Category Archives: 2010-1

Cattle Parasites Prevalent, Not always Controlled


New data from the USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) show widespread prevalence of internal parasites in cow-calf operations, and suggest control measures fall short on many operations. Bert Stromberg, PhD, a professor of veterinary pathobiology and associate dean at the University of Minnesota presented the NAHMS results today to the Academy of Veterinary Consultants in Denver.

Parasite control is one of the most costeffective investments a rancher can make. Research from Iowa State University, for example, shows that eliminating dewormers
in a cow-calf operation impacts breakeven prices by 34 percent, at an added cost of $165 per head, due primarily to lower weaning rates and weaning weights. The news
NAHMS study shows, however, that many producers are missing some of the benefits of a good parasite-control program. The NAHMS researchers surveyed producers from 24 states representing 88 percent of U.S. beef cows regarding their parasitecontrol practices, and asked them to voluntarily collect fecal samples from their herds.

The study shows that for operations with unweaned calves or weaned stocker calves, over half dewormed these animals at least once per year. About 70 percent deworm
replacement heifers once or more per year and just over 80 percent deworm cows at least once per year. Of those who deworm their cattle, 85 percent use a regular schedule to determine when the treatments take place.

In this study, only 5.7 percent of producers had performed fecal testing to evaluate parasite burdens during the past three years. For Phase 1 of the study, participants
send fecal samples from 20 randomly selected weaned beef calves six to 18 months of age, that were on pasture for at least four weeks and had not been dewormed
for at least 45 days. Laboratory testing of samples from 99 operations showed 85.6 percent positive for strongyle-type eggs, 18 percent positive for nematatodirus, and
60 percent positive for coccidia oocytes. For Phase 2, the researchers asked participants to deworm their calves with whatever product they typically use, according to label directions, then submit a second set of fecal samples. Laboratories connducted “fecal egg count reduction” (FECR) tests to determine the efficacy of the deworming treatments.

Among participating operations, Stromberg says, 31 percent achieved efficacy rates below 80 percent for strongyle-type egg counts, and 44 percent had efficacy rates below 90 percent. Results below 90 percent efficacy, he adds, indicate the presence of anthelmintic resistance among parasite populations. For nomatatodirus, 62 percent of the operations had less then 90 percent reduction and 57 percent had less than 80 percent efficacy.

Stromberg says improper or incomplete treatment probably accounts for some lack of treatment success, such as when producers miss some cattle or misjudge their weights and apply the wrong dose. The data also suggest, however, that worm populations are developing resistance to some dewormers, resulting in a decline in efficacy.
The researchers acknowledge that more study will be needed to determine the extent of resistance to anthelmintics among parasite populations and to develop recommendations for ensuring the continued effectiveness of these products. In the meantime, Stromberg reminds producers to work with their veterinarians to develop
strategic deworming programs to treat parasites in their animals and reduce shedding of parasite eggs that contaminate pastures.
Source: John Maday, Drovers

Nitrate Poisoning

Source: Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association

Watch out for nitrate poisoning in forages and forbes.

This year’s Fall weather– rain and clouds following a drought – and its effect on forages can be a recipe for nitrate poisoning of livestock, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert. Under these conditions, cattle don’t have to consume improved forages to be at risk, as many weeds also can build up high levels of nitrate, said Dr. Vanessa Corriher, AgriLife Extension forage specialist.

“In a recent incident, a Sabine County producer turned some cattle into a dry lot,” she said. “Though he supplied hay, the cattle apparently died of nitrate poisoning from eating pigweed in the lot.”

Corriher noted that livestock generally won’t consume weeds when they have quality hay available, but in this instance they did and several cattle died as a result. Forages and small grains that are susceptible to building up high levels of nitrate include sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, pearl millet, corn, wheat and oats. Weeds prone to build up high nitrate levels include Canada thistle, pigweed, smartweed, ragweed, lambsquarter, goldenrod, nightshades, bindweed, Russian thistle and stinging nettle.

Another risk factor is hay cut during or just after a drought period.

“This is especially risky if nitrogen was applied just prior to the hay harvest,” Corriher said.

Though the high nitrate levels are associated with weather conditions, once the levels are built up in hay, the risk is not lessened over time.

Nitrates are present in all forages, Corriher said. Strictly speaking, the nitrate poisoning should be called “nitrite” poisoning. With normal levels of nitrates, the range animal’s rumen converts the nitrate (NO3) into nitrite (NO2), which in turn is converted to ammonia, then into amino acids and then into proteins.
But when nitrate levels are high in forages, the process becomes subverted, and high levels of nitrites are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the rumen wall. The nitrite converts the hemoglobin in the blood into a form that cannot transport oxygen. The blood turns from a bright red to a chocolate color, and the animal essentially dies of asphyxiation.

