Dr. Barz: It’s spring. Think fall.
I can finally believe spring is here. We had some rain and snow, but now the row crop planting has begun. It is plenty cold, but it is time to plant. Some of the low spots still have some standing water. If the water stays and we plant around it, we will have a great area to hunt migratory fowl this fall. This weekend the grass really shot up with the warm temperatures. Some producers are turning pair sout. Many purebred breeders are finished with spring breedings and commercial breeders are getting ready to AI their heifers.
The recent spurt in the market has made the producers who purchased heifers early for breeding look like geniuses. Several months ago, when they purchased the heifers, they were about $300/head less expensive. That drastically changes the dynamics of the bred heifer market next spring. Most producers are retaining similar number of heifers as in previous years. The market doesn’t appear to be strong enough to lure many speculators this year. The other negative is the length of time your dollars are invested. It takes roughly a year from pre-breeding to market. A lot can happen with this volatile market.
Now is a great time to semen evaluate your bull. Most of you already have your purchased and yearling bulls tested, but the older bulls should be teste. Don’t rely on his productivity last year. When you have your bull restrained for semen evaluation be sure to examine him closely for potential problems which may arise during breeding season.
He may need a hoof trim. In the past decades, we have seen more conformational problems with feet and legs. Also, high grain feeding may cause excessive hoof growth. Trimming the toes will put the hooves back to their normal weight bearing conformation. If excessive hoof is not removed, abscesses and cracks will develop and the bull will become lame during breeding. Many producers in our area vaccinate their bulls with a foot rot vaccine. Most believe this ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, if the bull experiences no lameness issues during breeding.
We have been conditioned to administer live viral vaccines to our cows and bulls before turnout. For these live vaccines to work they must replicate after they are injected into the animal. We have understood for many years that the ovary may be infected with the replicating virus. This kills the eggs on the ovary and results in a sterile heat. In more recent years we have also wondered if the replicating virus may be shed to the rest of the herd. This causes some infertility issues in the herd and may reduce reproductive rates. New killed viral vaccines should be used within thirty days of breeding in our practice area. We routinely gave live vaccines to bulls before turnout and we would occasionally see infertility develop. We are not sure what causes this problem, but if it affects the female, it may also affect the male. If the testes are infected and the spermatozoa are killed, it takes about 60 days for them to mature allowing the bull to again be fertile. We utilize live products in the early spring on bulls, but switch to killed products the last 2-3 months before breeding season.
Be sure to remember your Anthrax vaccine. South Dakota usually has a case of Anthrax every summer. It is good insurance to vaccinate your cows before turnout to avoid pasture losses and the need to roundup and booster your herd.
Planning and preparation before turnout will help you increase efficiency and minimize losses in your pastures. The recent surge in the market has helped producer attitudes and improved our future plans. Monitor and minimize your costs and begin our preparation for sales next fall.