Reproductive Failure in Cattle-Frequently Asked Questions about Leptospirosis

– Dr. Michelle Arnold, UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

“Reproductive failure” is an all-encompassing term if a cow loses a calf during pregnancy or if she fails to get pregnant. Causes of reproductive failure are often divided into infectious and non-infectious categories. Examples of “non-infectious” include poor cow nutrition (lack of energy and micronutrients such as selenium/Vitamin E); bull infertility, disease, and injury; breeding season management (shortened breeding season, insufficient bull-to-cow ratios); genetic and some congenital abnormalities that result in fetal death; and toxic agents such as nitrates, phytoestrogens, and drugs including steroids and prostaglandins. “Infectious” causes are bacteria, viruses, protozoal and fungal agents that directly or indirectly damage the placenta and/or the fetus. Examples include the BVD virus, IBR virus, the protozoan Neospora caninum and many species of the bacterium Leptospira, among many others. This series of articles will explore the most common infectious causes of abortion and reproductive failure in cattle and available options for control and prevention.

What is Leptospirosis or “Lepto”? Leptospirosis is a complicated bacterial disease commonly associated with abortions, stillbirths, premature births, and infertility in cattle. However, this bacterium also causes sickness and death in cattle, dogs, sheep, and horses worldwide and is an important zoonotic disease affecting an estimated 1 million humans annually. Farmers, veterinarians, and those working in meat processing facilities are at highest risk to contract the disease.

What causes leptospirosis? The disease is caused by a unique, highly coiled, Gram-negative bacterium known as a “spirochete” belonging to the genus Leptospira. These “leptospires” are highly motile due to their spiral shape and, once inside a host animal, they enter the bloodstream and replicate in many different organs including the liver, kidney, spleen, reproductive tract, eyes and central nervous system. The immune system will produce antibodies that usually Continue reading

Answering the age-old question: Is cottonseed going to make my bulls infertile?

Will feeding cottonseed impact the fertility of your bull?

As winter slowly approaches and producers are planning their winter supplementation, the question comes in each year; can I feed whole cottonseed to my bulls or will it make them infertile? This article will go over the impacts of cottonseed on bull fertility and describe how to safely take advantage of cottonseed without negatively impacting fertility.

Go here to read Answering the age-old question: Is cottonseed going to make my bulls infertile?

Tenth Annual OCA Replacement Female Sale Features 86 Lots

Selling bred heifers, bred cows and and one pair, all less than 5 years old.

Details for the 86 bred females consigned to the 10th annual OCA Replacement Female Sale have been posted. The sale is being held Friday, November 25, at the Muskingum Livestock facility located at 944 Malinda Street in Zanesville and will begin at 6:00 p.m. This sale represents an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to add quality young replacement females to their herd.

Approximately 64 bred heifers, 21 bred cows and 1 cow/calf pair are being offered at this year’s sale. Females selling will have pregnancy status verified within 60 days of sale and are eligible for interstate shipment. Breeds represented include Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Crossbred, LimFlex and Simmental.

All females selling are less than five years of age at sale time.  Find breeding information along with more detail including videos of the consignments on the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association web site at:

Take advantage of this opportunity to add quality and quantity to your herd.  If you have questions about the sale, contact Garth Ruff, sale manager, 740-651-7140 or or the OCA office at 614-873-6736 or

Applying the Concept of Relative Age Effect to Our Calf Crop

– Pedro L. P. Fontes, Ph.D. Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist

Simple concept: the earlier they’re born the more pay weight there will be.

The Relative Age Effect is a term commonly used to describe how child athletes born early in the academic year tend to perform at a higher level than those born later. For example, softball athletes born between May and August are 40% more likely to play college softball compared with players born between September and December. Similarly, hockey players born between May and August are 56% more likely to play in college compared with athletes born between September and December. This disadvantage can likely be explained by the fact that those who are older are typically more physically, emotionally, or cognitively developed than those that are younger.

Interestingly, similar differences are observed when we evaluate performance records of our calf crops. Steer calves that are born in the beginning of the calving season have more time to gain weight between calving and weaning compared with steers born later in the calving season. Consequently, these steers are heavier at weaning compared with their counterparts. Research from the University of Nebraska indicates that steers born in the first 21 days of the calving season were 32 pounds heavier than those born in the . . .

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Potential in the Fall?

Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Fall is my favorite time of the year, hay making is done, the feeder cattle are being marketed, college football is in full swing, and for some calving season is well underway.

This summer at our field day in Muskingum County we heard from a family who discussed incorporating a fall calving cow herd into their beef operation. While there are disadvantages to fall calving (will discuss), there are several advantages that can be capitalized on if we can evaluate and adapt current production systems. In other publications, I have previously mentioned the virtues of a fall calving system here in the Eastern Corn Belt. Let’s look at how fall calving can be a viable and profitable system.

