Benefits of Pre-Weaning Vaccinations in Beef Calves


“Producers should consider vaccinating calves at 2 to 4 months of age, depending on the operation,” said Dr. DL Step, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim.

Colostrum consumed by a newborn calf provides protection against infectious diseases. However, this protection is only temporary, lasting a few weeks to months, and calves must start building their own immunities. Vaccination during this time of transition can help protect the calf until weaning age. The following are three key benefits of incorporating pre-weaning vaccinations on your operation.

  1. Reduced stress

During weaning, calves are faced with stressors such as castration, transportation, disease challenges, weather fluctuations, dietary changes and more. Stress can cause immunosuppression in a calf, decreasing its ability to respond to disease-causing pathogens and vaccines, making it susceptible to respiratory disease. “Early vaccination gives calves the opportunity to stimulate their immune systems to work at optimum levels,” said Dr. Step.

  1. Enhanced BRD and BVDV protection

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is the top health and economic issue facing the beef industry today.3 Once calves are affected by BRD, there are both immediate and long-lasting effects on performance. Studies have shown that calves challenged by BRD could weigh up to 36 pounds less at weaning than their healthy herd mates. Early vaccination can help producers prepare calves for challenges they may face during weaning time, ensure calves are less susceptible to becoming infected with pathogens and have a more rapid immune response to the various pathogens that cause BRD.

Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), another growing health issue in the cattle industry, can result in reproductive, digestive and respiratory problems in the herd. Once infected, calves can shed a high level of the virus, spreading the disease to other susceptible animals. Studies have demonstrated calves as young as 5 to 6 weeks of age can be effectively immunized against BVDV. “BVDV Type 1b has been identified as the most common subtype found in persistently infected calves, so make sure the vaccine you choose offers solid protection against it,” Dr. Step recommended.

  1. Cost effective

In the case of calf health, prevention is key. Calves affected by BRD can greatly reduce profits through poor performance and increased morbidity. The average cost of BRD in the U.S. cattle industry is more than $640 million annually. “When your calves are protected and healthy, it will show in their performance and well-being,” said Dr. Step.

Pre-weaning vaccination is an opportunity to provide additional comfort and protection for your calves. “Producers should work with their local veterinarian to develop a vaccination program catered to their environmental conditions and herd goals,” Dr. Step added. Read More…

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Feed beef cows appropriately this spring

supplements-calves-0416f3-1734a_1PROLONGED WINTER: With limited forage growth, supplements need to be fed to meet nutritional requirements of cows nursing calves.

Prolonged winter weather has limited forage growth thus far this spring, which means many farmers are still feeding hay to cows. Pastures aren’t growing like they usually do in early spring.

Iowa State University Extension beef specialist Chris Clark reminds cow-calf producers of the importance of feeding cows appropriately this spring. Nutritional requirements are significantly greater during lactation, and it is critical to adjust rations appropriately.

“Energy and protein requirements are significantly greater during lactation. Many spring calves have already been born, but because of the weather, pastures are not yet growing very well,” Clark notes. “It’s important to realize that whether they’re in a cow-lot setting or already on pasture, cows need to be fed well enough to support early lactation.”

Feed supplement or quality hay
Typical winter diets, although balanced for gestational requirements, may not offer enough energy and protein to meet the requirements of early lactation. You may need to supplement with some type of concentrate or at least strive to use high-quality hay.

“To help cows provide a good supply of milk for the calves and yet maintain the cows’ body condition, we need to feed them well, as we are waiting for the grass to grow,” Clark says. “Cows really need some good hay to eat, and in many cases, additional supplementation to keep them on a good plane of nutrition. The challenge is that not everyone has a good handle on the quality of their hay. Plus, at this point in the spring season, hay inventories may be running pretty low.”

Use distillers grain to stretch hay
Corn coproducts are low-starch feeds that are very compatible with forage-based diets, and Clark says distillers grain can work well to supplement and stretch hay supplies. Other feeds such as soybean hulls, corn and corn silage also can be used for supplementation. Whatever feed is used, supplements must be fed appropriately to optimize rumen function, digestibility and animal health. Read more…

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Healthy soil increases animal weight

Individual pastures on livestock farms yield surprisingly dissimilar benefits to a farm’s overall agricultural income, and those differences are most likely attributable to the varying levels of “soil health” provided by its grazing livestock, reveals a study published today.

The study, produced by an interdisciplinary team of 13 scientists and two PhD students from Rothamsted Research, evaluates how efficiently nutrients are used on a livestock farm, on a field-by-field basis for the first time, and links soil health to animal growth.

