Preventing Spontaneous Abortions in the Herd

Both beef producers and veterinarians express frustration when a cow that is identified as pregnant later aborts the fetus during mid-pregnancy. Because reproduction is complex and a number of germs, toxins, and genetic problems can lead to pregnancy loss, veterinarians recognize that losing about 1% to 2% of pregnancies between the time of pregnancy diagnosis and calving is probably unavoidable. The goal of many aspects of cowherd health programs including nutritional management, biosecurity, and vaccination is to reduce the risk of abortion and particularly to prevent situations when more than 5% of the herd aborts.  

Veterinarians approach abortion management by focusing on two related activities: diagnosing the causes of abortion and preventing abortions from occurring. Cowherd abortions can occur either sporadically or in larger outbreaks. Sporadic abortion losses are considered to occur when less than 2% of the entire herd aborts and no group of cows as described by age, pasture, or other risk-group has greater losses than other groups. When investigating sporadic abortion losses, it may not be justified to spend a great deal of resources to attempt to identify the causes; but if a larger abortion outbreak is occurring, a thorough investigation to discover the factors that are contributing to the losses is necessary to identify changes in herd management to prevent similar outbreaks in future years. The problem that both cattle producers and veterinarians face when a few cows abort is to determine if an abortion storm is beginning or if the few identified abortions are the only ones the herd will experience.   

When the first abortion is identified by finding an aborted fetus or seeing signs of abortion in a cow previously diagnosed as pregnant (such as a retained placenta or return to heat) the veterinarian may want to collect samples from the fetus, the cow, and the placenta and to record information about the aborting cow such as her age, the date the abortion was discovered, the estimated fetal age, and the identification of the pastures she has been located during pregnancy. The samples may be sent to a diagnostic laboratory or the veterinarian may suggest that the samples be saved and only submitted for laboratory investigation if more abortions occur. Some causes of abortion are fairly easily identified by a diagnostic laboratory if the samples are fresh, but other abortion-causing germs and toxins are difficult to confirm. Many of the causes of abortion work fairly slowly, so that there are many days or weeks between the time that a cow is exposed to the cause of the abortion and the actual loss of the fetus. In these situations, the diagnostic laboratory may not be able to identify an abortion cause that is no longer present in the fetus or the cow. In other situations, the germs or toxins that cause abortion affect the cow but may not actually invade the fetus making samples taken from the fetus of no help for making a diagnosis. It is important to realize that even in situations in which the diagnostic laboratory does not identify a cause for the abortion, important information is gained by removing certain easily-diagnosed factors from the list of likely causes.  

Veterinarians and cattle producers work together to create management plans that help to prevent abortions by targeting the most likely causes that can be effectively controlled. Biosecurity plans that rely on diagnostic testing and herd segregation to minimize the risk and effect of trichomoniasis (Trich) and Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) should be created to meet each herd’s specific level of risk. Online tools named Trich CONSULT (https://ksubci.org/trich-consult/) and BVD CONSULT (https://ksubci.org/bvdbovine-viral-diarrhea-control-consult/) are useful to create herd-specific biosecurity plans for these diseases. Vaccination protocols to increase herd immunity against infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), leptospirosis, and campylobacteriosis (vibriosis) should be implemented with an emphasis on building immunity in herd replacements as well as maintaining immunity in mature adults.  Other diseases such as neosporosis, foothills abortion, and pine needle abortion are difficult or impossible to control with diagnostic testing, herd segregation, or vaccination. Some abortion risks must be addressed by having good feed security while other require carefully planning the best age and stage of pregnancy to expose cattle to pastures where abortions are likely to be initiated when the cause of abortion is either plants or diseases carried by ticks or other insects. Effective control measures have not been identified for some causes of abortion, and the best management in these situations is to work toward good overall herd health and to keep the accumulated level of abortion risk low.  

While it is impossible to prevent all abortions, a well-planned strategy designed by a veterinarian and cattle producer working together to target the most important risks for each specific herd provides reasonable protection against devastating pregnancy losses. The best herd health plan to prevent abortion losses is the plan that optimizes nutrition, biosecurity, vaccination protocols, and grazing management for your herd. 

After the Abstract: Evaluating Research and Bias for Decision-Making

Listen to the first episode of After the Abstract, with Dr. Brian Lubbers and Dr. Brad White, as they discuss the paper titled: Systematic evaluation of scientific research for clinical relevance and control of bias to improve clinical decision-making.

