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Cattle Healthline

RSS By: Dan Goehl, DVM, Beef Today

Dan Goehl, DVM, and his wife own and operate Canton Veterinary Clinic in Canton, MO, where Dan works primarily with stocker and cow/calf beef operations.

"Meatless Monday" Moves into Rural Schools

Mar 19, 2012

I was shocked and disappointed to open my son’s homework folder recently and find propaganda promoting "Meatless Monday". 

Once I was past the initial shock I began to reflect on what the implications are in a broader sense. Many including myself have given much lip service in the recent months/years regarding the fact that there are organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that would like to end animal agriculture. 

Most of us listen but most likely are not too concerned that anything like this could happen in our neighborhood. Not in rural northeast MO. Not one of the top cow states in the nation where the majority of the population can tie their financial existence directly to agriculture. Unfortunately it is happening in these places. 

Our school district was apologetic and I believe it was an oversight from those who did not know the facts or consequences. I commend them for working with us and sending home information the following week discussing the benefits of animal protein in your diet.

The fact that they were uneducated rest on the shoulders of all of us in the beef industry for not educating them by being proactive instead of reactive after the fact. The truly frightening thing is how did it come to be our school district was given the information to start with and what happens when a similar letter is sent home to children in St. Charles county? People there may not be as offended and may take to heart the false information presented to them.  

I agree that anything in excess can be harmful but this can be said of water. I would like to thank all those who called and expressed their concern both to me and officials in the school district but I would also like this to be a call to action for us to be more proactive in promoting the facts behind a healthy diet. 

Know the facts and promote the production efficiency that our industry displays. Take time to educate yourself so you can educate others when asked on an airplane or in the feed store. Know where/who to get the information from. I for one don’t want to run from the data and science but want to stand behind it to defend what I and the people I work with everyday do to help feed the world a healthy food product.

Extra-Label Drug Use

Feb 06, 2012

A recent announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding antibiotic use has led to some confusion among cattle producers. Effective April 5, 2012, veterinarians can continue to prescribe extra-label drug use of any cephalosporin product as long as it is the same dosage, used through the same route of administration and in the same species as its FDA-approved label.

An earlier ruling was put on hold after concerns were raised by industry organizations. The new ruling will not drastically affect cattle producers who administer antibiotics prudently. The cephalosporin most used in beef cattle is Excede, and it will continue to be used metaphylactically and for treatments per label instructions. Extra-label use is also still permitted, as long as the dosage does not veer from the approved route of administration or species.

Follow the label. The Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994 made extra-label drug use an FDA-regulated veterinary medical activity, allowing veterinarians this option when the health of an animal is threatened, or when suffering or death may result from failure to treat an animal. Some drug classes have more stringent guidelines; extra-label use of fluoroquinolones, for example, is prohibited. Prohibitions may take the form of a general ban on the extra-label use of a drug or class of drugs or be limited to a specific species, dosage form, route of administration or combination of these factors.

To date, extra-label use of the following drugs is prohibited in food-producing animals: chloramphenicol; clenbuterol; diethylstilbestrol (DES); dimetridazole; fluoroquinolones; furazolidone; glycopeptides; ipronidazole and other nitroimidazoles; nitrofurazone; phenylbutazone in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older; and sulfonamide drugs in lactating dairy cattle (except approved use of sulfadimethoxine, sulfabromomethazine and sulfaethoxypyridazine).

As stewards of the industry, it is important that we continue to use antibiotics properly to improve the well-being of the animals we care for.

Record Keeping Is Key to Managing High-Risk Cattle

Jan 09, 2012

Receiving and managing high-risk, unweaned, nonvaccinated calves is a challenge that some producers use to their advantage. These "starter yards" take the discounts that this class of cattle receives at market and upgrade the calves to a better class of cattle. One of the most underutilized tools in these operations, unfortunately, is record keeping and data analysis.

At times, there is more art than science involved in keeping cattle healthy and finding sick animals that need to be treated. If pen riders wait for outright signs of bovine respiratory disease—rapid breathing, foaming mouth, nasal discharge and lethargy—the animals are often beyond successful treatment.

The key is to pick out animals at the earliest onset of disease, a difficult task in a pen of calves that is not bunk broke and unsettled due to not being weaned. Records give us a data set to go back to and evaluate how well we did on a set of calves or during a season.

All treatment records should be kept so the producer knows exactly when a calf was treated and with what product. We enforce a post-treatment moratorium on antibiotic injections, so it is important to know the day of treatment and when calves are eligible to be treated again. Most of the time, treated calves go back into the home pen unmarked. I prefer to not mark them, as this can affect how a person identifies and decides to treat a sick calf.