The team has developed a method to derive the contribution of individual fields to an animal’s growth and, in the process, has opened up the possibility of using field-scale metrics as indicators of animal performance and agricultural productivity. The findings appear in the journal Animal.

“The prospect that commercial livestock producers could improve their productivity by purely changing rotational patterns is exciting,” says Taro Takahashi, an agricultural economist at Rothamsted’s North Wyke Farm Platform (NWFP) in Devon, who led the study.

“Unlike many alternative technologies, this will not require any capital investment,” adds Takahashi, who is also Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Livestock Systems and Food Security at the Bristol Veterinary School of the University of Bristol.

The majority of livestock farms in the UK operate rotational grazing, which involves moving animals from one field to another. While this practice supplies more fresh forage to animals throughout the season, it makes farming systems more difficult to monitor and optimise.

The problem has been the difficulty of linking an animal’s performance to field measurements, such as soil health, because animals spend only a fraction of time in each field, which is also used to produce silage for winter. Under such complexity, collating required information manually was almost infeasible. The latest method provides a shortcut.

The NWFP team found that animal performance on individual fields was positively associated with the level of soil organic carbon, a common measure of “soil health” for sustainable farming. The team also discovered that fields grazed more intensively had healthier soils and were less prone to water and nutrient losses.

“Without our unique experimental design to separate hydrological flows from individual grazing fields, you couldn’t accurately quantify any nutrients being lost as the majority would be dissolved in water,” notes Paul Harris, one of the study’s authors and the Principal Investigator at North Wyke, which consists of three instrumented farms over 63 hectares.

With the UK preparing to leave the EU, the new study comes as Rothamsted increases its efforts to contribute to the creation of a well-designed food supply chain, both through enhanced ecosystem services and reduced environmental impacts.

“The correlation between soil health and animal performance is a major finding that confirms the huge amount of anecdotal evidence linking soil parameters and liveweight gain,” says Michael Lee, Head of the Department of Sustainable Agriculture Sciences at North Wyke. Read more…


#Livestock Horn Fly Management


With summer grazing season almost here, now is the time to prepare a horn fly management plan. Developing an effective plan requires some knowledge about the fly’s habits, life cycle, economic impact, and available control strategies.

United States livestock producers lose over $1 billion annually to the horn fly, making it one of the most damaging ectoparasites of pastured cattle. Horn fly feeding cause’s dermal irritation, anemia, decreased feed intake leading to reduced weight gains, and diminished milk production. Horn flies have also been implicated in the spread of summer mastitis. Furthermore, an estimated $60 million is spent annually on insecticidal control. Studies conducted in Nebraska have established calf weaning weights were 10-20 pounds higher when horn flies were controlled on mother cows. The horn fly also affects yearling cattle reducing yearling weights by much as 18 percent. The economic injury level (EIL) for horn flies is 200 flies per animal. An economic injury level is when the economic impact of the pest equals treatment costs. During the summer horn fly numbers on untreated Nebraska cattle can exceed several thousand.

Horn flies are small in size, approximately 3/16” in length and are usually found on backs, sides, and poll area of cattle. During a warm summer afternoon they can be found on the belly region of cattle. Horn flies, both male and female, acquire more than 30 blood meals per day. After mating the female fly will leave the animal to deposit eggs in fresh cattle manure. Eggs hatch within one week, and larvae feed and mature in the manure, pupating in the soil beneath the manure pat. Newly emerged horn flies can travel several miles searching for a host. The entire life cycle can be completed in 10 to 20 days depending upon the weather. read more…



GI tract in calves can influence immunity and performance




Supplementing Gut Health




As cattle producers work to improve health and performance while minimizing the need for antibiotics, a growing body of research indicates that supplements influencing microflora in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can improve gut health and overall immunity.

In a recent webinar, Shelby Roberts, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow with Alltech, outlined ongoing research and application of gut-health management in beef cattle.

In calves, Roberts says, about 13% of death loss occurs during the first 24 hours after birth, while about 28% of deaths occur from one to 21 days and 14% after 21 days. Scours account for about 61% of calf mortality, followed by pneumonia at 25% and other causes at 14%.

The immune system, Roberts notes, includes innate and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is the body’s first defense against infection, involving leukocytes or white blood cells, including macrophages and lymphocytes. Innate immunity provides an immediate response to infection, but is not specific to individual pathogens.