Find the discussed paper here: 

https://avmajournals.avma.org/view/journals/javma/247/5/javma.247.5.496.xml

Cows Going to Market, Winter Pasture Management, Heritability & Accuracy

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1:30 High Number of Cows Going to Market

6:15 Winter Pasture Management

14:12 Heritability & Accuracy: Impact on EPD Interpretation  

Guest: Megan Rolf, K-State Associate Professor of Genetics and Livestock Genomics 

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Vitamin A, Leasing vs. Buying a Bull, Implants

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4:45 Vitamin A

11:12 Leasing vs. Buying a Bull

17:40 Implants or No

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Purebred vs. Composite Bull, Coccidiosis, Selecting Relevant Traits

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1:40 Purchasing a Purebred vs. Composite Bull

9:16 Coccidiosis

13:54 Selecting Economically Relevant Traits

Guest: Megan Rolf, K-State Associate Professor of Genetics and Livestock Genomics

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Mineral Forms, VFD, Fetal Programming

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2:26 Mineral Forms  

11:27 VFD: What Does it Mean?

16:36 Fetal Programming: What Is It?

Guest: Laurentia Van Rensburg, Technical Mineral Manager for Alltech 

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The Role of Beef in Food Security

Beef cattle consume primarily human, non-edible material – forage and high fiber byproducts. These feedstuffs cannot or are poorly digested by monogastric animals of which humans are one. Thus, ruminant animals, of which cattle are dominant species, are necessary to convert these abundant carbohydrates into human edible food – beef. In addition to digestion of carbohydrates, ruminants also digest the protein, vitamins, and minerals in these feedstuffs. But cattle are fed some human edible grains, primarily corn.

The question that arises is whether beef is a net nutrient contributor to the human nutrient supply. When it comes to protein, ruminants not only digest the plant protein and convert it into a human edible form, they increase the biological value of the protein, which means that beef protein meets the amino acid needs of humans better than the original plant protein. Beef has a biological value for humans 2 to 3 times that of the feedstuffs consumed in the beef supply chain. Looking at individual sectors of the beef supply, the cow-calf and stocker sectors have the greatest conversion ratio of human edible protein consumed by the cattle to human edible protein produced in beef because these sectors of the supply chain feed very little grain. Corn is the largest contributor of human edible nutrients consumed in the beef supply chain, which is why the feedlot sector has a low conversion of human edible protein.

Besides protein, beef is also a good source of many vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, and choline. Typically, absorption of vitamins and mineral from beef is greater than plant foods in addition to beef having a greater concentration of nutrients. Iron, zinc, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and niacin are absorbed 1.5 to 3 times better from beef than plant foods. Additionally, vitamin B12 cannot be produced by plants or animals, only microorganisms, and thus animal foods are the only source of vitamin B12 in the human diet.

A recent analysis evaluated the net contribution of the beef supply for these nutrients to the human diet. The beef supply chain has a net positive contribution of iron, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin, and choline to the human diet (Figure 1). A large portion of the positive contribution is from organ meats, of which the US population does not consume much, but other cultures readily consume. Organ meats are a significant part of beef exports and the value of a beef carcass. Thus, organ meats are not only important for economic sustainability of the beef industry, but also social sustainability through reducing food security.

Figure 1. The nutrient conversion ratio of human edible nutrients produced in beef to human edible nutrients consumed in the beef supply chain. Values greater than 1 (indicated by the red line) mean that the beef supply chain is a net contributor to the human nutrient supply.

Anaplasmosis, Beta Agonists, Rice Bran

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2:20 Anaplasmosis  

12:06 Beta Agonistis  

17:48 Rice Bran  

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Planning Winter Supplementation

For most of the U.S. and Canada, winter feed is one of the greatest costs of cow-calf production. The base ingredient in winter rations is usually standing dormant forage or hay. Heifers, fist-calf heifers, and thin cows that need to gain body condition often need more energy than can be supplied by dormant forage or hay alone. Therefore, many situations require that heifers and cows be fed supplemental protein, energy, or both, depending on the nutrient makeup of the base-forage. Understanding the interaction between starch, fiber, and protein in the cows’ rumen allows producers to determine the most appropriate winter supplement. 

