Book addresses Midwest cow-calf management issues

December 19, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A book written by a team composed predominantly of Purdue Extension specialists provides management advice for an agricultural sector that often doesn't demand the same attention as some other commodities in the Midwest.

Cow-Calf Production in the U.S. Corn Belt covers topics from breeding to marketing. The 272-page book (publication MWPS-66) is $40 plus shipping and handling and is available through MidWest Plan Service, a university-based publishing cooperative at Iowa State University.

The book contains information valuable to both veteran cattle producers and those new to the industry, said Don Jones, a retired Purdue agricultural engineer and one of the book's authors.

"It's geared toward the cow-calf industry in Indiana and surrounding states because we felt that this industry, compared to at least the dairy and swine industries, is underserved by Extension," Jones said. "This is a very large industry in the Midwest with more than 200,000 cow-calf producers, most of whom have relatively small operations."

As its title indicates, the book focuses on cattle production in the nation's primary grain-producing region. Raising cattle in the Midwest is vastly different than at cow-calf operations in the West, where ranchers often manage 1,000 animals or more.

"In the Corn Belt, cow-calf operators often graze their animals on cornstalks left over from harvest, while operators in the West are going to be grazing animals on the range, in general," Jones said. "We may get 35-40 inches of rain a year in parts of the Eastern Corn Belt while a lot of the range areas in the West might be getting 15-20 inches. So pasturing, managing forage, rotational grazing, feeding and watering systems are going to be different."

The book devotes chapters to farmstead planning, utilities, watering systems, fences and gates, lots and housing, harsh environments, handling facilities, manure management, forage management, feeds and feed storage, body condition score and reproduction, nutritional management, breeding programs, calving management, herd health, non-ambulatory animals and disposal of dead animals, arthropod pests, vertebrate pests and predators, beef operation safety, and value-added marketing.

The final chapter is a herd management calendar, outlining considerations for periods during reproduction and calving, and accounts for both fall and spring calving operations.

Photos, charts, graphics and diagrams are sprinkled throughout the publication.

Work on Cow-Calf Production in the U.S. Corn Belt began about six years ago. Keith Johnson, Extension forage specialist, and Ron Lemenager, Extension beef specialist, assisted Jones as project leaders. Those three wrote chapters, along with Purdue specialists Dennis Buckmaster and William Field, agricultural engineering; Larry Horstman and Terry Stewart, animal sciences; and Ralph Williams, entomology.

Other contributing writers included Judy Loven, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University; and Tom Glanville, Iowa State University.

"Many other specialists from universities across the country and USDA reviewed the manuscript and were a big help," Jones said.

To order the book, visit the MidWest Plan Service website at and click on the publication link. For additional information, contact MidWest Plan toll-free at 800-562-3618 or by email at

International orders must be made by phone and cannot be completed online.

Writer: Steve Leer, 765-494-8415,

Sources: Don Jones, 765-743-6165,

                  Ron Lemenager, 765-494-4817, 

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

Related website:
Purdue Department of Animal Sciences