A Mineral Program is Key to Successful Grazing

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

A good mineral program is just as important as good forages in a successful grazing program.

The grass is getting greener by the day and the grazing season is within sight. In previous editions of this column my colleagues have covered a variety of topics to consider before turning livestock out to pasture this spring. While checking fences, watering systems, pasture fertility, and forage establishment are often on our minds before spring turnout, another thing we need to consider is our mineral program.

Having a sound, balanced mineral program in place is important throughout the year as minerals are involved in most if not all metabolic functions of our livestock, including growth, reproduction, and lactation. However, it is often on pasture where we run into mineral imbalances and issues. While some issues are harder to detect such as reduced daily gain or lost milk production, others like Continue reading

Biosecurity Considerations when Transitioning Newly Purchased Cattle into the Herd

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

New animals should be quarantined for at least 30 days and batter yet 60 days before being introduced into the herd.

The objective is to avoid new diseases introduced through replacement stock and airborne diseases. Typically, new animals are quarantined for at least 30 days and more typically for 60 days before being introduced into the herd. If on-site, the isolation area should be of some distance and downwind from other animals. Practicing all-in, all-out procedures will make it easier to clean and reduce opportunities by personnel to introduce contaminants to the main herd. Minimize cross-contamination of feeding/watering equipment.  Here are some suggested procedures Continue reading

Taking the Bull from the Sale Ring or Winter Storage, Making Him the Athlete He Needs to Be

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

Bulls need to be transitioned from their winter diet to grass carefully before turn out.

Recently we visited in this publication about the value in having a bull that’s passed a breeding soundness exam (BSE) and is ready to go to work when called upon. One thing we’ve perhaps yet to discuss is what needs to happen after the bull has passed his BSE, or is purchased, and until he goes to the breeding pasture. While a bull might have been a “potentially satisfactory breeder” on the day of his BSE, it is important that the time that passes from then until the day he must go to work are spent in a way that allows him to remain sound while also transitioning to the pasture he’ll be working.

For those of you who this season will be using young bulls, or even mature bulls that maybe have yet to be properly transitioned from winter ‘storage,’ OSU Extension Beef Specialist Dr. Stephen Boyles offers the following suggestions from his publication “Bull Nutrition and Management” regarding the pre-breeding season management of yearling bulls.

Post-purchase Management of Yearling Bulls: The yearling bull deserves some special Continue reading

Minerals for Beef Cattle

Proper mineral and vitamin nutrition contributes to strong immune systems, reproductive performance, and calf weight gain. However, when it comes to selecting mineral supplementation to use for your beef herd it can often be a confusing decision as not all mineral mixtures are the same.

To help better understand what minerals are needed for beef cattle, OSU Extension in Coshocton County offered a webinar titled “Minerals for Beef Cattle” on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. During the session, participants learned the ball-park levels for mineral supplements for beef cows on forage-based diets, and discussed macro minerals, trace minerals, and best practices for mineral supplementation. Sample mineral tags were reviewed, and participants learned what to look for and how to fine tune mineral supplementation based on their hay sample analysis.

The program featured Dr. Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist, and Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Field Specialist for Beef Cattle, and is embedded below.

Livestock and Grain Producers: Dealing with Vomitoxin and Zearalenone

Vomitoxin in the 2020 corn crop continues to plague both livestock and grain producers. Livestock producers are trying to decide how best to manage corn and corn by-products with high levels of vomitoxin, and those who grow corn are trying to decide how best to avoid vomitoxin contamination in 2021.

In the 15 minute video below, OSU Extension Educations John Barker, Rob Leeds, and Jacci Smith discuss where and why this year’s vomitoxin issues originated, considerations for avoiding problems in coming years, how it impacts livestock, and what’s involved in testing grain for vomitoxin.

Grass Tetany/ Hypomagnesemia –Start Preventive Measures Now

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Lab; A special thanks to Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler for his contributions to this article.

