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Management Tips: Good Herd Health

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Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 7:00am

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Taylor: Today, we're talking about management tips for good herd health. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with Dr. Brandi Karisch, Mississippi State University Extension beef cattle specialist. Brandi, why is good herd health important in cattle management?

Dr. Brandi: Not having a herd health program or not having a plan in place for managing herd health can have a big impact on the bottom line. Farm to feed lot results from the Mississippi State University Extension Service Program showed that cattle that got sick and were treated twice or more, had a decreased gain and lost an average of $141 when finished. While calves that remained healthy, returned an average of $46. That's a pretty big difference in profit and bottom line. Disease prevention programs might appear costly initially, but it's a lot cheaper to manage and prevent a disease than to go about treating it. Obviously, we want producers to work closely with their local veterinarians to develop a good herd health program that's specific for their form of ranch.

Amy Taylor: And why can stressful situations be bad for herd health?

Dr. Brandi: Management strategies focus around a good health program, their main focus is minimizing stress. It's been well demonstrated time and time again for both people and cattle, that stress can compromise an immune function. For example, when calves are subjected to a stressful situation, and then vaccinated, that full immunity that we might expect from that vaccine might not be well established. And it's the underlying goal of a lot of successful preconditioning programs that we use in the beef industry to minimize stress, to allow that calf to reach its peak performance. Laying the groundwork for a good herd health program starts early. So, retain practices such as dehorning and castration should be done early in a calf's life, and use the least stressful techniques.

Amy Taylor: What should we do about active weaning? Typically, weaning is a stressful time for cattle.

Dr. Brandi: We're taking that calf out of the environment that it's used to with its momma, and we're putting it in a situation where it's not quite used to. So, minimizing the sorting and hauling of freshly weaned calves, we know that can increase shrink, we can impact profits for the producer. Stress that weaning also increases the likelihood of that calf getting sick. So giving calves access to that area they're gonna be weaned in is important, so they're used to that area, using facilities and good fences to allow those calves to see their dames, but not have access to 'em. That's something that we call fence line weaning, that calf is on one side of the fence, and the cow is on the other, so that calf can graze close to his momma and get used to being separated from 'em.

Amy Taylor: And nutrition is also important, what is this?

Dr. Brandi: When calves or cows aren't provided with enough nutrients, they undergo nutritional stress. It's important to remember that an animal's requirements are gonna change with each stage of its productive life. Forage alone might not be enough to meet those increase requirements. On top of that, we know that when those calves are stressed, particularly during that weaning period, that they're not gonna eat a lot. Whenever you're in a stressful situation, a lot of times, we shut down and we don't wanna eat, so providing them a good source of a high quality feed, that they'll wanna go and eat, is really important, as well as a good mineral program available during all stages of production.

Amy Taylor: What can we do as far as management strategies that can combat the stress from the environment?

Dr. Brandi: Providing a clean and comfortable environment, particularly at temperature fluctuations. Going into the winter months we're often not thinking about high heat, but anything with high heat and humidity can affect that animals' health, as well as extreme cold. Just little practices such as providing access to a good, clean, fresh source of water. Don't handle cattle during the really hot times of the day, being careful during extreme cold and windy conditions, providing cattle with a dry place to lay down is important, 'cause that wet compounds that cold stress that we see. Mud is another factor as we get into the winter months, we might see some problems with excessive muddy conditions. Mud can harbor some pathogens and can lead to problems with foot rot or scours or navel [inaudible 00:04:42]. So making sure those cattle have a clean, dry place to lay down.

Amy Taylor: Today we've been speaking with Dr. Brandi Karisch, beef cattle specialist. I'm Amy Taylor and this has been Farm and Family, have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Animal & Dairy Science

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