Prepping the herd for colder months

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Dr. Jon Schroeder, of Concordia Veterinary Clinic, adjusts a hydraulic squeeze chute, which is used to make handling cattle safer and efficient. (Sarah Reed/Missouri Farms)

According to Dr. Jon Schroeder of the Concordia Veterinary Clinic, some of the necessary preparations are ensuring that one's cattle herd is going into the winter with a good body condition. Ensuring one's cattle are not too thin and are able to compete with the rest of the herd is critical for the cattle's best chance of surviving the colder months.

Worming and parasite control are other aspects to take into account. Schroeder suggests October through November is a good time frame for the animal to get rid of any parasites they may have picked up during the warmer summer months. Lice control is best suited for the fall season, as they tend to multiply during the winter.

Vaccinations are contingent upon the calving schedule.

If the herd is to be calved in the fall, you will need to give the cow a vaccine that will produce more resistance in the cows colostrum. Also, Schroeder mentioned a "Vitamin AD" or a "multi min 90" injection are good options to increase trace elements and allow the cow to produce strong colostrum, as well as decrease the time it takes for the cow to recover from calving.

For spring time vaccinations, E. coli and pink eye vaccines are common. With the multitudes of vaccine options available on the market the cost can vary slightly.

"Nine dollars to $12 would be what I call the minimum per head," Schroeder stated.

Schroeder also cautions that at any time you introduce a foreign substance into an animal -- such as a vaccine -- there is always a possibility of an allergic reaction. Because of this, one needs to be aware if the animal begins to display abnormal behavior after the vaccination.

Some other aspects to be aware of for the coming months is the amount of endophyte -- a type of fungus -- in the fescue that will be fed to the cattle. Higher endophyte levels can affect circulation in the animal and cause a condition known as "fescue foot." Cold snaps are also a possibility during extreme temperatures. Schroeder elaborated that poor circulation caused by higher endophyte levels in the food further compounds on the cold weather risk, and loss of ears, toes and sometimes even feet can be possibilities due to cold snaps.

When it comes to the elements, Schroeder said, "the worst thing you can have is a barn."

Dr. Jon Schroeder applies antibiotic to a cow's ankle after removing wire that had become wrapped around its ankle. (Sarah Reed/Missouri Farms)

Schroeder explains when cattle are confined in a barn they begin to crowd up and humidity levels begin to rise. Combined with the warm atmosphere in the barn and cattle excrement, organic organisms in the soil begin to form and create infections.

"The best thing you can have is a lean-to," Schroeder said.

A way to block the north and west winds and, if possible, a dry place to lay are the best option for cattle during winter.

Some final advice from Schroeder is to invest the time to properly vaccinate, worm and neuter your cattle at least three weeks before taking them to the sale barn. Schroeder mentioned it is becoming common practice to reduce the price per head if the animal is not fully prepared before sale.

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