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Anthrax kills 8 cows in Clark County, South Dakota

Anthrax has been confirmed in South Dakota livestock for the first time this year. State Veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven has confirmed that 8 cows died from a herd of 87 unvaccinated cattle in Clark County.

The Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at SDSU confirmed the disease from samples submitted over the weekend. Anthrax is an economically devastating disease for the livestock industry because it can cause the rapid loss of a large number of animals in a short time. Affected livestock are often found dead with no illness detected.

Strict enforcement of quarantines and proper burning and burying of carcasses suspected to have died from anthrax is important to prevent further soil contamination with the bacterial spores.

Anthrax spores survive indefinitely in contaminated soil, and much of South Dakota has the potential of experiencing an outbreak. Significant climate change, such as drought, floods, and winds, can expose anthrax spores to grazing livestock. Alkaline soils, high humidity and high temperatures present conditions for anthrax spores to vegetate and become infectious to grazing livestock.

Producers across the state should consult their veterinarians and vaccinate livestock, if deemed appropriate.

Tips for “tubing” or using an esophageal feeder for calves

With the extended cold, wet weather many ranchers are dealing with, some are having to brush up on skills they'd rather not need. "Tubing" or "drenching" a calf using an esophageal tube can save a life if the calf is chilled, dehydrated or plain out of energy, but it can also have disastrous results if not done correctly.

The feeder probe is a rigid plastic or stainless steel tube about one-half inch in diameter, with a larger-diameter bulb on the end that goes down the throat. A container (a flexible bag or plastic bottle) for fluid is attached to the other end. Some have a valve that keeps the fluid from entering the tube until you release it. Others have a bag/bottle that hangs down until you have inserted the tube down the calf's throat, and you raise it when you want fluid to go into the tube.

"The rounded bulb on the probe protects the throat from being scraped as you insert the tube and helps prevent backflow of fluids up the esophagus," said Michael Thomas, a rancher near Baker, Idaho who has used an esophageal feeder hundreds of times to administer colostrum to newborns or fluids to sick calves. "That round ball also helps the tube bypass the small opening into the windpipe when you are inserting the tube. The windpipe is slightly below and alongside the esophagus," Thomas said.

Dr. Shelie Laflin, former professor of agricultural practices, Kansas State University, now back on her family ranch near Olsburg, Kan., said esophageal feeders should always have some type of flexible connection between the probe and the bag that you can keep kinked off until you know that it is in the right place.

"If you are working by yourself, sometimes the probes attached to a bag instead of a bottle are easier because you can hang the bag on a fence, stall wall, or even the grill of your pickup and have your hands free," Laflin said.

"On bigger calves, giving fluids to treat scours, I prefer metal tubes. The plastic ones are not as durable and a calf can bite it in two and swallow the end of it. At the vet school, we saw a few calves that had bitten the end off of a plastic tube and it got stuck in the throat or in the abomasum," she said.

Using the feeder probe is easiest if the calf is standing, so you can back him into a corner, or have someone stand behind the calf.

Laflin tells producers that if they are straddling the calf with his neck between their legs, they need to keep his head and neck straight. "Slowly pass the tube. Never force it, or you might cause damage in the back of the throat. Once I get it started, I reach along the outside of the neck and feel for the bulb to pass that area," Laflin said.

The windpipe and esophagus are next to each other, so you want to make sure the bulb is going into the esophagus, which is on the left side of the throat, when you are facing the same direction as the calf. "The calf will usually cough if the tube is in the wrong place, but not always. So I want to feel that bulb pass between my fingers," she said.

Once you are sure the tube is in the esophagus, tip up the bag or release the clamp to turn the fluid on. "If it slows or stops running, move the tube about an inch farther in or out, and it usually flows again. Sometimes the esophagus presses against it or the end seals off, especially if you are giving thick colostrum or some of the scour packets. The ones that contain psyllium become very thick," Laflin said. A vacuum may form in air-tight systems, slowing the flow of liquid. Creating a little airflow by loosening the screw-on lid may solve the problem.

"After all the fluid has gone down the tube, kink the connecter (between the tube and the bag or bottle) so nothing else goes down as you are pulling the tube out," Thomas said. "You don't want any fluid dripping on the way out." If any fluid gets into the windpipe it could go into the lungs and cause pneumonia.

Always rinse the probe and bag with hot water as soon as possible after use, especially if you were giving colostrum. "The fats cling to the feeder and make it hard to get clean. I use regular dish soap and hot water," Laflin said.

"If you wash the tube with dish soap and hot water there won't be any risk of transferring disease from one calf to another. Even better, however, is to have two esophageal feeders — one for newborns and colostrum and the other for sick calves."

Pour-on Banamine may revolutionize pain management for cattle

Merck Animal Health introduced the first and only FDA-approved NSAID for controlling pain in a food animal this February at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Convention. Approved for controlling pain from foot rot and fever from bovine respiratory disease, BRD, Banamine® Transdermal (flunixin transdermal solution) has the potential to revolutionize pain mitigation practices for cattle producers.

"We took an old product that has been around since the mid-'70s and we completely reinvented it," said Chance Morrow, Merck Animal Health product manager for Banamine Transdermal. "We took it from an intravenous product to a pour-on."

As the first and only product in food animal production for pain control, Merck is taking the first steps into a brand-new market in the pharmaceutical industry and pain management.

"It speaks to Merck's dedication and commitment to the beef and food animal industry," Morrow said. "It is a new product in an emerging market of the industry. It is exciting to be the first in that market."

FDA regulations and approval processes in the United States are commonly stricter than anywhere in the world. The idea for this pour-on initially started almost 12 years ago.

"Our government requires a complete understanding of all pharmaceuticals used in food animals," said Dr. Justin Welsh, Associate Director of Ruminant Technological Services for Merck Animal Health. "Through this understanding, vets and producers can use these products to improve animal well-being while ensuring a safe food supply."

On the market in Europe and Canada for the past three years, Banamine Transdermal is expected to revolutionize animal welfare standards for the food animal industry in the U.S.

