Thursday, January 27, 2022

Have you watched an NRCS “water infiltration” demonstration lately?


CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route newsletter               May-June 2021

Clay Howe                        Sue Palen                 Greg Palen                      Rich Harmon
Route Sales/Service               Store/products             Field Service                           Local AI service  
Agronomy/Seed                     Advance orders            “aAa” Breeding Guide         
John Quaderer
(519)933-8431                        (989)277-0480              (989)277-6031                       Store assistant

Mich Livestock Service, Inc.     “For the Best in Bulls”   and    “Top Forage Seeds”
110 N Main St   (PO Box 661)   Ovid, MI  48866   **   phone  (989) 834- 2661
fax: (989) 834-2914      email:      website:

Byron Seeds’ annual “Cover Crop Field Day” was April 22 in Rockville, Indiana.   As part of the program they had their county NRCS staff do a “water infiltration” test with blocks of soil and sod taken from Samuel Fisher’s working farm.
These blocks included:
A tray of fully tilled soil (as you would find in conventional row crop farming)
A tray of disked sod (as you would find in rotating from hay to row crop)
A tray of over-wintered cover crops
A tray of perennial grass-based pasture

After spraying with water to simulate 1 ½ inches of rainfall, and catching water in jars that either “ran off” the top of the soil or “infiltrated” through the layer of soil, the trays were dumped upside down to compare the effects.

Surprisingly, the fully-tilled soil had most of its “rainfall” run off: underneath, the soil remained totally dry (none of the rain infiltrated into the soil, where you will be planting your seed).
The disked sod passed roughly half the rain away as runoff, half infiltrating the seed layer.     The water clearly followed the path of roots in the soil mass.

The remaining two samples were totally watered, having absorbed all the “rain”.   Lots of root mass were clearly visible, and were acting like sponge to absorb water and storing it in the growth zone of the topsoil.

In the opinion of the NRCS people, cover crops are the superior way to build soil, and when your farm includes animals, their “residues” feed the soil biology best.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022



In both the Dairy and the Beef world, the “establishment” of corporate research and university extension continues to promote “data driven” genetic selection, now utilizing Genomic indexes developed from computer analysis of trait patterns and associated DNA markers for the cutting edge of cattle breeding.     Feed, seed and chemical companies cheerlead for these approaches, as experience tells them their sales go up alongside the adoption of linear trait selection.

What constitutes a profitable cow-herd ?

At the basis of optimized Beef production is maximized reproduction.     A cow herd that gets its reproduction maximized, is a group of cows that (a) Conceive on time for desired calving dates; (b) Birth live calves with no assistance;  (c) follow their maternal instinct to get up and lick that new calf to life, urging it to stand, coaxing it to nurse;  (d) stimulate lactation at a pace that the calf will utilize;  (e) sustain body condition from a vigorous appetite so as to repeat this cycle all over again for the next season.

How often do we confuse performance with maternal cow-calf ability?

Too often, in our Performance-driven measurement systems, we give more credit to the bulls siring the heaviest weaning calves, than the cows giving those calves their start in growth.   In earlier days, we made clear distinctions between “Performance” sires and “Maternal” sires – using both at a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio so as to maintain adequate replacement heifers in the cow herd.

What follows in data-driven systems, is that cow (sired by a name-recognition “performance” bull) that weaned an 800 pound calf one year gets a pass for not getting rebred on time for the following year, her Genomics giving her a “superior” label even though she does not have the balance in character or behavior to do the job in every year.     These are often the cows who become dedicated embryo donors: they have that “bully” performance phenotype, grew one great calf (without carrying her next calf on time) and then the “numbers” seduce us: we need to propogate this “high genetic value” cow.    Is she likely to produce heifers that will make a sound, annually calving cow, when she could not do it herself?

