I was fortunate to be able to attend the Joint Annual Meeting for the American Animal Science and Dairy Science Societies this past July. It was an excellent opportunity to hear top researchers from all over the world. One fascinating study conducted in Kentucky examined how predicted climate change would affect pasture quality and forage output. Climate experts predict that Kentucky and others in the temperate transitional zone will experience increased ambient temperature and precipitation in the coming years. Let me briefly tell you about the study and its implications.
The incessant rains have made for a wet summer for many cattle producers across the US. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, cattle have to stand in water resulting in more cases of foot rot. Why should you care? Lame cows won’t eat enough and thus won’t make enough milk for calves. Lame calves won’t graze either, resulting in further reduced weight gains. Lame bulls will not travel to seek out females in heat, meaning more open cows at the end of breeding season. Overall, lameness can be very costly in the long run.
Tall fescue has long been associated with a syndrome known as Summer Slump (a.k.a. Fescue Foot or Fescue Toxicosis). An endophyte fungus within the fescue plant produces alkaloids that cause adverse symptoms including: decreased weight gains, weight loss, decreased feed intake, reduced milk production, higher body temperature, increased respiration rates, rough hair coat, unthrifty appearance, loss of blood flow to extremities, excessive salivation and poor reproductive performance. Symptoms seem to be worst during hot summer months. Table 1 illustrates the differences in weight gain in steers on both high- and low-endophyte fescue diets.
Stress is a natural part of life for both cattle and humans. Some stress is unavoidable, such as stress associated with calving or weaning. But other stresses can be lessened with careful management.
On a short term basis, stress isn’t a bad thing. Stress prepares an animal for a “fight or flight” response. Cortisol and epinephrine are released during a stress event. These hormones facilitate increased heart rate, mobilization of glucose for a quick burst of energy, decreased sensitivity to pain and the suppression of nonessential processes such as digestion.
That wonderful time between winter and spring is affectionately known as mud season for many. Mud is a very real concern for cattle producers. Muddy cattle are more likely to experience cold stress, which increases energy requirements, costing you more money and reducing profits.
Mud contributes to cold stress by decreasing the insulating properties of hair. A dry, winter hair coat has separation between the individual hairs creating a protective pocket of warm air next to the body. Mud cakes the hairs together and removes this insulating layer of air. If the mud is wet, evaporative cooling makes the cold stress just that much worse. If cattle must lie in mud, they never get a chance to dry off and the cold stress continues.
With calf prices at record highs, maximizing calf survival and thriftiness is more important now than ever before. Calf scours cause more financial loss to cattle producers than any other health issue. Losses are not only reflected in lost calves and treatment costs, but also in reduced performance in surviving calves.
With record cattle prices comes record temptation. It is no surprise that cattle theft is on the rise this year. Unfortunately, in many cases, by the time producers realize that cattle are gone, they have already been sold at auction. These losses can be devastating. So what can you do as a producer to theft-proof your livestock?
Today as I was reading an article online I came across the term FUD and it really hit home for me. FUD is an acronym for fear, uncertainty and doubt. This tactic has been around since the dawn of time and has been used extensively in sales, marketing, propaganda and politics. In general, FUD is a strategy to influence perception by the dissemination of negative, dubious or false information. Do you know of any organizations using FUD to discount animal agriculture? We all do and the examples are numerous.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing a voluntary program within the animal, feed and drug industries to phase out the use of certain antibiotics in the use of animal feed or drinking water. To date, all animal pharmaceutical companies have agreed to fully comply. Here’s what you need to know about the changes: