I’m a newby to the world of miniature Hereford ownership and also a first time owner of cattle. I grew up a farm kid and we had everything except cows. My folks always said we couldn’t really afford to buy a calf. My brothers showed sheep in 4-H for many years and I showed a pony I had trained to pull a cart. I didn’t catch on to the money making aspect of market animals until I was a senior in high school and took my first and only lamb to the fair.
I’d like to share, over time, the lessons I’ve learned about raising miniature Hereford cattle. Hopefully, others will get something useful out of my experiences. In my first year of ownership I treated 2 cows for hoof rot and had a bull break his penis. Yes…you read that correctly!
In the driest summer I’ve experienced in Ohio, I was surprised to have two cows lame with hoof rot. From the term, I would expect an animal to get it when they are standing in mud all the time. Our sheep would often get it in the sloppy winter months. I was also surprised that the cows actually had enough sense to bring themselves to the barn where I could discover them, rather than stay up in our hill pasture which still had vegetation despite the drought. Even though they were near the barn, it was still a chore to get them into the barn for inspection because they weren’t halter broke. Lesson number one…HALTER BREAK YOUR ENTIRE HERD! Most of my cows were adults when I purchased them, and were not accustomed to a halter. It was not fun struggling to bring in an 800 lb. reluctant animal into the barn in 100% humidity!
I tried the cheap route of treatment with the first cow, and won’t again. I cleaned the hoof with warm soapy water (Epsom Salt also works) and used baling twine to floss between her toes and remove decayed tissue. Then I doused the foot with Coppertox daily. After 3 days with no sign of improvement I ended up giving her a shot of Liquimycin antibiotic. Lesson number two…GET A CATTLE CHUTE! I didn’t have one, was by myself, and after an hour of struggling with her I was finally able to get an injection into the poor beast after tying up her leg and using my t-shirt to cover her eyes. Yes…I was standing in the barn dripping wet with sweat with just a bra on, but it worked. Thank goodness they sell the antibiotics over the counter!! The second cow was treated with antibiotic immediately and recovered much quicker. I was dreading having the entire herd turn up lame, but fortunately only had the two.
Now about that broken bull! I was horrified to find my young bull in terrible condition. The last four inches of his penis were hard and black like frostbite. He was also unable to retract. Fortunately he was still eating, drinking, and able to urinate. We made a quick visit to the vet to determine if we needed to butcher him immediately before infection spread. Since he was still able to urinate, our vet said he would likely recover but would probably not breed again (he proved right on all counts). I was advised to simply spray the injury with iodine solution daily. After about two weeks the scab fell off and revealed healthy tissue. He had drainage for about a month after. I continued to spray him with both iodine solution and fly spray to prevent infection. Lesson number three…USE ANTIBIOTIC SPRAY NOT OINTMENT. The ointment is greasy and holds dirt and straw on the wound unless you are able to wrap it, and in this case we couldn’t. Being water-based, the iodine spray kills bacteria and evaporates leaving the wound clean and dry.
What happened? The vet thought it was from groin hair wrapping around the shaft. My grandma (butcher for 40 years) thought it was from long grasses doing the same thing. After much research on this sensitive topic, and not finding much at all about bull health, I discovered a chat room where farmers were discussing broken bulls (and weeping about their poor guys). Apparently bulls have cartilage in the shaft. If anything goes wrong during the amorous moment, the cartilage can snap and rupture blood vessels which then cut off circulation to the entire shaft. Lesson number four…DON’T PUT BULLS OUT BEFORE THEY ARE MATURE. I figure my little guy was too young and too short to be with the ladies (even though he was about 14 months old). My cows are on the tall end of mini.
I wasn’t able to find very much literature at all about “broken bulls” but apparently it is a fairly common injury. I did learn that they usually heal just fine and about 60% of them are able to return to work with the ladies. After 6 months with two lovely heifers, it was clear that little Joe had the interest but not the ability to continue working. In order to salvage his genetics, I plan to have him collected and take a class on Artificial Insemination so that I can synchronize my girls and have more predictability about calving dates. Little Joe will go to a “new home” and my customers will have some little white packages to pick up at the butcher soon. Now the girls are crushing on their new beau Jeremiah and I’m looking forward to learning more from my herd this year!
Old show heifers may be the greatest tool with which to teach a youngster how to clip and fit! While doing our McCullough Fitting Clinics, we are often asked how a child can get better at clipping and fitting. At clinics, we can teach the proper techniques of clipping, the reason why you remove the hair and leave the hair in the places we do, but unless they actually get the clippers in their hands and practice, they won’t become great at it. Think of the great athletes. They spend countless hours practicing for an event. Michael Jorden, Shawn Johnson, Peyton Manning to name just a few, spent countless hours practicing to be the best they could be. This is the same with showing, clipping, and fitting cattle. The more comfortable you are with the feel of the clippers in your hand, the comb, and show stick, the better showman you will be.
Another question we get asked is, what age is a good time to start? Well, the sooner you start the better you will be. Sure there will be some MAJOR screw ups, and that is part of it. This is why the old show cattle need to be kept around to practice on! In the past, we have even broke 5 or 6 replacement heifers for Erin and Cody to clip on so they and we don’t have to worry about them messing up on the cattle they are actually showing that year. As for learning how to fit, the more they do it, the better they will get. Our children were able to practice on the show cattle they were showing for the year. They just had to make sure to oil and wash the glue out afterward then apply oil to the places they glued in order to keep the hide from getting dried out. At first, the clippers were not used until they had the right idea of what the leg should look like and where the hair needed to come off. Working alongside of a great fitter is a perfect way to be able to develop a young person’s skills. This works as long as the fitter will let them work alongside of them and the child will respond to constructive criticism. God has blessed us all with skills that He wants us to use for His Glory. Our job is to look at what we or our children are interested in and help them become the best they can be. All athletes set goals and focus on developing their skills. I remember back on my 4H years and when starting out a new year, I would set goals on what I wanted to accomplish that year and the areas in which I wanted to improve. If you do this, you will be challenging yourself to work harder to become something better.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV
“Do your best and let God do the Rest”
Chuck and Karen McCullough, McCullough Fitting Clinics. If you have any questions feel free to call,
Chuck McCullough 641-344-5566, Karen McCullough 641-344-5548.
Like everyone else, I received my Fall 2006 Miniature Hereford Newsletter the first part of September. I enjoy reading the articles in this publication, along with all the other cattle publications we receive. Certainly, my main joy is reading about the type of cattle that we raise, as well as hearing from fellow Miniature Hereford Breeders. I appreciated the article about why Roy does not show cattle, and I’d like to submit my comments on why I do show cattle. I believe that the advantages of showing your cattle, or at least participating in the Miniature Hereford shows, far outweighs any disadvantages. I believe in this so much that I have “volunteered” to be the Miniature Hereford Breeders Association representative for the Texas shows. When I “volunteered” for this, I knew that the work involved would distract me from my own cattle operation, yet I am convinced that showing cattle will benefit all Miniature Hereford breeders for the following reasons:
Association: the association and friendships that have been developed with other Miniature Hereford breeders through the stock show is the number one advantage that Laura, Jon, and I enjoy. I hear the same thing from other breeders who show. Truly, some of the finest people in this world are raising Miniature Hereford cattle and many of them are showing their cattle. Participation in the stock shows will put you in direct contact with these outstanding people from all over the country. The shows are competitive and the simple fact is that not every breeder will be a winner. I can certainly speak to that fact. Yet even in this competitive environment you will still find your fellow breeders available to help and offer their ideas. A good showman knows that he may be a winner at one show, but the results could be drastically different at another show. Everyone at these shows wants a professionally run show and professional looking show barn, and we all strive hard to accomplish this at every event. A professional image gives the breed credibility, and that, in turn, sells cattle. For the hobby rancher, pet owner or established breeder, there are few better forums to learn more about your cattle than at a show. There are characteristics unique to the Miniature Hereford and the show puts you in contact with some very experienced breeders that can provide some significant insight into the breed. Many of the shows are sponsored by the Miniature Herefords Breeders Association (MHBA). The MHBA has an elected board that represents the membership and is designed to reduce any stress that may be caused by politics. Politics comes into play any time more than two people are involved in any endeavor; it’s the foundation over which our own government operates. It spawns ingenuity, commerce and progress. Politics is not always a bad thing. If I could offer one piece of advice to the new prospective show participant it is this: visit a Miniature Hereford Show first. Producing quality animals through your breeding program is hard enough, don’t complicate matters by pulling that animal out of the pasture and expecting it to do well in the show ring. A breeder, even if successful with sales, will be disappointed and have hard feelings if he attempts to compete without preparation. The cattle arriving at these shows are some of the very best Miniature Herefords in the world. Be prepared to show your cattle with this standard in mind.
