Category Archives: News

8 Months

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.

Early Weaning: Nutrition and Cost Considerations

Chris Reinhardt, Extension Feedlot Specialist
Reprinted from

The nutrition of the early weaned (90-120 days of age) calf is not greatly different than that of the normal age (~205 days) calf; however, there are several key factors to consider.

Whether or not you’ve ever fed calves, you’re more qualified to wean your calves than anyone else, provided you’ve got some quality feedstuffs and appropriate facilities. The reason? If you can simply move the calves or cows to an adjacent pen or pasture from one another, the stress of weaning is nearly eliminated. And this greatly reduces the risk of subsequent disease.

Many ranchers have instituted fenceline weaning, in which the calves are placed in a pen or pasture adjacent to their mothers, and can have nose-to-nose contact with them. Or the cows are placed in a pen and the calves are allowed to graze in an adjacent pasture. These systems have proven highly effective at reducing stress on calves. Oftentimes the cows create more noise after weaning than the calves. After a few days, the calves can be completely separated without additional stress. This speaks volumes about the nutritional needs of the calf; it needs only some occasional, short-term contact and proximity from the dam, but nutritionally, the calf is ready to be on its own.

When the calf nurses, a groove closes, shunting milk from the esophagus, bypassing the reticulum, rumen, and omasum, straight to the abomasum. But, when a calf either grazes or eats solid feed from a bunk, feed enters the reticulo-rumen and begins fermentation. Once the rumen has been ‘inoculated’ (usually very soon after birth) with bacteria and protozoa from its environment, and has been ‘fed’ through grazing, the calf is a functional ruminant—this is the normal scenario for beef calves.

The rumen and the calf are both accustomed to grass and the rate of energy release from forages. So the first feed offered to the calf during its weaning transition should resemble what they’ve been consuming up to this point– that is, good quality forage. Good quality hay from either grass, grass/legume mix, or annual grains will work well. This hay should be spread out, either long-stemmed or very coarsely chopped, in the very same bunks where the calves will be fed. Provide all the hay the calves will eat in a day, which will normally be about 10-15 pounds per head per day.

It is counter-productive to train the calves to eat from a bale feeder only to later try to re-train them to a bunk, and the attraction of good quality, loose, long-stemmed hay in the bunk is the best way to accomplish this. Also, on either the first or second day after weaning, place about 2-3 pounds per head of a nutrient dense starter ration on top of the loose hay. This ration should be a mix of 25-35 percent ground hay, and the remainder made up of a blend of cracked or ground grain and a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Byproducts such as dry distillers grains, wheat midds, corn gluten feed, and soy hulls work well to provide both energy and protein, and can be used to
replace all or a portion of the grain in the diet. With the inclusion of byproduct feeds to supply all needed protein, a commercial source of
vitamins and minerals can be used to balance the diet.

If the calves are healthy, vigorous, and eating well, the loose hay can be reduced and eliminated over a period of 3-4 days, but if
health and intake of the ration are poor, continue to place 3-4 pounds of loose hay in the bunk until health and intake improve.

Economic return from early weaning is driven primarily by ensuring future productivity of the cow herd, but proper management of the calves can contribute as well. Plan to have feed and space for these calves for at least 30 days, and 45-60 days may be even better. That will give the calves time to recover any lost weight from the weaning transition, recover from any respiratory disease they may have endured, and fully respond to the vaccination protocol given at weaning time.

Another benefit of feeding these calves for a time is that given their young age and lean stage of growth, these calves convert feed to gain very efficiently (often in the range of 4:1); therefore, the cost of gain can be very economical, compared to commercial feeding, depending on the cost of your local feedstuffs.

Based on current estimated Kansas costs of alfalfa hay, cracked corn, dried distillers grains, and a medicated mineral/vitamin supplement, calves can be fed for approximately $1/day (not including yardage or labor). If no major health challenges occur, we should expect the calves to gain at or above 2 lb/day. This results in a feed cost of gain of about 50¢/lb, while current commercial feedyards are experiencing feed costs of gain of about 80¢/lb for finishing cattle.

There are many ways to effectively manage these special calves. The most important thing is to get them the needed nutrition, preserve the cow, and preserve the range.