The adaptive immune system relies on antibodies such as immunoglobulins. Those antibodies are pathogen-specific, but have a delayed response to a new pathogen. Immunoglobulins, Roberts says, cannot cross the placental barrier, so colostrum provides the calf with its first source of antibodies along with fats, proteins, minerals and anti-inflammatory agents that benefit immunity. Ideally, newborn nursing calves receive the same antibodies present in the dam, and those antibodies help protect the calf while its active immune system develops.

The bovine GI tract contains the body’s highest concentration of immune cells, with additional support from beneficial microbes such as Lactobacillus species. Those beneficial bacteria help prevent pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and others involved in calf scours from attaching to the gut wall and causing inflammation. When the immune system and beneficial microbes work together, pathogens are held at bay and the animal utilizes more energy for growth. Antibiotic use disrupts that balance, damaging beneficial bacteria and leaving the immune system as the last line of defense.

Roberts described how mannan-oligosaccharide, a component extracted from the cell walls of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, bids to receptors on pathogen cells, blocks their colonization, encourages beneficial microbes and enhances production of immunoglobulin antibodies. Alltech’s feed additive BIO-MOS provides that protection she says, with MOS standing for mannan-oligosaccharide. She outlined several trials to illustrate the effects.

In a University of Kentucky trial involving 20 beef cows, researchers included BIO-MOS in the rations of 10 cows beginning three weeks before calving, while the others received the same diet but without BIO-MOS. They vaccinated all the cows against rotavirus four weeks before calving with a booster in another two weeks. Tests showed significantly higher levels of immunoglobulins G and M (IgG and IgM) in colostrum from treated cows and serum samples from their calves. They also found higher antibody titers for the rotavirus vaccine in colostrum and calves from the treated cows.

Roberts also described a demonstration trial in a commercial cow herd in Montana. Over the previous five years, the 160-head herd had experienced 30% morbidity and 3.5% mortality among calves. For the trial, the ranch began feeding BIO-MOS at a rate of 10 grams per head per day five days before cows began calving and continued offering it in a mineral supplement through post-calving. In this trial, calf morbidity dropped from 30% to 15% and death loss dropped from 3.5% to 0.

In cow-calf operations, Roberts recommends feeding the product beginning two months prior to calving and continuing until the youngest calf reaches 45 days of age.

Mannan-oligosaccharide also can benefit calves during the stressful weaning and receiving periods, Roberts says. In an Alberta feedlot trial with 900 newly weaned calves, researchers added BIO-MOS to the receiving ration for half of the calves at a rate of 20 grams per head per day. Through the receiving period in that trial:

  • Daily gains for treated calves averaged 2.07 pounds compared with 1.54 pounds for control calves.
  • Mortality rate was .44% in treated calves versus 2.66% in controls.
  • Treatment rate was 18% in treated calves versus 49.4% in controls.

Read more

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Antibiotic use in the livestock industry


Antibiotic resistance is becoming an increasingly hot button topic, and the livestock industry is going to continue to be a huge part of the discussion moving forward.

As a whole, the industry has already made great strides in doing our part. With the introduction of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), producers are working closely with veterinarians to determine best protocols for managing herd health. Additionally, many are turning toward prebiotic and probiotic products to optimize gut health and avoid the need for using antibiotics altogether.

While I believe the VFD is just the tip of the iceberg for what types of regulations are to come for livestock owners as it relates to antibiotics and animal health, I do have to say, for now, it’s a great story to tell. Consumers trust veterinarians, and the VFD demonstrates how much the industry cares about this topic and the changes we have made to address ongoing issues of antibiotic resistance.

However, this great story of livestock producers focusing on both animal and human health is falling on deaf ears. A recent article featured in the New York Times focuses on our reliance on antibiotics in the industry and compares feed grade antibiotics to addictive performance-enhancing drugs, JBS as the “rotten meat mafia,” feedlots as “harsh” places to live, and quotes from producers and veterinarians that show a flippant attitude about the issue instead of addressing the realities of antibiotic use in human and livestock health head on.

Written by investigative journalist Danny Hakim, the article is titled, “At hamburger central, antibiotics for cattle that aren’t sick,” and it disregards the benefits of the VFD, citing that rules do little to reduce antibiotic use for growth promotion rather than treating disease, since he claims the rules were designed in cooperation with “drug companies and industrial farm groups.”

Here is an excerpt: “A blunt-spoken former bull rider, Mike Callicrate raises cattle in Kansas and Colorado. To him, antibiotics are ‘performance enhancing drugs,’ and he lumps them in with other industrial additives like steroid hormones.

“’We’re all worried about athletes using performance enhancing drugs during the baseball game, but we’re not worried about the hot dogs that were produced using the same chemical compounds and that are being eaten by our children,’” he said during a recent visit to his farm on the Kansas-Colorado border.”