Evaluation: One of the most critical decisions that any show breeder must make is to select the cattle they will be taking to the shows. Of course, the very first critical decision occurs months, or even years, before the show. Unless you purchase your show calves, your most critical decision involves the selection of the dam and sire that are going to produce the calf you intend to show. Volumes have been written and countless studies have been conducted surrounding this process and becoming acquainted with some of the research can be valuable to a breeder. I, too, find it difficult to completely evaluate my cattle, I have a small herd and I am able to determine which animals are closest to having most of the traits I feel are important for the breed. The cattle showing those traits are the cattle I select to show. I have my own opinion of what I believe is the ideal “Miniature Hereford.” The judge may or may not agree. I do not plan to alter my breeding program based on what one particular judge or group of judges think. Judges are just people. We all look for different traits. The champion at a given show is just one man’s opinion on that particular day. I don’t believe that the “perfect” Miniature Hereford exists today and recognizing the deficits is the first step to a breeding program designed to improve the quality of a herd. Why is this evaluation so important? Improvement in one’s herd is always important and continual evaluation is required to achieve these objectives. Looking at other cattle helps one to critique his/her own cattle. Listening to other’s opinions of your cattle will help you to see things that you may be overlooking. The more accurate evaluation you are able to perform on your cattle, the better you will be at determining where you need to go genetically in your breeding program. This will lead to increased value in your cattle and optimally increased prices on those you wish to sell. I foresee a time when breeders will be forced to prove the value of their cattle in order to obtain premium prices, no different than what we see in other cattle and livestock businesses now. In fact, it is already occurring in our industry and will become more and more prevalent as the Miniature Hereford breed continues to grow in popularity and more breeders enter the industry. I have no doubt that breeders will continue to be successful in the future, but I do believe that the standards of the breed will be established in the show rings and through the combined efforts of the breeders participating in the Miniature Hereford shows.
History: Let’s take a history lesson into why the Miniature Hereford is with us today. According to Point of Rocks Ranch, it started at the Denver Stock Show in 1970 when the judge in that show placed a class strictly by height.
Marketing: The marketing of the Miniature Hereford is a primary reason a breeder should be participating in the Miniature Hereford shows. The Miniature Hereford is primarily a seed stock business at this particular point. There just aren’t enough animals available to establish a thriving commercial aspect to the industry and therefore the need to work on the promotion of the commercial end of the industry is limited. With that said, the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, will in 2007 have its first Miniature Hereford fat steer show, following up on the prospect steer show that began in 2006. Ultimately, I anticipate that the commercial stocking programs will develop and I understand that some grass fed programs are currently developing that include the Miniature Hereford, I know that the “freezer” beef programs by the individual breeders are very successful. Whether an individual Miniature Hereford owner is a hobby farmer, pet owner or full scale breeder, the animals they own will, in all likelihood, produce calves. There will come a point in every operation where that calf, or some animal, will have to be marketed. While my views about the Miniature Hereford may not be accepted among all breeders that show their cattle, I believe they would all agree that it is the same general mindset to produce the very best animal possible for their customers. The objective of Miniature Hereford shows is to assist the breeders in fulfilling this mission. The national media attention that the miniature Hereford cattle have received is a direct result of the Miniature Hereford shows.
The Youth: Finally, my last comment for why you should show your Miniature Hereford cattle is the youth. They are our future. I am not sure if there is any other activity outside of the shows that will get the kids more involved with the cattle. Of course, the size of these animals is perfect for the younger show persons. I don’t think I can even articulate all of the reward that accompanies the young men and women that are involved in these shows. I am certain that their participation will encourage them into making a career in an agriculture related industry. Having grown up around agriculture then engaging in a different livelihood, I came to cherish the values associated with those who dedicated their lives to agriculture. I have not been disappointed with my associations that have developed from the shows. I am sure that these values are recognized by Jon and the other kids that have participated in the shows with us. I see the competitive and good sportsman spirit in the faces of these young people who attend the shows and I am confident that they will all grow up with a sense of value for the land, the animals, and the food they eat. One thing is for sure; when they are successful in the show ring they certainly know the value of that. They know full well the amount of hard work it takes to be successful. Certainly this is one message that will carry them well as they move through life.
Any breeder interested in participating in any Miniature Hereford Show should feel free to contact any MHBA representative.
by Dr. Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
Many Oklahoma cow calf producers will use wheat pasture as a major source of winter feed for beef cows. If wheat pasture is the predominant feed in the diet of mature beef cows, providing an appropriate “wheat pasture” mineral mix will be helpful in preventing grass tetany at, or after the calving season begins.
Grass tetany, caused by magnesium deficiency does not seem to be a major problem in Oklahoma although occasional cases are reported. It typically occurs in beef cows during early lactation and is more prevalent in older cows. The reason is thought to be that older cows are less able to mobilize magnesium reserves from the bones than are younger cows.
Grass tetany most frequently occurs when cattle are grazing lush immature grasses or small grains pastures and tends to be more prevalent during periods of cloudy weather. Symptoms include incoordination, salivation, excitability (aggressive behavior towards humans) and, in final stages, tetany, convulsions and death.
It is known that factors other than simply the magnesium content of the forage can increase the probability of grass tetany. High levels of potassium in forages can decrease absorption of magnesium and most lush, immature forages are high in potassium. High levels of nitrogen fertilization have also been shown to increase the incidence of tetany although feeding protein supplements has not. Other factors such as the presence of certain organic acids in tetany-causing forages have been linked with tetany. It is likely that a combination of factors, all related to characteristics of lush forage are involved.
When conditions for occurrence of tetany are suspected, cows should be provided mineral mixes containing 12 to 15 percent magnesium and be consumed at 3 to 4 ounces per day. It is best for the mineral supplements to be started a couple of months ahead of the period of tetany danger so that proper intake can be established. Because tetany can also occur when calcium is low, calcium supplementation (7 percent) should also be included. Symptoms of tetany from deficiencies of both minerals are indistinguishable without blood tests and the treatment consists of intravenous injections of calcium and magnesium gluconate, which supplies both minerals.
Cows grazing lush small grain pastures should be fed mineral mixes containing both calcium and magnesium. More information about mineral supplementation for grazing cattle can be found in the Oklahoma State University Extension Circular “E-861 Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition of Grazing Cattle.”
The search for a permanent home for 7 Ranch and my herd of Miniature Herefords had been long….very long….but at long last had come to pass! I was full of plans and even more excitement. The first order of business was fence repairs. I attacked the fencing project with a laser focus! Finally, after 2 weeks, it was completed and the Minis were moved to their new home.
All went well on the new ranch…. for the first 3 days. There was peace and tranquility in the herd. I was happy. Little did I know that this idyllic scene was abruptly about to change. On day 3 however, first calf heifer, Fancy, went into labor. I knew the delivery would be dangerous. This heifer had been bred to a full sized Red Angus bull renowned for throwing large calves. I’m talking 70 – 80 pounds. The discovery of this breeding came too late to initiate any methods of terminating of the pregnancy. My vet, Dr. Harry Baxtrom, had been alerted that Fancy was in labor. Immediately Doc was in route to the ranch. I began moving the heifer towards the barn. Fancy was nervous. The calf’s feet were visible. I sensed that the heifer, along with rest of the herd, was growing nervous. Nostrils were beginning to flare. Ears were forward. The cattle were all on red alert. The heifer was beginning to pick up speed in the pasture. Oh no! All of a sudden the whole herd broke into a run. My vet had just driven in and had parked at the barn. He jumped out of his truck in an attempt to head off the stampede and try to get the heifer in the barn. The herd was now stampeding at breakneck speed. They busted through every new fence on the ranch at least twice…sometimes 3 times….then the stampede changed direction and headed north to the line fence with Todd McMenimen’s 100 acre hay field which was bordered on the north side by….you guessed it….thick, deep Rocky Mountain timber….and…wait for it…the mighty King Irrigation Ditch which runs fast, deep and wide. There was no stopping these cattle. It was now an old fashioned, wild west stampede! Meanwhile, back at the barn, we managed to get the calving heifer in the barn plus had captured Rayna Sampson’s heifer calf. We would use Rayna’s baby to lure Rayna back to the barn (being an outstanding Momma) and hopefully she would bring the rest of the herd with her. This plan worked…..well…sort of.
Delivery of the calf was horrific. Dr. Baxtrom needed some serious manpower to deliver this calf and save the cow. Neighbor Bernie Gurule, and other neighbors I did not yet know, had heard about the Mini stampede to the woods and showed up to help. Bernie was assisting Dr. Baxtrom with the delivery. It took both men to deliver this calf! At one point I had gone to my truck to get my gun. I was prepared to put the heifer down to spare her more agonies and terrible pain.
The calving drama in the barn was still at fever pitch, but under control with Doc Baxtrom’s considerable skill and Bernie Gurule’s capable assist. At the same time other neighbors heard about the stampede and they also hurried over to help. This kindness and generosity to a new neighbor they did not know was and continues to be so very humbling. Some were on 4 wheelers. Some were on foot. Others came over to offer horses and skills with roping. The hunt was on and in high gear to capture these cattle. Many of the folks on the 4 wheelers would roar up with an encouraging “No worries ma’am. We’ll get ’em”, or “No worries ma’am. That ditch will stop ’em” or “No worries ma’am, they’re Mini’s ….how far can they go?!” Well…pretty far so it turned out and no, the ditch didn’t stop them.