"The revolutionary aspect of this is that there is now a product out there to address some of our biggest animal welfare issues," Morrow said. "I believe there will be competition that comes to the table sooner rather than later, but with pain management this can only be a good thing for the industry."

With increasing demands for higher standards of animal welfare practices coming from consumers, Banamine Transdermal is a step in the right direction for addressing pain management and mitigation.

"It meets a need that I am not sure the industry completely understands it should be concerned about for animal well-being and increased welfare expectations from consumers," Morrow said. "This product allows the industry to set its own standards for those things when it comes to pain management."

Research and development tested various compounds to find the best formulation to deliver Banamine safely and effectively through the skin. Formulated to penetrate cow-hide, typically 9 millimeters thick, it is not labeled, and strongly discouraged, from use on any other animal species.

"When Banamine was first launched in 1978, it was used intravenously," Dr. Welsh said. "It is a big step to take it from an injectable product to something used topically."

The pour-on reaches an effective level in the body in less than an hour and, according to the label, works for at least six hours. However, Dr. Welsh stated the trials only looked into the product working for six hours, continued research could reveal the product works significantly longer. One of the biggest benefits of a pour on is the elimination of injection-site lesions.

"One of the top five residues in cattle meat is flunixin, the main active ingredient in Banamine," Dr. Welsh said. "It can be hard to give intravenous shots to cattle and it is stressful on the animal. Sometimes this leads people to giving it in the muscle. Injectable Banamine is not labeled for that and should not be given that way because it creates lesions and discounts at slaughter."

The safety benefits of pouring the product down the midline of the back is for both the producer and animals. However, it is recommended that those handling the product wear protective clothing and gloves to prevent absorption. Despite these application precautions, this product is more BQA-friendly than traditional Banamine.

"The withdrawal time for the intravenous Banamine is four days, but for the transdermal formulation it is eight," Dr. Welsh said. "When something is put directly into the bloodstream it is metabolized and eliminated from the body a lot quicker."

On label, Banamine Transdermal is marketed for controlling pain from foot rot and controlling fever, pyrexia, from BRD.

"We know that NSAIDs as a class of drug, can have positive effects controlling pain from surgical procedures as well," Dr. Welsh said. "Producers can mitigate pain from things like dehorning, castration and branding by administering pain medication before the procedure. However, there currently are not products on the market labeled for that."

With the potential for positive benefits in other areas, Merck plans to continue clinical trials for controlling pain from other common diseases and procedures in beef cattle. This is in addition to working towards a label for dairy cattle. Banamine Transdermal is a prescription NSAID and should always be accompanied by a prescription from a licensed veterinarian.

"The pour-on will be more expensive than the injectable form," Dr. Welsh said. "However, when you take into account the intrinsic factors: ease of use, other equipment used for the injectable, it becomes a good value proposition. There are other products producers can use off label that are less expensive but none that are FDA-approved for any label indication for pain reduction in food animals in an easy-to-deliver formulation."

One of the holdups for developing pain management NSAIDs was from the inability to measure pain in animals. Merck was able to develop a way to measure pain in cattle caused by foot rot, a huge step in research for food animals for increased welfare practices.

"One of the reasons there are no other approved products for pain management in the U.S. is because up until now we have not been able to objectively measure pain," Morrow said. "A pressure mat system was developed to measure pain associated with foot rot. We would walk the animals across the pressure mat and we could see where they were not putting force or pressure on their sore foot. Once treated, they were walked across the mat again and an improvement in the amount of weight put on their sore feet was observed. This was how we were able to objectively evaluate pain in an animal."

Merck has introduced three new products for beef producers in the past year, Banamine Transdermal, Revalor XH and Whisper stethoscope.

"We have several more products for beef producers coming in the next couple of months," Morrow said. "We are committed to the food animal industry. This is truly a neat product that changes the game for pain management. As a company, we are excited to see what products come to the table in this sector. We will continue to work towards expanding the label of Banamine Transdermal, both in beef and dairy cattle."

Better test than guess on minerals for cow herd

Beef cows, especially the "easy keepers," seem to make a living on a wide mix of forages across the country for most of the year. Trouble in the form of mineral and vitamin deficiencies could lurk below that outward appearance, costing hundreds of dollars in production losses.

That's according to Jeffery Hall of Utah's State Diagnostic Lab, in remarks at this year's Cattle Industry Convention in Phoenix, Ariz. The leading concerns nationwide, copper and selenium deficiencies, can cause white muscle disease and weaken immune function to let in pneumonia, diarrhea and other diseases. Other potential shortages may relate to zinc, manganese or vitamins A and E.

"Most of the time it's due to inadequate intake," Hall said. "Most of the forages that our cattle run on are not at high enough concentrations to optimize productivity within those animal systems."

His nationwide copper deficiency tests found 53 percent to 70 percent of cattle short on copper, with a need to supplement seen in every state.

It's not the lack of these micronutrients that directly cause sickness, but the effect on immune and reproductive systems, all starting in the third trimester of pregnancy. That's when a cow passes some of her mineral and vitamin stores to her calf, to use in those first 90 days of a milk diet that does not contain significant trace minerals.

"That allows the calf to be born with really good body reserves to where its immune system is running good the day it hits the ground, and it keeps it in a healthier state for a longer period of time when its predominant intake is milk," Hall said.

Calves with compromised immune systems struggle to fight off diseases or maintain optimum growth. Many of the ranchers Hall worked with have seen increases in average weaned weight, from 25 lb. or so when correcting mild deficiencies to as much as 80 lb. after correcting a severe deficiency, the boost including more live calves to wean.

However, left unchecked, "deficiency actually causes a long-term production loss," Hall said.

On the cow side, even correcting mild mineral deficiencies can gain a 2- to 4-point increase in the percentage of cows bred back. Hall shoots for 95 percent there, and said falling short means money left on the table.

"If you have to sell a cow after she has her first calf, even though you have the sale of that calf and the salvage value of selling that open cow, you've effectively lost close to $600 because of the year-and-a-half to two years it took to develop that cow before you got her first calf on the ground," Hall said.

Although a casual inspection out the pickup window may show no problems, he suggested testing to "find out exactly what's going on." Then, realize because forage quality is different across the country, every producer has to make a different decision about what is best for his or her herd.

Those working to produce high-quality beef, especially when calving outside of a forage grazing season, should feed mineral supplements based on test results. Animals under less stress from disease pressure tend to produce higher quality carcasses, he noted.

"The biggest thing is, as you correct these problems and you put overall healthier animals into the next stage of the development phase, these healthier animals gain better, they're more profitable all the way up the chain and they also tend to marble out better, so you end up with better carcass characteristics and quality," Hall said.

Ranching by the signs

Cam Camblin was called upon to cut most of the studs in the surrounding country of northwestern Wyoming when he was a young man, said his great-grandaughter, Tiffany Schwenke. One time he'd promised to be at a rancher's outfit on a certain day for that job, but later checked his almanac and discovered the sign would be wrong on that date. Four days before the appointed time, he saddled up and rode 25 miles to the rancher's home to inform him he wouldn't be there that day to cut the studs because the sign was not right, telling him which date in the future would be right, and he'd be there then.
That rancher later said he was amazed Cam rode all that way to inform him ahead of time, because, "Most guys just wouldn't have shown up on the day we had set."
Camblin, and lot of farmers and ranchers, have seen first-hand the positive effects of scheduling work by phases of the moon.

Stallings Show Horses is one of those that puts a lot of stock in the concept, outlining on their website their commitment to performing any elective surgeries, like castration, in accordance with the Zodiac signs. Michele A. Stallings shared this information from their website:
"B. R. Blagg, master farrier and one of the most knowledgeable horsemen I ever met, taught us how to read the Zodiac Chart decades ago.  He said that you should only castrate when the moon signs were in the “thighs” going “down.”  If the signs were in the “heart” the animal would bleed like a stuck pig!
"Our knowledge of how the astrological table works is limited to a very vague understanding that there evidently is a correlation between the gravitational pull of the moon and subsequent changes in barometric pressure.  We really don’t know why the moon signs seem to work, but after watching B. R. cut colts and having horses operated on by the moon signs, I would never have it any other way.
"B. R. challenged many veterinarians to try castrating on different dates, and inevitably, they all agreed that horses bled less when cut on the moon signs, so we continue to use this method."
Many ranchers don't process livestock by the signs, but some said they do believe in it. Seemingly, weather, time and available help speak more loudly than the almanac.
Weston County, Wyoming rancher Donald Simmons said he quit smoking more than 20 years ago and knows he quit when the signs were right because, where most folk never get over the craving and the struggle to stay off tobacco, he never had a bit of trouble.
He's a strong believer in the signs, yet doesn't let it interfere with processing cattle whenever all the other necessities are in place. He said, "In this business, we have to use every available angle, just like witching that water well. You put a lot of money into getting it drilled, and you sure want to hit water, so if you're smart you use anything that might help. Farming and ranching by the almanac is one of those things, it doesn't cost you anything to try it."
Lorena Derflinger agrees. This year, for the first time, they tried weaning by the signs. She's always planted her garden by the moon, as taught by her grandfather—plant the plants that produce undergound (root crops) when the moon is going down, and the plants produce above ground when the moon is going up. "Grandpa was a fantastic gardener and he always planted by the signs of the moon. He lived in Newell and had irrigation, so that helped too," she laughed.
He also planted a lot of trees and said he had to go fishing to catch a fish to plant with each tree. Derflinger isn't sure that was strictly necessary, "I don't know if that was just an excuse to go fishing," she said.
This is the Derflingers' first experience applying the signs to their registered cowherd, but she figures they'll do it again. "They weaned good and went straight to the bunks and started eating and they barely bawled at all. Of course, as dry as it was the cows might have quit giving as much milk.
"We'll try it again. If it works again that must have something to do with it."
They decided look back at the old wisdom because they were trying to figure out what they could do better for their operation to make things go smoothly.
"I just Googled the best time of the month to wean cattle. We tried one of the days. We decided why not try it, what's it going to hurt?"
The topic comes up occasionally on internet discussion forums, and it's not hard to find advocates for the practice. One commenter from Green County, Illinois talked about weaning by the signs, saying, "I always wean mine when the moon is dark. My theory is they can't see to walk the fence line and eventually quit bawling and lay down during the night. All I know is that mine quit bawling after two to three days and all my neighbors' bawl for a week."
A commenter from northern Missouri said, "I will never wean again if the sign is not in the legs or the feet! They calm down faster and don't lose as much weight. My grandma raised cows and farmed all her life and would always do everything by the signs, seeding, cutting, gravel, working cattle, butchering – she has passed away and I wish I could remember all of it, but I don't. Never ever wean in the head or heart! Been there done that once, never again."
As for cutting bulls, one Oklahoma poster wrote, "The best sign an old cowman told me was a sharp knife and plenty of help." Another commenter shared, "In my brief research I did find this one bit of wonderful advice (from the Farmer’s Almanac).
“When is the best time to castrate a pig?”
“When he’s asleep.”

Out of the Wind: Planning windbreaks for cattle

Anything a rancher can do to help protect livestock from winter weather is beneficial. Spending money on moveable or permanent windbreaks may be worthwhile, depending on the situation. It may be more cost effective to use windbreaks when buildings are not available for shelter and natural windbreaks are sparse. In addition, windbreaks may be constructed faster than buildings. 

Cattle stand cold temperatures without wind pretty well, but according to the University of Idaho’s Jim Church, a 20-mile per hour wind is equivalent to 30 degrees of cold. So if the temperature is 10 degrees with a 20-mile an hour wind, the cattle are feeling 20 below zero. 

It takes more feed to generate body heat. In fact, Church said for every 10 degrees decline in temperature below 30 degrees Farenheit due to wind chill, a cow’s energy requirement goes up 13 percent. Cold stress increases sickness, which increases vet and medicine costs. 

