Category Archives: 2011-1

Animal Health Series: Calf Health Part 2


Calf Health Part 2

By Peggy Joseph-Potter RN, BSN, MHA

Raising healthy calves is the mainstay of our industry. Early intervention from birth through weaning makes all the difference in outcomes. Keeping your calf healthy and disease-free takes planning, early intervention and consistency. Calves are born without immunity therefore protection from opportunistic organisms and conditions requires daily observation and diligence to what Sheila McGuirk DMV, PhD calls the 5 C’s: Colostrum, Calories, Cleanliness, Comfort and Consistency.

Newborn Calf Protocol: Clean hands, arms and equipment (see calving supply list) if assisting the calving. Remove mucus from the calf’s mouth and nose. (We drain calves with large amounts of mucous by gently turning them upside down for a few seconds.) Rub the calf vigorously if stimulation is necessary. (Use warmed towels or blankets in cold weather.) Examine the navel and place a tie if it continues to bleed. Apply disinfectant to a clean navel. Iodine solutions (1, 2 and 7%) or chlorhexidine (0.5%) may be effective. Dipping is more effective than a spray as it also acts as an astringent that aids in drying out the cord. Feed 1 quart of prepared or thawed, warm colostrum if unable to nurse within the first two hours. (Some breeders supplement immediately after birth even if the calf is able to nurse.) Use either a bottle or esophageal feeder for those calves too weak to suck.

Colostrom: Good quality colostrom is essential to the survival of a newborn calf. A newborn should be up and nursing soon after birth or at least within the first couple of hours without assistance. After two hours, the calf may need additional support to stand and find the teat. First calf-heifers may need to be tied or even milked to ensure adequate and timely immunity for the newborn. As time progresses without nursing, so does the loss of immunity. A supplemental feeding maybe required to ensure the calf receives vital antibodies against disease and adequate nutrition, energy and calories to keep them warm. Good quality colostrum is thick and creamy in appearance. It is rich in calories and a concentrated source of nutrients for the calf. Healthy cows in good condition that have been vaccinated against rotavirus, coronavirus and bacteria are more likely to produce good-quality colostrum that contains antibodies required in the first few months of life. Inferior colostrum can result when cows are not in good body condition, from illness or inadequate nutrition, or when animals are first-calf heifers. Thin or watery colostrum should not be fed if there is a source of good quality colostrum available, either frozen or fresh. A lamb’s nipple and soda bottle make an ideal substitute for a calf unable or unwilling to nurse its mother. Colostrom comes either dried or frozen and should be kept on hand during calving season or whenever a birth is likely to occur.

Calories: Cattle require five main groups of nutrients for life and growth: energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and water. Mother’s milk and colostrum are the main source of calories and energy for the newborn calf. Calves need about 5-10 percent of their body weight or 1 quart for a 40-pound calf at birth and again in another 6 hours. Beef cattle should be allowed to nurse at-will as cows usually only produce enough milk to fulfill the needs of their calves; therefore over-feeding should not be a concern.

At 1 week of age, calves will begin to eat a little hay and grain. Consumption will be insignificant at first but it will gradually increase to become a major part of the diet by the end of a month. Calf developer products are specifically made to meet the nutritional needs of calves and medicated products assist with the development of good quality rumen and digestion. Providing the growing calf with adequate calories and nutrition leads to less weight loss and illness during the stress of weaning. Good nutrition is maximized by ensuring an adequate intake of minerals including salt and plenty of good clean water. (The injectable source of vitamin supplement we use is Multimin 90 by Nova Tech, other products are also available.)

Cleanliness: Calves should be born in a clean, dry place. Keeping the calving environment clean is important as newborns are exposed to large amounts of pathogens after birth. Maternity areas must be kept very clean and as free of manure as possible. A cow should never give birth in a dirty pen. Use lots of clean bedding to reduce the risk of illness or infection. Fresh bedding reduces exposure even before the dam has a chance to lick off the calf. Newborn calves should never nurse a cow with a dirty or mature-laden udder, as passage of E coli is too great for their immune defenses.

If weather is severely cold, you can get by without cleaning stalls if you put clean bedding on top for each new cow. The build-up of bedding can keep barns warmer in sub-zero temperatures. Using good sanitation principles and basic hygiene aids in the prevention of sickness and possible mortality due to organisms such as E coli, Mycobacterium or Salmonella.

Comfort: Newborn calves need to be kept comfortable and provided with plenty of dry bedding and shelter from drafts and wind in cold weather. This factor is especially important during severe weather as it stresses the body by requiring energy for heat production. Below 20 degrees F, ears and tails may freeze and the calf’s mouth may become too cold to nurse. The increased demand for energy can keep a calf from gaining weight during these months unless they are protected. Simple windbreaks can be adequate for calves that are not yet ready to venture into the pasture. Calf coats can help maintain a calf’s body heat by providing protection from the wind and cold. Weaned calves do not need additional care however breeders must ensure the presence of adequate feed and an ice-free water supply.

