Preventing Calf Disease Starts with the Pregnant Cow

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Every year, the UKVDL receives calves that died suddenly in the first week of life, usually with few or no symptoms. Often the owner will describe the situation this way: “calves will nurse, be 2-3 days old and found dead” or “calf was 3-5 days old, lying around more than normal and nursing very little, found dead the next day”. At necropsy (an animal “autopsy”), the pathologist will find no milk within the calf’s digestive tract. Further laboratory testing will find bacteria can be grown (cultured) from several organs such as liver, kidney and lung. These deaths are diagnosed as “septicemia” which means the calf died from an infection in the blood (usually a Gram negative bacteria such as E. coli along with the “toxins” or poisons the bacteria produce) that damages all the major organs of a calf, resulting in death. Affected calves respond poorly to antibiotic treatment and those that survive often develop one or more swollen joints. These calves are also at greater risk for diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and meningitis in the coming months. Most grow poorly and die prior to or at weaning. The question is often asked “what should I have treated this calf with to save it” but the real question that needs to be addressed is “why did this happen in the first place and how can I prevent it?”.

Preventing septicemia and other neonatal calf diseases like scours begins long before birth of the calf. Excellent cow nutrition during and after gestation, a quick calving process, and biosecurity management factors to decrease environmental contamination all contribute to a successful start. The following list of management practices are crucial to calf health Continue reading

Colostrum and Passive Immunity are Critical to the Health of a New Born Calf

We know that calves aren’t born with immunoglobulins, which are critical for their health. Immunoglobulins are supplied by the cow via colostrum, or first milk, and timing is critical as the new born calf has less than a 24 hour window to ingest these molecules through the lining of their gut before that window closes. The amount of colostrum intake is also critical for the passive immunity and long term health and productivity of a new born calf.

During his presentation at the 2020 Ohio Beef Cow/Calf Workshop and excerpted in the 2 minute video below, Dr. Francis Fluharty further explains why a calf must receive adequate colostrum within the first 24 hours of life.

Having Your Cake . . .

– Dr. Les Anderson, Beef Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

My colleagues and I like to rib each other about which discipline is more important in beef production nutrition, genetics, health, or reproduction. Of course, I argue that reproductive efficiency is the most important because reproductive rate drives gross revenue. But we all know it’s not that simple. All disciplines need to be managed and blended to optimize reproductive potential.

Have you ever baked a cake? I am not a baker, but to make a great cake one needs to have eggs, sugar, flour, butter, milk, and flavorings (chocolate is my favorite). These ingredients mixed in the proper proportions can make an incredible product; a moist, flavorful cake. Adjust or ignore any of the key ingredients and the ability to make a delicious cake is greatly impacted. No flour, no cake. No sugar, and the cake tastes awful. No flavoring and, again, a cake that is not satisfying. Alter any of the ingredients or even the amount used, and the cake can be unsatisfying. To make a GREAT cake, it takes the right ingredients, mixed in the correct amount by a careful practitioner.

If you think about it, reproduction or reproductive rate is the cake and genetics, nutrition, the health program, etc are all essential ingredients. One of the most essential ingredients is Continue reading

Metaphylaxis FAQ’s

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) results from the mixture of host (calf) susceptibility, pathogens (viral and bacterial) and the environment to cause disease. Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, Histophilus somni and Mycoplasma bovis, the most common bacteria in bovine bronchopneumonia, are opportunists that get in the lungs when the calf’s built-in defenses are down due to respiratory viruses and stress. Abrupt weaning, commingling, transportation, castration and dehorning, bad weather, overcrowding, and poor quality air and water are known to compromise a calf’s immune system. A persistently-infected (BVD-PI) calf in a pen results in continuous exposure of the pen mates to the BVD virus and a constant reduction in their white blood cells needed to fight sickness. Lightweight calves, especially those weaned on the truck on the way to the sale, that are not eating and drinking, are also at exceptionally high risk for disease and death. Metaphylaxis is one proven method to decrease sickness, death, development of chronic calves, and will hopefully improve performance.

What is “metaphylaxis”? Although this term can have a variety of different meanings, the most common one is the treatment or mass medication of an entire group of purchased feeder calves with an antibiotic upon arrival to the farm or feedlot. Some definitions also include that metaphylaxis is meant to eliminate or minimize an expected outbreak of disease, usually BRD.

How does a producer, along with his or her veterinarian, decide whether to Continue reading

Posted in Health

The New Tick on the Block in Ohio – Gulf Coast Tick

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

The Gulf Coast tick has a very long history of impacting the livestock industry in the US.

Right now you are probably getting tired of hearing from me about new tick species and the diseases and potential allergies they vector to producers, livestock, and companion animals in Ohio that we have to worry about.  I wrote an article for All About Grazing back in June of 2019 warning about the mammalian muscle allergy that can make you allergic to red meat from a Lone Star tick bite. My colleague Erika Lyon submitted an All About Grazing article introducing you to the Asian Longhorned Tick in January of 2019 and I submitted an article as a follow up to the Asian Longhorned tick in Ohio in July of 2020.  Now we have a confirmed case of that invasive in Gallia county and are keeping our eye out for further spread. It is enough to make your head spin even further in this challenging 2020 year.

The tick we are going to talk about today is the Gulf Coast tick, Amblyomma maculatum Koch.  This tick is not an invasive like the Asian Longhorned tick, but instead has a very long history of impacting the livestock industry in the United States.  First described in 1844 this tick has had a historical habitat range of coastal grassy areas as its name implies, mostly in the southeastern United States. The tick played an important role in the spread of the devastating screwworm outbreaks in the southern United States in the early 1900’s  through infestations of livestock.  The bite of the Gulf Coast tick can cause severe Continue reading

Black vulture depredation: Lessons learned from my first calving season at the UKREC

– Dr. Katie VanValin, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

This year has held a lot of “firsts” for me, including my first calving season at the UKREC in Princeton, KY. Our beef herd is comprised of 150 fall calving cows. We are now at the very tail end of our calving season, however early on in our calving season it became apparent we had a black vulture problem on our hands.