Some producers have made use of materials they already have for the windbreaks. 

Kristin Zemp grew up on a Wyoming ranch and and now lives on an Ashland, Kansas ranch. She said some producers get creative. “Some places just pile junk cars or tires and stuff up. Looks junky, too 

Old cars and farm equipment lined up and used as windbreaks can be death traps, especially if young calves can get into small spaces and hurt themselves, or can't get back out.  

"Sometimes the windbreaks themselves can be death traps, Zemp said. "If a big storm with lots of snow and wind comes, cattle sometimes get drifted in and suffocate under the snow or get trampled by other cattle. It’s a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t kind of thing.” 

The standard windbreak is two-sided, fashioned into an L or V shape, without a roof. The point of the windbreak typically points northwest, into the prevailing wind.  

Often, man-made windbreaks are railroad ties or telephone poles tamped upright into the ground and then either boards or lodge poles are nailed to the uprights and often covered with tin of some kind, Zemp said. 

In places where the hay meadows double as feed grounds, the stack yards can be arranged to provide windbreaks. The downside there is stock will eventually find a weak spot in the stack yard fence or deer or elk will make one, causing cattle to get to the hay and make a mess. 

Dr. Lindsay Chidester of the Nevada Extension Service said research has shown livestock that have access to windbreaks have better overall feed efficiency and less death loss of young animals. 

“Research out of Canada has shown that a windbreak can provide decreases in weight loss by 50 percent. The wind chill factor is greatly decreased. 

“If you’re working with NRCS or other agency, they may have more specific requirements (about construction and materials). Other windbreaks are constructed of metal, wood and other substances. It is important to determine costs and labor associated with building it,” Chidester said.

“When determining placement, it should be taken into account that you will want to put the windbreak where winter calving, feeding and pasture will be. Ideally, near enough to a water source they can get water, but not so close cows are losing calves in ditches or are at risk for flooding if that should occur. It should be far enough from a fence or structures that livestock can be fed there too in the event of a major storm.” 

Dr. David Ames of Colorado State University (retired) said, “How much effort you want to make in building a windbreak necessitates looking at cost versus benefit. If cattle have the opportunity to go into a draw, compared to standing out on flat ground, the cost is low. But when you start setting posts that will hold a windbreak and putting up lumber, that adds more cost. 

“You have to measure how much value there would be,” Ames said. 

Ames said advantages of windbreaks in Nebraska feedlots have been documented. It’s more difficult to measure the value in cow-calf operations, but some designs have been shown to lower energy feed costs in winter. 

There’s no correct way to build a windbreak and no limit to the materials used. 

“You need to spread the cattle out,” Ames said. “Windbreaks should be high, dry, well-drained areas.” 

So what are the important features for moveable windbreaks? 

The typical windbreak is 10 feet tall. To stand up against the wind, the base must be at least the same width or greater than the height of the upright windbreak. That means a 10-foot tall portable windbreak would need at least a 10-foot-wide base. 

Each cow should be provided one foot of fence length. 

The windbreaks should not blow over, even in extreme winds. 

Windbreaks should be easy to move. The rancher should not have to leave the tractor for a move. 

Moving the windbreaks is important to keep areas dry, spread animal waste, reduce hauling distances for feed and hay and allow grazing on areas with no natural windbreaks. 

Unlike permanent windbreaks, which are usually sold with the land they are on, portable ones can be moved to a new place. If snow accumulates on a portable windbreak, it can simply be moved, eliminating the need for snow removal. Moving the windbreaks gains the advantages. On the other hand, portable windbreaks are generally more expensive to build than permanent ones. 

The Saskatchewan government has done extensive research on portable windbreaks and provides a lot of concrete information on design. The effectiveness of a windbreak is measured in wind reduction. Canadian research shows the best protection comes from windbreaks with a fence porosity of 25 to 30 percent. The protected area will extend eight to 10 times the height of the fence. To get 25 percent porosity, six-inch boards should be spaced two inches apart. To get 33 percent porosity, six-inch boards should be spaced three inches apart. There is no significant difference in protection whether the boards are placed vertically or horizontally, but most units are constructed with vertical walls. 

Side lift windbreaks are moved with a front-end loader. They may be lifted and placed end to end for a long fence. Less material is used in the frame because skids are not needed. On the other hand, windbreaks with skids can be moved with many vehicles. 

The bottom of any portable windbreak should have a foot of ground clearance at the base to prevent snow build-up. Steel tubing is used on top of the windbreak fence as a place to pick it up with the front-end loader. Some designs are hinged, allowing the shape to be changed to fit the conditions. 

Slanted designs require more materials to build, but slanted walls with the railing on the back allow calves to bed underneath. Cows may take advantage of the windbreak while calves are bedded where the wall is closest to the ground. 

How do portable windbreaks and permanent windbreaks compare? 

Daniels Manufacturing in Ainsworth, Neb. makes both kinds of windbreaks. The company makes a stationary model that doubles as a shade in hot weather, by swinging to a horizontal position to make a roof. The brochure says this can be accomplished by one person with no tools and no bolts. 

The panels used for a Daniels portable windbreak stop 95 percent of wind velocity and snow does not swirl over the top like a solid windbreak. In hot weather, the heat flows up, and the shade stops 79 percent of the sun. 

The portable panels have an outside frame made of 1 1/2″ X 3″ X 14 gauge tubing. The 20 gauge galvanized sheets are 21 percent perforated, punched with 1 5/8″ holes and corrugated to 3″. Each 12-foot sheet weighs 54 pounds. Each Daniels portable panel is $605. Seven of the panels make a complete windbreak at a weight of 225 pounds and a total cost of $4,235. 

Comparing to a Daniels permanent windbreak, stationary panels are $640 each, bare posts are $139 each and a post with a shade latch is $190. The total cost of a permanent windbreak from Daniels, which is eight panels in a 60-foot section, is $6,500. 