Successful Early Weaning: Consider Water, Weaning Method, Vaccination Program and Animal Handling

Larry Hollis, Extension Beef Specialist
Reprinted from

With the hot, dry Summer currently being experienced in many parts of Kansas, traditional weaning plans may need to be significantly altered. Cows are out of grass in many areas, and grass is extremely short in others. Early weaning of calves should be strongly considered. Considerable research has shown that it is a much better use of resources to wean the calf early, and either sell or feed the calf, than try to feed the cow enough to sustain lactation through a drought. Doing this will hold feed costs down both now and this Winter when you are trying to get cows in condition to (1) survive the Winter, (2) calve successfully, and (3) be in reasonable body condition score (BCS) to breed back next year. Many cows may be close to drying up on their own because of the lack of feed, so the primary thing they may be providing is merely companionship for the calf.

Consider these factors when early weaning.

• Water. Freshly weaned calves need plenty of fresh, clean water, especially if weaned during the heat of summer. Hopefully they have had access to water alongside their mothers, but if their mothers are drinking from an elevated tank or tub that calves cannot reach, they may need to be provided with a readily-available, closer-to-the-ground water source so that they are trained to drink from it prior to actual weaning time.

• Weaning method. Research has shown that “soft” weaning methods such as fence line weaning or nose clip weaning result in better maintenance of existing calf weights or subsequent calf performance than traditional “hard” weaning methods (abruptly separating cows and calves and placing calves in a drylot or unfamiliar pasture situation). When calves are weaned with either soft method, calves have the benefit of knowing their way around the pasture, including where shade, water and feed are located. If facilities permit (calf-proof fences between 2 adjoining pastures), fence line weaning is preferable over nose clip weaning because it does not require running calves through the chute twice to install and remove the nose clips. Hard weaning methods always result in greater calf weight losses than soft methods. Also, hard weaning, especially when calves are weaned in dry, dusty pens, almost always results in more respiratory health problems.

• Vaccination program. If some of the better calves need to be held for replacements, or calves are typically marketed through a value-added preconditioning program or marketing system, they will benefit from the same preconditioning and vaccination program that would be utilized if they were held until normal Fall weaning time. Feeding programs following weaning need to be adjusted to meet the needs of these lighter calves. When processing calves during the hot Summer, be careful to make sure that vaccines are handled properly, because heat can spoil vaccines rapidly if they are not kept refrigerated during transit and chuteside while working calves. If modified live virus vaccines are used, it is imperative that they also be protected from sunlight. Over 60% of viral particles in the bottle or syringe will be inactivated by only 1 hour of exposure to sunlight. Keeping the vaccine bottles and syringes in a cooler except when animals are actually being injected will help protect the product from both heat and sunlight.

• Working cattle. Try to gather cattle into loose grass traps or large pens near the working facility where they have plenty of space prior to
being worked. If possible, this should be done the evening before working the cattle. Try to have all work completed by 10:00 in the morning. Also, fresh water needs to be available both before and soon after working through the chute.

We can’t escape an occasional drought, but we can manage our way around them and reduce their negative impact. With a little advance planning, early weaning can be accomplished and the herd set up to recover more quickly once it finally starts raining again.


From Mama to Autonomy: Weaning ways
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.


by: Heather Smith Thomas
Reprinted from

Fall is a good time to run cattle through the chute for their semi annual vaccinations. Many ranchers try to accomplish as much as they can during this trip through the chute including pregnancy checking, applying substances to control parasites, vaccinating pregnant cows, and perhaps bangs vaccinating heifer calves while the veterinarian is there, if you live in a state that requires Brucellosis vaccination of heifers.
Pregnancy testing time is the best time to vaccinate and delouse cows, and there is no point in treating an open cow who will soon be sold. Vaccinations and Fall treatments can be given to each animal after the veterinarian determines whether or not she’s pregnant. At the same time, you should also consider the following management practices to keep your cow herd in tip top shape.

Cull open cows

Most ranchers sell cows who turn up open, since there is no profit in running a cow an extra year without producing a calf. If you are producing seedstock, trying to raise cattle who are fertile and efficient, you’ll want to cull any cows who are less fertile and efficient than the rest of the herd. Your customers who are buying seedstock from you want genetics that will improve their herds and increase their profitability. Culling open cows and late calvers can dramatically alter a rancher’s profit picture. A “freeloader” cow costs as much to maintain as a good, early calving cow, and it does not pay to keep her. The occasional exception may be a first calf two year old who raised a good calf, but didn’t breed back because she was putting so much energy into milk. This is a hard age, since the heifer is still growing and trying to produce milk; she may not cycle in time to breed back during a short breeding season (and most ranchers try to have a short season, so the calves are grouped in age and size). Some of these good young cows, with their whole life still ahead of them, may be profitable to keep, if a rancher has the feed to run them the extra year. But an older cow has no excuse for being open and it is wise to sell her.


