Vet’s Voice by Dr. Dave Barz: Mange well even in good years
December 18, 2014
What a winter! First we have a dry October, then have a cold, wet November, and now we follow that with record warm temperatures for December. In our area the snow is gone and the cows are still grazing the cornstalks. This is saving a lot of feed, but it means hauling water. 2014 has been a great year for the cow-calf man. We saw both record high calf prices and cow prices. Now corn prices have stabilized and hay prices are declining helping the feedlot sector generate some extra income. We aren't sure what 2015 will hold in store for us, but in the spirit of Advent, we must prepare.
It's only several months until calving so we must prepare, especially in the great weather we are experiencing.
1. Pregnancy exam
With the current prices I realize that any cow bringing home a calf is probably generating a profit, but good management will make your workload lighter during calving. It is important to identify open cows and market them. They are highly sought after by the hamburger market. Younger, thin, open animals may go to the feedlots to be fattened and then remarketed. All problem cows (lameness, eyes, lumps etc) should be examined closely and a decision made whether they remain in the herd or are marketed. Older cows should also be examined. There is a real demand in our area for pregnant broken mouth cows. Right now they are worth several hundred dollars over market price. It seems the open winter and low fuel prices have everyone looking for cows. The pregnancy rates in our area have been great with most producers in the lower 90 percents.
We calve in more confined areas on the eastern side of the state than many of the ranch herds further west. This concentration requires vaccination to minimize scours and respiratory problems during calving. Vaccination now assures good immunity in the cow which transfers into high quality colostrum. This colostrum then assures the young calf has adequate immunity to prevent herd disease problems at calving. Some of you may also prefer to give pre-breeding vaccinations during pregnancy. This is an acceptable protocol as long as you have previously used the products while the cow as open. This will help avoid problems with abortion if used properly .
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3. Ecto parasites
The lice are developing resistance to common ectoparaciticides (pour-ons). As lice populations increase during the winter it may be a good practice to re-pour your herd. We are now recommending several new generation products which are low volume pour ons. The lice probably are not important to most of the cows other than irritation but if they transfer to the young calf, they may cause anemia and decrease growth. This truly fits the axiom – "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
For many years we have forgotten about cow nutrition once the calf was weaned. We tried to minimize our costs to limit our over head. Recent data on Fetal Programming highlight that nutritional deficiencies during a calf's gestation affect the calf's future potential. This proves "We are what we eat." We tend to deal with only energy during cold weather, but must also monitor mineral supplementation and protein. Most monitor the body condition score (BSC) of our cattle and try to maintain a 5 plus, but if cold strikes, we cannot feed enough to keep the weight on the cow. We all understand the function of colostrum in the young calf. The better the nutrition of the cow, the higher the quality of the colostrum and thereby the better immunity passed to the calf.
2015 appears to be another great year in the beef complex. Your use of new technology and improved management techniques will allow you to fully reap the full potential of your herd. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and I hope you will position yourself for a profitable 2015.