Ames said each producer must figure out what will work best in specific pastures with regard to where windbreaks are located and what type to use. 

“As long as you can do something that protects animals from wind during cold weather, it will be helpful. Cattle will survive in very cold weather, but they eat a lot more and their efficiency of production drops,” Ames said. “A good windbreak can be a win-win where you improve everything.” 

Custom vaccines – another tool in a rancher’s toolbox

With all that cattle are vaccinated for, occasionally viruses and bacteria for which there are no vaccines still rear their ugly heads. Enter custom, or autogenous, vaccines 

"In those cases where a rancher is seeing a disease that we've got no commercial vaccine for, having an autogenous vaccine made might be the way to go. There are a lot of good commercial vaccines on the market. But autogenous vaccines are another tool we can add to our toolbox," said Dr. William Baker, DVM of Hyannis Veterinary Service in Hyannis, Nebraska. 

How They're Made 

Custom vaccines are made by taking a culture swab from an infected animal(s). The swabs are then sent to a lab that specializes in making custom vaccines. There the isolates are extracted and cultured, or grown.  

After the growth period, the lab attenuates the isolates, or makes it so the pathogens won't cause disease, and adds adjuvants to help enhance the body's immune response to the newly created vaccine. All custom vaccines must also go through mandatory quality control testing before being shipped to the ranch.  

Depending on the pathogen and its growth rate, the process from culture to custom vaccine typically takes anywhere from four to six weeks for bacterins and eight to ten weeks for viral vaccines. Most custom vaccines have a shelf-life of 18 months from date of manufacture. However, the cultured isolates themselves can be good for up to two years with approval from the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

Risk vs. Reward 

An obvious risk with using a custom vaccine is having a custom vaccine made only to see no positive benefit or prevention of disease come from it. But as far as safety goes, custom vaccines are generally as safe as commercially produced vaccines. With any vaccine, commercial or custom, there is always a risk of cattle having an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine. 

"The biggest benefit of autogenous vaccines is that they are specific to the disease-causing bugs on your ranch," said Baker. 

In addition to the potential cost savings on disease treatment and labor, custom vaccines offer the benefit of keeping preventative health programs up-to-date based on ranch-specific disease strains. Multiple isolates can also be developed to yield a unique vaccine combination.  

"We try to be proactive with our cattle herd with preventative care,” said Lynette Groezinger of Groezinger Land and Cattle, Elizabeth, Illinois. “At the time we decided to consider an autogenous vaccine, we were having persistent trouble with pinkeye and commercial vaccines didn't seem to be cutting it. Because of our herd size we were able to justify the added cost of making a custom vaccine. In the end, the move to autogenous vaccines has really paid off in our operation."   

Common Custom Vaccines 

"Here in our area the most common pathogens we see autogenous vaccines made to prevent are Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens Type A," said Baker. 

According to Newport Laboratories, the most common custom made vaccines are for diseases including Bibersteinia trehalosi, BVD Type 1b, Clostridium perfringens Type A, E. coli, Fusobacterium necrophorum, Histophilus somni, Mannheimia haemolytica, Mycoplasma bovis, pinkeye, and Salmonellosis. 

When to Go Custom & What to Keep in Mind 

"If you're seeing the same disease in your herd year after year and commercial vaccination doesn't seem to be preventing it, it may be time to consider a custom vaccine," said Baker. 

When considering whether or not to have a custom vaccine made, a working relationship and a good open line of communication with a veterinarian are a must. The veterinarian will help in the decision making process as well as setting up the appropriate lab to make the vaccine.  

"Some labs utilize different technologies than others. So you always want to be in contact with the lab to be sure they can create a vaccine for the specific disease you're dealing with," said Dr. Baker. 

Custom vaccines are generally intended for use in the herd that they were produced for, the herd from which the original isolates were collected. However, according to Newport Laboratories, the USDA does allow the use of custom vaccines in other herds "upon formal request and approval."  

"We have seen slow but sure benefit from using autogenous vaccines over the years. However, something to keep in mind is that they are not a quick fix or a cure-all. They work best in conjunction with, and not in place of, good best-practice animal husbandry," said Groezinger. 

The present and future of cattle breeding: DNA testing, GE EPDs & gene editing

When Faulkton rancher Troy Hadrick took over management of his parents' commercial cattle operation in 2012, he knew he wanted to work to make the cattle more valuable. 

"I didn't want to sell average cattle at an average price," said Hadrick. 

His first move in adding value to his future calf crops was starting a whole-herd artificial insemination (AI) program, using proven Angus genetics on his females. His next step was retaining ownership and getting carcass data back on those fed cattle.  

"At this point, we had 0 percent prime, 69 percent choice and 30 percent qualify for Certified Angus Beef (CAB)," said Hadrick. "The results were pretty average." 

The following year, they chose to AI to another bull with excellent carcass merits, and they used GeneMax testing to help select steers to retain ownership on, as well as making an educated decision on which heifers should stay in the breeding program.  

"The knowledge from the DNA testing was valuable to help us understand how the cattle would perform," said Hadrick. "It was interesting to see how spot-on the data really was. The testing accurately correlated to the carcass results in those calves we retained ownership on." 

Thanks to DNA testing, Hadrick has been able to make more accurate breeding decisions, and the investment has paid off. In the last four years, he's received $8-9/cwt in added value to his cattle sold. In actual grid premiums, his first two years of testing earned him an additional $49/head. In 2016, that jumped to $76/head, and in 2017, Hadrick has earned $100/head premiums, which he credits to his extensive use of proven sires and using the data from the DNA tests to help make breeding and culling decisions. 

"With the improvements I hoped to make to our commercial heard, I figured it would take at least a decade, but we've been able to get there in four years," said Hadrick. "This year, we've got cattle going 35 percent prime and 82-84 percent CAB or better. We aren't done though. Our goal is to get to 100 percent. Once we've fine-tuned our carcass traits, we can then use DNA data to fine tune other traits in our herd that are important to us." 