Sorting out the breeds by their embrace of data-driven evaluation

You rarely see this happen in the breeds closer to “heritage” status, where you also find many breeders pursuing “grassfed” beef (raising calves on cows that graze grass, and finishing steers on high-energy grass and summer annual combinations) and seek to capture price premiums that have developed for leaner, naturally marbled meat.     It is a “feedlot” disease, in which we select on larger frames, associated with higher post-weaning gains as long as corn is the focus of the bunk ration.      These in effect, have linked “feedlot adaptation” to “genetic value” and the data (expressed in pounds, in linear measurement) supports the conclusion, without really referencing the costs of reproduction, health, and feed cost per day going into this paradigm.   

Thursday, January 20, 2022

CONVENIENCE TRAITS… expensive way to insure a feed supply


Let us all agree on a simple fact:   Yields  from “Triple Stack” and “RoundUp Ready” varieties  are no heavier than from the same conventional (non-traited) equivalent.”                 

So why do we grow “Round Up” corn?    It makes a corn monoculture possible, year after year on the same fields (until the compaction forces you to a rotation crop).     And each year we do it over, it takes more fertilizer (and sometimes companion sprays) to get the same yields.    But we can do it all will only one set of equipment, so less overhead investment.

OK …   I get it, even though I also know that weeds proliferate and mutate herbicide-resistance from monocultural cropping.     The greatest yield of corn always comes from the first year after we terminated a mature alfalfa stand or pasture – each additional year of corn thereafter needs greater inputs to maintain yields, thus our profitability erodes.

You can make silage from Forage Sorghum at a fraction of the cost of corn.

Consider this:   it only costs about $25 per acre for KF Fiber-Pro 50 (BMR 6) Brachytic Dwarf 85-95 day Forage Sorghum seed, whereas RR Traited corn seed runs $85+ per acre.    This will yield the same digestible dry matter, harvested as a silage, as would corn silage.   Plus you plant and also chop this crop with the same equipment used for corn silage—but you get the advantages inherent in crop rotation, breaking some weed and pest cycles.     BMR 6 Forage Sorghum uses 33% less water and nutrients per ton of forage than you need to grow corn.

In economics they teach us that when involved in commodity production (and fed beef fits that definition) profits flow to the least-cost producer—not to the greatest yield.    In my lifetime it seems that the price of an 80,000-kernel bag of seed corn for silage has inflated by 500%, while the associated yield (dependent as it is on chemical inputs) might have increased by 100%.   In seeking maximum yields, we tend to increase our production costs.     But by rotating crops to generate the same feed volume, we can often reduce our costs.     This is a great example.

DO YOU GROW SILAGE TO FEED STEERS (or overwinter pregnant cows)?

Why not try this strategy on a few acres, and see what happens?

You will want 60 degree F soils to plant Forage Sorghum, so put your usual corn in the ground first; then on the problem fields that do not get ready until later, try the Forage Sorghum.   You can do either 15 inch or 30 inch rows – it will respond either way.    Because the leaf nodes are closer together, you will get a weed-stunting canopy to develop quickly, which also helps save more rainfall and dew from evaporation loss in hot summer.

Looking for a pasturable summer annual that feeds like corn?

BMR 6 Sorghum-Sudangrass crosses can do this job, planted the same way as Forage Sorghum

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Double cropping with cattle


CONCEPTIONS Beef Cow-calf newsletter          March April 2021

Clay Howe          route sales and services/ agronomy specialist              ph (519) 933- 8431

Sue Palen           store product manager and order desk                          ph (989) 277- 0480

Greg Palen         refresher AI training/  certified seed specialist              ph (989) 277- 6031

Mich Livestock Service, Inc    “For the Best in Bulls”   “For the Best Forage Seeds”
110 N Main St   (PO Box 661)   Ovid,  MI  48866  
ph (989) 834- 2661     fax (989) 834- 2914         email:


With cattle to feed, the options of what to plant and when expand our grain marketing greatly.   For example, you might plant oats and peas as early as you can get on the stubble this spring – harvest in boot stage by mid May – disk in a short-season corn crop (82 to 95 day) to capture the warming soil and sunlight, then prepare to pick corn late September—or make silage late August!    Either of these allow you to plant a fall cover crop that can grow through the winter, awaiting you in the spring with a full harvest of Triticale, either as baleage or feed grain.    Your soil organic matter content will increase, you will feed the soil biology that transports nutrients in the root zone, and you will capture most of the rain that falls into that same root zone.