Many different types of bacteria and other microorganisms in the rumen convert forage and supplements into nutrients needed to maintain or increase a cow’s body weight. What makes cattle and other ruminant animals so important to the earth’s ecosystem is that a great deal of the energy stored on the planet is stored in the fibrous parts of plants that cannot be used by non-ruminants (humans, birds, and most animals). In addition, it is important to recognize that even cattle and other ruminants can only use the energy stored in the cell walls of plants when the rumen bacteria have enough protein and other nutrients to actively breakdown the fibrous plant parts. Fiber-digesting bacteria, which are important for digesting forage, are relatively slow growing and are easily killed if the rumen becomes acidic. In contrast, starch-digesting bacteria are important to grain-fed ruminants, and reproduce rapidly when starch is available. Starch-digesting bacteria have a much greater tolerance for increased acid in the rumen than do fiber-digesting bacteria. 

Changes in diet will change which types of bacteria in the rumen are most plentiful. The types of supplements that cattlemen choose to feed will affect the types of bacteria that dominate the rumen which will have an effect on how well cows can convert the base forage into body weight. Some supplements will increase the digestibility of the base forage, some will not greatly affect the base forage digestibility, and some will actually decrease the ability of cows to convert forage into body weight.  

Cattle fed a forage-based diet (grazing or hay) that is deficient in protein (<7% Crude Protein) will benefit by being fed a protein-dense supplement to supply the necessary amount required for reproduction by fiber-digesting bacteria. By increasing the number of fiber-digesting bacteria in the rumen, forage digestibility is increased, the cows’ eat more forage, and the energy yield from the diet is improved.  

However, producers should realize that if the base forage has adequate protein content, additional protein will not improve digestibility or energy yield. A typical 1,200-pound cow of average producing ability will need only about 1.7 pounds of crude protein during the middle part of gestation. Feeding a roughage of fair quality (8 to 10% crude protein) during this period should meet both energy and protein requirements, and feeding a protein supplement is not necessary. In contrast, after a cow calves, her requirement for protein increases greatly. A 1,200-pound cow producing 20 pounds of milk requires 3 pounds of crude protein daily and a forage that was adequate in mid-gestation may be very protein deficient for late gestation and early lactation. 

Because of the competition that takes place in the rumen between starch-digesting and fiber-digesting bacteria, it is important to limit the amount of grain in the diet of cows grazing standing dormant forage or eating hay. If cows are eating forage of moderate quality (protein content and digestibility), supplementing with too much grain, which is high in starch, will actually decrease the digestibility and available energy from the forage even further. This decrease is due to a shift in the population of rumen bacteria away from a population dominated by fiber-digesters, to a population dominated by starch-digesters. Remember, the starch-digesting bacteria can reproduce rapidly when starch is available, and during rapid growth, starch-digesting bacteria produce increasing levels of lactic acid, which will kill many fiber-digesting bacteria. With fewer fiber-digesting bacteria available, forage digestibility is decreased and energy yield from the forage is reduced.  

Because corn and other grains are readily available and often are price-competitive with other sources of energy, producers can use these feeds up to the level where they have a negative effect on fiber digestion. The cut-off for starch supplementation of low-quality forages calculates to be about 0.28% of the cows’ bodyweight for corn dry matter (3.5-4.0 lbs. of corn as-fed for a 1,200-pound cow). For moderate weight gain, a simple diet of forage and less than 3.5-4.0 pounds corn will often be sufficient.  

In situations when the base forage has adequate protein, if more weight gain is required than can be met with a starch-based feed such as corn without a negative effect on forage intake and digestibility, producers can choose to use a fiber-based feed that has higher energy content than the base forage. Many by-product feeds provide energy in the form of highly digestible fiber; because the energy is in the same form as that in the forage, high levels can be fed without harming the fiber-digesting bacteria in the rumen or decreasing forage digestibility. By-product feeds that provide energy in the form of highly digestible fiber include: corn gluten feed, distillers grains, soybean hulls, and wheat middlings.  

Working with your veterinarian, nutritionist, Extension specialist, or other ration-planning resource to help you properly select the type and amount of supplement that compliments your base forage will ensure that your cows maintain adequate body condition and that winter feeding bills are optimized. 

