Dave McClellan is a beef-cattle nutrition consultant based in Fremont, Nebraska
Dave McClellan is a beef-cattle nutrition consultant based in Fremont, Nebraska

All of you who have ever written a newsletter, column, or other communiqué on a regularly scheduled basis can appreciate that sometimes a topic is illusive.  This is one of those times.

Several studies reported in the 2017 University of Nebraska Beef Cattle Report are worthy of mention. 

1.       Effect of Heifer Development System on Production and Subsequent Gain as a Pregnant Heifer – Weaned replacement heifers grazed corn residue and upland range or were fed one of two drylot diets of differing energy levels.  None of the diets affected AI or final pregnancy rates.  Cost was similar across all diets on a pregnant heifer basis.  For the pregnant heifers feed per gain was not affected by treatment.  The take home is producers can and should utilize their most plentiful and readily available feedstuffs to maximize economic returns as long as the diet is balanced to meet the animal’s needs.

2.       Impact of Heifer Development System in Two Different Breeding Seasons – Replacement heifers for March or May calving herds were offered ad libitum meadow hay and four pounds of supplement or meadow grazing and one pound of supplement.  Heifers fed hay gained more but grazed heifers compensated to make pregnancy weights similar.  Pregnancy rates were higher for March than May possibly due to declining forage values on the May cattle.  Take home is overall a reduced input winter system was not a negative.

The recent NCBA convention would have made P.T. Barnum proud.  Attendance was 10,000 or more with Speakers, Committee Meetings, Educational Seminars, monster Trade Show, Social Events, and the Cattle Fax Outlook Seminar.  Unlike last year when registrations appeared to exceed attendance and the mood was “gloom and doom” this year was more “We’re going to be OK because we’re survivors” and the people were there to prove it.

The Cattle Fax Update is always of interest to me especially this year as I am really perplexed about the lack of heifers in our on feed numbers relative to historical norms.  Are we building the herd back to or beyond pre-drought levels or are we merely replacing a lot of older cows that were kept longer than usual because they were bred and a calf was money?  Cow marketings are large but not equivalent to the missing heifers.  If that is the answer I don’t like the next two to three years, but it does makes me go “hmm.”

Zoetis hosted a pre NCBA seminar for nutritionists.  Time was spent rehashing the VFD issue, which most Nutritionists feel powerless to affect, but none the less we need to understand it and be helpful where, when, and if we can.  The highlight of the seminar for me was a presentation by Dr. Molly McAdams.  Dr. McAdams is a Texas ranch wife and a consumer preference expert who works with companies at several levels of the food supply chain from supplier to retailer. 

I asked Dr. McAdams what the actual percentage of consumers is that wants to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the use of technology (think antibiotics, implants, GMO’s, confined housing, etc.) in food production.  Her answer surprised me as she said she had heard and seen published media numbers of 30%, but that she and her peer group were more comfortable in the 2 to 5% range.  Vocal, well financed, organized, and persistent might best summarize the groups that want to dictate, regulate, or eliminate our very existence.  Scary isn’t it!

I was recently asked to give a presentation on “How I Consult”.  I thought perhaps some of the younger readers might find it to be of some use.


Schedule a Visit  (monthly in my case)

·         Prior to the visit develop an agenda for any new information you wish to share, review the notes of your last visit making sure you’ve done any follow up called for.


·         Stop at the office.

·         Visit if needed.

·         Pick-up a yard sheet.

·         Drive the entire facility.

·         Walk 25 to 50% of the pens paying particular attention to low intakes, high pull rates, deads.            

·         Use all your senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste, and common.

·         Walk the feed mill and micro areas.

·         Walk the processing and hospital areas.

·         Make myself visible and available to cowboys, feeders, etc.

Return to the office

·         Fill out the walk-through report.

·         Have an exit interview with the owner, manager, or whoever needs to be involved.

·         If there are changes needed agree on an action plan and a timetable.

·         Follow-up with whatever you agreed to provide.