NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Fall is Time to Get Cattle Ready for Winter

fall livestock management, herd management

Submitted by Craig Askim, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources 

Unlike with crops, producers can't buy insurance to cover the vagaries in the livestock business. However, they can take steps to ensure they have a successful year. What "crop insurance" do cattle producers need for this fall?

“The fall season is another good time to assess body condition score (BCS) in cows nursing calves," NDSU Extension Service beef cattle specialist Carl Dahlen says. "Scheduling pregnancy checks for cows nursing calves provides a good opportunity to identify cows for market and to prewean vaccinated calves. Pregnancy checking heifers provides the opportunity to market open females directly off pasture."

Bulls need evaluation in the fall as well.  Producers should assess the animal’s feet, legs and BCS, and check the bulls for penile injuries. Mature bulls should have minimal weight loss during the breeding season, while yearling bulls will lose some weight during that time and would benefit from improved nutrition when removed from the breeding herd.

Selecting the right vaccine is another part of good fall livestock management.

"This aspect of 'crop insurance' must be done in consultation with your veterinarian because it involves an assessment of the risk of certain diseases, and the efficacy and safety of specific vaccines," says Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. "The preweaning vaccination protocol provides an ideal opportunity to follow up on springtime vaccinations and enhance the immune response to respiratory pathogens."

Respiratory disease is one of the primary risks to weaned calves, Stokka notes. Bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) is associated with the stress of weaning, a change of diet, transportation or movement to new surroundings, and often the commingling of different pasture groups on the same ranch. Enhancing the calves' immunity to specific potential pathogens decreases the risk of BRDC. In addition, sorting and vaccinating calves while they still are nursing reduces the stress of the processing event.

"Preweaning vaccination events, while stressful, can minimize pathogen stress that normally is associated with commingling of different pastures, separation from the dam and changes in diet that occur with weaning," Stokka says. "Work to ensure that all animal-handling events are conducted in a calm, low-stress manner to the extent possible."

Other diseases that can affect cattle in the fall include:

* Clostridial diseases, commonly called "blackleg" - The risk of this infection is difficult to assess; however, this organism lives in the soil and can cause severe illness and death in susceptible animals. A second dose of vaccine administered at this time will enhance protection against this family of pathogens.

* Internal parasites - Cattle on grass will have internal parasites. These parasites can reduce calves' feed/forage intake, resulting in reduced weaning weights, and have a negative impact on the calves' ability to respond to vaccination.

If dewormer products are used at preweaning, calves should be moved to clean pastures to avoid re-infection. Rotational grazing can increase parasite loads, especially if the cattle are left too long on rotation units or if some units are used several times during the grazing season.

Another important aspect of herd management is to record the inventory and assess breeding females for pregnancy, and to sort out market animals, Dahlen says. He recommends producers take inventory of bulls, assess the physical status and make decisions about marketing of extra animals.

Source: Gerald Stokka, (701) 231-5082, gerald.stokka@ndsu.edu

Source: Carl Dahlen, (701) 231-5588, carl.dahlen@ndsu.edu


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