Using these innovative tools has allowed Hadrick to reach his goals more quickly, and his efforts were recognized in Sept. 2017 when Troy, along with his wife, Stacy, were honored as CAB's 2017 Progressive Partner of the Year at the CAB Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn. 

"Attending the CAB Annual Conference and receiving this award was an incredible experience," said Hadrick. "We were able to meet the retailers and chefs who sell and use CAB products, and it really brought it full circle for us. If they are going to succeed in selling high-quality CAB products, it starts on the ranch with high-quality cattle. Today, we have the tools to manage and market our cattle better and that can result in consistent, high-quality beef that consumers love and will pay a premium for." 

DNA testing, genetically-enhanced EPDs and other reproductive tools like embryo transfers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the future of beef cattle breeding and genetics. Gene editing is an emerging technology in beef cattle breeding that allows researchers to precisely edit or change a sequence of DNA. 

For example, the dairy industry has used gene editing to work to eliminate the horned trait. Gene editing can also be used to correct diseases or genetic defects. 

"The best analogy I've heard to explain gene editing is like finding and replacing a certain word within a text on Microsoft Word," said Kent Anderson, Zoetis associate director of genetic technical services. "The simple cowboy definition of gene editing is 'find and replace,' at the embryonic stage, so we can find an allele that is not desired and replace it with something we want." 

Still in the research and development phase, gene editing is limited to just a handful of traits at this point. This is because most production traits (growth, milk, maternal, etc.) are impacted by hundreds and thousands of genes, says Anderson. Each trait has a small effect on the others it's connected to, so it's difficult to find and replace these genes. However, traits like polled and horned, color and genetic abnormalities are traits that can be edited using this technology. 

"Another example that is being explored by researchers is adding the F94 (muscling gene), which the Limousin breed carries, to a high-marbling animal like a Waygu," said Anderson. "If you wanted to make an animal that has the muscularity associated with a Limousin with the marbling of a Waygu, it may be possible to edit the Waygu to have two copies of the F94 gene and also retain the high marbling trait in one package."
Of course, cost and efficiency of these technologies will limit industry use, but companies like St. Paul-based Recombinetics are using gene-editing advancements to innovate animal breeding and benefit human health.  

According to the Recombinetics's website, gene editing (or precision breeding), "uses molecular scissors to precisely edit the animal's genetics. By adjusting the letter order in the animal's DNA, we can select and amplify or repress traits more efficiently than ever before." 

The company has collaborated with experts in academia, agriculture, genetics and sustainable production to enhance natural disease resilience, increase animal productivity and improve animal welfare, with work in cattle, hogs, poultry, aquaculture. 

In cattle, they've worked on breeding naturally hornless cattle, heat-tolerant cattle, animals that are more resistant to respiratory disease, foot and mouth disease, and double-muscled cattle for higher meat yield. 

What's more, with gene editing, pigs could help researchers find cures for cancer and even grow human organs. The industry is anticipated to grow to $8.1 billion by 2025, but its does come with its own set of challenges. While Anderson says researchers aren't creating new genetic material or some kind of Frankenstein creature, he points out that there is a negative public stigma and some ethical considerations regarding genetically-modified animals. 

Currently, animal breeding is not regulated by the federal government, and although gene editing does not introduce foreign genetic DNA into the genome, it becomes murky water if trying to distinguish between naturally occurring alleles and edited variations.  

According to proceedings from the 2017 Beef Improvement Federation, "In January 2017, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the scope of its 'Guidance for Industry #187' for producers and developers of genetically improved animals and their products to address animals whose DNA has been intentionally altered through the use of genome editing techniques. The new guidance from FDA entitled, 'Regulation of Intentionally Altered Genomic DNA in Animals,' triggers mandatory, pre-market FDA new animal drug approval of any 'intentionally alliterated genomic DNA' sequence in an animal." 

While genetic editing has not been proven to produce negative effects on milk and beef products, it remains unclear how geneticists will differentiate between intentional alternations and naturally-occurring traits. It's natural for an Angus to be polled, but with improved precision breeding, Holsteins can also be polled. Does that make the trait then unnatural? Depending on who makes the definition, regulations and public perceptions could limit the use of gene editing and advanced animal breeding.  

"With the regulatory environment and practical limitations, I don't think we'll see too many producers leveraging this technology in the very near future," said Anderson. "However, the technology is certainly promising, especially if we can correct a defect or make a genetic improvement. However, the practical application may be a little exaggerated for the majority of producers." 

Information you hope you’ll never need about Tuberculosis, brucellosis and Bibersteinia trehalosi

Diseases such as tuberculosis and brucellosis are rare in U.S. cattle herds. Thanks to cooperative eradication protocols that started in 1917 and 1954 respectively, these bacterial diseases are almost a thing of the past. The keyword being "almost." As rare and controlled as they have become, outbreaks of these diseases still occur, as complete eradication has proven an elusive feat.  

An outbreak of either one could have the potential to cause widespread devastation. All things considered, these are diseases ranchers should be aware of, having an understanding of the signs and symptoms as well as a solid protocol for prevention and treatment of suspect animals.  

How They Spread 

Both tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis are contagious bacterial diseases that can affect a wide variety of wild and domestic animals, including cattle. TB is transmitted through the saliva and airborne particles from the respiratory tracts of infected animals, while Brucellosis is a slightly different beast. Transmission of Brucellosis occurs when healthy animals come into direct contact with the birthing tissues and fluids or other bodily fluids (i.e. milk, blood, urine, and semen) of infected animals. 

In the United States, the most common introductions of TB into a previously TB-free herd are through the purchase of infected cattle or contact with infected wildlife. The same is true of brucellosis. 

What They Look Like 

TB is all but impossible to diagnose early on because the clinical signs are not visible until the infection is in advanced stages. By that time, symptoms resemble that of pneumonia, including a low-grade fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and a wet cough.  

Brucellosis manifests itself in reproductive issue. Abortion, still birth, and infertility are often the first indicators of the disease. Other than that, infected animals typically show no signs of infection.  