Bulls, Sustainability, Agrotourism

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2:35 Bulls  

9:03 Sustainability – How to Implement  

16:06 Agrotourism  

Guest: Debbie Lyons Blythe, U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef  

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

Feed Costs: Pasture vs. Non-Pasture Costs

Feed costs typically represent the single largest cost for beef cow-calf producers. Based on Kansas Farm Management Association (KFMA) data for the beef cow-calf enterprise, feed costs (pasture and non-pasture) were 47.0% of total costs in 2021 and 46.4% of total costs for the 2017-2021 average. Thus, it is important that producers know what their feed costs are and how they compare to benchmark values for other producers such that they can manage this important cost for long-term business profitability. While the nutritional requirements of a beef cow are well determined given her genetics, body size, and the environment she is in, the specific feedstuffs used to meet those requirements can vary considerably. There is a trade-off between the use of pasture and non-pasture costs in meeting the nutrient requirements of the cow and her calf. Thus, a producer with higher (lower)-than-average pasture costs might still be competitive with other producers if non-pasture feed costs are lower (higher) than average.  

Reported KFMA feed costs are disaggregated into two categories – “pasture” and “feed”, where “feed” basically represents all “non-pasture” feed costs (i.e., hay, supplements, grain, etc.). While breaking total feed costs into pasture and non-pasture categories is still not sufficient to answer all questions about why some producers are more profitable than others, it does help understand some of the differences between producers. 

To address some of these cost differences between producers, cow-calf enterprise total feed costs data included in the 2017-2021 KFMA beef cow-calf enterprise analysis were used. Multi-year averages were calculated for total feed costs for each of the 82 operations that had a minimum of three years of data. Figure 1 shows the multi-year average pasture and non-pasture feed costs plotted against each other. There are several points that can be made from this figure. First, the black line represents combinations of pasture and non-pasture feed costs that are equal to the average of total feed cost (i.e., $537 per cow). Values to the right of the black line (52% of the points) represent producers that have total feed costs that are above average. Likewise, values to the left of the line (48% of points) represent producers that have total feed costs that are below average. Second, the two dashed lines represent the average pasture costs of $170 per cow (horizontal dashed line) and average non-pasture costs of $336 per cow (vertical dashed line). 

Values in the upper right quadrant (18% of points) represent producers with both pasture and non-pasture feed costs that are above average, which likely will make it difficult for them to be competitive in the long run. Points in the upper left quadrant (29% of points) reflect producers that have above average pasture costs, but below average non-pasture costs. Thus, these producers might be using a longer grazing season and relying less on harvested feedstuffs. The lower right quadrant (30% of points) reflects the opposite scenario where producers have higher non-pasture costs than average, but lower pasture costs (i.e., somebody with a shorter grazing season and relying upon more harvested forages). The points in these two quadrants (i.e., upper left and lower right) reflect producers that are trading off one type of feedstuff for another. Finally, points in the lower left quadrant reflect producers that likely have a competitive advantage as they have both pasture and non-pasture feed costs that are below average (i.e., 22% of operations). 

Being in the lower left quadrant might be something to strive for; however, a word of caution needs to be added about what this might represent. Given that a beef cow requires a certain amount of nutrients, having costs below average for both of these suggests one of two things – either the cow is not receiving adequate nutrition, or the feed is valued at below average price/cost. The first statement may be true in any given year, but cannot happen consistently over time as production would suffer and cows might not rebreed. Likely, pasture and/or non-pasture feed costs are valued significantly below average for producers in this quadrant. Producers should always strive to have a competitive advantage, but it is also important to recognize what might be the driving force behind this and whether it is sustainable. 

Bull Management, Financial Planning, Winter Grazing Techniques

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2:12 Bull Management  

10:00 Financial Planning  

16:21 Winter Grazing Techniques

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Liver Abscesses, Prepping Calves for the Sale Barn, Ammoniated Forages

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2:24 Liver Abscesses  

9:20 Prepping Calves for the Sale Barn  

15:49 Ammoniated Forages 
More on ammoniated forages can be found on YouTube or at K-State Libraries

Guest: Justin Waggoner, Beef Systems Specialist

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Be Careful Grazing Alfalfa

With dry conditions across much of the western United States, grazing regrowth on irrigated alfalfa fields is likely in fall grazing plans for many producers. Alfalfa is a fairly drought tolerant crop and will produce forage in dry conditions. However, alfalfa has several challenges to grazing from animal and plant health perspective. 

With its high soluble protein content, alfalfa can easily cause bloat in cattle so cattle should be monitored closely, especially the first few days of grazing. One of the keys to reducing bloat when grazing alfalfa is to not create situations that would cause large swings in forage intake. Any situation that would cause cattle to become overly hungry before or while grazing alfalfa can be problematic. 

