Clinical Update: Dedicate a new tank for hauling water

Plastic tanks used to haul fertilizer, non-protein nitrogen or similar substances are difficult, if not impossible, to clean out, Dr. Steve Ensley stressed.

No matter how well you clean it, a tank used to store or haul chemical shouldn’t be used to haul water to thirsty cattle.

Hot, dry summers often mean hauling water for cattlemen across the country. Whether the windmill quit or the pond went dry, it’s the time of year when producers roll out plastic tanks to ensure their cattle have access to water.

Every year, Dr. Steve Ensley, veterinary toxicologist with the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Kansas State University, gets the same call: A producer hauled water, and now he’s got dead cattle. After a particularly devastating loss in western Kansas earlier this year, Dr. Ensley stressed the importance of delivering clean, chemical-free water to cattle.

Use a new tank
His bottom line? Use a brand new tank. Often, producers use the same polypropylene tank to haul water that is used for hauling fertilizer, herbicide or other farm-use chemicals.

“If those tanks have ever been used to haul fertilizer, non-protein nitrogen or similar substances, they’re difficult, if not impossible, to clean out,” he stressed. “You need to have a dedicated tank, and all you use it for is animal drinking water.”

Any fertilizer or herbicide chemicals can leach into the plastic fibers and can contaminate any water with which the tank is filled. There’s no way to scrub, steam or clean it out, Dr. Ensley said.

One of his latest cases involved a tank previously used for nitrogen and urea. After 18 hours without water, cattle drank excessively from the contaminated water, resulting in several deaths.

“It’s very common,” Dr. Ensley said. “I see it every year. It’s worth the investment to get a tank dedicated to only hauling water.”

Symptoms of toxicity
Nitrates cause an interference with an animal’s ability to oxygenate.

“You see varying degrees of oxygen deprivation from just ataxic or wobbly, to down cattle and serious respiratory issues,” he said.

Urea compounds cause hyper-ammonia issues. Dr. Ensley said the compounds can cause symptoms similar to grass tetany toxicity. Cattle may seem agitated or easily provoked, and can die within 30 minutes of ingesting water contaminated with urea compounds.

Hauling water to cattle in a tank previously used to store or haul herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers “is probably not a good idea.”

“If that’s the only source of water the animals have and it’s contaminated, it’s not a good idea,” Dr. Ensley said. “We want to try to provide them with the best quality water we can. Hauling water in a tank that’s been used for something else on the farm is just not a good idea. I continually see this and in most all cases, the animals lost would have purchased at least one new tank. It’s just not worth the risk.”

Contact the Lab
If you have questions or suspect chemical toxicity due to a contaminated water tank, call the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at 785-532-5650 or toll free at 866-512-5650. Less urgent inquiries can be directed to Producers with animals requiring immediate services should contact their local veterinarian, or may call the Veterinary Health Center Emergency Desk at 785-532-4100. Visit the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab’s website at

Dr. Steve Ensley is a clinical veterinary toxicologist with the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (KSVDL) and College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Ensley’s interests are in clinical veterinary toxicology and applied toxicology research. Food animal veterinary toxicology is his passion.

Beef Improvement Federation, Consolidation, Drought Feedstuffs and Upcoming Conferences

Clink on the links below to be taken to the websites and sources mentioned in the podcast.

0:53  –  Beef Improvement Federation – AI – EPD – Genomics

8: 56  – Consolidation Questions

15:00 – Drought Feedstuffs

20:27 – Upcoming Conferences

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter @The_BCI, and check out our new website, If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to

Hosted By: Dr. Brad White, Dr. Bob Larson, Dr. Bob Weaber and Dr. Dustin Pendell


Announcement: Resubscribe to BCI Cattle Chat

We recently experienced some issues with uploading our podcast to iTunes and Google Play. If you’re currently subscribed to BCI Cattle Chat and you’re not seeing our new episodes, unsubscribe from the original podcast, search for BCI Cattle Chat in iTunes or Google Play, and resubscribe to the podcast. Email us at with questions.

We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience! Thanks for supporting our podcast!