Back at the barn the calf had been born. First believed to be dead I saw the faintest little movement of the white eyelashes. The other eye had red eyelashes. The calf lived! Wonders of wonders! My daughter and I started drying and stimulating the little fella until he stood up on his own. The neighbors had spread out like a flood of ants around the 100 ac. hay field, were scouring the woods, searching up and down the King ditch, going from house to house of surrounding ranches alerting ranchers, asking for their help or to put the herd in their corral in event they showed up, or just to let me know if they were seen. My name, phone numbers and description of the Minis was spread up and down these county roads. Most of these folks had never heard of Miniature Herefords before now!
The great Miniature Hereford hunt evolved into groups. There was the ‘4 wheeler brigade’ headed up eventually by Bernie Gurule. Then the ‘On Foot Trackers/Trappers’ headed by Troy Yates and his sons Austin, Tristin, Cole along with other good hearted neighbors, and the ‘Cowboys’ with horses and ropes which included Austin Yates and his cowboy friends. But there was one cattleman/cowboy in particular, a true professional cow man, with fast trained cow horses, smart savvy cow dogs that finally out witted, and out smarted the wiley Minis!
Barn drama with the heifer and the calf was continuing. Momma was not having anything to do with her new baby. So bottle feeding the little guy, now named Norman, began with life giving colustrum from a bottle. Norman, of course, liked all of this attention and had seriously imprinted with our voices. When we called his name he responded with a gusty Bwaaaah!
During the night though Rayna Sampson had swam back across the King ditch, crossed back over the 100 acre hay field then proceeded to turn barn door into a pile of splinters and took off with her calf to parts unknown. So, as you see, the calf hostage plan worked….with adjustments for cow ‘thinking.’ For the next many, many days, that stretched into months, we all searched, walked, 4 wheelered, horsebacked, and foot tramped through the woods everywhere imaginable trying to find the cattle. We talked, telephoned, called authorities, brand inspectors, ran ads and offered rewards. Word would be sent from somebody that the cattle had been seen here, or there, so we loaded up, rushed to the spot, only to find they were no where to be seen. The band of escapees would drift in and out of the woods to nibble in the hay field, then would drift out of sight into the woods again. Then I received a call from neighboring rancher, Dean Cundiff. The cattle were at his place hanging out with and visiting his mules. Dean opened up his corrals so we could push the cattle to them. We rolled in to Dean’s ranch excited about putting an end to this fiasco. We eased up to the herd. Heads shot up, nostrils flared, and they took off again like they had been shot. Only this time, they didn’t break through Dean’s fences….they jumped the things like Thoroughbred horses. Those big bodies on top of those short legs sailed over those fences with that to the ‘side crooked cow kick’ as they launched themselves airborne. They were feeling pretty darn cockey about themselves. They knew they were giving all of us a run for our money! Dejectedly we packed up our gear and headed back to the ranch with an empty stock trailer.
Sometime later my phone rang again. It was a resident of a subdivision named Twilight. The lady told me that a funny looking Hereford was hanging out on her front yard with her calf and they might be what I was looking for. It was Rayna Sampson and her calf. She was 5 miles from the barn. Now we know just how far a Mini can travel! Apparently, being the good momma that she is she did not take her calf back across the ditch but traveled to the green, lush and manicured yards of the residents of Twilight Subdivision and settled in. Smart girl!
By the time Rayna and calf were brought home to the ranch, all the other cattle had been rounded up except for 3. Those 3 would elude capture for another 7 months. The ring leader of the group was a cow named Easter. (Yes, that’s the day she was born. Yes, I know how un-creative that name is). Number 2 was a bull named Mr. Magoo. Number 3 was a heifer calf #46. The gang of three had hooked up in the woods with a black, Longhorn Bull that belonged to local Chiropractor, Dr. Andy Lake. Dr. Lake had told me that his bull had been loose in the woods for 2 years and he had never been able to catch him. My heart sank on this bit of news.
All during the next 7 months we attempted to catch, lure, shoot with dart guns, whatever might work, baiting with sweet feed, drive, track, rope, run down, anything anyone could think of to catch the last 3. In the meantime, I had learned that the Minis had made themselves all comfy and ‘to home’ at the ‘Bob’s John’s Port-a-potty’ storage lot. They had opened doors, nosed around, and just generally helped themselves to whatever tickled their curiosity! I was getting desperate to end this bizarre adventure and at one point I seriously considered taking my rifle and shooting the 3 in the woods myself. Finally though, logic and a wee bit of reason prevailed and I hired locally renowned cow man/cowboy, Dave Thomson, his cow savvy, fast horses and his cow savvy, fast dogs. The Minis put that cowman to the test challenging his considerable skills! Dave though was more than up to the task. And the Minis had met their match for sure. One by one he and his 4 legged team tracked the Minis down. One by one they were roped and dragged, stiff legged and resisting, into the stock trailer. It took several days and trips into the woods to catch them. After a short cooling off period (in secure pipe corrals of course) the 3 were returned to the ranch and the herd. They were examined by Doc Baxtrom and pronounced to be in remarkably fine condition. It turned out however, that Easter was carrying a calf of an unknown papa who could be a Miniature Hereford OR a Longhorn! I got a wierd visual image of a Miniature Hereford born with huge long, curved horns and got a big knot in the pit of my stomach. But otherwise things were returning to normal on the ranch and in due course Lucky Lady was born a perfectly attractive and lovely, purebred Miniature Hereford heifer!
As I ponder about all of the events of the several months of the Mini’s escape, their escapades, eventual capture and return, I am struck at how a ranching community, with no knowledge of Miniature Herefords except to point fingers and chuckle at them, is now taking a second look at these very special animals. The great escape of the Minis provided a crash course for me in my new environment, a crash course in introductions between neighbors, and of course, a crash course in Miniature Herefords to a large section of the county and livestock officials! Oh yes, Norman went to the LaPlata County Fair last year. He was ably shown by my 6 year old granddaughter Gracie in the Bucket Calf Class. He ignited a flash mob of fair spectators who just wanted to touch the little guy! Perhaps it had something to do with that winsome face with the foot long white eyelashes on one eye and red eyelashes on the other. My Miniature Hereford ‘Cinder’ was named Reserve Grand Champion of the Show against really powerful competition from other breeds. It was a significant achievement for the Miniature Herefords, especially considering it was won in a land of hard core big cow ranchers. The ‘Great Miniature Hereford Escape’ did more for awareness of the breed locally than any advertising campaign I could have dreamed up. It promoted an awareness that these short legged Herefords are a legitimate part of every ranching community. I am, and will forever be, grateful to all who worked, helped and encouraged me so tirelessly and generously to bring the herd home. Thank you.
For most beef producers, the final days of the last
trimester of pregnancy for their cow herd is here. For
some early bird producers, calves are already bucking
and jumping. Winters like this one are great (keep your
fingers crossed) and temporarily lay to rest all the
discussion of when to calve.
Often, producers question when a particular cow is
due. Most producers have a handy calving table that
projects the calving date of the cow based on the day
she was bred. For example. the IRM Pocket Reference
guide shows a cow bred May 21 is due to calve on
In recent years, the North Dakota State University
Dickinson Research Extension Center has targeted
March 1 as the start of the calving season. Do the cows
begin calving on March 1? Unfortunately, the cows do
not read the tables. Basically, a cow will calve when she
and her calf decide the time is right.
We have all seen the old cow that gets up, lays
down, gets up, lays down, walks over to the corner,
walks back, lays down, twitches her tail and calves two
weeks later. Or the cow with no udder that calves in
what seems to be minutes and successfully produces a
normal, well fed day-old calf.
A current trend is to advertise cows for sale with
predicted calving dates. These dates were projected
based on ultrasound measurements and are used to imply
the cows or heifers should calf over a period of seven to
10 days. Establishing the age of a developing fetus with
ultrasound is very accurate but gestational age and
calving date have little in common.
At the center, ultrasound records help us sort cows
based on 21 day reproductive cycles. No attempt is
made to actually guess which day a cow is going to calf.
In reviewing cow records, center research specialist
Keith Helmuth compiled all the cows with absolute
breeding dates and sire of calf. In other words, 462 cows
were artificially inseminated, and conceived to the unit of
semen she was inseminated with. Because of the
different breeds used, the parentage of the calf is not
questionable. No DNA test or judge was needed to
identify the father.
Of these 462 cows, the average gestation length was
282.5 days. Of the 426 cows, only 87 actually calved on
the expected date. These cows were expected to calf
283 days after breeding or March 1st. In reality, the first
live calf arrived Feb. 11, then one on the 13th and one on
the 16th. Three calves arrived on Feb. 17, three on the
19th, one on the 20th, three on the 21st, nine on the 22nd,
eight on the 23rd and a rush on the 24th produced 17
The calving crew is starting to sweat. On the 25th,
19 calves were born, 36 on the 26th, 38 on the 27th, 39
on the 28th and finally the due date, March 1, 87 calves
were born. More sweat, despite the cold weather. On
March 2, 53 cows calve, on the 3rd, 25 calves, on the
4th, 16 calves, on the 5th, 22 calves, on the 6th, 20
calves, on the 7th, 15 calves, and on the 8th, only four
calves. Just as there appeared to be a let up, on the 9th,
15 calves were born, on the 10th, 12 calves, and on the
11th, one calf. Finally, a slow down and the season
finished with two calves on the 12th, three calves on the
13th, four calves on the 14th, and one calve each on the
15th, 16th and 17th. The last two calves were born on
the 19th of March.
