Calf replacement challenges ranchers to improve management.

Breeds beef cattle.  Photo: Carlos Lopes.

The cost of replacing the calf has increased in the livestock breeder and fattener’s account in 2019. After a significant fall in prices in 2017, the calf’s quotations rose again, recovering the calf margins.

This trend has challenged the breeding links and put on weight to improve its cost management. Since calf replacement can represent 45% to 60% of the production cost in these systems, an error in the strategy can mean the difference between Profiting High or having a Loss.

Should I stop producing since Calf Replacement is expensive?

The first important point to note in the strategy is that these investments are long-term, so it is essential to view the potential for appreciation of the arroba do boi Gordo in the coming years.

  • At the sitting Calf Trend‘s May decision of Livestock, recommend accelerating replacement because visualizávamos an uptrend in the market.

How to work short-term opportunities?

The second point is related to short-term fluctuations. Notice in the graph above that even with an upward trend. We find several short-term fluctuations (30 to 60 days), which generate opportunities around R $ 50.00 / head.

That is, in 2019, the calf rose R $ 152.00 / head until September but presented buying opportunities during the upward trend, with falls of R $ 50.00 / head at certain times.

By not understanding the trend, the recreator does not see these falls as opportunities and believes that prices will return to the level of the beginning of the year. The breeder can also take advantage of the peaks to sell dead calves.

To help with these decisions, we created the Probability of Falling Calf in Decision Livestock. 

Conversation with specialist: grazing fence to reserve food for drought

Florida Farm - Cassilândia - MS.  Photo: Rogério Domingues.

Seasonality in the availability of pasture for cattle is a well-known problem among ranchers. And for the food supply to be adequate to the herd throughout the year, some techniques must be performed. One of these techniques practiced is the sealing or deferral of pasture.

Although it is one of the practices considered most straightforward, there are still many doubts about it. One of the main ones is “when should the pasture fence be made?”.


Rogério Fernandes Domingues is an agronomist who graduated from ESALQ-USP (1998), has a specialization in Animal Nutrition and Pastures (2003), and an MBA in Agribusiness from FGV (2010).

Rogério started his work with livestock and animal production during his graduation period, interning at the Clube de Práticas Zootécnicas – CPZ, of the Department of Zootechnics ESALQ / USP until his formation. In 1999, he started working with the company Parmalat in the Department of Technical Assistance to the Producer, being responsible for the northern region of the State of SP and later, for the city of the city Jundiaí.

In 2000, he started his work with the formation of pastures, semi-confinement, and silage production in the State of MT. At the end of 2001, he started to work in the MS in the Misrahi Family properties, working in the restructuring of the production units that exploited beef cattle.

After completing his graduate studies, Rogério was hired by the Vilela de Queiroz group, in Barretos, after the indication of the Agronomist and friend Gustavo Ubida (who was also interviewed by Agromove. Learn more in “Conversation with specialist: Crédito Rural, as does it work? ” ), becoming responsible for all technical and agricultural and livestock planning of the same, in farms in GO, MT, RO, PA and too. In 2012, in the north of Minas Gerais, he assumed a group of farms as the technical and managerially responsible for full-cycle livestock in the Montes Claros region. That is, he creates, recreates, fattening in confinement, in addition to irrigated agriculture.

From 2014, he started to work with advisory and integrated management of several farms in the States of SP, MS, MT, and GO, participating in all stages of management and operational-financial planning of the agricultural and livestock activities of these properties. . Another activity carried out is the evaluation and feasibility analysis (projects) of production systems involving agriculture, livestock and recently, the integration between the two activities.

Agromove: What is a pasture fence?

Rogério Domingues: First of all, I would like to point out that Brazil occupies a prominent position in the world meat agribusiness, contributing a lot to the country’s GDP.

According to the latest data presented by the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporting Industries (ABIEC), Brazil today has 1.3 heads of cattle per hectare in an average stocking of 0.9 heads per hectare, totaling a herd of almost 215 mi of heads. In 2018, we had 44.2 million animals slaughtered, and to highlight the importance of pastures, only 5.6 million came from confinement. Only 12.5% ​​of the total slaughtered. This means that pastures are extremely important for Brazilian agribusiness.

Another detail is the reduction in the average slaughter age, which means that we are making available to the market younger animals and meat with much more quality. This quality results from correct decisions based on genetic choice, health, and, above all, nutritional management (pastures and supply of supplements).

As for the question about pasture sealing, grasses (tropical and temperate) in general have an intermittent growth curve. In one part of the year, they have a very intense growth, and in another part, it becomes very reduced.

AG: How is the deferral or sealing of pasture carried out?

RD: The deferred grazing technique is quite simple. It is a fence where the plant becomes “standing hay.” We select a specific area on the property, which does not participate in summer grazing (this choice is usually made in the final third of the water period) and let it develop. Then, during the drought period, we select the part of the cattle with the most significant demand and place it in this area with a more generous pasture supply.

It is worth mentioning that nitrogen fertilization must be done in the final third of the water period. This helps in the better development of forage and increases the product’s quality in the deferment of pastures.

The critical point is that pastures deferred longer, sealed have a higher dry matter content and a lower nutritional content. Therefore, care must be taken with the sealing time to not grow too much to the point of settling or that it does not have enough time to carry out the desired biomass accumulation. In this case, there are differences for each species of forage plant and where the technique will be implemented.

It must be remembered that the choice of pasture and season for fencing depends on some factors that change from region to region. Therefore, one should always look for a professional in the field.

AG: What is the difference between grazing and hay sealing? When should I use one technique or another?

