Preparing for Weaning and Beyond

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Preconditioning programs for feeder cattle have long been recognized by the beef industry as a way for cow-calf operators to add credibility and, therefore, value to their annual calf crops. These programs prepare the calf for the known stressors ahead associated with weaning, transportation, and commingling that make calves more likely to get sick with bronchopneumonia, also known as Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD). Most preconditioning programs recommend starting vaccinations 2-3 weeks prior to weaning because it allows sufficient time to develop protection before natural exposure to the BRD “bugs”. At minimum, preconditioning programs require two rounds of viral vaccine (at least one must be modified-live vaccine or “MLV”) and Clostridial (blackleg) vaccinations, a Mannheimia haemolytica toxoid (“Pasteurella” shot), deworming, castration of bull calves and healed, heifers guaranteed not pregnant, and a minimum of 45-60 days weaned. Some programs require producers to use products manufactured by only one pharmaceutical company. In addition, weaned calves are expected to know how to eat from a feed bunk and drink from a fountain or tank but should not be over-conditioned or “fleshy”. Buyers prefer weaned calves that have been properly fed and with documented vaccinations and parasite control compared to similar quality non-vaccinated and non-weaned calves, which can translate to price premiums that vary in size depending on the Continue reading

When All Else Fails, Read the Feeding Instructions

– Jeff Lehmkuhler, PhD, PAS, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

This is the time of year when calves are starting to come to market. Backgrounders and fall stocker programs are buying lightweight feeders for their operations. Some operations in consultation with their veterinarians may obtained a veterinary feed directive (VFD) for medicated feed to help in the prevention or treatment of bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Medicated feeds are a tool in the toolbox and managers should familiarize themselves with the use of such tools.

A common feed medication is chlortetracycline (CTC). This feed grade antibiotic can be used for a variety of disorders. The feed additive is labeled for use for the control of anaplasmosis, reduction of liver abscesses, control of bacterial pneumonia associated with shipping fever (i.e. BRD) and treatment of bacterial enteritis caused by E. coli. Would it surprise you to learn then that there are different target doses for the control or treatment of these disorders?

For the control of bacterial pneumonia in feeder calves, the approved label dose is 350 mg/hd/d. “Control” is essentially the dose to help calves to avoid serious infection whereas “treatment” is the dose to treat active infections in sick calves. The approved treatment dose for feeder calves is Continue reading

Preconditioning – Why it pays

– Kirsten Nickles, Graduate Research Associate and Anthony J. Parker, Associate Chair and Associate Professor. Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University (also published in Ohio Farmer on-line)

Our most commonly used weaning method may not be in the best interests of the seller, the buyer, or ultimately the consumer!

There are many preconditioning programs available for producers to choose from to increase calf market value. It is important, however, to think about what program works best for your operation and the reasons why these programs can add value to your calves. If the reasons behind certain preconditioning program guidelines are not understood, it is possible that you will be missing out on adding value to your calves.

The most common weaning method in the U.S. beef industry is abruptly weaning calves from their dams (Enriquez et al., 2011). This abrupt separation is commonly combined with vaccination, castration, transportation, and co-mingling with other groups of calves at the sale barn and/or at the feed yard. This multitude of stressors placed on calves causes morbidity and mortality from the bovine respiratory disease complex, which continues to be the most significant health problem facing the U.S. beef industry (Duff and Galyean, 2005). Bovine respiratory disease not only increases expenses to the feeder through treatment and labor costs, but it decreases growth and efficiency and has been shown to negatively affect marbling score, quality grade, and hot carcass weight (Montgomery et al., 1984; Roeber et al., 2001; Fulton et al., 2002). Therefore, preconditioning programs have been developed to Continue reading

Livestock Medication Records: Are They Really Necessary?

Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County and Gustavo M. Schuenemann, Professor and Dairy Extension Veterinarian, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Ohio State University Extension

Maintaining accurate and proper treatment records is just as important as having adequate working facilities!

At a recent Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training session, we discussed livestock drug use, proper administration, the importance of following the label (and veterinary instructions), and the importance of keeping records of drugs administered.

Real-Life Example

A producer attending the session stood up and described to the group what happened when he had an animal test positive for a drug residue.  An official from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came to his farm multiple times until finding him at home.  He was required to write a letter explaining what steps he would take to prevent the issue from arising again.  The FDA determined the first letter wasn’t adequate in addressing their concerns.  He was provided with websites to consult and had to write another letter addressing the concerns.  The producer now keeps detailed medication records and strongly encouraged every Continue reading

Weaning – Part 2: The Ugly and The Good

– Kirsten Nickles, Graduate Research Associate and Anthony J. Parker, Associate Chair and Associate Professor. Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University

“The Ugly” – A stressful weaning experience negatively affects the growth rate and health status of feeder calves. Stressed calves become susceptible to pathogens and succumb to respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases during weaning (Campistol, 2010). Subjecting cattle to stressful periods such as weaning also impacts how society perceives the beef industry and the welfare standards currently implemented.

Modern consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with food animal agriculture and the production processes being utilized by producers (Olynk et al., 2010). Abruptly weaning calves onto a truck and into the marketing chain without conditioning the animals for the health and welfare challenges can be avoided with improved calf management.