All 462 cows conceived on the same day, but the
calving season lasted 32 days. Approximately, 80 percent
calved within a 11 day window, 95 percent in a 19 day
window and 98 percent within a 28 day window. If you
want to bet me you know when your cow is going to
calf, I will bet you she won’t calf on the day she is due.
Cows don’t calve in a 7 to 10 day window, no matter
who thinks they should.
Happy calving. May you find all your ear tags.
Your comments are always welcome at
www.BeefTalk.com. For more information, contact the
North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association,
1133 State Avenue, Dickinson, ND 58601 or go to
www.CHAPS2000.com on the Internet. In
correspondence about this column, refer to BT0078.
Why Grass is Great!
This picture might not seem all that spectacular, a cow on pasture. When you break down the amazing orchestration of what’s actually happening in this picture it is absolutely amazing though. For thousands of years cattle have been in a symbiotic relationship with the microflora that inhabit their rumens. A cow’s rumen gives the bugs a home and a food source. In turn the bugs do for the cow what she couldn’t do on her own: they let her survive and thrive on a high cellulose diet of plant material that would otherwise be undigestible.
If you were to sample the cow in this picture, her ruminal fluid would be close to pH neutral, remaining more or less constant between 6.7 and 6.9. At this pH a whole host of “good guy” bacteria are hard at work in her rumen, breaking down plant fibers and producing volatile fatty acids, B vitamins, protein, and carbohydrates.
Understanding pH and how a seemingly small change in pH actually reflects a very large change in the amount of acid present is important for later in this article. The pH scale is simply a measure of how acidic or how alkaline/basic a substance is. A pH of zero is close to the equivalent of battery acid, whereas a pH of 14 is close to the equivalent of lye. The pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that for each whole number change there is a ten times (or ten-fold) change in the amount of acid or base. For example a pH value of 6 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 7 and a pH of 5 is 100 times more acidic then a pH of 7. This is why the physiological pH (also known as the pH of blood where life is considered compatible) is such a narrow window of 7.3-7.4.
Back to our cow grazing grass. The microflora in that cow’s rumen are adapted to survive at a pH of 6.7-6.9. So what happens when the cow is fed a foreign feed such as grains? The microflora in her rumen are all-stars at fermenting feed, but when that feed changes to a highly and much more easily fermented feed, such as grain or finely chopped hay, they go into overdrive and become their own demise. When fermentation is increased, so are the products of fermentation, including lactic acid. If lactic acid production exceeds the buffering systems in place, the pH begins falling in the rumen, becoming more and more acidic. The good bugs of the rumen get sick and begin to fail and die, and the other bacteria that had been merely getting by in a basic pH begin to thrive at the lower pH. Unfortunately these bacteria also metabolize glucose to lactate, which becomes a very dangerous situation very rapidly. So dangerous that if this were to happen rapidly, for instance in a ration error or when a cow gains access to a large amount of concentrated feed such as a bag of grain, the end result could very well be death.
If this acidifying process happens slowly though (as it does when cattle are put on feed for showing, feedlots, or dairy production), the outcome is different. In the case of feedlot calves the long term outcomes are rarely noted because they are slaughtered prior to the full development of clinical signs. Putting calves less than 14 months “on feed” has been shown to have deleterious effects on their long term survival and productivity. Bull purchasers have acknowledged this for years and many range cattle operations will not purchase grain backgrounded bulls due to the knowledge that they will “have had their feet burnt out from under them”. This is due to the fact that many cattle subjected to grain diets and the resulting ruminal acidosis will go on to have either subclinical or clinical laminitis. This is well demonstrated in dairy herds and in feedlots where the incidence of subclinical laminitis reaches nearly 100%.
If you don’t have good sound feet and legs under a cow or bull, regardless of how much the animal is worth, all you have is a slaughter animal. Cattle are large, heavy animals and clinically lame cattle become a serious humane issue. It is important to note that some animals with subclinical laminitis will show no outward signs of lameness, but can be diagnosed with radiographs or after death by measuring sole thickness and amount of digital rotation. This is part of the reason that many heavily fed breeding animals will show no signs until they are introduced into a situation where they must travel farther distances or over rough country. The example of the corn fed bull that gets turned out on the range and becomes completely lame and worthless is a good illustration of this.
Unfortunately, laminitis is one of the few ways that intensive feeding is visually recognized, but the unseen consequences are just as grim. When the rumen of a cow becomes acidotic, the good bugs are killed and bad bacteria invade. These “bad guys” produce a substance known as endotoxins. Endotoxins have many negative effects on the body, including making blood vessels “leaky”. Leaky blood vessels are implicated in the pathogenesis of laminitis as well as the other syndromes associated with ruminal acidosis. Most cattle that suffer from laminitis will also have liver abscesses. Liver abscesses are created when the bad bacteria are able to travel to the liver and colonize there. If the bacteria are able to escape the liver they are capable of colonizing the heart valves, lungs, joints, and kidneys. All of these can result in disease processes of the effected organs including; endocarditis, pneumonia, arthritis, and pyelonephritis. Many of these diseases are hard, if not impossible, to diagnose while the animal is alive but many of them can be diagnosed after the animal is slaughtered or dies. Sometimes the presentation of these problems will manifest rather dramatically with a dead cow with no outward reason for her being dead. Other times cows will present as chronic poor doers–they won’t gain well, they won’t milk well, they just aren’t “right”. It has always been greatly ironic to me that the process of feeding cattle up can result in them being lifelong poor doers.
Breeding cattle are fed concentrate rations for a couple reasons: to show them off to buyers and to show them. Fat cattle look better than thin or moderately fleshed cattle for the reason that fat hides flaws in conformation. The old saying that “the best color on a horse is fat” holds true in this case as well. The show standard for cattle is fat. If you tried to tell someone you were going to show grass fat calves they would laugh you out of the show ring, because grass fat isn’t the same as corn fat or pushed rate of gain. I am not completely condemning showing, but I will in good conscience issue a very stern warning to buyers and breeders to be aware when you know you are dealing with concentrate fed cattle. I will also issue a suggestion that all sellers be upfront and forthright, with what their feeding program is, when selling cattle. If you try to hide behind an all natural or grass fed front your grain fed cattle will rat you out.
I know that some people reading this article will believe it is biased because we are known to be a grass based program with grass based genetics. I will say that the truth is quite the contrary; we choose grass based genetics and run a grass based program because of the facts stated in this article: concentrate feeding cattle negatively affects a herd’s long-term productivity and profitability. . I also know that this article may be interpreted that I am against showing. I am not against showing but do believe that those who choose to feed their cattle concentrated rations should be aware of the potential outcomes and implications that it can have, not only for the individual cow but for the breed as a whole.
You are more than welcome to contact me at email@example.com or you can visit us online at www.whittlivestock.com
‘Hardware disease’ isn’t fun for the cow or veterinarian
April 18, 2011|Bill Croushore|The Daily American, Somerset, PA
As a veterinarian, a good portion of my time is spent diagnosing and treating diseases of cattle. One of the most interesting diseases we encounter in cows is aptly named “hardware disease.”
Being nerdy scientific types, veterinarians had to give it a Latin name: traumatic reticuloperitonitis. The English translation means that there was trauma to the reticulum that resulted in peritonitis. I know, that wasn’t much of a translation.
Hardware disease happens when a bovine eats a sharp metal object such as a nail or wire. Cattle are very indiscriminate eaters, so it isn’t uncommon for them to swallow such an object.
If the unsuspecting cow eats a nail or wire, it will end up in the chamber of the stomach called the reticulum. Unlike the big fermentation chamber the rumen, the reticulum’s function is to sort the feed. Feed that is of sufficiently small particle size can exit but larger material is retained to be regurgitated and chewed on again.
Once inside the reticulum, the metallic object could poke through the wall and wreak havoc inside the abdomen. Immediately adjacent to the reticulum is the cow’s heart, separated only by the diaphragm. One of the manifestations of hardware disease is heart involvement.
It is quite unfortunate for both the cow and the farmer to see a case of hardware disease with heart involvement. The disease is invariably fatal if it involves the heart and it also renders the animal unfit for slaughter since there is likely to be bacteria in the bloodstream.
But not all cases of hardware disease end with heart involvement. It is, in fact, uncommon. The usual manifestation is a syndrome called “vagal indigestion.” Sorry, there is no catchy English translation for this one. A cow with vagal indigestion, as viewed from her rear, looks like a “papple,” half pear and half apple. These cows have difficulty emptying the rumen of feed.
So, when we see a cow with the characteristic papple shape and other signs of hardware disease, we treat the animal with a magnet. If you’re picturing the huge electromagnet that Wile E. Coyote might use to snag the roadrunner, it’s not that type of magnet.
Actually, we get the cow to swallow a strong magnet that’s about half the size of a hot dog. Once down her gullet, it will be retained in the reticulum — the same place as the wire. With a little bit of luck, the magnet will latch onto the offending piece of steel and spare the cow further problems. It will stay in the cow for the rest of her days.
