Preparing for a Polar Coaster

Inside SalesLivestock

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Your knowledge of the products that can help prevent disease, strengthen immunity, and provide effective treatments will be a real value to your customers as they prepare livestock for winter.

The extreme weather conditions across much of the country last winter set up a cascade of catastrophic events whose impacts are still being felt and likely will be for months to come. If the extended forecast from the Farmers’ Almanac proves to be accurate, we can expect bitterly cold temps and plenty of precipitation this winter. Editor Peter Geiger said he expects “yet another freezing, frosty and frigid winter for two-thirds of the country” east of the Rockies. Their website predicts that the upcoming winter will be “filled with so many ups and downs on the thermometer, it may remind you of a ‘Polar Coaster.’”

That’s a wild ride that livestock producers would prefer not to take. Winter weather is always challenging when it comes to maintaining the health of a herd, but fluctuations in the weather from cold and dry, with periods of warmer temperatures and moisture mixed in add up to even more problems. Your knowledge of the products that can help prevent disease, strengthen immunity and provide effective treatments will be a real value to your customers as they prepare for the season.

Fall Cattle Work

Vaccinating weaned calves is an important component of fall cattle work to ensure young animals are disease-resistant and healthy as preparation for the stress of winter. Many producers use a seven-way blackleg vaccine, along with IBR and 5-way lepto as part of their fall vaccine protocol to prevent animal-to-animal pathogen transfer. Calves that will be moved will also require a Brucellosis vaccination and certification. In areas with a high lepto prevalence, ranchers may opt to booster cows for leptospirosis, along with IBR and BVD for general reproductive disease protection. Purchase history and your vaccine comparison charts will be great reference points for discussions with your customers.

To have cattle in optimal body condition prior to winter, producers should consider deworming in the fall to reduce the parasite burden, since larvae tend to build up on summer pastures. In some cases, fall deworming is more economically important than worming in spring. Cows in good winter body condition are more likely to calve in better body condition and breed back with fewer problems.

Besides treating for internal parasites, cattle are typically treated for grubs and lice in the fall. The USDA estimates that the effects of lice infestations cost producers up to $125 million per year. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, lice can reduce weight gain in calves by as much as 0.21 lb/day, so the cost of treatment is well worth the investment. Brush up on the brands of pour-ons you carry, their dosage, and the applicators that go with them.

Vaccinations are obviously a key factor in disease prevention, but with 70% of an animal’s immunity concentrated in the gut, products that support a strong gastrointestinal system improve energy and boost immunity to fight infectious disease – a real bonus during the harsh winter months, particularly for pregnant cattle trying to maintain a healthy body condition and provide nutrients for a growing calf. Be ready to discuss products like the prebiotics, probiotics, mineral and enzyme supplements you offer as effective options to enhance protection against costly illnesses.

Many cattle carry at least one of the bacterial agents associated with respiratory disease with no ill effects. The seasonal stresses of weaning, shipping, and commingling, combined with winter weather fluctuations, may suppress their immune defense and increase the chances of becoming infected with bovine respiratory disease (BRD), also known as pneumonia or shipping fever. BRD is the No. 1 cause of mortality in weaned calves, and it usually occurs within the 45 days following weaning, switching to feed or shipping. According to an Oklahoma State University study, the economic losses from death, reduced feed efficiency, and treatment costs are $800-$900 million annually.

Anti-infectives are often administered immediately after shipping to prevent illness and early diagnosis and treatment when calves show clinical signs are important to minimize lung damage and other long-term effects on performance. Make sure you’re familiar with the variety of anti-infectives, and why one treatment approach might be chosen over another. Knowing the label indications and dosing for the major antibiotic brands are important details for discussions with your customers. The antimicrobial feature in this issue is an excellent reference tool.

Plan for Weather Delays

Unpredictable winter weather isn’t only a challenge for livestock but for shipping products to your customers, too. Discussing last year’s purchase history can help your clients plan ahead so they won’t be caught short if severe weather causes shipping delays. Keep an eye on the forecast for freezing temperatures that can compromise products and remind buyers to order fluids and temperature-sensitive items early in the week, so they won’t be sitting in sub-zero temperatures over a weekend. Make sure your customers are well-stocked, both in the clinic and in their vet trucks, for regular calls and emergencies. This level of attention to detail will definitely set you apart.

The winter months are a great time to discuss your company’s direct-shipping options with your large animal practices. The distances many large animal veterinarians and their customers have to drive, and the time spent unpacking, labeling, dispensing and billing – combined with the threat of inclement weather – may make direct shipping a convenient and cost-effective option for your customers. The savings in staff time, shelf and cooler space, and increased inventory control this service can provide can make a real difference to a veterinary practice.

While you’re helping your customers get ready for the winter months, you can also help them benefit from the manufacturer promotions that are wrapping up for the year. The drug bill is usually the second-largest expense after payroll for most clinics, so updating them on what they need to purchase to receive maximum rebates or incentives and making sure they hit those goals makes you a valuable resource in the success of their business.

This winter may or may not end up as a “Polar Coaster” when it comes to the weather, but your efforts to ensure your clients are prepared for the season will make it a smoother ride that they’ll appreciate.

Direct shipping

The winter months are a great time to discuss your company’s direct-shipping options with your large animal practices. The distances many large animal veterinarians and their customers have to drive, and the time spent unpacking, labeling, dispensing and billing – combined with the threat of inclement weather – may make direct shipping a convenient and cost-effective option for your customers.

Photo credit:  istockphoto.com/AleMoraes244