it and high moisture baled and wrapped it (and the cows loved it this winter). Then it came back ahead of the weeds and provided excellent grazing until frost.

The second weighing of the calves will be in February and March so we will see how the light cattle do on either stockpiled grass or stored forage. At that same time we will weigh any yearlings that are left on any farms. The next weighing will be just before the calves go to new grass in April and May. We will be cutting some of our hay in mid-May to see what the RFQ will be and if the stems will be finer and more palatable.

We will continue to do more forage testing than we planned because it definitely seems to be an indicator of how the cattle will do whether grazing or as stored forage. This will give us a chance to make some changes in fertility mainly with foliar feeding. One of the producers used a foliar application with good results in 2006 so at least he and one other producer will be trying to get similar results next summer.

We will be planting Green Spirit, a very productive Italian rye grass again this year.

• Demonstrated inline wrapping high moisture and dry bales at the West Central Research and Outreach Center Summer Field Day -- 30 people watched the demonstration.
• Displayed a high moisture bale (before wrapping) and talked at the Minnesota Grazefest. About 50 people were in attendance.
• Led an on-farm tour for members of the West Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership Board – a partnership between the University of Minnesota and the citizens of the region. The group observed closeup grass finishing cattle, cows and calves, and high moisture baleage. We shared some of the early findings of the project. One of the top priorities of the Partnership Board is developing local food systems that contribute to healthy people and healthy communities.
• Following a field day at neighbors Mark and Wendy Lange, Wayne Martin, UM Department of Animal Science and grant project cooperator, and Paul Egeland, active environmentalist from Bloomington, looked at the grass finishing cattle and high moisture baleage. They also studied preliminary results of the weighing and forage testing while enjoying the flavor and tenderness of our grassfed beef.
• Producer participants, Richard and Mark along with Mark’s two sons and his brother-in-law did a walk-through of the grass finishing cattle before the first load went to Thousand Hills Cattle Company. We’re eagerly waiting for the carcass data from that group of 15 cattle. They had achieved a 2.39 rate of gain during the last 60 days on just high moisture baleage.
• There have been several opportunities to give tours and share information with small groups of people from our local community.
Plans for outreach for 2007:
• A field day is being planned in February when the weather is usually a little warmer. We will still have some grass finishing cattle, 2006 calves, and four cuttings of high moisture baleage to observe. With the erratic corn market, we think that there will be more interest from area cow/calf producers to look at an option for their calves other than strictly feedlots.
• Participate in the Minnesota Grazefest sharing data that we have compiled.
• Participate in the WCROC Summer Field Day.
• Host a field day on one of the participant producer farms during the forage harvesting and wrapping season.
• Continue to share information on an informal basis as opportunities arise.
• Plan to produce a PowerPoint presentation of the project that could be used at meetings to show the animals, the activities, and the outcomes.