Questions about Trade, Fair Season and the Value of 4-H/FFA, Lameness in Calves, Implanting Calves


1:43 – Questions about Trade

9:08 – Fair Season and Value of 4-H/FFA

11:45 – Lameness in Calves

14:47 – Implanting Calves

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter @The_BCI, and check out our new website, If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to

Hosted By: Dr. Brad White, Dr. Bob Larson, Dr. Bob Weaber and Dr. Dustin Pendell



Vet Call: Nutritional aspects of cattle health

By Dr. Bob Larson, DVM
Reprinted with permission from the Angus Journal.

Meeting the nutritional needs of cattle is the foundation of a healthy herd. Nutritional needs differ between bulls, dry cows, lactating cows, growing replacement heifers and post-weaning calves, and the nutrient composition of forages change throughout the year. Because of the interaction between changing animal needs and changing forage conditions, herd managers must be informed and prepared to provide appropriate supplements when needed. In almost all situations when cattle have the opportunity to graze green growing forages that are high-quality and readily digestible, the only supplement needed is salt (and based on local soil and plant characteristics, possibly other minerals). However, even green growing grass has the potential to cause health problems if the concentration of the mineral magnesium is low in the lush leaves at the same time that cows grazing the forage have high magnesium requirements due to being in early lactation or late pregnancy.

While green growing forage is an excellent feed source for cattle, because of weather factors and growth characteristics of grass, for many weeks of the year cattle only have access to mature or dormant forage that has reduced quality and digestibility. Standing dormant forage and moderate-quality hay can meet most, if not all, energy and protein needs of cattle with relatively low nutritional demands, such as mature cows that are not lactating and bulls that are not active. If cattle are growing or lactating, dormant forage or hay may be deficient in energy and/or protein and these nutrients must be supplemented to avoid inadequate growth or even weight loss. The maturity and quality of forage when it is cut for hay as well as the conditions in which the hay dries before baling have tremendous impact on the nutrients present. Waiting to cut hay until the forage is very mature may increase the tonnage available, but the quality may be so low that either the cattle will not be provided needed nutrients or the needed supplementation drives up the total diet cost. Because growing replacement heifers, growing bulls and cows in late stages of pregnancy or early lactation have high nutrient needs, these classes of cattle require higher quality forages or more supplementation of poor-quality forage than adult, non-lactating cattle.

Because forages, and readily available energy and protein supplements vary greatly across North America, knowledge of local forages and feeds is essential when planning the most cost-efficient diets for cow herds. The types of predominant forage plants and the growth patterns of the different plants in diverse areas of the country greatly impact the quality of the diet for grazing cattle. Many forages and feeds have specific characteristics that affect not only the diet quality but can also cause potential negative effects. Knowledge and experience is needed to avoid health and production problems. Use of some supplemental feeds has to be limited due to adverse effects when fed at higher levels. For example, the high starch content of corn and other grains limits their use in forage-based diets; the potentially high levels of sulfur in corn gluten feed, distillers grain and some other by-product feeds requires that they be used in moderation; and gossypol in cottonseed meal can cause reduced fertility in bulls, which requires that this feed be fed for a limited time or in limited amounts in the weeks ahead of the breeding season.

Cattle that are not receiving adequate amounts of water, energy, protein, salt, and required vitamins and minerals can exhibit a wide range of problems that include poor growth, weight loss, failure to become pregnant, hair and skin lesions, bone and joint problems, and susceptibility to sicknesses such as pneumonia, scours and nervous system disease. Unless underlying nutritional problems are identified and corrected, use of vaccines, antibiotics and other interventions will not improve herd health. In many situations, outright disease is not detected, but nutrient deficiencies are negatively impacting body weight and fertility of the herd.

Fortunately, cattle will thrive on many different types of forages and feeds. The rumen has the ability to convert moderate- and even low-quality feeds into needed nutrients. Because cattle can eat a wide variety of feeds, locally available products that could not be easily shipped to other parts of the country or could not be used in other animal diets can serve as excellent cattle feeds. Knowledge of the nutrient needs of different classes of cattle as well as experience with local forages and feeds will allow cattle producers and their advisors to develop cost-effective diets that meet the needs of cattle to maintain good health and productivity.

Dr. Larson is a professor of production medicine with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, Edgar E. and Elizabeth Coleman Chair of Food Animal Production Medicine, executive director of Veterinary Medical Continuing Education, and faculty member with the Beef Cattle Institute. He specializes in the integration of animal health, production efficiency and economic considerations in beef cattle production. This column is reprinted and redistributed with permission from the Angus Journal.