The magnet trick, while easy, is not successful every time. Sometimes the offending metal is aluminum and won’t stick to the magnet and sometimes the magnet just fails to pull it out. Those times that the magnet fails to remove the metal, we might attempt surgery to cure the papple-shaped bovine.
The surgery is really no fun for either the surgeon or the patient. To remove the piece of metal, we have to cut into the distended rumen. The stinky contents rush out under pressure and coat the barn floor, the surgeon and anything else within range. But once in the rumen, the surgeon can reach down deep inside the cow, find the reticulum and check for the wire.
As dramatic as it sounds, the recovery is even more dramatic. Sometimes, as soon as the wire is pulled out, the cow commences ruminating again, even before the hole in her rumen is sutured shut. Unfortunately, hardware disease in just one of several causes for the papple-shaped cow. None of the others respond as well to surgery.
Grazing season soon will be upon us. As you’re driving down the back roads admiring the beasts in the pastures, please don’t discard any metallic objects into the fields. Both the cows and their veterinarians would appreciate it.
(Dr. Bill Croushore is a veterinarian with White Oak Veterinary Clinic in Berlin, and services farms in Somerset, Bedford, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. If you have a question for the veterinarian, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
By: Leah Lee, DVM
Carson County Veterinary Clinic
Many producers deal with Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis or pinkeye. It is highly infectious and generally a herd problem. Young cattle, particularly Herefords and crosses are predisposed. The bacterial organisms isolated in cases of pinkeye have been identified as Moraxella bovis, Moraxella ovis, and possibly Mycoplasma bovoculi. This is a treatable disease, but it causes production loss by decreasing average daily gain and milk production.
Pinkeye is more common in the summer months. The increased dust, pasture stubble, and flies cause trauma to the eye and create a place for the bacteria to grow. Pinkeye lesions first appear in the center of the eye. In the beginning of the disease process, you may notice squinting, increased tear production, and reddening of the eye. As the lesion progresses, the eye will turn a blue or gray color and an ulcer will develop. If left untreated, the ulcer may deepen until the eye ruptures or causes blindness. Mild cases may heal, leaving a scar.
In very early cases of pinkeye, your veterinarian can inject medication in the tissue around the eye. Tetracycline, a long acting antibiotic, is also used because it is secreted in the tears. Repeated treatments may be necessary. Be sure to visit with your veterinarian, especially if the problem persists or continues to spread to other cattle. Eye patches are helpful to reduce spreading of the bacteria by flies and close contact. The patch shades the eye from the sun and provides a cleaner environment to heal.
Prevention practices need to be established. First, separate any affected animals from the rest of the herd. Fly control is also important. There are several options on the market. Insecticide ear tags will help control face flies. Use ear tags only during the fly season and then remove them to prevent resistance. An insect growth regulator feed additive is also helpful to decrease the fly population, and it is available mixed in mineral drums. The additive is eaten and then passed into the manure. The medication prevents the fly larvae from developing into adult flies. Controlling weeds and brush in the pastures will also help decrease trauma to the eye.
Pinkeye vaccinations are available. The use of these products has been questionable, because studies have shown that the vaccines do not significantly decrease the incidence of the disease. Since there is more than one potential cause, the bacteria in the vaccine may not be the one causing infection in your herd. Additionally, the cost of the vaccine may not offset your production loss. You will need to discuss the pros and cons of using these vaccines with your veterinarian to decide if they are right for your herd production practices.
The bovine eye has a wonderful ability to heal. Fly control, early detection of disease and treatment are the keys to dealing with pinkeye. Your veterinarian can help you make a plan for disease prevention and control in your herd.
Autism and Showing Cattle: Through the Eyes of a Big Brother
Around 6 years ago, our family was blessed with my little brother Korbyn. He was born early in the morning at our house. We went on throughout the day and around 8:00 that night I received a call from mom that they had Korbyn and they were taking him to the emergency room because he wasn’t breathing right. He was legally dead at one point after he got to Springfield where he spent the first two weeks of his life in the Intensive Care Unit. Here we are 6 years later after being diagnosed with Autism, Cebral Palsy, eye problems, etc. and he still has a smile on his face. We have been showing registered shorthorns for several years and I worked for Julie Sandstrom when I got the wild idea to get Korbyn a Mini Hereford show heifer. I spent weeks trying to pick the perfect heifer when we settled on Brita. She’s a daughter of a heifer I showed at the American Royal in 2010. The day we picked her up she and Korbyn clicked. She follows him around and she loves for him to scratch her all over. After only 1 full day of being on a halter Korbyn had her washed, blow dried and with a little help was clipping on her. Korbyn has grown to be a great showman, although he sometimes needs help, he gets out there and tries his hardest. Having this show heifer has enabled Korbyn to become more social, gain responsibility, and understand a little more about the cattle industry. For the past 5 years Korbyn has traveled the show circuit with us as myself and my little brothers showed our cattle and he has made some great friends. In fact, all throughout this past spring he has shown his heifer across the state of Arkansas at jackpots and has drawn more attention than the big winners. People come to the show ring just to watch Korbyn show. He got a bigger round of applause than the supreme heifer did at a show in Fayetteville. Korbyn is truly an inspiration for people and is a success story for people of all ages about how showing cattle helps young people grow to become tomorrow’s leaders.
By Braden Hill
Normal Parturition (Calving)
By Sheila Lindsay
The average beef cow is pregnant for 280 days. Signs of approaching parturition can be seen during the last month of gestation. Growth of the mammary glands becomes very apparent. A sinking around the tailhead due to relaxation of pelvic ligaments will make the tailhead appear more prominent. The vulva with soften and become more swollen. Mucus may be seen stringing from the vulva. The combination of these signs are often termed “springing”.
Most cows will try to leave the herd and seek a place of seclusion for the birth. At the beginning of the birthing process a small bubble (the allanto-chorion) is seen protruding from the lips of the vulva. The “water bag” has a similar appearance to a water balloon. This should not be confused with a vaginal prolapse which is much thicker and has an appearance of swollen tissues. Once the water bag appears there should be a steady increase in contraction strength along with a decrease in contraction intervals. Depending on how far you are from a veterinarian or other person capable of dealing with birthing problems, or dystocia, will dictate how long to let the birthing process continue without intervention. Once the bubble is seen, the calf should be out within 2 hours.
If the birthing process does not progress, help should be summoned within 2 hours. If only a tail is presented to the vulva, a breech should be suspected and the cow will also need assistance. Once the torso of the calf has cleared the pelvis the amniotic sac must break to allow the calf to breathe. Occasionally this must be done manually. Usually the amniotic sac breaks as the calf and/or the cow move. As the hind legs are expelled the umbilical chord breaks and the calf is free from the cow.
Weather permitting, the cow and calf should not be disturbed at this time so they may bond. The cows licking will dry the calf and stimulate the baby to its feet. Ideally the calf should be up and nursing within a couple hours. At this time we usually treat the navel with iodine and weigh and measure the calf.
By Peggy Joseph-Potter RN, BSN, MHA
Spring rains bring burgeoning foliage and for most beef producers the ever important lush green grass. While this welcome addition may delight many a farmer, it is not without a sinister side. Grass tetany is a feed related metabolic disorder which can prove harmful and at times lethal for cattle.
Grass tetany, “grass staggers,” wheat pasture poisoning, or hypomagnesaemia, can be a problem in the spring when immature grass is prolific. This disorder is more prevalent in older lactating cows as it is theorized they are less able to mobilize their magnesium storage from their bones than their more capable counterparts. High nitrogen fertilization reduces magnesium availability, especially on soils high in potassium or aluminum. Grass tetany occurs most frequently in the spring; often it follows a period of cooler temperatures such as those between 45 and 60°F, causing the grass to grow rapidly. This condition is also seen in the fall with new growth of cool season grass or wheat pastures.
The greatest risk for grass tetany is when pastures soils are low in available magnesium (Mg), high in available potassium and high in nitrogen. Pastures where a significant amount of manure has been applied often have this mineral imbalance and are considered more vulnerable. Soil testing can aide in the analysis of such pastures to determine what nutrients need to be added to prevent the onset of this metabolic disorder. While the name denotes grass and wheat as the culprits, grass tetany can occur from any sort of foliage including orchard grass, perennial ryegrass, timothy, tall fescue, crested wheat grass, brome grass, Kentucky bluegrass, annual ryegrass and small grain (wheat, oats, barley, triticale and rye) pastures. It can also occur when livestock are wintered on low Mg grass hay or corn stock. Other factors which have been associated with this disease include low levels of Mg and high protein and potassium levels in the forage.
Common factors present with grass tetany include the following:
Animals are usually grazing grass dominant pasture or lush cereal crops, often without any hay supplementation.
Cold and wet windy weather with little or no shelter, resulting in short periods of fasting.
Animals are either fat or losing condition or very thin.
Animals recently moved to a different paddock.
Heavy use of nitrogen and/or potash fertilizer on pasture.
Cows in peak lactation are most commonly affected, but dry cows and, under certain conditions, beef steers, may also suffer.
