Fall means there are a lot of calves being weaned, shipped and received. By now, hopefully, you have a plan of action in place to keep the process as calm and stress-free as possible for the animals. Additional stresses at weaning and processing can inhibit immunity.
Mark Spire, a veterinarian with Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, spoke about stressors that impact a calf’s health and production at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course.
Examples of such stressors include:
- environmental changes (cold, heat, wet hair coat, drought and season of the year);
- nutrition (marginal to deficient amounts of trace and macrominerals, protein energy, water supply and poor water quality);
- changes in social order (commingling in transport, relocation and remixing at facility and competition from more aggressive cattle);
- transportation (motion, crowding, poor flooring, fatigue, dehydration and food deprivation);
- handling (chutes, dehorning, castration, vaccination, tagging, application of parasite control products and injury); and
- increased pathogen loads (due to commingling with other cattle, transportation, worms and flies).
These are just a few examples, but if too many occur simultaneously during the critical weaning and receiving period, disaster awaits. Look at the list above and find areas where you can reduce cattle stress. Start by evaluating your weaning program. The more time between weaning and shipping, the greater chance of reducing the accumulative impact of stress.
It may be time to reevaluate some of the production practices you’ve used in the past. Focus on what is beneficial to the animal to improve production and reduce sickness on arrival. Even though the calves may not be in your possession any longer, the buyer of your calves will long remember if the animals arrived requiring massive treatments and incurred high death losses shortly after arrival. Chances are pretty high that buyer won’t be back for the next calf crop. And that’s one less bidder for your calves.
Enlist help from your veterinarian since he or she knows your cattle and the pathogens or diseases common to the area. Your vet can help you identify ways to reduce stress and develop the best animal health program to boost immunity. A nutritionist can help determine which essential nutrients are low in your area and identify options to get calves the resources they need.
You can find more information at www.BeefToday.com. Scroll down to the “Weaning/Receiving Management” section for resources to improve your management program.
- October 2010