Corriher recommended producers regularly take forage samples from pastures and have them analyzed for nitrates, including samples of forages and weeds at various growth stages.
“Be sure to specify that you want nitrate analysis,” she said. “Standard nutritional analysis usually does not test for nitrates.”

Hay samples should be collected with a probe. Samples from several bales can be combined. Unlike prussic acid poisoning, the risk of nitrate poisoning is not decreased over time. Hay harvested months ago could still contain the same high levels of nitrates it did when baled.

“Though the risk of nitrate poisoning is higher after a drought or an extended period of cool, wet weather, it’s something producers should be aware of year round,” Corriher explained.

AgriLife Extension’s Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory can be contacted at 979-845-4816. Instructions and sample submittal forms can be found on
the laboratory’s Website at
The Soil, Plant, Water Analysis laboratory at Stephen F.
Austin State University in Nacogdoches also does forage analysis. Contact the lab at 936-468-4500, or
Fact sheets on nitrate and prussic acid poisoning can be
found online at the AgriLife Bookstore at Search for documents E-543 and L-5231.

An Ounce of Prevention May Lead to More Pounds of Live Calves from Heifers

Source: The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Written by Billy Cook

With the current price of replacement cattle, we must maximize the number of heifers that become productive cows. I am making the big assumption that at this stage in the game everything has gone right (the heifers weighed at least 65 percent of mature weight at breeding, they were bred to proven low-birth-weight bulls, they were culled
on poor structure and small pelvic area, they were provided with adequate nutrition up to this point, etc.). But your job as a manager and caretaker of these heifers is still far from done. Heifer performance from this point forward will be determined by how well the heifer is managed up to and after the time she has her first calf.

These spring-calving bred heifers grazing native pasture have done well through the summer, but they need a good supplement plan be prepared to calve in February.
A common statement we livestock specialists hear this time of year is, “I don’t want to over-supplement these heifers or their calves will be too big, and I will have increased calving difficulty.”

A University of Wyoming study (L. R. Corah, et al., Univ. of Wyoming. 1975. J. Anim. Sci. 41:819) illustrated the effects of level of nutrition on the calving performance of first-calf heifers. Heifers were divided into two groups 100 days prior to calving. One group received a ration meeting National Research Council (NRC) requirements for energy (TDN), and the other group received 65 percent of NRC requirements for TDN. Both rations were formulated to meet protein requirements. After calving, both groups received TDN and protein that met the NRC requirements. In the low-level TDN group, birth weights were reduced by about 5 pounds, but there was no reduction
in calving difficulty (Table 1). Calf losses at birth were higher in the low TDN group. Weaning weight was 28 pounds heavier for the calves out of the heifers fed the higher energy ration. The take-home message here in terms of calf production is obvious: There are more live calves with higher weaning weights produced from the heifers fed the higher TDN ration. This in itself should make the decision to supplement your heifers at an adequate energy rate an easy one to make.

However, in addition to the increase in calf production, when the researchers examined the return to estrus after calving, those firstcalf heifers receiving adequate energy prior to calving also came into heat sooner, allowing them the opportunity to breed earlier in the calving season. Evan Whitley, in his April 2001 NF Ag News and Views article Spring Clean Your Breeding Program, illustrated the importance of heifers and cows calving early in the breeding season.

To further illustrate the importance of nutritional status of the bred two-year-old heifer in the last trimester of pregnancy, consider that the heifer must continue to grow and gain body weight during this 90-day period. The weight of the fetus, fetal fluids, membranes, etc., will increase almost one pound per day. Therefore, to sustain her
growth and the growth of the fetus she is carrying, the heifer needs to gain about 1 to 1.5 lbs. per day. The typical heifer will lose 100 to 125 lbs. when she calves (weight of the calf, fetal membranes and fluids). This weight represents about 10 to 14 percent of her body weight; therefore, she must be prepared nutritionally to handle this stress. She also must be managed differently and separately from the mature cow herd. Heifers that calve late typically breed back late. To ensure them a chance to rebreed in a timely manner and remain in your herd, separate them and feed them additional supplement as compared to your mature cow herd, or provide them with the highest-quality pasture you have available.

If you have questions on heifer management, contact one of the Noble Foundation’s livestock specialists at (580) 224-6501.