The types of stressors endured by livestock at weaning can be divided into three distinct categories: psychological, physiological, and physical (Carroll and Forsberg, 2007). Exposure to new environments, restraint, and unfamiliar noise are psychological stressors. Physiological stressors are characterized as anything that causes deviation from homeostasis in the body such as not meeting nutrient requirements or disruptions to the endocrine system. Physical stressors are defined as anything causing Continue reading

Science based weaning methods for beef calves

– Kirsten Nickles, Graduate Research Associate and Anthony J. Parker, Associate Chair and Associate Professor. Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio State University

Weaning strategy should be designed to reduce stress in order to avoid BRD (photo credit:

Weaning is the start of an independent life for the beef calf. Though weaning can be a stressful time for the calf, beef cattle producers can minimize the stress at weaning by using science based weaning methods. A negative weaning experience can be a catalyst for disease and death in feeder calves, however, a positive weaning experience can help minimize disease and stress through the marketing system.

The most common weaning strategy in the U.S. beef industry is the abrupt removal of calves from their dams at approximately 180-220 days of age (Rasby, 2007). Abrupt weaning is not a good weaning method because it places a great deal of stress on the calf. The immediate cessation of milk in the diet of a calf and the complete maternal separation associated with abrupt weaning are often exacerbated by other stressors that have negative effects on the calf. An unfamiliar environment, a new diet, transportation, co-mingling with unfamiliar calves, and pain from husbandry practices such as castration while also being denied social contact and care by the cow will stress a calf. When calves undergo prolonged periods of stress they are predisposed to disease and Continue reading

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease and Bluetongue in Cattle

– Michelle Arnold, DVM (Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, UKVDL)

Information regarding insect control in this article was provided previously by Lee Townsend PhD (Retired Extension Entomologist, UK Department of Entomology)

EHD has been correlated with droughts because deer tend to concentrate around the wet areas available and these are where the gnats breed.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus is a pathogen of wild and domestic ruminants, especially white-tailed deer. EHD occasionally causes serious epidemics in wild deer populations that can spill over into domestic animals, including cattle. Bluetongue (BT) virus is very similar to EHD although sheep are the most susceptible animal to bluetongue and it can cause tremendous losses to this industry. Cattle are susceptible to both EHD and BT infection, although it is generally a mild infection with fever and weight loss as the most common symptoms. Both viruses that cause EHD and BT belong to the genus Orbivirus, family Reoviridae, and the viruses are primarily transmitted through the bite of blood feeding gnats, or midges, of the Culicoides genus. Bluetongue significantly affects the cattle industry due to restrictions on the sale and movement of cattle that test positive for the virus.

EHD and BT have a very predictable pattern with cases concentrated in the months of August, September and October. Deer are often Continue reading

Posted in Health

The Veterinary Client Patient Relationship

Tim McDermott DVM, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

One of the classes I teach every year is the Quality Assurance training for 4-H students to prepare for fair season. While I probably would not have too many 4-H students who agree with me on this part (it is a mandatory training for them each year), I will say it is one of my favorite classes that I teach each year. Part of the reason I enjoy it is how I believe 4-H can positively impact lives, the other is that it allows me to use my veterinary background to engage the students. While the GPP’s (Good Production Practices) that are taught vary from year to year I always make sure to engage the students with some practical veterinary knowledge so that they can make sure that their livestock project animal is at its healthy best while under their care. A key component to maintaining healthy animals is to have a healthy relationship with your veterinarian.  This is known as the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship or VCPR.  Here is how it is defined, established, and maintained straight off of the American Veterinary Medical Continue reading

So Lush, So Green, And Oh So Poisonous

– Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension Forage Specialist

A yew bush used as landscaping is in need of a trim. Don’t feed the trimmings to livestock or death will occur. (Photo Credit: Keith Johnson)

It’s that time of year when the yew (pronounced like the letter “U”) is likely in need of a trim to look best as a landscaping plant. Yews have been used as a common landscaping shrub or small tree for decades. They have closely spaced, glossy, rather tough, dark green, linear pointed-end leaves that are 1.5 – 2 inches long.  Hard-to-see male and female flowers are found on separate plants and form fleshy red to yellow fruits that contain a single seed.

Many plants have poisonous compounds that can cause all kinds of concerns, and even death, if consumed. The interactions that I have had with veterinarians, suggest that the yew is right at or near the top of plants that cause livestock death. A disheartening scenario is when yew trimmings are thrown over the fence by the livestock owner or neighbor thinking that the trimmings would make a great snack for the livestock. Fresh or dry trimmings, it doesn’t matter. The result will be the same – death.

Yews are Continue reading

Posted in Health

Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me. Or my Cows!

Haley Zynda, AgNR Educator, OSU Extension Wayne County

Horn flies are considered the greatest pest of pastured cattle costing the U.S. beef industry about $700 million per year!

Farming in the winter is usually not a livestock producer’s favorite time of the year. But, if I must give it a positive aspect, the lack of flies and other flying pests make it somewhat enjoyable compared to when those same critters burst forth in full swing come summer.

Flies, mosquitoes, and biting gnats can cause a plethora of problems on the farm, including the spread of disease and causing undue stress to stock, leading to diminished performance. House flies are the benign, although annoying, fly species that you may encounter in confinement situations, such as freestall barns or covered feedlots compared to pastured animals. Sanitation is the main management strategy to keep them under control. Keep manure and old feed from remaining near animals too long. You may also choose to purchase a parasitic wasp kit for your region. These wasps feed upon the larvae of the flies, preventing the metamorphosis into adulthood. This strategy is to be done in conjunction with increased sanitation.

Biting flies are the major pests of cattle and can be split into Continue reading