Cattle prices are seasonal. As with most things in agriculture, supply and demand has a great impact on prices. Dr. Andrew Griffith from the University of Tennessee in 2017 analyzed several studies comparing spring and fall calving systems. After comparing the systems on a 205-day weaning age and two separate feed resource scenarios they concluded that even though spring-calving cows had heavier calves at weaning and lower feed costs than the fall-calving cows, the higher prices of steer and heifer calves captured by fall-born calves were able to Continue reading

Be Prepared for More Open Cows

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

Shew, it’s been a rough summer. On top of high fuel costs, current inflation, and high input costs, beef producers have had to deal with drought and extreme heat. Heat stress is normal for cattle in Kentucky because most of our cattle graze endophyte-infected fescue but the early onset this summer may cause some serious issues with pregnancy rates and calving rates.

Heat stress has profound impacts on many biological processes that can lead to poor reproductive rates. Prior to estrus, heat stress reduces follicle growth, hormone production, and oocyte (the egg) competency. Combined, this reduces fertilization rates. Once fertilized, heat stress also reduces the growth of the newly formed embryo. This reduction in the growth of an embryo is likely the result of increased cell death and/or a smaller corpus luteum (CL) that producers less progesterone. This reduced growth rate and increased embryonic cell death leads to more embryos lost during the first week of gestation. Unfortunately, heat stress continues to impact embryonic growth through the first 21 days which also increases the loss of these early pregnancies.

Issues with heat stress continue throughout gestation. Exposure of early pregnancies (day 24-45) to heat stress reduces fetal growth and can result in Continue reading

Residual Feed Intake (RFI) . . . a Selection Tool?

Relationships between feed efficiency, scrotal circumference and semen quality traits in yearling bulls
– Hafla, A. Lancaster, G. Carstens, D. Forrest, J. Fox, T. Forbes, Mike Davis (OSU), R. Randel, and J. Holloway
Journal of Animal Science. 2012.90:3937–3944

Residual feed intake (RFI) is a measure of feed efficiency that is independent of growth traits.  Seed stock producers are adopting technology to measure daily intake to assess feed efficiency of growing bulls and heifers.  Across all studies, bulls with low RFI phenotypes consumed 20% less dry matter DM and had 10% less backfat but had similar average daily gain, scrotal circumference and semen quality traits compared with high-RFI bulls.  Inclusion of RFI in selection indexes will enable selection for feed efficiency with Continue reading

Consequences of Long-term Commitment to Estrus Synchronization

– Dr. Pedro Fontes, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, University of Georgia

Those who stick to the technology usually observe a gradual increase in pregnancy rates to FTAI.

The use of estrus synchronization programs has substantially increased over the last few decades. These programs allow cattle producers to manipulate the estrous cycle of cows and heifers, facilitating the adoption of biotechnologies such as artificial insemination (AI). Cow-calf operations can combine estrus synchronization with fixed-time artificial insemination (FTAI) and AI all cows from a given herd at a pre-determined time without the need of estrus detection. The development of these estrus synchronization protocols has significantly impacted reproductive management commercially, leading to a remarkable global increase in the use of AI by beef cattle producers. In fact, the number of beef semen straws sold yearly in the United States increased by 145% between 1990 to 2017.

Studies have repeatedly evaluated the effectiveness of estrus synchronization protocols in combination with FTAI, and pregnancy rates usually range between 40-60%. These are great numbers considering that approximately half of our females are becoming pregnant on the first day of the breeding season. Nevertheless, there is still some variation in . . .

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Impact of early calving replacement heifers on cow-herd production and longevity

When females become pregnant within the breeding season is a key component of cow-calf profitability.

Cattle producers commonly evaluate reproductive performance by determining how many cows became pregnant during the breeding season. Although pregnancy rates are important, when females become pregnant within the breeding season is also a key component of cow-calf profitability.

In the short article linked below, Dr. Fontes, Assistant Professor and Beef Extension Specialist at the University of Georgia, discusses the production implication of getting heifers pregnant early in the breeding season.

Impact of early calving replacement heifers on cow-herd production and longevity

Data That Delivers

– Jason Duggin, Beef Cattle Specialist, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences – University of Georgia

Imagine a business that didn’t track its inputs or its outputs. Obviously, that would be a bad scenario. The demand for information is rapidly increasing when it comes to all sectors of the beef chain from commercial cow-calf to retail. The digital age we currently live in combined with genomic testing has streamlined selection and marketing to a speed that even now seems almost fictional. Inputs and outputs are the future of the industry and for all progressive cattle producers.

Retailers of all sizes are delving into marketing that connects consumers to the farm. As you may expect, large retailers can already scan a bag of lettuce and tell what farm it came from. If the thought of that makes you nervous, I don’t blame you. However, the pros may outweigh the cons for most. Some leaders in the retail segment are looking ahead to a time when consumers can scan a QR code on a package of ribeye steaks to learn about the ranch or farm that it originated from. At least as of this writing, people will pay for that kind of story. Restaurants are increasingly promoting premium known-source menu items. You may also hear the term Blockchain which is a digital record of transactions from start to finish.

If scenarios like this seem too far-fetched, that is understandable, but regardless of how far we take our marketing, the information we provide to the next person in the beef chain can make . . .

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