Instead, we write down ID numbers unbiased by previous knowledge and check records for eligibility. Records also help create trigger points so we know when to be more aggressive, such as when to mass treat a pen.

At the end of the feeding period, we look at morbidity, mortality, treatment failure, retreatment rate, days on feed at treatment, etc. It is not always about how many cattle were treated. In a pen with a high percentage of the animals treated, we look at the percentage of animals that responded as well as the percentage that was re-treated.

Beef Replacement Heifer Management

Dec 23, 2011

Replacement heifers represent the future of the cow-calf operation. These females are the genetics behind the next generation of farm offspring. Efficient development is critical as raising a replacement heifer represents a significant asset that does not generate a return until the first calf is sold.

Beef herd productivity is increased when a high percentage of the heifers are bred early in the season. Heifers have higher rates of calving difficulty when compared to mature cows. Yet, there are some management tools that can be used to identify and minimize risk factors for dystocia.

Lifetime productivity is also an important consideration in planning the female development timeline. Heifers calving at 24 months of age produce an earlier return on investment and potentially have more calves than females who are older at calving.

Targets for the beef replacement heifer program are: increase / maintain a high conception rate early in the breeding season, minimize dystocia rate, promote good post-calving conception rates, and increase farm income through efficient lifetime productivity. To achieve these goals, we must utilize a plan that addresses rate limiting steps or critical control points during each production phase. From birth to calving, heifer production can be divided into six key phases: pre-weaning, weaning, pre-breeding, breeding, mid-gestation, and calving.

Knowledge-based management of replacement heifers is based on good production records and the process is initiated with the birth of the animal. Individual identification allows not only performance, but pedigree tracking on the calf. Recording birthdates or at least birth week is useful because heifers born early in the calving season will have an age advantage relative to females born at the tail end of the season.

Weaning is the time to begin the immunization program and determine a nutritional plan based on animal performance. The goal with weaning vaccinations is to protect animals against common respiratory pathogens and also to begin building immunity against pregnancy wasting infectious agents.

Weaning weight can be used to determine a nutritional program necessary to meet animal target weight by the goal breeding date. The onset of puberty is heavily influenced by both age and weight. To become pubertal by yearling age (12-13 months), heifers must receive adequate nutrition to signal the body that the "luxury" of reproduction is available. As a rule of thumb, target breeding weight can be calculated as 65% of the expected mature female weight. Thus, by subtracting the weaning weight from the target weight and dividing by the number of days between weaning and breeding, a goal for the rate of gain can be calculated. Achieving target weights prior to the onset of the breeding is key to achieving the goal of having a large number of heifers conceive early in the season.

Sire selection is an important decision impacting dystocia rates and offspring performance. Many breeds offer birth weight and calving ease (difficulty) expected progeny differences (EPDs), and veterinarians can offer a valuable service by helping clients select a bull appropriate for their operation. Birth weight and weaning weight are correlated - resulting in a common misconception that producers must choose between dystocia and reasonable weaning weights. Utilization of artificial insemination (AI) allows the farm manager to select a bull with the relatively rare combination of a low calving difficulty due to birth weight and a high growth performance potential.

Replacement heifer development is a critical component of many cow-calf operations. There are a variety of tools that greatly increase the efficiency and value of the bred heifer for the farm manager. Veterinarians can play a key role with clients by identifying and assisting with evaluation of critical control points in the heifer development program.

Consider Group Marketing to Capture More Value

Nov 28, 2011

Marketing the calf crop is one of the primary economic drivers in the cow–calf business. There are many advantages to be gained by cooperatively feeding and marketing cattle. Some of the most basic steps are to precondition calves on the farm, market them in pot-load sized, same-sex groups and have similar quality genetics on all calves.

Preconditioning programs typically combine vaccination and weaning programs. Work with your veterinarian to devise the best protocol.

The next step is to provide enough cattle of the same sex and size to fill a pot load—preferably same-sourced as well. Seventy head of 700-lb. calves are needed to fill a pot load. When sale groups of near 50,000 lb. are offered, it allows producers the opportunity to market in various ways, such as direct placement to feedlots or selling on video auctions. The cost advantage of diminished shrink and lower or no commission helps justify the marketing aspects of these programs. Ultimately, these cattle will have historical information on performance data collected and passed back to the group marketing the cattle.

In helping to organize marketing alliances like these, I have come to realize that there are many benefits and shortcomings of these types of programs. However, they all require interaction between cattle producers and veterinarians on multiple levels to provide quality beef to consumers.

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