What to Do with Suspect Animals  

Suspect animals should be isolated from the rest of the herd immediately for further examination and proper diagnosis by a veterinarian.  

Since there is no cure for either disease, suspect animals that test positive for either disease are slaughtered. In some cases of infection, depopulation of the entire herd may apply. If depopulation is not practical, the herd can regularly be tested, slaughtering only those that test positive.  

The Best Prevention 

Prevention is the best medicine and the best prevention in the case of these two diseases is continued vigilance and good animal husbandry. While vaccination protocols exist for brucellosis (the Bangs vaccine given to heifers), there is no vaccine available for TB.  

According the United States Department of Agriculture (USDS) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), following these best practices will help keep cattle free from infection:  

  • Have your livestock tested for TB and, if possible, keep a closed herd and raise your own replacement stock.  
  • Buy your animals from an accredited TB-free herd, test the new animals prior to purchase, and finally, isolate them for 60 days and retest before commingling them with your herd.  
  • Restrict or eliminate all contact between your herd and other herds.  
  • Clean with a disinfectant any trailers or facilities that have housed newly purchased animals or animals that did not originate from your herd.  
  • Keep on-farm visitors away from your herd whenever possible. This includes milk haulers, feed delivery personnel, and anyone who may have contact with other herds.  
  • Make sure your fences are in good condition to separate your herd from wildlife. If the wildlife in your area is affected by TB, contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services office in your State for advice on reducing wildlife contact with your herd.  

Another One to Watch 

Bibersteinia trehalosi is an emerging pathogen that ranchers need to have on their radar. Initially seen in sheep and goats, this close relative of Mannheimia hemolytica has made the jump from small ruminants to cattle within recent years. It first presented in dairy calves in California. From there it made its way to adult dairy cattle, to stocker backgrounder type cattle, then to feed yards, and finally adult cattle on pasture.  

Bibersteinia trehalosi is present in wild populations of ruminants such as elk, white tail deer, and bighorn sheep. The disease tends to be more prevalent in the fall and winter, possibly due to the wildlife coming in to eat hay when forage is limited during the dormant season. 

Unlike most diseases, Biberseinia trehalosi seems to hit heavier unstressed cattle the hardest.  

"In adult cattle, from the time that you first think they maybe look a little bit off until they're dead is 12 to 18 hours. This thing kills cows very, very quickly," said Dr. Victor Cortese, Director of Cattle-Equine Immunology Biologics for Zoetis. 

If caught early, infected cows will have high fevers, ranging upwards of 106 to 108 degrees. However, when they are hot the cows actually look good, making Biberstenia hard to catch early on. If it is caught early it can be treated with a cephalosporin, the only antibiotic shown to effectively combat the disease. 

What more commonly happens is discovery of one dead cow, followed by another a week later, then a few more a few days later. By that time, "you're on the front end of a hurricane," according to Cortese.  

"It will routinely, if it is a hotter strain, lose 10 to 15 percent of the herd," said Dr. Cortese. 

According to Cotese, extremely compromised lungs and full rumens upon post mortem inspection are good indications of a Bibersteinia trehalosi infection. The cows die so fast that they don't have time to go off feed.  

"The reason this thing is so fast is it doesn't come from the nose to the lungs. It comes from the blood stream to the lungs," said Cortese. 

There are currently no vaccines on the market against Biberstenia trehalosi. However, there is a group of researchers that have developed a challenge model to look at protecting against it. While autogenous vaccines have not worked well, there are some Pasteurella vaccines on the market that will cross protect against this fast-moving bacteria. Newport Laboratories has also been successful in developing “custom” vaccines for particular herds that have been affected by the bacteria.   

More information on these and other diseases facing ranchers can be found on the USDA APHIS website. http://www.aphis.usda.gov  

A lousy deal: Controlling lice in beef cattle

Lice are a common problem in winter. Heavy infestations of sucking lice rob nutrition from cattle when they need it most, and chewing lice cause discomfort and itching. A lice-infested animal may lose weight and become susceptible to disease.
Dr. Bill Lias, Interstate Vet Clinic, Brandon, South Dakota, says winter is prime time for lice to explode in numbers. "When it's warm, lice don't want to be on the warm back of a black cow with sunshine on it. They thrive in colder weather," he says.
Two types of lice infest cattle—sucking lice, which suck blood, and biting lice, which feed on dander and debris in the skin surface. Tail lice can cause cattle to lose their switch.
"There's some argument within the industry regarding how much economic loss or inefficiency the biting lice actually cause," says Dr. Dave Barz, Northwest Veterinary and Supply, Parkston, South Dakota. They don't usually directly make the animal anemic or cause weight loss, but they can make the cattle miserably and itchy, and cause them to rub out so much hair they suffer cold stress, and can even reduce their immunity.
"If an animal is weak, and parasites are taking blood, that animal is more susceptible to pneumonia, scours and other secondary infections. This is why lice control is so important and not just because the cattle are scratching/rubbing the fence down. Lice are nibbling away at the potential of your herd," says Barz.
"You can really see their damage. We don't see internal parasites, but we can see lice and the damage they do. This doesn't look good for our industry because it looks like we don't take care of our livestock. There are plenty of people watching, and lousy cattle look terrible. Someone might see that those cattle look uncomfortable and think we are not treating them properly," he says.