You could make your own black vulture effigy to deter live birds.

Black vultures are native to Kentucky, but increased populations have made them a problem for livestock producers across the state. Like most animals us humans deem a nuisance (like I do snakes), black vultures play an important role in our overall ecosystem. These birds consume and dispose of animal carcasses. However, when their feed supply becomes limited, they will resort to killing live animals, such as newborn calves.

Vultures are keenly aware of one another, which can work to our advantage when combatting them. The use of vulture effigy’s can be a deterrent to live birds causing them to leave the area. In order to harvest a vulture for use as an effigy you must Continue reading

Watch Vomitoxin Levels in Feed

Erika Lyon, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Ohio State University Extension

Reports from the field suggest that vomitoxin may be higher near tree lines around the perimeter of corn fields. Figure 1. Gibberella ear rot. Photo by the Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University,

High vomitoxin levels are leading to the rejection of some corn at grain elevators this year. Vomitoxin detected in corn so far is enough that at some elevators, trucks are not permitted to leave scales until a vomitoxin quick test is completed. One central Ohio elevator has been rejecting corn at 5 ppm, with estimates of 10% of corn being rejected this season. The average level of vomitoxin in corn passing through central Ohio elevators is estimated at 2 ppm. What exactly does this mean for livestock owners who use this corn as a source of feed?

Vomitoxin, or deoxynivalenol (DON), is a secondary metabolite or mycotoxin produced by Fusarium molds that can cause health and productivity issues in livestock. The common source of DON in corn is the species F. graminearum, which is also occurs in other small grains such as wheat, barley and oats. Some livestock species, such as swine, are more sensitive to DON, while ruminants can typically transform the toxin into a less toxic product as it passes through their digestive tract (due to their rumen microbes). However, Continue reading

Rapid Death in Feeder Calves? It May be Histophilus Somni (Formerly known as Haemophilus Somnus or “Somnus”)

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

October and November are known as two of the most difficult months to buy feeder calves in KY due to major health challenges. Weather is often blamed but is just one of many risk factors that play a role in Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) development. This fall, the bacterium Histophilus somni (formerly known as Haemophilus somnus) has emerged as a major bacterial pathogen responsible for the rapid development of disease and death in feeder operations. While Mannheimia haemolytica, commonly called “Pasteurella”, is the bacterial species known to cause bronchopneumonia and rapid death, Histophilus somni (HS) can cause similar symptoms and is proving very difficult to treat and control with traditional methods. In addition, a more severe form of disease, known as the “septicemic form” of Histophilus somni has been seen in several cases submitted to the UKVDL over the last month. This septicemic form typically hits calves 30-60 days after arrival and the bacteria may affect the brain, heart, larynx, muscles, joints, liver and kidney in addition to the lungs. In some cases, the calves are simply found dead with no clinical signs. The septicemic form usually results in rapid death, generally less than 48 hours from development of symptoms up to the time of death. The joints are frequently involved, and calves may become Continue reading

Posted in Health

Blackleg: Frequently Asked Questions

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

1. What is “blackleg”? This is a rapidly fatal disease of cattle, typically calves 6-12 months of age, caused by the bacterium Clostridium chauvoei. Sheep may also be affected. In a majority of cases, affected calves are simply found dead in the pasture with no symptoms of disease. It usually affects calves in good nutritional condition (the “fattest and slickest”) within a group. As the bacterium grows, it emits a toxin (poison) that kills the muscle cells, typically in the hindquarters or thigh muscles. Most animals will die within 12-24 hours of the onset of disease so clinical signs of lethargy, severe lameness, and muscle swelling are often missed. The swollen muscle starts out hot and painful but quickly becomes cold and insensitive as the muscle dies. The bacterium also produces gas that builds up under the skin, causing the skin to feel similar to “bubble wrap” and makes a crackling, rattling sound known as “crepitation” when pushing the skin down over the affected area.

2. Where is the blackleg organism found? The organism that causes blackleg, the bacterium Clostridium chauvoei, is characterized as a “Gram-positive, anaerobic, spore-forming rod”. This description is important because it describes why and how the bacterium survives for long periods in the soil and the trigger that causes it to be deadly. Clostridial organisms are anaerobes which means they like to live and grow where there is no oxygen. In order to survive where there is oxygen, they change to a spore form. A “spore” is a protective form of the bacteria that allows it to survive unfavorable conditions and also enables it to spread. The spore form is found in both soil and water as well as in the digestive tract of Continue reading

Posted in Health

Cyanide poisoning and nitrate toxicity – Do you know the difference?

– Dr. Jimmy Henning, Extension Professor, Livestock Forage Specialist, University of Kentucky

Some aspects of forage management are just confusing enough that the same questions come up every year. Take the forage disorders, cyanide poisoning and nitrate toxicity, for example. Questions on these disorders come up anytime the forage sorghum species are grazed and especially in the fall as light frosts predicted. This article gives a quick reminder about these two forage disorders of cattle. (Cyanide toxicity is also called prussic acid toxicity or poisoning).

But first, you have to take a test. What follows is taken from an exam given to juniors, seniors and graduate students who took the UK Forage Management and Utilization class. Ready? Okay, here you go:

Please indicate whether the description below is true of cyanide or nitrate toxicity. In some cases either choice will be correct. (Answers below the Continue reading