Symptoms: In the early stages, animals are observed to walk very stiffly, with lost flexibility of their hind legs. It is this swaying gait which gives the impression that the animal is staggering, hence the English name “grass staggers.” Animals may have an over-alert appearance, being excitable and aggressive. The animal has no appetite and looks mournful. Its eyes are glazed and bulging to a certain extent. In the latent stages the animals progresses to convulsions, high fever and if left untreated will be found down with an unlikely survival.
Physical symptoms include:
Muscles: Stiff with contraction of the tail
Muzzle: Mouth close and difficulty to open; grinding of the teeth; frothing at the mouth
Eyes: Wild, blood shot, frequently rolling
Head: Thrown back
Pulse: Feeble and rapid
Udder: Normal with no extensive softness
Temperature: Normal or high (104)
Treatment: When symptoms are observed, prompt treatment by a veterinarian is required. The intravenous injection of a combined calcium and magnesium solution (350ml) under the skin in the area behind the shoulder and over the ribs is most effective. Massaging the area well after injecting the solution will spread the fluid and aid its rapid absorption into the blood stream. Treated animals should be given adequate shelter and identified so that a response to treatment can be monitored. In some situation, repeat treatment maybe indicated.
Cattle affected by grass tetany often relapse and die or become ‘downers’ and eventually have to be destroyed. Time is of paramount importance to success of treatment. Prompt identification and initiation of medication and stress reduction related to weather improve treatment efficacy. Often affected animals do not eat – this can be a very serious complication, especially in pregnant cattle which often succumb to pregnancy toxemia and die.
Prevention: To prevent grass tetany cattle should be feed a high Mg supplement or free-choice minerals. Magnesium may be added to grain, protein or liquid supplements. Magnesium sulfate is the most palatable source and since magnesium stored in the body is not rapidly available it must be supplied at least every second day during the “danger period.”
Grass tetany blocks provide magnesium as a palatable ‘lick’. A major disadvantage of this method is that all the animals may not consume sufficient magnesium. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning the number of cows per block. When buying blocks, be sure that they are recommended for the prevention of grass tetany.
Feed mineral supplements that contain magnesium. Commercial mineral mixtures containing 10-15% magnesium are available for feeding during periods of increased grass tetany probability. Cattle need to consume 6-12 oz/head/day of this mineral.
Feed mineral mixtures with Iodine and Cobalt 30 percent bone meal or dicalcium phosphate, 30 percent Magnesium Oxide, and 10 percent dried Molasses. This mixture provides about 18 percent Magnesium.
Epsom salts or magnesium chloride may be added to the water supply. The salts can also be added at the rate of 60g per cow per day (60 g is about two level tablespoons). The dose must be split and added to the water on two occasions during the day. The normal water flow should be maintained. The capacity of the trough should be at least nine quarts per cow so that the salts are sufficiently diluted. Cattle will scour if they get more than 140 g of Epsom salts per day. Also, because cattle don’t like the taste, the Epsom salts need to be added gradually over 2-3 weeks. There are several disadvantages in using this method. Epsom salts are unpalatable and not readily accepted by stock. In winter, water consumption is variable due to the high moisture content of the feed and as a result insufficient salts may be ingested.
Drenching stock with magnesium oxide or Epsom salts mixed in water is an effective but time consuming, method. The daily rate is 60g/cow mixed in 100 ml water. Epsom salts may be mixed with bloat treatments but the volume of water will need to be increased if such a mixture is used. The magnesium oxide drench mixture must be constantly shaken to prevent it settling out.
Magnesium oxide (Magnesia) may be added to feed fed in the bail at the rate of 45-50 g per cow per day but there are indications that levels greater than 30g per cow per day may predispose the cows to Salmonella.
Remove animals from pasture or limit grazing during periods of rapid growth. Allow access to hay or dry pasture. Also, producers may want to limit grazing of the temporary winter pastures when moving cattle directly from poor quality frosted grass pastures. A rapid change in feed can cause digestive upsets and nutritional stress.
Fertilization suggestions: Fertilizers rich in potassium and nitrogen reduce the availability of magnesium from the pasture, and increase the risk of grass tetany. So avoid grazing these pastures soon after fertilizer application. On soils that need liming, use dolomitic limestone. If lime is not needed, magnesium can be included in mixed fertilizers. Do not exceed the recommended level of applications for nitrogen and potassium on winter pastures for grazing consequently, these fertilizer elements should not be applied in excess on temporary winter pastures. Follow recommendations based on soil test results.
Grass Tetany, Grass Stagger. (2011, October 6). Retrieved March 15, 2012, from Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, Environment.
Allison, C. (n.d.). Controlling Grass Tetany in Livestock. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from Cooperative Services, College Ag and Home Ecomonics, New Mexico Universtity.
Haynes, N. B. (1978). Keeping Livestock Healthly. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, L.L.C.
Thomas, H. S. (1998). Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle. Storey Publishing.
Y.C.Newman, M. (2010, October). Grass Tetany. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from Agonomy Department,Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Ag Science: ifas.ufl.edu
Peggy and her husband, Bob Potter, own and operate PJ Ranch LLC in Winton, California, where she serves as the Vice President of Animal Health. They have been Miniature Hereford owners and active participants in the MHBA since 2002. She is also employed as a critical care nurse for a local medical center.
There you are in the show ring feeling an explosion of butterflies while a judge appraises your steer. Will all the hard work pay off? Will you win a ribbon? Did you do enough to stand out from the rest of the class?
Those are just a few questions every serious competitor wonders during countless county fairs and livestock shows throughout the country. To help prepare for that nerve-inducing time in the ring, an industry expert and some 2011 National Western Stock Show (NWSS) winners and participants were asked for strategies and advice about getting a steer or heifer ready for the spotlight.
Nothing But Time
“It takes a lot of learning,” said Brock May, the 17-year-old winner of the prestigious Grand Champion Market Steer title at 2011’s NWSS. The humble Wisconsin resident won 2011’s Market Steer class and also earned the Reserve Grand Champion Open Prospect Steer title. “A lot of it comes from watching other people do it,” he continued. “Watching a variety of different people (helps). They have the Kirk Stierwalt clinics and he’s excellent at it.”
Kirk Stierwalt is a nationally recognized expert for his 23 years of clinics on showing cattle along with his title as National Training Advisor for the Andis Grooming Company. Always ready to teach, he was pleased to sit down and discuss showing cattle during the 2011 NWSS.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a county fair or whether it’s a national show, they are all important,” began an enthusiastic Stierwalt. “When you get to the grooming and clipping side, first off, with you working on your animal a lot, you become familiar with the things that are good about the calf and maybe some things that you’d like to improve on.”
Getting familiar with things about your animal that are good and/or need improvement requires time … and lots of it. The general consensus seemed to be that, unlike a scholastic exam, cramming for a cattle show was not a successful option.
“I think the important thing is to not try and cram a lot of work right before the show,” said Stierwalt. “I think that’s a big mistake. The key is putting in a little bit of work all the time. That adds up. I don’t care what you’re doing; it’s a time game … the more time you put into it, the more you get out of it,” he stated with conviction. “You’ve got your selection, your management, your feeding and care taking. You’ve got your clipping, your fitting on show day, and you have showmanship. All these things have to be working to some degree for you to get to the winner’s circle.”
Handling a steer or heifer every day can make or break the chances for a top ribbon. One major tip provided was not to short-change the bathing process during that time.
“When you wash them, it takes a couple of hours,” offered Allee Maronde of York, Neb., who won a Grand Champion Market Heifer ribbon in 2011’s NWSS. “It’s a long process.”
“Use lots of soap,” said Texas teen Kaiti Robinson with a laugh. Robinson earned Reserve Grand Champion Market Steer honors in 2011’s NWSS and was happy to share strategies. “It stimulates the hair. And conditioner,” she added. “Make sure you blow it with a blow dryer every day, that way it will stand out whenever you get ready (to show). We washed him every day; sometimes we washed him twice a day.”
If the Robinson’s ended up having two classes in one day — as happened at the NWSS when they placed second in their first class which necessitated a return for the Grand Champion class later — the show prep process didn’t change a bit.
“We spent probably about two hours (bathing and grooming) before the first class and then redid it all again the second time,” revealed Mandi Maddox, Kaiti’s “second mom,” about the time put into getting their steer ready for a judge’s eyes. “Kaiti showed in her class, which was about 10 a.m., then we washed him, broke him all down and redid it again for 3 in the afternoon.”
“It was two or three hours getting him ready for the second class,” agreed the tired but happy teenager, before sharing a tip on how to speed up bath time without sacrificing quality.
“You also use more than one blower most of the time,” she said of getting a steer dry. “We have double blowers, so it dries their hair twice as fast.”
Clip It Good
A popular topic regarding showing cattle is the clipping process, which the interview subjects were pleased to share about from their collective experiences. An important tip right off the bat was to make sure most of the work was done before the day of the show.
“There are things that are bad about clipping from scratch at the show,” offered Stierwalt. “First thing is, you are under a time limit. Second thing is, you take a big chance on fatiguing your calf or wearing them out. The best thing to do is get all that done before you come to the show. Then when you get to the show, all you have to worry about is keeping your calf clean, full and rested.”
Another tip for clipping was to use more than one type of blade.
