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Down the Cow Path

“It was the worst I’ve seen in 30 years.”

Those were the words of at least five veterinarians and many cow-calf producers this past spring. The words describe the conditions and tough times had by most cattleman calving this spring. There was not just one problem, but everything bad that could happen did!

Some of the problems stemmed from last year’s drought. The pastures were so short on growth there was no grass to keep the newborn calf up off the cold ground.

Then the mud came with calves stuck and udders dirty; with the late cold, blood vessels constricted, and the uterus received a larger blood supply which in tum caused birth weights to increase 5-10 pounds.

There was also more breach or backward calves. If the calves did get born alive and up, scours or diarrhea hit.

Not a fun year at our place as we lost six calves – five never got up and one had a spinal injury at birth, I talked to several producers that had to put calves in hot, hot water soon after birth just to get the core body temperature up, so they could survive. All in all just another year with another bunch of problems.

The weather has finally warmed up enough to get the pastures back to green, and the grass is finally growing. When I first turned the cows out, they kind of just looked at me like “Where’s the grass?” All things in their own time I guess!

I finally got into the field to work the last day of April, and the ground was barely fit. May 3 and we are ready to plant, but here comes the rain again! We have three cows to calve yet and would like to buy two or three more pairs to keep our numbers up and replace the cows that lost calves.

There was good news on the national front as beef exports managed a 5 percent increase in value the first quarter of 2013 over first quarter of 2012. Other good news is the increased access to Japan’s beef market. It has taken 10 years, but the beef industry in the United States has finally recovered market loss due to the December 2003 “mad cow” debacle.

A sobering note is that U.S. cow-calf numbers continue to decline, and the herd build up is slow in coming.

Next weekend is Mother’s Day, and it would be a good idea to treat mom to a meal out, preferably a beef meal! If going out to eat is not an option, get a good rolled rump roast or a sirloin tip roast and put the roast in the crock pot with potatoes and carrots. Start early in the morning, and you should have a wonderful meal waiting when you get back from church.

By June, for Father’s Day, the grill is open! Rib eyes, T-bones, sirloin steaks or burgers really make the day! Beef always makes the day better! Recipes are always available at to help stretch your meal budget.

Some dates to remember: June 24-26 is the Illinois Beef Association Summer Conference in Southern Illinois at Rend Lake Resort. Break out sessions and feedlot tours along with a tour of the Dixon Springs Ag Center highlight this year’s conference.

July 19-20 is Beef Days in Bureau County, so come out and support the cattlemen. Rib eye sandwiches and entertainment Friday night at Soldiers and Sailors Park, and a full meal at the fairgrounds on Saturday. Also on Saturday is the third annual Bureau County Cattlemen Jackpot Steer and Heifer show. Hope to see you both days.

On a personal note, Dawn and Chris’ wedding was beautiful, and the weather was great! Best of luck, kids, and may you have a long and wonderful life together!

I hope everyone has a safe planting season, and please everyone, watch out for tractors on the road. It will be a feverish spring because of the weather, but a bit of caution may be a life saved.

As always enjoy beef, it’s what you want to eat.

Larry Magnuson has a cow-calf operation south of Tiskilwa.

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