One method to mitigate the incidence of bloat is to adapt cattle to the alfalfa slowly. First move cattle to the alfalfa field after the morning grazing bout on grass pasture, this way the rumen is full and cattle will not consume large amounts of alfalfa right away. Another method is to only allow cattle access to the alfalfa field for a few hours each day for the first few days so that cattle are consuming other grass forage. However, monitor cattle as some may learn after a few days that they will get access to the alfalfa and wait to eat until then. A third method to mitigate bloat is the use of a feed additive called poloxalene. The compound acts as a surfactant in the rumen to inhibit frothy bloat and can be delivered in a feed supplement or mineral mix. A combination of these methods will likely provide the best bloat prevention. 

Grazing alfalfa after a light freeze, especially followed by warm days, can increase bloat problems because freezing ruptures plant cells releasing more soluble proteins. Cattle should be monitored closely when temperatures approach freezing and possibly removed from alfalfa until night time temperatures return to normal.  

Alfalfa can also contain high levels of phytoestrogens that can negatively impact reproductive performance of females. Fall-calving cows or fall breeding heifers could be negatively impacted by grazing alfalfa in the fall. However, research studies indicate that phytoestrogen levels generally only reach problematic levels with fungal infection of the alfalfa plant. Water stress did not result in increased phytoestrogens in alfalfa. Therefore, if plant disease measures have been implemented, the concern for phytoestrogens interfering with female reproductive performance is low. 

Besides potential issues with the cattle, grazing alfalfa can cause issues with the plant. There are two types of alfalfa: those for hay and those for grazing. This does not mean that you cannot use either type for the other situation, but it does mean that additional care should be taken. Varieties for hay production are bred to produce high quality tonnage based on infrequent complete harvesting of above ground plant material, which then allows the plant to regrow and put down more energy reserves into the roots. But hay production varieties have poor grazing tolerance due to the frequent removal of above ground plant material by the cattle. Hay varieties can also have more bloat potential. In contrast, grazing varieties were bred to withstand more frequent removal of above ground plant material by cattle resulting in a more persistent stand. Grazing varieties are also less bloat prone, but not bloat free. The grazing management system needs to be adjusted to the type of alfalfa. 

Alfalfa regrows from the crowns which are at the soil surface and heavy hoof traffic can damage the crowns. Grazing management plans need to take this into account and consider such things as soil moisture conditions and repeated trampling of plants. Removing cattle if the soil becomes soft from moisture and rotating cattle to new areas of the field to reduce trampling are ways to minimize damage to crowns. 

In contrast to overnight frost, a killing freeze followed by cold days can significantly reduce bloat problems, but also reduces the nutritive value of the forage. Grazing killed alfalfa should occur in the few days/weeks after the killing freeze to capture as much of the nutritional value as possible. Additionally, hoof traffic on frozen ground causes less damage to alfalfa crowns. 

Kelli Almes, Biosecurity Plans, Practitioner Response

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3:17 Kelli Almes

8:28 Biosecurity Plans for Your Operation

16:14 Practitioner Response to Disease Outbreaks

Guest: Kelli Almes, Associate Coordinator of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

Weaning Beef Calves

The times in a beef animal’s life that it is most at risk for disease or death are at birth and the first few weeks of life, and again for the first few weeks after weaning. This is particularly true if newly weaned cattle are commingled with other cattle and shipped to a new location. There are several strategies that ranchers and veterinarians can utilize to reduce risk of disease associated with the changes that accompany weaning.  

At weaning, milk is removed a calf’s diet. For many beef calves, this is a relatively minor change in diet composition because by the time calves are weaned at six months of age or older, they are already consuming a majority of their nutrients from grazing and their dam’s milk production is declining rapidly. But a change in diet is not the only change associated with weaning, in that the social interaction between the dam and calf is also changed.  

The reason that weaning is associated with increased risk for disease in calves is that stress strongly suppresses the immune system, making the calf susceptible to the germs and parasites that are commonly found in nature. Sudden diet change, separation from dams, castration, vaccinations, and moving to a new location are all potential sources of stress for weaned calves.  

There are many different ways to reduce the stress associated with weaning-age calf management. Every rancher should look at his/her own facilities and marketing plan to come up with the best strategy for their operation. Basically, optimum weaning strategies are planned to avoid having multiple additional stressors happen at the same time as weaning, and to reduce the stress of weaning itself.  

Near the time of weaning, calves are often moved to new environments and commingled with new cattle from the same ranch or from multiple ranches. Because of these changes, calves are likely to contact germs that are new to them. A vaccination strategy to prepare the immune system of calves ahead of exposure to common disease-causing germs is helpful to decrease the risk of disease. No vaccine is able to provide complete protection from disease, but vaccines that are given at times of significant stress are much less likely to provide adequate disease protection compared to vaccines given to calves that are not coping with other stressors.  