“You use a lot of different blades (and) you just kind of got to get used to what you like best,” stated May about clipping a championship steer.
“You use a number of different blades and clippers,” agreed Robinson.
“For the whole thing, we use three or four blades,” said Maronde about clipping her prize-winning heifer. “If you use one blade you get just a roughed out look.”
“The equipment you use can make your job easier,” commented Stierwalt.
“When you have one blade, you really have only one option. If you have four blades with you, you have a lot of options. You can deal with different hair in a lot of situations. The thing with those blades, you’ve got a chance to do some things that years ago would have taken a long time. Now I can do it with a blade that shortens up the timeframe and looks good.”
While multiple blades (such as Super Blocking, Medium Blade and a T-84) helped prep for the show ring, it didn’t replace the need for plenty of experience using them.
“It takes practice,” offered Scott Bang of Nebraska, while clipping miniature Herefords before a class. “Get right in there (and) don’t be afraid. Get your clippers and go. Everybody learns by making mistakes.”
“The most challenging part is probably the time,” described May about doing the clipping job well. “You’ve got to keep going over them to get them just right. That’s probably the toughest part.”
“You always learn,” said Maronde. “You can never get enough clipping of a calf. The challenging part is to get them smoothed out, to get their frame right and everything. That way they don’t look weird or have hair out of place or anything.”
“The more preparation you do at home, then naturally that’s less you have to do at the show,” summed up Stierwalt. “We will clip and reclip something several times at home. We might start two weeks out and kind of get to clipping on them. We might have 80 hours in clipping before we even get to the show,” he continued. “It might be one hour one day, it might be five hours the next day (or) it might be two hours. It’s all across the board depending on how the animal is acting.”
“I think the best thing they can do, especially getting started, is to seek out some help,” wrapped up Stierwalt about the whole process.
“Whether it’s a breeder, an Ag teacher, an extension agent, maybe it’s a personal friend, maybe it’s somebody they feel comfortable asking. It could be anybody. They can tell you the do’s and the don’ts. They can tell you, don’t make the same mistakes I did. The best thing I can say is, it does not bother me to ask questions. The whole thing you have to figure out is, why. The question, why do we do that? When you figure out we’re going to do this because, why? Then it makes sense. And when it makes sense, you understand it and will remember it.”
Miscellaneous Stierwalt Tips
A blade you don’t want to use in clipping cattle is the No. 10 blade, which is the most popular blade. The spacing between teeth is too narrow to use for clipping cattle.
Anytime you are blocking or topping hair, you will use a blocking blade.
Whatever it touches, it’s cut. It’s unforgiving. It cuts what you are doing.
Clipping is easy, but blending is the hard part of clipping. Blending the animal to a nice smooth looking animal with no definite lines is the hard part of clipping.
Smaller clippers are quieter, but not as fast. If you take too long to clip, the cattle get super tired.
It’s important that we teach these cattle some manners. Are we leading the calf or is it trying to lead us? Cattle are more of a repetition type of an animal. So when we keep doing these correct things over and over and over, then it just happens.
When a judge comes to talk with you in the ring, give the judge eye contact and talk to them face to face. Show the judges respect in the ring and pay attention to them. Have some personality in the ring. Show personality and passion about the animal. When you are in the ring, you are representing yourself, your family, your 4-H club, your region, etc.
You are representing more than just yourself.
You can find Kirk Stierwalt on the web at www.KirkStierwalt.com.
Use Caution When Buying Hay This Year
USAgNet – 09/19/2011
With a dry growing season this year, barns of livestock producers are going into the Winter with lower than normal stocks of hay. Challenging weather has also made the availability of hay scarce, pasture supplies short and hay prices have risen as a result.
It’s important for hay buyers to beware of the quality and weight of the hay they are buying according to Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“Even though hay may look similar when sitting in a stack or in rows ready for sale, the variability in quality and weight of hay is significant,” said Schnakenberg.
Referring to large round fescue bales, Schnakenberg says a bale may range in weight from 500 to 1800 pounds depending on the baler used and the conditions at harvest. Protein levels in a bale may range from 4 to 18 percent.
Variables include the maturity of the forage when harvested, weed content, moldiness, leafiness and color. Buyers should also be cautious of the level of toxic nitrates that may exist in sorghum sudan or johnsongrass-containing hay.
Schnakenberg encourages hay buyers to test hay before purchasing it. There have been many fields of mature, first-cutting hay baled late in the season this year and offered for sale to the public.
“At the going price of grass hay these days, some producers may find a better deal buying alfalfa hay and not having to supplement to get their beef cows through the Winter. Another option may be a limit-fed program using corn or feed by-products,” said Schnakenberg.
Buyers should review the RFV (Relative Feed Value), protein levels and weights of bales they are buying and make decisions based on the quality and the price per ton. Producers are also advised to make the most of their Winter pasture in times such as these.
Schnakenberg recently calculated the current cost of feeding hay to the cost of feeding fertilized stockpiled fescue and found that a cow may be fed stockpiled fescue at cost of around $.37 per day compared to over $.80 per day to feed fescue hay.
By Peggy Joseph-Potter RN, BSN, MHA
Weaning is more about the health of the cow than the calf. Lactation requires 50% more feed, 70% more energy, and twice as much protein as pregnancy alone. As Fall approaches and pastures decline, difficulties can arise as breeders attempt to maintain the cow in good body condition for Spring calving. It is therefore more prudent to wean mature calves rather than continue to supplement the pregnant cow. Calves are usually ready to wean at 5-7 months of age, however they can be weaned sooner if conditions necessitate the separation of calves and cows.
Spring calves means Fall weaning. Weaning is one of the most stressful times in your calf’s short life. While the mature calf no longer needs to supplements its nutritional needs with mama’s milk it depends on her for its emotional needs. Planning, preconditioning and optimizing your calf’s health make this a much less distressing transition. The old timers may have many stories and methods for completing this process; newer research provides opportunities to make this a much less traumatic experience for young calves.
In this article, I will discuss some of the new ways, some of the old ways and provide you with supporting data that may help you to make the best decision for your situation.
Pre-conditioning is essential for the maintenance of health and immunity in the newly weaned calf. Providing essential nutrients through the introduction of bunk and creep feeders allows calves to acclimate their eating habits to prevent weight loss during this stressful period. Preconditioning calves involves getting them used to eating and drinking out of a bunk feeder or trough. This should be done without the cows around, as cows tend to be more pushy and bossy around the feeders and may not let the calves in at all.
A creep feed or precondition ration for calves should include a mix of grain silage and legume-hay, with the addition of a concentrate supplement that includes protein. There are many good calf starter products available and your local feed store can help you develop a program to meet your needs. Make sure any supplement provided does not contain animal byproducts due to the danger of BSE. Try to keep feeders free from mold and dust as their presence may lead to the development of pneumonias.
The goal is to minimize the stress level of both mom and calf during the weaning process, therefore other stress-laden procedures such as vaccinations, castration and dehorning should precede any attempt to separate the pair. Calves should also have good parasite control products introduced either as a pour-on or through injection prior to weaning, as they are more susceptible to worms during this period. We also try to break our calves to tie and lead before weaning as this socializes them to the human presence and reduces that which is unfamiliar after they leave their moms.
Methods for Weaning: There are several methods for weaning, ranging from low stress natural to abrupt separation.
Natural weaning takes place without human intervention. The calves and cows are left together until the calf decides it no longer needs to nurse or the mother cow kicks it off prior to the arrival of her next calf. This technique provides the least amount of stress to the calf however; it takes its toll on the bred cow as their bodies try to prepare for the birth of yet another calf. They will usually lack the conditioning necessary to supplement their newborn’s needs leading to a lower birth weight calf.
Traditional corral weaning. This method can be traumatic for calves as they are abruptly removed from their mothers and separated at the same ranch or shipped to a new location. Weight loss is likely to continue to occur until the calf adapts to its new surroundings. Significant preconditioning is necessary to sustain the calves during the process and there may be permanently lower conditioning than a calf weaned in a less stressful manner. Some of these changes can be prevented by removing the cows and leaving the calves in an area with other cattle that are familiar to them.
Pasture Weaning. The combining of pasture weaning with fence-line weaning can be accomplished simply by placing them side by side and moving the cows to another location, this allows the calves to stay in an area familiar to them. Pasture weaning is ideal when drought conditions are not present as free-choice grazing allows the calves to eat as desired. Since we place our cow-calf pair on pasture after the first 15-30 days this transition has been easiest for us to accomplish. That does not mean we do not have some disruption for the first day or two however, we have found this method the most humane and least stressful for the pair.
Fence-Line Weaning. This method allows calves to maintain physical contact with the cows and in most cases prevents the calves from nursing. It works best if an electric wire is present and even better if a double fence is available to keep the mother and calf separated. We have had a few of the most determined calves get through what we thought was adequate fencing. Fence-line weaning allows the pair to see and smell each other but prevents the calves from nursing. They generally will stop trying after the first three to five days.
Spiked Nose ring weaning. Nose rings or flaps can be applied to the calf’s nose to prevent suckling. This method allows the cow and calf to stay together in the same pasture or paddock. The nose flaps are noxious to the cow as they contain uncomfortable spikes that prevent the cow from accepting the calf’s gestures to nurse. Calves will usually stop trying after the first three to five days. However it can take two or three weeks for the cow’s bag to dry up; therefore do not take the rings off too soon, or you will have to start all over.