Research Update: Duration of postpartum anestrus in cows and heifers

The length of time it takes for a cow to resume fertile cycles after calving directly affects the reproductive performance and efficiency of a cow-calf herd. Dr. Robert Larson, professor of production medicine, collaborated with Dr. Doug Shane, Dr. Mike Sanderson, Dr. Matt Miesner and Dr. Brad White to develop a model investigating the effects on herds with differing lengths of time to resume fertility after calving over the course of 10 years.

Ideally, the average cow in a herd takes 50-60 days to resume cycling following calving when the cows are in good body condition. However, herds with a high percentage of thin cows, cows that experienced calving difficulty, or cows that are slower to resume fertile cycles after calving due to presumed genetic reasons may average slightly to much longer length of post-calving infertility.

“Relatively small increases in the length of post-calving infertility have detrimental effects on the herd’s productivity and those effects can persist for several years,” Dr. Larson explained. “Conversely, relatively small improvements also have important benefits.”

While the differences between a herd with optimal reproductive efficiency and less efficient herds can be difficult, if not impossible to see outwardly, the model provides quantitative evidence of change.

Calving heifers ahead of cows
In a separate study, the group developed a 10-year model determining the effects of breeding heifers before mature cows. One of the challenges when managing the length of post-calving infertility is to ensure that the youngest group of cows that just had their first calf are ready to breed by the start of the breeding season. These young cows tend to take longer to return to fertility than mature cows and good reproductive management of this important age-group starts long before they are bred for their first pregnancy.

“Focusing on development of replacement heifers is critical for good overall herd reproductive efficiency,” Dr. Larson said. “If replacement heifers can be managed so that all those that are selected to enter the herd will calve before the start of the mature cow calving season, all (or nearly all) of this age-group will have time after calving to resume fertile cycles by the start of their second breeding season.”

While breeding replacement heifers earlier than the mature cows provides benefits, it also requires additional management and may be inconvenient. The second model investigated how to select the optimum length of time to breed heifers ahead of mature cows. While the optimum heifer lead time is different for different herds, in general, the greatest bang for your buck occurs when heifers are bred to calve three to four weeks ahead of mature cows. While breeding even earlier provides additional benefits, the amount of improvement in reproductive efficiency decreases with each week earlier that heifer breeding is moved.

Read the published abstracts, papers and key points below.

Journal of Animal Science, Volume 95, Issue 4, April 2017: A deterministic, dynamic systems model of cow-calf production: The effects of the duration of postpartum anestrus on production parameters over a 10-year horizon
Key study findings

Journal of Animal Science, Volume 95, Issue 10, Oct. 2017: A deterministic, dynamic systems model of cow–calf production: The effects of breeding replacement heifers before mature cows over a 10-year horizon
Key study findings

Theriogenology, Volume 105, January 2018: Determining potential pregnancy status differences based on a new method of yearling heifer prebreeding examination
Key study findings

Moving Cattle after Breeding, Creep Feeding Calves, Mycoplasma Bovis, Recent Industry News

Topics: When to move cows following breeding; creep feeding calves; Mycoplasma bovis; the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) meeting in June; recent industry news.

BCI Explains: What’s Cattle Chat?

By Shelby Mettlen, communications and marketing specialist

Because veterinarians and beef producers are often on the road, the Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) at Kansas State University has launched BCI Cattle Chat, a weekly podcast to provide current industry information to its on-the go audience.

Dr. Bob Larson, DVM and professor of production medicine; Dr. Brad White, DVM and director of the BCI; Dr. Dustin Pendell, professor of agricultural economics; and Dr. Bob Weaber, professor and beef extension specialist, make up the podcast team.

“A lot of valuable research takes place at K-State and other land-grant universities, and busy producers need convenient ways to receive information about the latest developments in beef production and marketing,” Dr. Larson said. “By having professors from animal science, agricultural economics and veterinary medicine addressing timely topics, and important management and marketing issues, producers receive more well-rounded answers that cross several disciplines.”

Short, conversational updates are recorded each Tuesday and distributed to iTunes, Google Play and Castbox the following Friday for download. Topics range from production and management tips, to updates on industry news and practice management.

