Emergency Calf Management after Dystocia (Difficult Birth)

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Figure 1: Meconium staining (yellow color) is an indicator of calf stress during delivery. Placing the calf on the sternum (as pictured) maximizes ventilation of the lungs.

“Dystocia” is defined as a difficult or prolonged calving, whether or not human assistance was necessary for delivery of the calf. Factors known to cause dystocia include a mismatch between small pelvic size of the dam and large calf size, abnormal calf presentation (for example, backwards or head turned back), and maternal factors such as weak labor, insufficient dilation of the cervix, or a uterine twist or torsion. Thin cows often experience prolonged labor and calves are born weak and slow to stand and nurse. Inappropriate timing of intervention or excessive force applied during delivery may cause additional stress and injury to an already weakened calf. Following dystocia, a calf is 6 times more likely to get sick than a calf born normally, with most deaths occurring within 96 hours of birth.

The key event in the transition from life inside the uterus to an independent existence is Continue reading

Match EPDs to Your Ideal Grazing Management Style

Dean Kreager, Licking County Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator (originally published in Farm & Dairy)

As we move into January the grazing season is over for most and ended long ago for many, such as me, thanks to a dry fall.  Now is the time to start putting some thought into breeding decisions.  Is this the year to purchase a new bull?  What semen do I need to order so it will be in my tank when the cows come in heat?

In cattle, EPDs are the expected progeny differences in performance between offspring of different sires.  Sheep have a similar system of EBVs (estimated breeding values) but they are not as commonly used.  EPDs are available for a large number of production, maternal, and carcass traits.  The use of EPDs gained value with the first national cattle summary which was published in 1971.  The value of this data has improved with time.  Breeds have improved data collection and DNA evaluations have become common so that now the value of EPD’s is greater than ever.  These DNA enhanced EPDs can provide results equivalent to 10 to 36 calves for many traits but sometimes all these numbers get confusing.

Since this is a grazing column, let’s look at a few of the EPDs that are related to grazing Continue reading

The Art and Science of Developing Heifers

– Les Anderson, Ph.D., Beef Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky

The older I get the more I realize that heifer development is as much art as science. The art is understanding what type of female best fits your operation and your marketing scheme. What size cow best fits your management system? Which cows will produce the best replacements?

The science is understanding the principles enabling the “right” heifers to succeed. The first week of January is an extremely important “check-point” in spring heifer development programs.

Regardless of management system, one key factor dictating cow productivity is a heifer’s ability to breed early in her first breeding season. Data from many studies ranging back to the 1960’s clearly demonstrate the key to cow productivity is timing of her first breeding as a heifer. Heifers that breed early in their first breeding season wean heavier calves, breed back more quickly, and become more productive cows. So the key, then, is to optimize Continue reading

Geez, what a mess!

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

Have you ever looked at your cow-calf operation and had the thought “Geez, what a mess?!” Even if we don’t want to admit it, often our lack of organization and planning sometimes really hinder our opportunity to succeed especially in our cattle operations.

An example; it’s September. Have you pulled your bull? If a bull pen is not available, is your breeding season over? The first step in becoming an efficient, profit-possible operation is controlling the calving season.

How do we transform the calving season? A great example of controlling the calving season occurred on a farm enrolled in the UK Farm Program. This producer had huge Limousin-cross cows (1700-1800 pounds), calved all year long (see table The Beginning), 16 of 17 cows calved and 13 calves were weaned from 2015 calvings. This producer wanted to move to a fall-calving herd because of his time commitments to his grain enterprise.

Steps taken: Continue reading

Breeding Beef Cows Back after a Tough Winter

Dean Kreager, Ohio State University Extension AgNR Educator, Licking County (originally published in the Ohio Farmer on-line)

How do you avoid getting stuck in a rut? Take a different path. There was a real shortage of high quality or even medium quality hay made last year. Forage analysis results that I reviewed last fall were all lower quality than expected. As a result, many cowherds were much thinner at the beginning of the spring calving season this year. The problem with having thin cows at calving time is that they are likely to be even thinner at breeding time.

When a cow eats, her use of nutrients is prioritized. First is maintenance for survival, followed by lactation and growth, which includes weight gain, and finally, reproduction. While reproduction is the number one priority trait for profitability, it is not at the top of the list when the body of the cow is deciding how to use its nutrient resources.