Consistency: Consistency of newborn protocols and daily calf management is important. Calves should be provided with regular supplemental feedings in the form of grain and hay. (Hay should be dry and not first cutting or pure alfalfa to prevent digestive upset.) The same person who performs routine feedings and care should observe calves at the same times every day. Changes in the routine will stress calves, and animals that are stressed are more likely to get sick. Healthy calves correspond to happy breeders. More importantly, a quality product is worthy of economic value and a source of pride for a job well done. Happy Calving!

Bibliography: 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. Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Sheila McGuirk, DMV,PhD. (2009). 5C’s of Health Calving. Retrieved December 2010, from Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Biography Peggy and her husband, Bob Potter, own and operate PJ Ranch LLC in Winton, California where they raise Miniature and Polled Herefords. They have been active participants in the MHBA since 2002. She is employed as a critical care nurse for a local medical center.Thomas, H. S. (1998). Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle. Storey Publishing. Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Sheila McGuirk, DMV,PhD. (2009). 5C’s of Health Calving. Retrieved December 2010, from Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Biography Peggy and her husband, Bob Potter, own and operate PJ Ranch LLC in Winton, California where they raise Miniature and Polled Herefords. They have been active participants

Exactly What is a Miniature Hereford?


There’s a lot of misunderstanding being perpetrated regarding the classification of Miniature Herefords, making them out to be a separate breed, which they are not. This is causing unnecessary confusion among new owners and potential breeders. Quite simply the animal is a Hereford first by breed and a miniature second by size. A look at some of the terminology which has been used incorrectly will show this.

Firstly, there is no such thing as a “purebred” Miniature Hereford. The description should be “full-blood Hereford” without any reference to the miniature size. A full-blood animal is one which has no other breed in its background going back many generations. In the case of Herefords this goes back several hundred years. A Hereford bred to another Hereford, regardless of size is still a full-blood Hereford. The only differentiations which can be made with Herefords are whether they are horned or polled or of different sizes e.g. standard, classic or miniature but those are just varieties of the same breed.

“Purebred” is the result of successive back breeding from original crossbreeding or interbreeding and this applies to using two or more entirely separate breeds. In this way we now have recognised breeds such as Belgian Blue, which was developed from native Belgian cattle crossed with Shorthorn and Charolais. The Australian Belmont Red is another example of crossing or interbreeding, in this case Africander bulls over Hereford and Shorthorn cows. Purebred usually means a minimum 31/32 cattle which have been produced through a “grading up” process from the original breeds used.

“Crossbreeding” or “interbreeding” is exactly that – the mixing of different breeds. You cannot crossbreed or interbreed within the same breed. Therefore, the practice of referring to a Miniature Hereford with Classic or Standard Hereford in its pedigree as a crossbreed is totally untrue. All Miniature Herefords have this mixture of sizes (not breeds) in their pedigrees. A Brahman crossed with a Hereford produces a crossbreed known as a Braford – two separate breeds. Likewise a Brahman crossed with an Angus produces a Brangus. The popular Murray Grey is a result of crossing an Angus with a Shorthorn and refining the breed over many generations. Another interesting combination of breeds leads to the Mandalong Special which has Brahman, Shorthorn, Charolais, British White and Chianina in its background.

“Grading up” again applies to using more than one breed to combine particular genetics. It starts with using a bull from one breed with a cow of another breed. The first offspring is half-bred and heifers from this are then bred back to the original bull breed. The next offspring will be three-quarter bred and the procedure is repeated using part-bred heifers back to the original bull breed until offspring which are of 31/32 breeding are then classified as “purebred.” They are not full blood of either breed used. The “grading up” being used within the Hereford breed to produce a so-called fifth generation miniature is not justifiable as it is simply using two animals of different varieties of the same breed and the final outcome may not necessarily fall within miniature status as the frame score size could well be over the limit. The original process of acquiring miniatures was to breed the smallest Herefords possible to other small Herefords and continue from there to reduce the size, not to establish so many generations of breeding. Frame score can be heritable and changed mainly through using selected sires. Therefore, it is more important to know the frame score background of the animals being bred than their pedigrees.

“Inbreeding” along with “linebreeding” is now prevalent among Miniature Hereford herds in both Australia and New Zealand owing to the lack of new bloodlines. Although one advantage is the early exposure of a defect, providing measures are taken to eradicate that, the main outcome is a loss of fertility along with detrimental effects on production efficiency. Inbreeding is computed as a percentage of chances for two alleles to be identical by descent. This percentage is called “inbreeding co-efficient.” Alleles are alternative forms of genes and part of the DNA coding which determines distinct traits which are passed on from parents to offspring. Progeny can have a 1 in 2 risk of inheriting identical alleles from both parents which greatly increases any negative effects. Linebreeding is a milder form of inbreeding through breeding of cousins. Anyone claiming to have “five generations” of “miniature” in an animal should properly examine its breeding; it is most likely the product of straight inbreeding or very close linebreeding, neither of which is desirable. For this reason conscientious breeders in other parts of the world occasionally introduce new bloodlines using mainly the smaller Classic Herefords which are of FS 2 or FS 3. This is known as “outbreeding” but it is still within the same breed.

In Australia and New Zealand there are Classic sized animals among the standard Hereford herds that are not actually classified as such. A miniature bull (FS 1 or less) over a Classic cow should produce progeny not much bigger than themselves.