“The goal is to allow us to share information in a new format that is accessible by those people who are busy and on the go,” Dr. White explained. “It benefits the industry by providing updates to producers who can transfer this information into actionable strategies to fit their operations and practices.”

BCI Cattle Chat is also an interactive tool, and the team has received and addressed questions from listeners across the country. Listeners can submit questions and suggested topics to

Podcast episodes can be downloaded directly to your mobile device or accessed from a desktop for easy listening on iTunes, Google Play and Castbox. More information on downloading the podcast can be found at

Drs. Brad White (left) and Bob Larson discuss managing cattle in extreme heat during a June recording.

Kansas Announces Cattle Trace Pilot Program for Disease Traceability

For more information:
Heather Lansdowne

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Governor Jeff Colyer and Secretary Jackie McClaskey joined leaders from the Kansas livestock industry on Saturday, June 30, at Barton County Feeders in Ellinwood to announce the Cattle Trace pilot project. Cattle Trace is a public-private partnership which will develop and test a purpose-built cattle disease traceability infrastructure in Kansas that will guide discussion and development of traceability on a national scale.

“Kansas is home to the finest beef producers and operations in the nation,” said Colyer. “We are proud that the Kansas beef industry has taken the lead in this important project that will enhance our ability to protect cattle health here and across the nation.”

Cattle disease traceability is an important component in the overall biosecurity of the U.S. beef cattle industry, playing a significant role in resuming and maintaining commerce in the event of a disease outbreak. The development of a viable end-to-end cattle disease traceability system is a top priority in the beef industry in Kansas and nationwide.

“KLA members have long recognized the importance of traceability for animal disease purposes to help protect their livelihoods and the industry,” said Kansas Livestock Association Chief Executive Officer Matt Teagarden. “We are excited to be part of this effort to move traceability forward for Kansas producers and ultimately the entire U.S. livestock sector.” KLA members amended policy in December 2017 to support mandatory cattle disease traceability for all ages of cattle. This policy shift provided momentum across Kansas to take action.

From end-to-end, each step of the beef cattle supply chain exists in Kansas, positioning the state well to test an expanded system capable of informing and guiding development of an enhanced traceability system on a national level.

“We have the opportunity to develop a cattle disease traceability system on our terms. The capabilities of Cattle Trace will enable us to do the right thing for animal health and biosecurity, and for the entire U.S. beef cattle industry,” said Brandon Depenbusch, vice president of cattle operations for Innovative Livestock Services, a member of the Cattle Trace steering committee. ILS will be one of at least ten feed yards that will participate in the pilot project in addition to livestock markets, cow-calf ranches and beef processors.

In early 2018, the Cattle Trace collaborators began working to develop a purpose-built infrastructure to track cattle movement through the supply chain. Cattle Trace will utilize ultra-high frequency technologies to collect the minimal data necessary, including an individual animal identification number, a GPS location, and date and time, in order to track animals in the event of a disease outbreak. Tag readers will be located at livestock markets, feed yards and beef processors. Movement data collection will begin in fall 2018, and the project will continue for approximately two years.

“We know for a traceability system to be effective, it needs to be simple, fast, and affordable to make its adoption within the industry as seamless as possible,” said Brad White, director of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. “We are working to build a system to test today and one that will serve the U.S. beef cattle industry in the future.”

Cattle Trace is a collaborative partnership between Kansas State University, the Kansas Livestock Association, the Kansas Department of Agriculture, USDA, and individual producer stakeholders. It is being jointly funded by public and private resources.

“The development of Cattle Trace is a direct result of proactive leaders in the Kansas beef industry recognizing an opportunity to develop a traceability system that works for producers,” said Secretary McClaskey. “We have seen tremendous leadership from industry partners ready to step up and take an active role on this critical issue.”

For more information about the Cattle Trace project, go to or contact the program coordinator, Cassie Kniebel, at or 785-564-7446.

This news release was prepared by Heather Lansdowne for the Kansas Department of Agriculture. For more information, contact 785-564-6707 or Photos by the Beef Cattle Institute.

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer attended the event at Barton County Feeders near Ellinwood, Kansas, on Saturday, June 30.
“Kansas is home to the finest beef producers and operations in the nation,” said Colyer. “We are proud that the Kansas beef industry has taken the lead in this important project that will enhance our ability to protect cattle health here and across the nation.”