Years of research have established that thin cows are often difficult to get bred. Results often show around a 30% decrease in the number of cows displaying estrus by 60 days post-calving on a cow with a body condition score at calving of 4 vs 6. Similar results are seen when comparing pregnancy rates within a Continue reading

Plan Now for the 2019 OCA Replacement Female Sale

John F. Grimes, OCA Replacement Female Sale Manager

Last year 107 total sale lots grossed $152,275 for an overall average of $1,423.

The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) is announcing an event of potential interest for both the buyers and sellers of beef breeding cattle. On Friday evening, November 29, the OCA will be hosting their seventh annual Replacement Female Sale. The sale will be held at the Muskingum Livestock facility in Zanesville and will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The 2019 Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Replacement Female Sale will provide an opportunity for both buyers and sellers to meet the need for quality replacements in the state. Consignments may include cow-calf pairs, bred cows and bred heifers. Females must be under the age of five as of January 1, 2020 and may be of registered or commercial background. Bred females must be bred to a bull with known EPD’s and calves at side of cows must be sired by a bull with known EPD’s. Pregnancy status must be Continue reading

Forage Shortage: Considering Early Weaning

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County (originally published in Ohio’s Country Journal on-line)

Less than ideal conditions have led to forage shortages throughout the Midwest. Photo: Ohio’s Country Journal

Low hay inventory this past winter combined with poor pasture stands due to excessive moisture have led to a greater proportion of thin beef cows both across the countryside and on the cull market. As we evaluate the toll that this past winter took on forage stands, especially alfalfa, hay is projected to be in short supply as we proceed into next winter as well.

For a beef cow to be efficient and profitable, we must meet her nutritional requirements for maintenance in addition to those for reproduction and lactation. As a reminder, the hierarchy of nutrient use is as follows: Maintenance, Development, Growth, Lactation, Reproduction, Fattening. This applies to all nutrient categories, not just to energy alone. As we conclude calving season, we are entering the most challenging time in production cycle when it comes to providing adequate nutrition. If the cow does not intake enough nutrients and is in suboptimal body condition at calving (BCS < 5), reproduction is the first to fail. With that in mind, one strategy available to minimize body condition and reproductive losses when forage is in short supply is to early wean calves.

Early weaning is certainly not a new concept and is one that is often employed when Continue reading

Breeding soundness exams: Do ’em!

– W. Mark Hilton, DVM, PAS, DABVP (beef cattle), Clinical Professor Emeritus, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

Talk to any veterinarian who does a significant amount of beef work, and he or she will have stories of a group of cows that went “0 for” at pregnancy check.

Maybe it was a group of heifers with the yearling bull that had zero out of 12 bred, or a group of 30 cows with a mature bull that “got them all pregnant each of the past three years.”

My first case was just six months into practice, when I went to sleeve a group of 25 cows that spent almost three months with a rented bull.

When the first cow that walks into the chute is open, it causes a little angst. When it is the first four, we start thinking, “Oh, no.”

You may continue reading this article at BEEF Magazine on-line

Now is the Time to Prepare for Next Spring’s Calving Season

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

Only 1 to 2 months ago the spring calving cows were calving, the temperatures were colder and the calving pastures were already covered with muck and manure. Experience would say that you do not want to ask cow calf operators how calving is then, because the response would be less than objective, reflecting bone-chilling cold and not enough sleep.

If you wait too long, perhaps until this fall, time will have mellowed most of the events and one soon has difficulty matching a calving season with particular problems. Plus it may be too late to make the necessary changes to reduce calving losses. Now is perhaps the best time to make a few notes on what to change for next year.

The first step is to Continue reading

Body Condition Score and Getting Thin Cows to Rebreed

– Travis Mulliniks, UNL Beef Cattle Nutritionist, Range Production Systems

During the production year, livestock are faced with dynamic changes in nutritional and environmental stressors that create nutritional challenges.  The last year for many livestock producer have been one of those very challenging years. Many parts of Nebraska experienced high, early spring rainfall and tremendous forage growth, resulting in early maturing and low-quality forages.  This created a situation that many cows were thinner than normal years at weaning.  We coupled that with high moisture, extreme cold, blizzards, and flooding in last few months.  The end result has been really thin cows.

Body condition scoring (BCS) is an effective management tool to estimate the energy reserves of a cow.  If monitored multiple times across the production year, BCS is a good indicator of direction of body weight change.  Body condition score of beef cows at the time of calving has the greatest impact on subsequent rebreeding performance (Table 1). Traditional recommendations suggest cows need to be nutritionally managed at a BCS 5 or greater at breeding for optimal reproductive performance. However, the response is not absolute; some cows are capable of Continue reading