Pre-conditioning programs have been developed to move stressful management processes such as castration, dehorning, and vaccination earlier in a calf’s life to reduce any adverse health impacts of those procedures, and to move these stressors to times away from weaning. In addition, if grain or grain by-products are part of the post-weaning diet, preconditioning programs usually recommend or require that for two to three weeks before weaning, calves are exposed to the type of diet they will be expected to consume after weaning. The post-weaning diet must ensure that calves receive adequate energy, protein, and trace nutrients to support a strong immune system and to maintain or increase growth rate. 

The timing of weaning is affected by many factors including the ranch’s calf marketing strategy and the availability of adequate forage to maintain cow health and productivity. If drought conditions reduce available forage so that cow body condition and calf growth are meaningfully affected, calves can be weaned at an early age to remove calf-grazing and lactation pressures on forage intake by the herd. Beef calves can be successfully weaned any time after they develop a functioning rumen at a few weeks of age.  

There are several broad categories of weaning strategies such as: fence-line weaning in the current pasture where cows are kept in view but not in contact with the calves, pasture-weaning in the current pasture with the cows moved completely out of contact, and weaning to a drylot with cow herd contact. 

A few research studies have compared fence-line weaning where calves can see their dams but are separated by a fence, to other strategies that involved weaning on pasture with the dams completely removed or weaning into a dry lot with no contact with cows. These studies generally show improvements in calf behavior such as bawling and pacing for the first few days after weaning for fence-line weaned calves. Some, but not all studies, show differences in disease risk and weight gain based on the weaning strategy used. Management practices to decrease the stress associated with weaning should be investigated and ranch-specific strategies that optimize health, welfare, and economic considerations should be implemented. 

If calves are weaned into a new environment such as a drylot, it is important that they have access to plenty of fresh water and that they know how to find and drink from the water source. Calves that have only been provided water from streams or ponds may not recognize tanks and controlled-flow waterers. Feed bunks, hay rings, and water sources must all be accessible to calves. Many of these feeding devices are designed for yearlings or adults and may be difficult for calves to use. Many newly weaned calves will not aggressively approach crowded feed bunks; therefore it is recommended that feed be spread out over 18 to 22 inches of bunk space per calf.  

No matter what strategy is used, weather should be an important consideration when choosing the day of weaning. Although not perfect, a multi-day weather forecast can help you avoid adding weather stress to the other stresses of weaning. The greatest risk of disease for weaning-age calves is during the first three weeks after they are separated from their dams. During this time, the calves should be observed frequently (usually twice a day) for signs of respiratory disease, diarrhea, lameness, or failure to gain weight. Work closely with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan for the types of problems you may encounter.  

Although weaning is associated with increased disease risk, a herd-specific plan to implement management practices such as castration, dehorning, and vaccination while calves are still with their dams; and then using weather reports and low-stress weaning strategies to minimize the stress of weaning, you can protect calf health and growth during this critical time. Your veterinarian, extension agent, university personnel, and neighbors may have ideas that you can implement to improve weaning on your farm or ranch. 

Monitoring Meat Demand, Nutrition for Fall Calving Cows, Pharmaceutical Updates

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

2:12 Monitoring Meat Demand 

11:03 Nutrition for Fall Calving Cows

16:09 Pharmaceutical Updates

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

Treatment Protocols

In many food animal production systems, treatment protocols are an important component of maintaining herd health.  A treatment protocol is the veterinarian’s instruction for disease management and can be developed within the context of a veterinary-client-patient relationship.  A well-designed treatment protocol should include: 

  • Case definition  
    • Signs/symptoms that indicate the animal has met the requirements for receiving treatment 
  • Drug regimen – administration instructions that specify: 
    • The drug 
    • Dose to be administered 
    • Route of drug administration 
    • Site of drug administration (drug label or BQA guidelines) 
    • Maximum volume of drug administered per injection site 
    • Needle size 
    • Frequency of administration (examples: single injection or every 12 hrs) 
    • Treatment duration 
  • Treatment success/failure criteria 
    • Indicators that the animal requires additional treatment 
  • Secondary/additional treatments 
    • Drug regimen details as above 
  • Instructions for disposition of treated animals 
    • Withdrawal time for meat (and milk if used in lactating dairy cows) 
    • Salvage slaughter vs. euthanasia for treatment failures 

The treatment protocol should be agreed upon by farm personnel and the veterinarian.  By sticking to the protocol, it ensures the best treatment outcomes and allows for evaluation of treatment effectiveness.  While a change in protocol may be necessary in rare cases, this should only be done after consultation with your veterinarian. 