The goal in any weaning process you chose is to minimize the stress level on both the cow and calf. For the calf, even a vaccinated animal can have reduced immunity leading to the development of disease especially those affecting the lungs such as pneumonias. The pregnant cow adapts more easily after the first 3-5 days, however it may take longer if she is a first time mother.
Wean calves during good weather to reduce stress and possible disease processes,
Separate cows and calves so that they can still see and smell each other,
Do stressful procedures such as breaking, vaccinating, castrating, and dehorning prior to weaning,
Feed calves in bunk or creep feeder to acclimate them to eating and drinking on their own,
Provide adequate nutrition through appropriate rations of grain, hay, and supplements,
Socialize your animals prior to weaning to decrease their fear of the unknown,
Wean animals in surroundings with familiar, compatible paddock mates.
Having healthy, happy calves takes planning and preparation. The transition for both cow and calf can be made low stress by taking a few extra steps to reduce the fear and provide a sense of security for your animals.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our friends and members in Texas and the East Coast who are indeed suffering the wrath of Mother Nature. Our thoughts and prayers are with each one of you as you struggle to meet your needs and those of your livestock.
(1997). Feeding and Handling Calves. In M. &. Ensminger, Beef Cattle Science (p. 727). Danville: Interstate Publishers, Inc.
Thomas, H. S. (1998). Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle. Storey Publishing.
Peggy and her husband, Bob Potter, own and operate PJ Ranch LLC in Winton, California. They are Miniature and Standard Hereford owners and active participants in the MHBA since 2002. She is employed as a critical care nurse for a local medical center.
Assembled by Peggy Joseph-Potter RN, BSN, MHA
For anyone registering cattle, perusing pedigrees, or checking out potential semen donors, you may have found some unfamiliar notations following the animal’s name. Recent changes implemented by the American Hereford Association may affect both registration and management of your breeding program. In November 2010, the American Hereford Association implemented a mandatory DNA testing policy for all future walking sires. All Hereford sires born after January 1, 2011, need to be DNA genotyped at the official American Hereford Association DNA laboratory before their progeny can be registered. The intent of the policy is to improve the quality control of pedigrees and to test for three non-lethal genetic abnormalities. The same requirement for all AI sires and donor dams was previously implemented. Why the change you may ask? According to Joe Roybal of Beef Magazine, it was prompted by the difficulties and expense in determining sires in the standard breeds. The issue with genetic testing was most likely prompted by the Angus industry when Arthrogryposis Multiplex, a very popular sire, lead to the genetic evaluation of 10,000 direct sons and daughters after it was discovered he carried the lethal gene for Curly Calf Syndrome.
Recessive genes are responsible for the development of three genetic abnormalities known to be present in Hereford cattle, Dilutor-Rat Tail, Hypotrichosis and Idiopathic Epilepsy. Therefore, an animal seemingly normal in appearance can produce offspring that demonstrate recessive gene abnormalities. Genetic abnormalities are inherited defects, their form may be extreme, showing visible signs with a lethal result or they may be less obvious, causing premature abortion, early embryonic death or produce animals that are weak, slow growing with lower vigor, fertility and longevity.
Recessive inheritance can cause a parent to carry the defective gene and appear normal; the parent is then known as a carrier. If both parents pass the defective gene to the offspring, the genetic defect shows up and the genetic condition in the offspring is called homozygous recessive. The defective gene in the carrier animal is present along with the normal gene and this condition is termed heterozygous. The underlying problem of genetic defects is that parents that appear to be perfectly normal can be carriers and so can produce offspring that are defective. Parents that never produce defective progeny are in the majority and are called homozygous normal. At first glance, it seems that if we could identify carrier animals and eliminate them from the breeding population the problem of recessive genetic defects would be solved. However, it is necessary to explore the problem a little further before deciding that identifying carriers is necessarily worth the money and effort.
Symptoms of the Dilutor-Rat Tail gene are as follows: Carrier Hereford bulls or females when mated to black cattle can produce offspring with a hair coat that is gray, smokey or chocolate color. Hypotrichosis gene: Partial to almost complete lack of hair. Affected calves are often born with very short, fine, kinky hair that may fall out leaving bare spots or areas particularly susceptible to rubbing. The condition may vary in expression as the animal matures and is usually less noticeable in older animals. The hair coat will sometimes appear “frosted” or “silverish.” Tail switch may be underdeveloped.
Idiopathic Epilepsy gene: Age of onset or first seizure can be variable, ranging from birth to several months of age. Occurrence and persistence of seizure may be influenced by environmental stressors such as temperature extremes or increased physical activity. Upon initial onset of seizure episodes individuals will typically lie on their sides with all limbs extended in a rigid state. Manual flexing of the limbs is possible, but return to the extended position occurs after release. Seizure episodes may last from several minutes to more than an hour. Carrier Free (F) identifies the animal as tested and the results indicate that the animal is not a carrier.
Breeders wanting to have their animals tested must use the AHA official lab, Maxxam Analytics. All samples submitted for parentage will also be tested for genetic abnormalities. The cost for DNA testing of less than 50 animals is $32/head for hair samples and $37/head for semen, blood or tissue. In order to test your animals, call the AHA office, 816-842-3757, and request a DNA kit. You will need to have your animal’s registration number available. You will receive a Genetic Marker Test form. Each form is specifically bar coded to the registration number of the animal.
Instructions for obtaining a hair sample: Pull hair samples above the tail switch. Do not cut the hair. The hair root contains the materials needed for DNA testing. Pull 20-25 hairs evenly and directly from the tail so the hair does not break. The switch must be dry and brushed clean of all debris. The lab suggests wrapping the hair around a pencil and then pulling.
According to Jonathan Beever, a leader in cattle genetics, the issue is one of management and accurately identifying carriers through genetic testing; eliminating the gene source is contrary to overall breed improvement. In the absence of DNA testing, genetic abnormalities can be minimized by utilizing outbreeding and examining pedigrees to avoid mating of animals with common ancestors within at least two or three generations. In addition, the practice of turning over the sires after one or two breeding seasons and using fewer cows per bull reduces the chances of producing animals with inherited defects. No matter which process you use to protect your herd be aware of the possibility of genetic abnormities and plan you program accordingly.
American Hereford Association. AHA implements new DNA policy for walking herd sires. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from The Pairie Star.
Causes of Gentic Abnormalities in Cattle. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from Petahia.
DNA Testing Procedures. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from American Hereford Association.
Roybal, J. Avoiding THE WORST. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from BEEF.
Peggy and her husband, Bob Potter, own and operate PJ Ranch LLC in Winton, California. They have been Miniature Hereford owners and active participants in the MHBA since 2002. She is employed as a critical care nurse for a local medical center.
Where have all the veterinarians gone?
Charlotte Williams 6/15/2011
This is a question that an increasing number of rural areas are asking, particularly in the area of food animal care. Food animal practitioners now make up fewer than 10 percent of the veterinarians in the United States, according to a 2006 study by the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition. Their work includes a wide variety of skills, from prevention and disease control on production farms to USDA food safety and inspection to laboratory analysis of processed meat samples.
A number of programs are actively in place throughout the country to combat this growing problem, including state student loan repayment programs, rural veterinary internships, and others. For example, last year Dr. Joe Hillhouse participated in an initiative led by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) through the AVMA/AVMF Food Animal Veterinary Recruitment and Retention Program to provide student loan debt forgiveness for veterinarians who met the requirements.
His practice in the small Texas towns of Borger and Panhandle also actively recruits from schools as far away as Cornell University in New York to provide internships for students who are considering a life away from the big city.
He also assisted this year in hosting the annual Food Animal Production Tour for first and second year veterinary students from Texas A&M University. They traveled over a thousand miles to visit facilities in the Texas Panhandle and to taste the sweet life in small towns. The Tour is designed to showcase state-of-the-art operations in the dairy, feedlot, swine, and beef industries and to show potential food animal veterinarians the multitudes of opportunities in food supply veterinary medicine.
This year’s cow/calf tours included a visit to the 6666 Ranch – a working Angus cattle ranch that is part of the 275,000 acre Burnett Ranches – a visit to an organic dairy, and a final stop at the WW Ranch Miniature Herefords. Quite a variety of experiences!
Unlike the larger facilities, the WW Ranch allowed the students to interact directly with the animals and to see the positive, close relationship that can develop between a veterinarian and his clients. Dr. Joe is a regular visitor to the ranch for show papers, brucellosis vaccinations, and the occasional foot rot or “what is THAT??” treatment. It also gives his interns a small, gentle set of cattle to become comfortable with procedures before tackling the Big Guys.
The Tour concluded with a lunch sponsored by the owners of WW Ranch, Steve & Charlotte Williams, at a local brewery club, and a warm send-off for the final bus trip back to College Station, TX.
Hopefully the support of people and programs like these will continue to encourage young veterinarians to make the choice to provide care for our nation’s food animals. Whether you drink milk, wear a sweater, or eat the occasional BLT, your life is affected by the direction their lives take.