It is that time of year again and as many of us prepare to make the trek to Denver for the National Miniature Hereford Show, some may wonder about the importance of BVD-PI testing for all show and sale animals. The following information is intended to provide a simplified overview of the disease, transmission and herd eradication. For specific information related to your animals’ exposure contact your ranch veterinarian.
What is BVDV?
Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) is a virus known to infect domestic livestock and some wild animals. For cattle producers the virus causes economic losses through decreased weight gains, decreased milk production, reproductive losses (abortions), and animal death. There are two categories of BVD infections.
1- Transient (acute) infection (“TI”)
• Short term (weeks)
• Acquired after birth
• TI cattle become immune and clear virus
• Greater than 95% of BVD infections are TI
• TI cattle are a minor source of virus spread in herd
2- Persistent (chronic) infection (“PI”)
• Life long persistent infection acquired while in the uterus therefore only fetal infections results in BVD-PI
• PI cattle can never become immune
•Less than 5% of BVD infection are PI
• PI cattle in herds are the major source of virus spread
Over 90% of BVD-PI calves are born from normal dams (no prior BVDV exposure)

Development of BVD PI

Persistently infected (PI) BVD cattle are created when the dam and her fetus become infected with BVD virus between 45 to 125 days after conception. During this period of development, the immune system of the fetus has not yet developed and the BVD infection is not recognized. The fetus is not capable of recognizing the virus and does not develop antibodies against the BVD. Fetuses infected during this period survive and are permanently infected with the BVD virus, shedding the virus throughout their lifetime.

Signs and symptoms of BVD-PI

Most BVDV infection problems in cattle herds go unnoticed since 70-90% of BVD infections do not result in observable signs of disease. When present, the most common disease caused by BVD virus infection in cattle herds is poor reproductive performance including, abortions, poor conception rates, stillbirths, and weak calves. The BVD virus infection can causes suppression of the bovine immune system resulting in increased susceptibility to other infectious diseases such as scours, pneumonia and poor weaning weights.

How is BVDV transmitted?

The main source of BVDV in cattle herds is BVDPI animals. Virus in BVD-PI animals is shed in all body secretions including nasal discharge, saliva, tears, milk, feces, urine and semen. Transmission occurs via ingestion, inhalation, and even such things as boots and vehicles. The most common ways that BVDV can enter a herd are as follows:
• By purchasing replacement cattle at auctions
• By purchasing a pregnant animal with PI calf
• Introducing replacements or show stock without quarantine
• Failure to maintain a BVD vaccination program
• Failure to test replacements for BVD PI
• Contaminated semen or embryos
• Borrowed or unknown bulls

Why test and remove BVD-PI animals from a cattle herd?

Persistently infected (PI) cattle are the major source of BVD infection and disease in cattle because they shed huge amount of BVD virus throughout their lives. The major economic loss associated with BVD in cattle operations is loss of income due to loss of calves either before birth (abortion), at birth (weak calves) or between birth and weaning, or from diseases associated with immunosuppression such as scours and pneumonia.

Can BVDV infection be eradicated from a herd with vaccination?

No, BVD vaccination alone (with either modified-live or killed vaccines) cannot keep a cattle herd free of BVD-PI cattle nor completely control BVD infection according to the Academy of Veterinary Consultants and American Association of Bovine Practitioners. Both groups promote a threepronged approach to BVD control, a combination
of BVD-PI testing and removal, vaccination and biosecurity, (good herdsmanship, sanitation, record keeping, and an active MLV vaccination program).

Ethics-Do the right thing!

Do not knowingly share your BVDV problem with unsuspecting buyers. BVD-PI is a serious problem that if kept unchecked could create devastating losses for a breeder. It is unethical to pass animals with known or suspected BVDV infections on to another breeder.

Lincoln, D. S. (n.d.). Beef Cattle Handbook-Cattle Vaccines and their uses.
Retrieved from Iowa Beef Center.
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. (2007,
October). Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab. Retrieved
November 15, 2009, from Bovine Viral Diarrhea Persistenly Infected
(BVD-PI) Ear Notch Testing Program for Catle Herds.
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 at a local medical center.

Information contained in this article is for general
informative purposes only. Please contact your local
vet for specific recommendations.

Inve$ting in Minis

By Diane Alu

Ok, I confess, there is more to my owning registered miniature Herefords than meets the eye. Yeah, they’re the cute, fuzzy half-size renditions of the full size beef machine, and make excellent pasture mowers, conversation pieces, moveable lawn ornaments, ag tax exemption enablers. Wonderful for the grandkids, 4H, local fairs and national
shows. Stress relief, therapy, bragging rites and grass fed beef for my family…..but, I confess, aside from all the above reasons and probably a few I omitted, the tipping point for my investing in the registered miniature Hereford was just that….investment.

When trying to decide what to stock our small farm with, I wanted something that, quite frankly, would give me a good return on my initial investment. Many factors needed to be considered when one has a certain amount of cash to invest, and what kind of return one desires. But I think the most important factor, in my eyes, was the ability to control the desired outcome that livestock provides.

You get out what you put in. Meaning, start with quality stock, breed for quality stock, take care of your investment, and you can pretty much design your own “portfolio” and returns as you wish.

