Calf numbers in 2012 were at the lowest numbers in 64 years, in part due to drought, rising feed costs and increased land values.
Scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and other universities are exploring how to increase those numbers in a sustainable way.
These issues will be addressed Sept. 12-13 at UNL's Cow-Calf Efficiency Symposium.
To honor his late wife, Caroline, who died about three years ago, Kenneth Eng has donated a total of about $2 million to three universities to fund research on how to increase cow efficiency in times of limited feed resources.
Along with UNL, the foundation has granted money to Texas A&M University and Oklahoma State University.
The 2012 calf crop was estimated at 34.3 million head, down 3 percent from 2011. This is the smallest calf crop since the 33.7 million born during 1949, the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
UNL research focuses on increasing the cattle herd by expanding use of corn residues as feedstuff.
Nebraska currently uses only about 10 percent of available corn residues.
"If we could use another 10 or 15 percent, that would have a dramatic impact on the amount of cows that we could produce in Nebraska," said Larry Berger, the head of the animal science department at UNL.
Increasing the nation's herd size is not without its challenges.
"Part of the challenge is that the feed resources that have traditionally been used to support the cow industry are going more toward grain production," Berger said. "A portion of the land that was used to raise forages is being used for corn or soybean production rather than hay or forage production."
Berger said that the choice to raise grain instead of forages in an economic one, as grain prices have been high. The result is that hay and grazed forage prices have increased dramatically.
At the symposium, UNL experts will present research on the nutritional effects of feeding cattle corn residue.
"What we're trying to figure out is 'can we utilize corn residue when we would normally use hay?'" Berger said. "Can we supplement the nutrient deficiencies in corn residue?"
Pre-registration is $100 and it costs $125 at the door. Current animal science students from UNL, OSU and Texas A&M can attend the symposium for $25.
Several hotels are within walking distance of the event. To register, go to http://go.unl.edu/cowcalfsymposium.
The symposium will be at the Embassy Suites, 1040 P St., Lincoln, just a block from the UNL's City Campus.
The symposium is sponsored by the Dr. Kenneth and Caroline Eng Foundation.