It’s apparent to me that Hakim was looking for a “gotcha moment” in interviewing these folks, and even his descriptions of the feedlots he toured were painted as these dark, ugly, hazy places that certainly didn’t portray a beautiful picture of beef production in the U.S.

It’s disappointing to say the least, but I do have to credit Hakim for recognizing that people are addicted to antibiotics.

For example, it’s not uncommon for doctors to prescribe antibiotics to the whole family if one child gets sick, and I recently read about an app that allows people to plug in their symptoms and get a prescription for antibiotics without ever seeing a physician.

When we don’t feel well and we take the time to go to the doctor, we as consumers often want instant results and medication to make the pain go away. Forget the fact that these medicines aren’t always necessary; people don’t want to pay a co-pay and sit in a waiting room without coming home with something for their trouble.

It’s human nature, and although physicians are becoming more aware of how antibiotics impact gut health and are trying to curtail the use of these drugs, people still live closely together and the result is influenza, strep throat, bronchitis and more gets passed around every winter, necessitating our need for antibiotics.

So what’s the solution? Certainly the livestock industry has a role, but it’s not the entire piece, nor should we be the ones to blame. Personal responsibility is important here, and I believe eating well, using probiotics, getting quality sleep and reducing stress could promote healthy people, just like those same attributes are important to keeping cattle healthy. Read more

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Some lice products work better

Delousing products generally require two treatments about three weeks apart to kill all the lice that hatch out from the eggs that weren’t affected by the first treatment.

“There is one new product that does seem to work if you can only pour cattle once,” according to Dr. Dave Barz, a veterinarian in Parkston, S.D. “It’s called Clean-Up II and contains a pyrethroid, which kills adult lice, plus an insect growth regulator that keeps the nymphs and newly hatched lice from maturing.”

It has enough residual effect to thwart the lice that hatch out after the treatment.

“We’ve been using that for several years and are seeing better results,” he said. “This might be something to try if cattle are continuing to have lice problems after traditional treatments. In our area, if you start to have problems, the company you bought the product from will usually give you more, so you can get them re-poured. That’s been their guarantee, at this point in time.”

Many ranchers in his region pour cattle with an avermectin product at turnout time to kill internal as well as external parasites, and again in the fall at roundup to kill lice.

“Most of these cattle are moved with trucks now, so a lot of them get poured as they come off or get on a truck. Any time you are handling the animals, you can think about using a pour-on,” he says. “We’ve talked about rotating the pour-on products, using different ones different years, but we are seeing lice resistance to all of them. The only one that is really helping us right now in terms of thwarting a new hatch of lice is the Clean-Up II.”

Some feedlots now are using injectable and pour-on products at the same time — a full dose of each — and in those groups of cattle we haven’t seen as much problem with lice recurring.

“Hopefully we are getting a better kill, and maybe more residual effect,” Barz says. “We can’t scientifically explain it, but it seems to help.”

For best control, it’s very important to treat all of the animals at the same time, with a proper dose, and not skip any.

“This is why the treatments work so well in the feedlot, because the whole pen is treated. There are no animals skipped, that would re-infest the treated animals,” he says.

The important thing is to have a good lice control program in terms of when to pour the cattle, and how best to break the life cycle. Lice are a bigger problem when animals are confined and grouped together (in terms of spreading lice to one another) as for winter feeding, calving, etc.

“A few years ago, some ranchers decided to use natural products rather than insecticides,” Barz says. “The old way, before we had insecticides, was to use the back-rubbers with oil on them, so the cows’ hair was oily, which tends to deter the lice. But these are only spot treatments. Also, in every herd it seems like there’s a cow or two that act as carriers; they have heavier infestations and may have lice even after treatment, spreading lice to the other cattle.”

Lice are often a problem on young calves.

“If the cow has lice, some are readily transferred to the calf through direct contact, and the lice population explodes on the calf because it is small and thin-skinned,” Barz says. “If you at them closely, some of the lighter-colored calves will almost be black with lice. This is why controlling lice on cows is important, so they won’t spread lice to their calves. Otherwise we have to pour the calves fairly soon also, to decrease their lice populations.”

Some lice are always there, in any herd of cattle. They multiply most readily on the young, the weak, the old and any thin, sick ones. Any animal that is compromised tends to have more lice.

“If an animal is weak, and parasites are taking blood, that animal is more susceptible to pneumonia, scours and other secondary infections,” Barz says. “This is why lice control is so important — not just because the cattle are scratching/rubbing the fence down. Lice are nibbling away at the potential profit from your herd!”

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