The annual yield of digestible dry matter will be greater than what you harvest from that single long-day crop that also leaves your soil bare to the elements 200 days each year.


No “live” shows this spring?     We can gather up your semen orders for you

Without a physical show, many of the breeders from whom you buy semen will not travel into Michigan to meet you.     However, they make their sires available at Cattle Visions and we are shipping back and forth between here and Clark MO every two weeks.    Pooling your orders in full shippers means we can cover the shipping charges.    This might save you $100 or more.


A couple simple steps that improve conception rates by 10% or more

Have trouble entering some cows cleanly with the AI gun?     Consider sheath protectors (or the IMV flimsies coveralls) to protect from carrying manure particles into the cervix or uterus.    We stock both, and they are simple to use.     Or consider Heifer Plus or Bull Plus (ask for info).

Thursday, January 13, 2022

“Real numbers” – reminiscing over a 45 year AI career


I started a registered Holstein herd in 1978 on a shoe-string when cow prices were twice today’s sale values.    Just like today, operating bills seemed to eat up the entire milk check.   To pay off these cows, I needed them to last long enough to replace themselves, with a few extra to sell.    We selected bulls from long life cow lines: we mated them according to “aAa”.   And it worked.   The debt is gone.

Lots of people asked me, “Why registered?  You can’t eat a piece of paper.”    Isn’t it ironic that so many who thought that way, now think they have to have the high Genomic numbers to make cows that will milk?  In the end, are not those “values” just numbers on a piece of paper also?    Are these theories economically sound?   

Add a little common cow sense to your breeding program, free yourself from the tyranny of higher-cost, technology-intensive breeding – give us a chance.   What always worked before, that paid off lots of farms, can still work today. 


Mich Livestock Service, Inc  “For the Best in Bulls” since 1978   ph (989) 834- 2661

Monday, January 10, 2022

Compare the philosophy in the Triple Hil ad to these breeders:


Three different approaches:  Traditional cow line selection for longevity, to gain the ease of high production that comes from matured cows that stay “fit”.   That is exemplified by the new Radix P bull, with three tremendous cows behind him (and five milking maternal sisters from five different matings, standing in the barn alongside his momma, who continues to add to her lifetime production totals).

Compare that to what was prevalent in AI even before Genomics started—the cow who is “all done” with a single large first lactation, in which she milks 365 days without carrying calf to build up her index, and then becomes a permanent embryo donor to fill the bull stud contracts.    That is the ad above left.

OR there are still breeders trying to bridge both sides of the debate, breeding up from developed cow lines, using the highest-TPI-ranked of the Genomic sires that survive to early-age progeny evaluation, not always getting them to milk a full 2x first lactation (health traits reducing persistency), resorting to 3x to get a couple bigger records and raise type scores before turning them into embryo donors.  
That is the ad above right.

If you needed to buy a bull, which herd would you prefer to visit first?

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Keep cattle breeding in the hands of “breeders”


The USDA and the FDA are fighting over who will “control” (approve and regulate) the results of “gene editing” (making GMO animals).    This technology, which has  grown alongside the ability to “clone” animals, is being promoted as the way that “overnight” we can have ALL animals possessing some desired gene that currently has to come from careful mating and breeding selection.

Can the industry afford another technology that takes genetic control away from the farmers who depend on it, and gives that control to an industrial entity that will expect us to pay royalties for use of their “patented” technology?    Has there ever been a provable increase in yields from the technology fees you already pay for GMO corn and soybeans?     Is the market willing to pay for that cost increase?

The cattle breeding industry remains virtually the last aspect of production agriculture that still controls its genetic destiny.     Genetic selection gains still exceed the market growth rates.  

Mich Livestock Service, Inc   For the Best of Bulls”     ph (989) 834- 2661