"When the avermectins first came out, all we had was injectable products, and they don't kill the biting lice. Those years were some of the worst lice infestations I'd ever seen," says Barz. Even though producers treated their cattle, there was no effect on the biting lice, since the biting lice don't ingest blood.
"The pour-ons are considered effective against both kinds, but there seems to be some increase in lice resistance to these products over the years; they may not be as effective as they once were," says Lais. "In this region, many producers like to use pour-ons in the avermectin class (ivermectins, cydecton, dexomax, etc.) because they want to kill the internal parasites as well. For convenience it's nice to be able to hit them with just one product and feel we've covered everything."
Myxydectins, like cydectin, have touted longer residual effects, but don't kill the eggs. The ivermectin pour-ons were originally thought to have enough residual effect to handle the new hatch, but lice may be developing resistance, like internal parasites have.
"This is inevitable. When we keep using the same products year after year we eventually select for the resistant strains of parasites," says Lias.
"When the avermectin pour-on products came on the market, they worked very well," says Barz. "Feedlots were using just a quarter dose on the backs of cattle and it was controlling lice." While that seemed like all that was necessary, it contributed to resistance development.
"Those products have now been on the market for at least 15 years so we've built up resistance in populations of lice," says Barz.
Russ Daly, DVM, extension veterinarian/professor, South Dakota State University, says lice control can be challenging and producers often see a resurgence in lice populations after cattle are treated. "There are several things that play a role, including the fact that most products for killing lice often don't last as long as needed."
Most products will kill the adult lice but not the eggs, so within three to four weeks there can be a newly hatched population of lice on the animal.
"Some products are able to last long enough to control a couple cycles of lice emergence, but we can't expect to have lice coverage for more than a couple months at the most," Daly says.
"Regarding resistance issues, often I think the problem is not so much with the product than with timing, or just a heavy infestation. We've used some of these products for a number of years, but unless we are using the same product frequently throughout the year, for deworming as well as for lice control, I am not sure resistance is building that quickly. We are beginning to see more resistance to deworming products, particularly in parts of the country where they are used more often," says Daly.
He thinks that often it's a case of the product not lasting as long as you'd hoped, bad timing for the treatment, inadequate dose, or not delousing every animal in the herd, rather than ineffective treatment.

Timing the treatment to when the lice are most active—later in the winter–rather than when it's most convenient, like at preconditioning or preg-checking, may provide better coverage.
"Your treatment will cover more of the winter months. In addition, more of the adult lice are active by then. You have more chance of killing them later rather than earlier in the fall when the adult lice are fewer and more hidden on the animal," Daly says.
"The other issue is the hatch that occurs after we treat the cattle," says Lais. "If a person could re-treat the cattle two to three weeks after using an avermectin pour-on product (following that with a pyrethroid pour-on like Boss or DeLice or others) this would provide a more complete kill." The second treatment would kill the newly hatched lice before they mature enough to start laying eggs.
Lice have about a 28-day life cycle. Adult lice lay eggs, the eggs hatch and become nymphs and then mature and become adults about 28 days after hatching. None of the products kill the eggs, and most of them don't have a long enough residual effect to kill the lice that will hatch out later, Barz said.
"When the avermectins came out, they were originally marketed as one pour once a year, to take care of all your lice problems. We started to have problems 10 years ago, and the companies that made them realized they couldn't say that one treatment would last all winter. They said we have to pour the cattle at least twice—with the treatments about 28 to 30 days apart, to kill any lice that hatched after the first treatment," says Barz.
For most beef operations, however, cattle are poured when the producer is working them (pregnancy checking, vaccinating, etc.) or getting cattle in for some reason. It is very convenient to pour them once, but not always possible to give that second treatment.
A new product called Clean-Up II seems to be more effective in a one-dose treatment. It contains a pyrethroid, which kills adult lice, and an insect growth regulator that keeps nymphs and newly-hatched lice from maturing, says Barz. It has enough residual effect to thwart lice that hatch out after the treatment.
"We've been using that for a couple of years and are seeing better results. In our area, if you start to have problems, the company you bought the product from will usually give you more, so you can get them re-poured. That's been their guarantee, at this point in time," he says.
Lias said the fact that the entire life cycle of lice happens on the host animal makes control a little easier. "With lice, everything happens on the cow, so if you are judicious in the products you use and the timing of treatments, you should have good control," says Lias.
This means delousing every animal, and not letting treated animals mingle with untreated animals that might re-infest the treated cattle. "When I see flare-ups of lice again in the winter, it is often because the producer was not careful about making sure that all cattle got treated at the same time," he says.
Exposure to an untreated animal is all it takes, and the lice start all over again. This is especially true in winter when cattle are more confined—grouped for feeding or calving. "This may negate all the good you did in treating just part of the herd," he says.
"The choice for fall treatment is often one of the avermectins because they control internal parasites," Lias says.
Many ranchers in the Dakotas pour cattle with an avermectin product at turnout time (to kill internal as well as external parasites) and again in the fall at roundup, to kill lice.
If you have to treat again during winter, it's best to use a pour-on pyrethroid product. "Otherwise, if you are in a region that has cattle grubs, you'd have to be careful on the timing in late winter (to not kill the grubs at the phase of their life cycle that might cause a reaction in the esophagus or along the spinal cord). If you have grubs, you'd want to avoid the avermectins," he says.
Other tactics for late winter control include the oils, dusters, back-rubbers, etc. that can be installed in the pen or pasture for cattle to rub on and self-treat for the lice that are causing itching. Each producer needs to figure out a strategy that works best for their own situation and management.
"Any time you are handling the animals you can think about using a pour-on," Barz says.
"We've talked about rotating the pour-on products, using different ones different years, but we are seeing resistance to all of them. I don't know that certain products are any better than the others because we're not seeing much difference. The only one that is really helping us right now (in terms of thwarting a new hatch of lice) is the Clean-Up II," Barz says.
"In some of our feedlots we've been using injectable and pour-on products at the same time–a full dose of each–and in those groups of cattle we haven't seen as much problem with lice recurring. Hopefully we are getting a better kill, and maybe more residual effect."
Before insecticides, ranchers used natural methods of lice control, such as feeding more protein and using back-rubbers with oil on them. The oiliness tends to deter lice, Barz said. "But these are only spot treatments. Also, in every herd it seems like there's a cow or two that act as carriers; they have heavier infestations and may have lice even after treatment, spreading lice to the other cattle."
Calves are even more susceptible to the effects of lice than cows, and lice are easily transferred from cows to calves. "This is why controlling lice on the cows is so important, so they won't spread lice to their calves," Barz said.