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Management "Tune-Up" Tips

Posted Dec. 1, 1998

Fall is the time of year that we see a lot of activity when it comes to cattle movements and management. Calves are weaned and/or sold, but they usually find a new home that doesn't include "Momma." Perhaps it is prudent to review some management factors related to this change.

Calves should be immunized or receive booster shots against clostridial diseases and respiratory diseases. To accomplish this it is generally accepted that stocker cattle (home-raised or purchased) should receive:

  1. A 7-way Blackleg immunization (possibly with Haemophilus somnus).
  2. A respiratory complex vaccine that affords protection against IBR, PI3, BRSV, and BVD.
  3. A Pasteurella bacterin is optional but generally recommended.

In addition to these practices one should:

  1. De-worm with a modern, broad-spectrum product.
  2. Castrate or dehorn if applicable.
  3. Brand.
  4. Implant.
  5. Use a long-lasting antibiotic when conditions warrant (most of the time).
  6. Apply an ear tag when identification is important.

Of course cattle can and do become overwhelmed and get sick. When this happens, they should receive proper treatment in a timely fashion (the quicker the better). A good "rule-of-thumb" is that temperature should drop at least 20°F per day of treatment or below 1040°F to consider that a drug or treatment therapy is effective. If a drug is not effective, you should change drugs. Don't try it for more than one day if it is not working.

Sick calves should be treated at least three days. Remember, temperatures taken early in the morning are a much more reliable indicator of an animal's condition than those taken after mid-morning. The body temperature of cattle varies more with activity and climatic temperatures than ours.

Besides health, we need to be concerned about nutrition. During the adjustment period of finding a new home, it is important that calves have access to a good quality feed that is palatable, nutritious, and free of mold, toxins, or other detractants. Calves adjust easiest to high quality pasture, but this is not always available or practical. They will almost always eat good quality grass hay. Supplements are usually foreign to calves; therefore, they should be introduced in small amounts and increased slowly. It is a good idea to include a product that aids in the control of coccidiosis in the feed. If you have questions about your nutrition program, contact someone who is knowledgeable in this area to assist you. A good nutrition program is a major key to reducing sickness in newly acquired or weaned stockers.

Now, for you calf producers, don't forget about your cows! Even though they have completed their work for this year, we can't ignore them. We should evaluate our cows. Pregnancy testing, de-worming, boosting immunizations, and evaluating body condition are good things to do at or near weaning. Lice control should be implemented in December. If cows are in poor condition, supplemental feeding is probably needed. When only a few cows look poor, try to determine the cause and sort them off. Give them special care when it is needed. Remember, there is never a good time to sell a cull cow: she is either thin because she just raised a calf, she is about to have another calf, or she has a calf. So, make your evaluations, grit your teeth, and sell cows that are not producing or that are producing poorly, are getting old, or have some type of problem. Remember that it generally costs no more to "winter" a productive cow than a marginal or non-producing cow.

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