By: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Sam Womble, 210-631-0400, email@example.com
Jeff Hanselka, 830-303-3889, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Bob Lyons, 830-278-9151, email@example.com
Dr. Joe Paschal, 361-265-9203. firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW BERLIN — “If I were to describe today’s event, I’d say it was beef cattle producers from four different counties getting together to learn how to be even better stewards of the land,” said Jim McAdams, owner of McAdams 12 Bar Ranch in New Berlin, near Seguin.
McAdams and his wife Molly hosted about 40 people at their ranch for the 2016 Multi-County Beef Cattle Field Day, presented in collaboration with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offices in Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe and Wilson counties.
Field day activities included presentations and hands-on demonstrations by AgriLife Extension experts.
Dr. Bob Lyons, AgriLife Extension range specialist, Uvalde, gave a presentation on stocking rate management and provided information and a practical demonstration on brush management. Dr. Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Corpus Christi, gave a chute-side demonstration of low-stress cattle handling techniques.
“With the amount of land fragmentation in this region and the growing number of new landowners who want to run cattle on their property, these field days are a great opportunity to learn about proper rangeland management, how to determine the right stocking rate and how to prepare for the possibility of drought,” said Jeff Hanselka, AgriLife Extension agent for Guadalupe County.
Hanselka said a typical cattle operation in South Central Texas has about 30-50 head of cattle, but there are many ranches in the region that maintain several hundred head.
“The goal of the field day was to give attendees useful information and practical knowledge they could apply to their own operations,” said Sam Womble, AgriLife Extension agent for Bexar County. “While this was a multi-county program, there are similar conditions and challenges in all four participating counties, so everyone benefitted from the presentations and demonstrations.”
Womble said while there has been sufficient rain so far this year and there is ample forage for cattle, one of the main messages he hoped attendees would take to heart was the need to be aware of resources and the possibility of drought when determining stocking rates.
“Stocking rate and carrying capacity are not the same thing,” said Lyons in his presentation. “Carrying capacity is the stocking rate that can be achieved without stressing resources. You have to match your stocking rate to resources. Animal performance measures such as cow body condition scores at weaning, calving and breeding can help producers determine if their stocking rate is working.”
Lyons said carrying capacity changes from year to year so it is necessary for cattle producers to be flexible.
“A good example was the drought year of 2011,” he said. “There was almost no rain, so there was no carrying capacity and there was a tremendous selloff of cattle in the state. Additionally in determining stocking rates, producers need to take into account things like grazeable acres, which are affected by rock cover, brush density and forage preferences. They also need to look at the mix of other livestock, such as sheep or goats, and if forage resources are suited to these mixes of species.”
Lyons also explained the various chemicals for brush control and their appropriate use rates. He then strapped on a backpack sprayer and attendees followed him to a nearby pasture area where he demonstrated the proper technique for applying chemical brush control.
Paschal, in addition to explaining the social interactions and behaviors of cattle in general and at chute-side, emphasized the importance of reducing stress on cattle during handling.
“Stressing cattle makes their adrenaline and insulin levels increase and doesn’t usually get them where you want them to go,” he said. “It also lowers their immune system and affects their health.
“My goal is to get producers to better understand cattle and how they behave so they can be managed more gently. If you frighten or mishandle cattle, this may cause bruising and negatively impact the quality of the beef. It’s good business as well as good animal stewardship to treat cattle humanely.”
McAdams, who is a past president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, runs about 30 head of cattle on the 100-acre McAdams 12 Bar Ranch and another 1,000-plus at his ranch in Walker and Madison counties. He compared ranching to a hotel or feedlot operation.
“You have certain expenses and throughputs and you have to keep an acceptable ‘occupancy rate’ to pay for those throughputs, he said. “You the flexibility to sell or move cattle as needed. It’s more challenging to make money in the cattle business, but you can do it if you’re a good manager and if Mother Nature cooperates.”
McAdams said he was glad he could host the field day and hoped other operators would glean some useful knowledge they could apply to their own operations.
“There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding among the general public about how cattle operations are run,” he said. “I think field days like this demonstrate cattle producers are interested in more than making a buck – they are interested in being good stewards of their land and of their animals.”