Help your customers make the best decisions for herd health this summer.
For cattle producers and the veterinarians who work with them, a successful calving season with healthy cows and their offspring paves the way toward a profitable year. That’s been a challenge across much of cattle country this year, thanks to extreme cold, heavy snow well into spring and record flooding that caused agricultural losses in the hundreds of millions. Cows and their calves are transitioning from one stressful season into another, with the potential for extreme heat, dust, and the stress of increased pests and parasites. The management decisions producers make to help their calves thrive through weaning and to get cows successfully rebred can have a significant impact on profitability. Your knowledge of the variety of products to keep livestock healthy this summer is an asset to your customers.
Herd health protocol
Cattle producers who want to maximize the return on their investment work closely with their veterinarians to develop a herd health protocol that targets challenges specific to their area or even their individual herd. A program that includes preconditioning calves before transitioning them from the pasture to the feedlot can also add to the bottom line.
To achieve maximum reproductive success, cows should be vaccinated five to eight weeks before rebreeding to help protect against viral and bacterial pathogens that can reduce fertility or cause abortion. It’s also important to vaccinate replacement heifers and naïve cattle to establish immunity and provide future protection.
Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) are viral pathogens that replicate in the ovaries, affecting the reproductive abilities of cows. Common bacterial infections that may cause infertility, embryonic deaths and abortions include leptospirosis, shed in the urine of infected animals, and vibriosis, a venereal disease that can be an issue in bull-bred herds. Producers with cattle that have had persistent reproductive issues may vaccinate for Haemophilus somnus, a bacterium that lives in the urinary and reproductive tracts. With the numerous infectious diseases that can cause reproductive failure, many producers work with their veterinarian to design a vaccine program customized for their specific operation.
A variety of viral and bacterial diseases can negatively impact calves’ ability to thrive, so protecting them by vaccinating in the spring and again at weaning is essential. The biggest threats come from IBR, Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV), BVD and pneumonia caused by Mannheimia haemolytica or Pasteurella multocida. Summer may seem a strange time to be concerned with pneumonia, but weather extremes and fluctuating temperatures can cause stress, and dry, dusty conditions can interfere with defense mechanisms in the respiratory tract and further compound the problem. Since it can be difficult to monitor calves on pasture, producers may not know there’s a problem until it’s too late.
To prepare for discussions about vaccination programs, be familiar with your customers’ purchase histories, have a vaccine comparison chart handy for quick reference, and familiarize yourself with the many vaccine brands you carry and the manufacturer promotions that can save your customers money and maximize profits.
Vaccines are just one component of a good preconditioning program, which also includes internal and external parasite control, dehorning and castration, handling calves to reduce the stress of medical care and transport, and ensuring that weaned calves can eat from a bunker and drink from water tanks. Making sure calves eat and drink in those first three to five days is critical since acidosis can develop and compromise their digestive system.
Those green summer pastures mean grazing cows and their calves will ingest worms, eggs, and larvae, so an effective deworming program is critical to increase profitability. Internal parasites can cause economic losses due to a variety of issues such as anorexia and reduced weight gain, decreased fertility and pregnancy rates, and a suppressed immune system. When, what, and how often to treat, and with which products varies widely, particularly since resistance to anthelmintics is a growing problem.
The most commonly used parasiticides are benzimidazoles, macrocyclic lactones or imidazothiazoles. It’s important that producers rotate the class of dewormers used to extend the effectiveness of parasite control and limit the risk of resistance. Using extended-release dewormers designed to break the parasite life cycle may help to reduce pasture reinfection and control the spread of worms. Under-dosing is another contributing factor to parasite resistance, so be sure your customers are following dosage directions for optimal efficacy. The parasiticide category includes many brand name and generic pour-ons, injectables, drenches, sprays, oral pastes, boluses, and feed additives. It’s worth your time to learn the active ingredients, label claims and dosages, and the variety of price points and promotions that go with them.
Just like the battle against internal parasites, fighting flies goes on all summer and effective fly control is imperative for a successful cattle operation. Various types of flies have different behaviors, and resistance is a major issue, so a combination of strategies and products is usually the most effective.
Blood-sucking horn flies can cause major stress to cattle and are an economic burden to producers for over half the year in southern regions and at least four to five months in the north. Horn flies thrive in hot weather, and studies have shown that just 100-200 on a cow can cause reduced weight gain of up to 30 pounds during the grazing season. Organophosphate sprays are effective, and a macrocyclic lactone dewormer that includes ivermectin and moxidectin help kill flies that still bite treated animals.
Face flies spread Moraxcella bovis, the bacteria that causes pinkeye, from one animal to another by feeding off tears and secretions from the eye. Losses due to pinkeye can exceed $100 per animal in beef cattle between lost weight and treatment. Fly tags are often an effective preventive.
Be sure to review all those products for fly control that you carry – pour-ons, fly tags, cattle rubs and dusts, oral larvicides, baits and premise sprays. Check purchase history so you’ll know the active ingredients of the products your customers have purchased in the past and can make recommendations to maximize efficacy and reduce resistance this season.
After a difficult start to the year for so many, keeping cows and calves healthy and maximizing reproductive success may be even more of a challenge this season. Your knowledge of the products and practices to ensure optimal health for livestock and increased profitability for your customers will set you apart.