What is “Grass Tetany” and when are cattle most likely to have it? Grass tetany, also known as spring tetany, grass staggers, wheat pasture poisoning, winter tetany or lactation tetany, is a condition resulting from a low level of magnesium (Mg) in the blood. Maintenance of blood magnesium depends on the amount obtained from the daily diet since the magnesium present in teeth and bones and is not easily mobilized in times of need. Magnesium is required for proper nerve and muscle function so low levels in the blood result in “tetanic spasms” where muscles contract uncontrollably. The disorder in an adult cow begins with separation from the herd and going off feed. The ears are often erect and twitching and the cow is alert, hyperexcitable and may be aggressive. The symptoms quickly progress to muscle spasms, convulsions, difficulty breathing, and death. Often the affected animal is found dead with evidence of thrashing and struggle on the ground around her. Deficiencies occur most often in beef cows when they are nursing a calf and grazing young, green grass in early spring. Fast-growing spring pastures are high in potassium (K+) and nitrogen (N+) and low in magnesium (Mg++) and sodium (Na+) ions. Affected cattle often have low blood calcium concurrently. Fall calving cows may also experience grass tetany during the winter months.

Will Feeding Plain White Salt to Cows Prevent Grass Tetany? This claim is shared every spring and, indeed, there are producers who do not have grass tetany that only feed salt. How can that be? Simply put, for some producers, the minerals available in their soils and forages are enough to meet the nutritional needs of their cows. Regional soil types, soil fertility, diverse forage species and differing cattle requirements based on age and stage of lactation result in different mineral needs for grazing livestock on every farm. A blanket recommendation to just feed salt ignores these factors and Continue reading

Is your bull ready for work?

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Licking County

Should a person wait until the hay is mowed before looking at the rake and baler to fix any problems that carried over from last year? Would they head out on a cross country drive without at least checking the oil and tires? If most people answered no to these questions, then why do so many people just turn their bull in with the cows without first being sure that he is ready to do his job. A cow/calf producer’s income comes from having calves in a timely manner and half of that is up to the bull. A breeding soundness evaluation (BSE) is an often-overlooked way to avoid some potentially major problems in this year’s breeding season. Typical prices are in the $50-$100 range and some facilities will establish days in the spring when producers can bring their bulls to a central location for testing.

A BSE is a test performed by a trained veterinarian to estimate the readiness of the bull to settle cows. This evaluation concentrates on 3 aspects: 1) Physical soundness, 2) Reproductive soundness, 3) Semen quality.

Physical soundness includes evaluation of feet and legs, body condition, eyes and any other condition that could affect the bull’s ability to breed cows. Soundness of feet and legs are extremely important as the bulls increase steps taken while walking with the cow herd, but they must also be able to Continue reading

Cold Stress and Beef Cows

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Factors that create stress during the winter months are cold, wind, snow, rain and mud. The primary effect on animals is due to temperature. All these factors alter the maintenance energy requirement of livestock. Maintenance requirement can be defined, as the nutrients required for keeping an animal in a state of balance so that body substance is neither gained or lost. An interesting thing to note is that while energy requirements increase, protein requirements remain the same.

Some published sources contain nutrient requirements for beef cattle that include guidelines for adjusting rations during winter weather. Even without published sources, competent livestock producers realize the need for more feed during cold weather. Make sure that water is available. If water is not supplied, cattle will reduce feed intake.

Daily dry matter intake of beef cows with respect to lower temperatures

Temp, F < 5 5-22 22-41 59-77
Intake, % Change 1.16 1.07 1.05 1.03

The metabolic response to the stimulus of cold involves practically all Continue reading

Cryptosporidiosis – Frequently Asked Questions

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

What is “cryptosporidiosis”?

Cryptosporidiosis, also known as “crypto”, is a disease primarily seen in calves due to a protozoan parasite, Cryptosporidium parvum or C. parvum for short. In its “clinical” or visible form, calves have profuse, watery diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death. It generally affects calves from newborns up to 6 weeks of age but older animals may be asymptomatic shedders. There are no effective treatments or vaccines available in the US. Cryptosporidiosis is “zoonotic”, meaning humans may acquire C. parvum from infected calves and have watery diarrhea lasting up to 3 weeks in healthy people with strong immune systems but can be life- threatening in immunocompromised individuals.

How is the organism transmitted?

Cryptosporidium “oocysts” are thick-walled structures, similar to parasite “eggs”, that are passed in the feces of infected calves. These oocysts are spread between calves by the “fecal-oral route”, either directly through contact with feces from infected calves (for example, on manure-covered teats), or indirectly by ingestion of feces-contaminated feed or water. Very few oocysts are required to cause infection; in one study in calves less than 24 hours old, only 17 oocysts were needed to cause diarrhea. Following ingestion (swallowing) of oocysts by the calf, the organism begins a very complex reproductive cycle within the cells that line the calf’s intestinal tract (see Figure 1 for a complete review of the life cycle). The conditions inside the gastrointestinal tract of low pH and body temperature trigger the Continue reading

Posted in Health

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