Much has been made of a “foundation herd” and a claim that all Miniature Herefords in Australia and any animals coming to New Zealand from Australia must be linked to this. The foundation herd is nothing more than a collection of original imports from the USA most of which had a Classic Hereford in the immediate parentage. There is at least one animal classed as “miniature” which had Classics for both parents. How did the classification of “miniature” arise then? It could only have been on frame score as most of the Classics were FS 2 or 3. Was FS 2 considered “miniature”? It certainly wasn’t in the States. To restrict the classification as “miniature” to only particular animals whose pedigree traces back to chosen “ancestors” is not only irrelevant, it drastically narrows the gene pool and constitutes restrictive trading practice for other breeders who have animals which qualify by size, the only criteria needed. These latter animals are likely to have superior genetics through a widened gene pool and as such strengthen the overall breeding of Miniature Herefords.

Finally, to state that animals must be classified as “miniature” by only one particular group is an insult to the majority of breeders. The integrity of the breeder in noting the size of an animal goes hand in hand with the integrity of the breeder in stating the correct parentage. If the intending purchaser has any concerns, a request can be made for a DNA profile, the registration checked and the measurement process observed or done independently to confirm what has been stated. As it stands now, no group is the authoritative body for classification of Miniature Herefords. ly one particular group is an insult to the majority of breeders. The integrity of the breeder in noting the si

Beef Talk: Simple Bull Rankings in the Pen

Report Card for 8 Red Angus Bulls

Does the data support keeping them, or are there better bulls on the market that will meet your production goals?
By Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

The Dickinson Research Extension Center utilizes many bulls and always evaluates bulls at the time of purchase and periodically throughout their life span. Perhaps the most challenging evaluation is to ask if the bulls meet the current objectives of the breeding program or expected market for the calves.

Many good beef programs remain as words only if the right genetics is not in the bull pen to get the desired calf crop.

For the center, the heifer development program is being scaled back, which means the current inventory of calving-ease heifer bulls was reduced. In terms of future programs, the center has two different needs.

The first is for bulls that will sire heavy-muscled calves with a reduced frame and a slightly slower growth rate. These calves obviously will end up on a grass program and are projected to go to an older yearling market.

The second group of bulls will need to sire calves for the traditional fast-gaining, high-lean calf- fed market. These calves will be age and sourced for the less than 20 month of age calf market.

However, before either of these criteria can be discussed, the older bulls need to be evaluated based on soundness. Unsound bulls are not kept because putting more resources into a bull that more than likely will have limited breeding capacity is impractical.

Producers should evaluate their bulls periodically, especially when the bulls are penned where they can be observed closely. That slow-moving, standoffish bull may be covering up latent pasture injuries or fresh injuries due to the rough crowd in the bull pen.

The harsh reality is that small problems tend to become big problems. Even minor structural problems often will develop into movement problems during future breeding seasons.

The pecking order also can get severe enough that some bulls simply won’t breed. The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies now because the time to be thinking about next spring’s breeding soundness exams is now.

With the cold weather setting in, the best prevention for bull infertility is a well-bedded bull pen with limited exposure to the wind. Bulls need to be bedded and protected from severe cold to prevent scrotal frostbite.

After the review, only 10 bulls made the cut for next season. Two are Lowline bulls, while the others are Red Angus. All of the Red Angus bulls are registered with the American Red Angus Association and the registrations and data are current. Everyone is busy, so keeping up on the bull pen is not easy, but all the bulls are in good physical condition.

The bottom line is that the remaining bulls have a purpose, which is to fill the weaning pens in the fall of 2011 with the calves that the center desires. Seems like a long way off, but the calves will get here soon enough.

All the bulls were rated for some of the expected progeny differences (EPD) available from the Red Angus Association. The challenge with data is information overload. The information available on sale day was impressive enough to buy on sale day or the bulls were simply affordable. The question is, “Are they still good enough to stay or are there better bulls?” To make the process simple, the bulls are ranked and scored based on the desired EPDs.

If the bull scores in the upper 25 percentile within the breed for a specific EPD trait, the bull received an A. If the EPD value is in the upper 50 percentile, but less than the 25 percentile, the bull received a B grade. If the bull’s EPD value was in the lower 50 percentile, the bull received a C grade.

Having gone through the exercise, eight bulls passed the center’s needs, while the rest did not. In summation, the bull pen has eight good, meaty Red Angus bulls that vary in frame size. With the bull-buying season starting early next year, the center can better evaluate how many bulls are needed and, like any producer, can develop a budget to work with.

The process may seem cumbersome, but the take-home point is to gather some data and rank the bulls. Does the data support keeping them, or are there better bulls on the market that will meet your production goals? These are your cattle, so you need to become comfortable working the numbers and incorporating data into your decisions to ultimately meet your goal.

Happy bull sorting and turkey eating.

May you find all your ear tags.

Your comments are always welcome at

For more information, contact the NDBCIA Office, 1041 State Ave., Dickinson, ND 58601, or go to on the Internet.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

source: Kris Ringwall, (701) 483-2348, ext. 103,
editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,