RD: Pasture differentiation can be understood as a “postponement of grazing.” It is a straightforward technique and does not require much investment from machines or handling. When we talk about hay, we talk about a slightly different roughage conservation strategy; its main point is conservation from dehydration (which should be done as soon as possible to conserve nutrient and palatability values).

Pasture fencing becomes a more straightforward and cheaper technique, with a greater intention of keeping the animals or more modest gains. At the same time, hay is a practice that requires a lot of investment in machinery and planning and the risks of crop failure, since the ideal production period coincides with the summer period, with a high frequency of rainy days. It is an alternative aimed at more demanding cattle such as lactating cows that need a high-quality fiber to produce solids or high-performance feedlot diets. So the choice between one and the other depends a lot on the final goal you want to achieve.

Santa Maria Farm - Cassilândia - MS.  Photo: Rogério Domingues.

AG: When should I start planning the pasture fence? Can I use the fence with a commercial strategy for livestock? As?

RD: The beginning of adequate forage supply and demand planning occurs in conjunction with each agricultural year’s beginning. During this period, the sale of animals and the purchase of inputs takes place. It is already determined which management will be adopted for the pastures (choosing the area and planning the application of fertilizers, deferral, stocking rate, etc.). The pasture should be deferred, on average, between 2 to 4 months before the end of the rainy season so that it has a good condition of mass accumulation, without senescence.

With this planning, it is entirely possible to use the pasture fence as a commercial strategy. It is possible to measure the volume of accumulated mass and, consequently, the number of animals placed in the area for a certain period. An interesting technique is to stagger the deferral, which is a way to obtain high-quality fodder in different periods. There is a recommendation that indicates working in thirds of the area. The first would be banned in February and the other two in March.

AG: Are there forage species more suitable for use in the pasture fence?

RD: The plants most suitable for the pasture fence are plants with low accumulation of stems and good retention of green leaves. Thus, a more elongated nutritional value is sought within the grazing period in the dry season. Research shows that the most suitable species are the Brachiarian genus, such as brachiarão, and Cynodons, such as Tifton, coast cross, etc. Some properties also work with the Panicum deferral, such as Tanzania, mombaça, and others. However, they have a faster loss of nutritional value. The ideal is to avoid species of cespitoso growth, giving more preference to plants of prostrate growth.

AG: Some studies (from EMBRAPA, for example) indicate that pasture deferral is a poorly nutritious method. Because? How can I solve this problem?

RD: Several authors show that the longer the sealing period, the lower the nutrient content. Pasture maturation is characterized by an increase in fiber and lignin due to the thickening of its cell wall, in addition to a drop in crude protein content and a good part of minerals. So, only using this forage leads to a very modest, null, or even negative animal performance (weight loss), even with food quantity.

The way to make this method more efficient (to improve animals’ performance in deferred pastures) is to adopt practices used before the deferral period to increase the sealed pasture quality. Some examples are deferral in stages and nitrogen fertilization at the time of sealing, in February / March, even before the rainy season. Another alternative for using a more fibrous forage would be adopting protein supplements as an additive to nutrition, optimizing the animal’s performance.

AG: What is the ideal area for the pasture fence? How should I choose this area?

RD:  The fence must be worked in productive areas without restriction with soil fertility, areas in the right conditions, and high production potential. It is essential to apply between 40 to 50 kg of N (use a source with nitrate or sulfate, reduce losses due to volatilization) directly on the ground cover and moments before sealing. In short, the best area should be chosen to have a better response in dry matter production, that is, the accumulation of this pasture.

AG: Compared to haymaking, does this process have more or fewer costs?

RD: Sealing is an up-and-coming method because it is easy to adopt and has a low cost. It does not require any investment in facilities, harvesting, and machinery. Its only requirement is knowledge in management that includes the most appropriate choices for the process. Fencing is quite feasible when thinking about specific periods and categories and pre-established goals. Preserving fodder, be it in hay or even silage, is a more expensive process. However, it is a more nutritious source of fat food for livestock.

AG: For each animal unit (AU) / ha that I increase in the water stocking, how much do I need to increase the sealing area?

RD: In general, the fencing recommendation is usually around 40% of the effective pasture area. It is possible to perform mathematical calculations through an equation system generated by supply and demand within each period, but this is unique to each property and each region. For example, suppose the average stocking of the property is around 1.2 to 1.5 AU / ha in summer. In that case, the deferred pasture areas support around 2.0 AU / ha in winter (due to animals’ concentration in the area and less time of use).

AG: Are there any conclusions you would like to leave for the readers who are following this article?

RD: As a conclusion, I would like to mention some topics:

  • Seasonality in the production of forages is a crucial point for effective planning on the properties that work and are dedicated to the exploitation of livestock on pasture.
  • From the seasonality curve, it is possible to determine, among other factors, the area needed for food production in the winter period. This work needs to be based on a historical climate (rainfall, light, and temperature) and land use (levels of fertility, productive potential, latest cultural practices, etc.).
  • Seasonality represents the main obstacle to increasing the stocking rate throughout the year.
  • The alternatives that aim to correct this forage deficiency during the restriction period need to be taken during the water period. Be it the deferral or conservation strategy (hay and silage).
  • The deferral requires the animals to be removed from the grazing areas so that this absence allows the plants to grow. So, the producer must understand that this “rest period” is essential for this forage’s growth, to be used between harvest.
  • Last and foremost, the farms must become agricultural companies, with the planning of all activities, with a focus on the correct execution of techniques, data collection for further analysis (generation of indicators and reports), so that the strategy be substantiated with data generated on the property, taking into account other essential details that can improve the rates, quality and, consequently, the profitability of the company.
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