We’ve all heard the saying “no hoof – no horse”. This saying is popular because a lame horse is of little use to its owner. The same applies to our bulls. Regardless of his bloodlines, exceptional musculature or superior EPDs, if he is lame, he isn’t going to breed your cows to pass on those magnificent genes, so he’s useless to you.
As we approach the hot summer months, more and more producers are dealing with the nuisance of pinkeye. Pinkeye is a highly infectious bacterial disease. Although pinkeye is nonfatal, it costs cattle producers over $150 million per year. These expenses result from decreased weight gain, reduced milk production and treatment costs. Additionally, infected animals are worth less at sale time. Pinkeye is second only to scours/diarrhea in terms of diseases affecting calves.
Injury caused by dystocia causes up to 80% of perinatal calf losses and is most common in first calf heifers. Excessive calf size can result in malpresentation due to the calf not being able to properly position itself in the birth canal or total fetopelvic disproportion requiring C-section delivery.
Many of you may have already heard of the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed by FDA. In a nutshell, previous FDA rules were focused primarily on identifying food safety problems after they occurred and responding accordingly. FSMA seeks to help prevent food safety issues in both humans and animals through preventative controls throughout all levels of production, storage and distribution. Part of the fallout of FSMA is the topic of antibiotic use in meat animals. With debate still ongoing, one thing is clear, that reliance on antibiotic use in food animals is on a downward trend. With this in mind, it is going to be more important than ever to build strong immune systems in our calves through sound nutrition.
Recently, I spoke with a cattle producer who, due to economic circumstances, decided to save some money by going from a complete, balanced, mineral supplement program to offering plain, white salt. Unfortunately, his cost savings plan unwittingly resulted in severe foot rot issues in his herd. His cattle had abscesses requiring veterinary treatment. He wanted my help in choosing a supplement to help fix the problem. Now, he’s going to have to purchase an even more highly fortified (and more expensive) supplement than what he’d used originally in order to try to replenish his cow’s depleted mineral reserves. That doesn’t take into account his vet bills or lost production. Add to that, the fact that it will take at least a year for the hooves to grow out, so problems are likely to continue for months. Unfortunately, in his case, he saved a penny only to spend a dollar later. This is an extreme case, but it points out the value of a solid mineral supplement program and the train wreck that results when animals don’t get what they need.
Many cattle producers also own horses and these horses are often in the same pastures as the cattle. In a perfect world, we’d offer equine supplements to the horses and bovine supplements to the cattle. However, in a co-pasture situation there is no practical way to keep these separate. As such, some choose a cattle supplement that all will eat.* In some cases this is harmless. In others it could be deadly.
Calf scours cause more financial loss to cattle producers than any other health issue. It is estimated that 61% of calf deaths are caused by scours. Calf scours are not a disease per se, but a symptom of one of a great variety of noninfectious and infectious causes. Of the infectious agents, E. coli is the most common source of scours.
Internal parasites in cattle reduce feed intake, reduce average daily gain and alter the animal’s immune system. Expensive nutrients fed to sustain cattle are diverted to sustain the parasitic organisms instead. If one waits until clinical symptoms appear, the damage has already been done and the animal has been inefficient for quite some time. Therefore, the time to deworm is in the subclinical stage before major damage has been done and money has been lost due to poor productivity.
Foot rot is caused by anaerobic bacteria. They cannot penetrate intact healthy hoof tissue. However, when cattle continually stand in water and mud, their hooves soften, just like your fingernails after a long bath. Softened hooves are less impervious to punctures and abrasions, thus giving the foot rot bacterium a route into the hoof. Therefore, we see more foot rot in herds exposed to long periods of wet weather.
Tall fescue has long been associated with a syndrome known as Summer Slump. An endophyte fungus within the fescue plant produces alkaloids that cause adverse symptoms including: decreased weight gain, weight loss, decreased feed intake, reduced milk production, higher body temperature, increased respiration rates, rough hair coat, unthrifty appearance (See Figure 1), loss of blood flow to extremities, excessive salivation and poor reproductive performance. Symptoms seem to be worst during hot summer months. Luckily, there are several management options available to cattle producers to help lessen the symptoms of Summer Slump.