Purebred vs. Crossbred, Pharmaceutical Updates, Farm Incomes

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

2:27 Maintenance – Purebred vs. Crossbred  

11:38 Pharmaceutical Updates

17:15 Farm Incomes Dropping?

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

5 Areas of Risk, Pre-Weaning Mortality, PRF Insurance

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

2:44 5 Areas of Risk  

9:34 Pre-Weaning Mortality 

14:40 Pasture Rangeland and Forage (PRF) Insurance

Guest: Ross Bronson, Redd Summit Advisors, Ag Risk Consultant
Click here to learn more: Redd Summit Advisors

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

Managing Fall Calving Cows is Different than Spring Calving Cows, Especially During Drought

September is calving season for many fall-calving herds. Nutritional management of fall-calving cows is a little different than spring-calving herds throughout the production cycle. Peak energy, measured as total digestible nutrients (TDN), and protein requirements occur early in lactation at about 1 to 3 months after calving (Figure 1). For spring-calving cows, the calving season is typically aligned with peak energy and protein requirements occurring at the time pastures green up such that the young tender grass with high protein and digestibility can meet those nutrient requirements. For fall-calving cows, the ability of pasture to meet peak energy and protein requirements is highly dependent upon the forage species. Cool-season forages such as fescue regrow in the fall when temperatures begin to cool down providing highly nutritious grass to meet the requirements of the cow during this time. However, warm-season forages are slowing growth as temperatures decline and becoming dormant having much lower nutritive value and less ability to meet the nutrient requirement of cows in early lactation. But, stockpiled bermudagrass or native grass with protein supplementation can effectively meet the nutrient requirements of fall-calving cows. And planting cool-season annual forages can easily meet the nutrient requirements of lactating beef cows, and can even be used as a supplement to warm-season pasture by limiting the time cows graze the annuals each day. 

Fall-calving cows have a couple of advantages. One advantage is the climate which is typically dry and cool, which does not increase maintenance requirements like cold and wet conditions in the spring. The second advantage is that fall-calving cows came through the summer grazing months without a nursing calf and are usually in very good body condition; 6 or better. Greater body condition at calving allows these cows to lose some condition without detrimental effects on reproductive performance. The breeding season for fall-calving cows is usually late November through December such that cows are pregnant before bad winter weather. Pregnant cows are unlikely to lose a pregnancy due to poor body condition, which allows fall-calving cows to lose some condition through the winter. This works financially because cows will be able to regain lost condition inexpensively on pasture next summer. It is not advisable to let spring-calving cows lose condition through the winter leading up to calving as it is not economically feasible to regain condition between calving and breeding seasons.  

A possible disadvantage of fall-calving cows is that some feeds available in the fall of the year may not be suitable. As displayed in Figure 1, the energy requirement is much greater than the protein requirement and is expensive to provide because of the tonnage necessary. Thus, feedstuffs with lower digestibility may not be good options. For example, corn stalks can readily meet the nutrient requirements of spring calving cows after weaning, but may not work for fall-calving cows except for a few weeks early on when cows are consuming leaves, husks, and down ears. Other feeds such as ammoniated wheat-straw will require significant energy supplementation to meet energy requirements of cows in lactation and high levels of ammonia intake may have negative effects on reproductive performance. 

Fall-calving cows can be especially challenging in a drought. Forage production was less than usually so cows are thinner than usual at calving and do not have the surplus fat to lose condition through early lactation and breeding. Additionally, alternative forages such as crop residue or wheat straw will require substantial supplemental grains and byproducts to meet nutrient requirements. Meeting nutrient requirements during the time between calving and breeding is critical if cows are only in moderate body condition because the loss in pregnancy rate will impact the ranch for several years to come. Planting cool-season annuals is an option, but requires fall rains to get the crop established, and if not established early in the fall, forage growth will be too little for winter grazing.  

Plan on feeding a considerable amount of supplement to fall-calving cows during fall and winter in drought years. Conventional feedstuffs are likely to be expensive as demand is high and supply may be low. Look for alternative feeds such as failed crops, spent grains from local breweries, fruit and vegetable waste from local supermarkets, etc. Any untapped waste stream that provides rumen-digestible, safe feedstuff that is less expensive per unit of energy (TDN) will be advantageous during drought. 

Equipment

Beef cattle producers typically own several different types of animal health equipment. A few important considerations are: obtaining good quality equipment, focusing on cleanliness, and making sure that all equipment is well-maintained.  Some common animal health equipment likely to be found on many ranches includes: portable squeeze chutes and handling facilities, scales to collect body weight, warming crates for calves born in cold conditions, AI (artificial insemination) supplies, calving chains and calf jacks for use in cases of calving difficulty, ear tag pliers, tattoo pliers, castration and dehorning tools, and syringes and needles. 

While it is important to search for value when purchasing animal health equipment, equipment that breaks easily or that won’t reliably perform its function is never a bargain no matter what the purchase price. If high-priced equipment is needed only rarely, finding a source that can lease it on an as-needed basis may be preferable to purchasing. Buying needed supplies and equipment from local sources has the advantages of convenience and knowing who will stand behind the equipment they sell. Online suppliers and large outlets have the advantage of a large inventory and wide selection. The best source for your equipment needs will depend on your geographic area and your priorities.  

Keeping equipment clean is almost always good advice, but cleanliness for animal health equipment is especially important. Many types of equipment will come with manufacturers’ recommendations for cleaning and it is always important to follow these directions. In general, washing with hot water, soap, and appropriate brushes or other utensils is usually a good place to start. For some animal health equipment, it is recommended to use a disinfectant to remove germs once the item is clean of all dirt and other debris. It is important to recognize that disinfectants wont’ work in the presence of dirt, manure, or blood so a good cleaning is always the first step. Because cleaning and disinfecting detergents can easily destroy the ability of vaccines to work effectively, thoroughly cleaning reusable syringes followed by boiling them in water will kill any germs on the equipment without leaving a residue that can harm vaccines. Needles should not be cleaned and re-used – instead use disposable needles.  Always clean syringes between uses; it is important to not use a syringe for one product followed by another product without a thorough cleaning in between uses.  

Previously used needles should never be used to withdraw vaccine from the bottle. This should only be done with a brand new needle to prevent contaminating the contents of the bottle. For rehydrating the freeze-dried portion of a modified live vaccine with the provided liquid, ideally, a double-sided transfer needle should be used. If a transfer needle is not available, you should use a new needle and syringe.  

There are diseases of cattle that can be spread by very small amounts of blood – even the trace of blood left on tattoo pliers, tagging instruments, castrating knives, and injection needles. To help prevent the spread of anaplasmosis and bovine leukosis, instruments that contact blood should be rinsed or wiped off between uses to remove all traces of blood.  

Maintenance and service instructions provided with new equipment should be followed to ensure that your equipment is ready to use when you need it. All equipment should be examined closely for signs of wear or problems than you can address, and to recognize when you need to send equipment to an expert for repair. Some equipment needs routine lubrication or sharpening and having all the materials you need to keep you equipment in good working order is important. For items that may break during routine use, having at least one back-up is probably a good idea.  

Cleaning and maintaining animal health equipment are important considerations when implementing BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) on your cattle operation. This includes proper care and use of syringes and needles to prevent injection site problems, keeping animal handling equipment in good working condition to prevent bruising or injury, and having clean, reliable equipment for use when assisting difficult births or dealing with other health emergencies to ensure good animal care and welfare.  

Animal health equipment is one of many considerations when providing good care for your cattle. Taking a little time to consider what equipment you need, how you will keep it clean, and the best methods to make sure it is well-maintained will serve you well as you go about the daily tasks of caring for your herd.  

Fall Forage, Small Packing Plants, Cows Fitting their Environment

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

2:46 Options for Fall Forage 

9:40 Small Packing Plants 

16:18 Cows Fitting Their Environment  

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!

Inflation, Syringe Management, Weaning

Welcome to BCI Cattle Chat!  Please click on any links below to be taken to sources mentioned in the podcast. Keep an eye out for news regarding the podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

2:02 Beef Producers and Inflation  

7:43 Syringe Management 

15:36 Weaning  

For more on BCI Cattle Chat, follow us on Twitter at @The_BCIFacebook, and Instagram at @ksubci. Check out our website, ksubci.org. If you have any comments/questions/topic ideas, please send them to bci@ksu.edu. You can also email us to sign up for our weekly news blast! Don’t forget if you enjoy the show, please go give us a rating!