I grew up with the old time notion that there were no pets on a working farm (or very few), everyone had to pay their way. If an animal did not earn its keep, it didn’t stay.
With 10 or 12 acres to get the maximum return on, I had to choose an animal that I thought there would be demand for, not only for beef, but for registered breeding stock as well. It had to be docile, easy to handle, easy to fence, care for, feed and house. I wanted an animal with a pedigree, a history, a connection with our country. It had to be hardy, fertile, and efficient. And, most importantly, it had to produce a product that would be sought after. If not for breeding, it could produce excellent beef. And people always need food. How many animals fit that bill? In fact, almost every animal I sell and breed is sold for breeding stock to someone that desires to start a herd of their own, or add to an existing one. Those that don’t will become healthy, safe, grass fed beef. And with all the bad press and recalls the beef industry is getting these days, it is no surprise that people are looking for locally produced food for their families.

The registered miniature Hereford, as I have said before, is a safe place for my money. Why would I send my hard earned cash to some broker and wonder where my money went and what kind of return I will get, if any? I see my investment in my front pasture, I work it as much or as little as I want or need to, and, with the animals being half the size of conventional beef animals, I am able to get double the stocking rate per acre and therefore twice the yearly return per acre with a calf, that, if done correctly, will be worth at least as much or more than what I paid for its dam. And the Hereford will do it typically at 2 years of age, and every year thereafter with minimal input.

You may call that calf cute, pet, show stock or dinner; I call it my little dividend. Two years later that one calf will be having her own calf, and its dam will have had another calf as well. You get the idea.I’m sure you can think of at least one well known, famous, or wealthy person who owns a ranch or farm and livestock. Think about why they do. If you’re still not sure, pick up a Newsweek or Time magazine, New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Smart investors are informed and involved in their investments.

Isn’t it time you took control of your finances and investments? Consider the registered miniature Hereford today. You will not be disappointed.

Showing Cattle: A Family Activity

Throughout this past year I’ve heard many comments about kids showing steers, heifers, etc. Some of the comments I’ve heard include:
• The cattle just cost too much
• The feed costs too much
• There isn’t any way for this project to be profitable or even break even
• What is the point, we don’t have a chance to win
• The big boys always win
• This is only for the rich folks
I guess some of these comments may have some validity; however we (my family) chose to show cattle with our kids for different reasons. I’ll try to
explain some of them in the following paragraphs.

Our children are exposed to influence all day every day by the people and events they are surrounded by. We don’t make any money when our kids play football, soccer, baseball, basketball or when they participate in dance, cheerleading, band, etc. We don’t expect to break even or be profitable from these events, so why would we expect a steer or heifer project to be profitable? This isn’t about money; this is about spending time together as a family.

Showing cattle is about spending time together as we raise our calf. Teaching it to lead, to set up, washing it, working hair, etc. It’s about teaching responsibility, and the value of work and commitment to a project on a daily basis. Most importantly it’s about working together with our children. They will be exposed to our values, our morals, our ethics, as we work together. It is a family project, a family activity.

I remember as a teenager on the farm, I decided I wanted to show steers and my parents were supportive of this endeavor of mine. In addition to showing my fat steers, one year I decided to show some pens of feeder steers at the Arizona National Livestock Show. In the fall of 1975 (I think, it was a long time ago) my father took me to Idaho to pick up 24 head of Angus influenced prospect steers to take to the Arizona National Livestock show. These calves came straight off the cows on a large ranch. They were not halter broke, and to say the least, just a little rank. But I was young and full of myself and thought it would not be a problem. Those steers nearly kicked me to death while I was breaking them to tie good enough so we could get them fitted and prepared for the show. This activity provided my father with many hours of laughter and memories we still talk about.

Once we got to the show Dad was helping me get steers from the wash rack to the pens, and as he was tying one of those little steers to the rail to blow them off, that steer somehow kicked him in the ribs. Broke a couple of ribs, but it has provided us with years of laughter. The point of this little story is the many memories I have of working together with my dad and brothers with our steers growing up. None of us remember how much money we made or lost on those steer projects, but we remember working
together, getting kicked, knocked down, laughing at each other, etc. We remember the time our father spent with us. We remember how working with a steer for months and how daily effort and work resulted in a finished project. We learned how sometimes we could do everything right, do our job perfectly with our steer and still things beyond our control could result in disappointment. Dad always told us, “there is only going to be one first place steer today. That does not mean there is only one good steer, but only one gets to be first.” He said, “Be a good sport about it, congratulate the winners. Remember we are friends first, competitors second.” The lessons learned do not have a price tag. My brothers and I are grateful our parents chose to allow us the opportunity to be involved with them. We are grateful our parents were committed to us and did
not put a price tag on spending time with us.

In my opinion showing cattle is about being a family. The experiences and friendships made through these projects will carry through our entire lives