Ranchers in many regions must vaccinate at least twice a year for Redwater, to keep from losing cattle. The current 8 way clostridial vaccine protects against Blackleg, Malignant Edema, Sudden Death Syndrome, Redwater, Black’s Disease, and types B, C and D Enterotoxemia. Adult cattle do not need to be vaccinated against all of those, but since there is no other vaccine for Redwater and Black’s Disease, this is the only option for ranchers who must protect cattle from these health hazards.

Clostridial vaccines can cause tissue reaction and swelling and sometimes abscesses and scar tissue. No matter which clostridial vaccine you use, it should always be given subcutaneously, and preferable in the side of the neck. That way, any tissue damage that occurs can be easily trimmed out at slaughter without sacrificing good parts of the beef carcass.

Most veterinarians now recommend vaccinating all cows for Leptospirosis in the Fall as well as in the Spring. Leptospira can cause abortion at any stage of pregnancy, and the Lepto vaccination is effective for only six months. Lepto is one of the few truly cheap vaccines, so it makes sense to protect bred cows throughout pregnancy by means of semi annual Lepto vaccinations.

Some herd management specialists also advocate twice a year vaccination for IBR and BVD, in some herds. Since pregnant cows cannot be given modified live virus vaccinations for these diseases without risk of abortion, the standard procedure is to use modified live virus vaccine before the breeding season in the Spring, and a killed vaccine product during pregancy, in the Fall. This type of program is not necessary in all herds, but is very beneficial in some, especially for young cows (first and second calvers).

Yearling heifers need two doses of Scour Guard before calving. This product will help prevent scours in newborn calves. Timing of the second dose is critical — it must be given at least two weeks before heifers start to calve. But the first dose can be given as much as a year before the second dose. Most ranchers wait until pregnancy testing time to give the first dose, simply because it doesn’t make economic sense to put nearly two dollars worth of scours vaccine into an open heifer. Giving it in the Fall is better than waiting until calving season is near and hoping you have enough time between doses for the shots to do any good.

Any cows which did not receive a Scour Guard injection last year need two doses before calving, in order to confer immunity to calves through colostrum. Yearling heifers and any cows you may have added to your herd during the past year should get an initial priming dose at preg checking time.

Check with your local veterinarian for advice on a vaccination program and schedule that will protect against common diseases in your area and specific situation. You won’t need to worry about venereal diseases if your cattle are in a controlled breeding situation — bred only to your own uninfected bulls. You won’t need to give clostridial vaccine to adult cattle unless you live in the mountain West. But you will need to vaccinate for Leptospirosis wherever you are, and sometimes IBR and BVD.


Parasite control is also important in a Fall management program. The primary parasites to worry about are grubs, lice, worms and in some locations liver flukes. Many ranchers use a pour on product that is effective against both grubs and lice, and some use Ivermectin to control grubs, lice and worms. Ivomec (a brand of ivermectin) has the advantage of killing both external and internal parasites, but does not kill liver flukes or tapeworms. In order to control biting lice, Ivomec pour on must be used. Injectable Ivomec does a very good job on grubs and sucking lice, but not biting lice.

Lice are one of the most costly and underrated parasites of cattle, accounting for millions of dollars lost each year due to reduced feed conversion, weight loss, anemia and sometimes even death. During the last cold months of Winter and into early Spring, lice can be a constant cause of irritation putting additional stress on cattle and draining energy reserves.

Most veterinarians recommend Fall treatment of all cattle for lice control. You should also assume that any new animal brought into the herd is carrying lice. New animals should be isolated and treated, whatever time of year it’s brought in, before being put with the herd. Most products for lice have a two treatment protocol and the new animals should be kept isolated until they’ve had both treatments. Any animal in the herd suspected of having lice should be treated in early Fall before lice populations build up (to help keep lice from spreading to the rest of the herd) and all animals should be treated in late Fall before infestation becomes severe. Effective control of lice requires two treatments two weeks apart if using a product that kills only lice and not the eggs. The second treatment kills lice that hatch out in between.

If cattle are being put through a chute, a pour on is usually the simplest way to control lice. Oil based pour ons are formulated to travel through the hair coat so the chemical spreads over the whole body of the animal. Other pour ons are systemic and absorbed into the body to kill lice, grubs and other internal parasites at the same time. Some of these must be used before Winter to avoid toxic reactions due to grubs being killed while migrating through the esophagus or spinal nerve canal.

The dying grubs release substances that cause swelling and inflammation in the tissues (choking or bloat in the esophagus, or temporary paralysis if in the spinal canal), which could lead to death of the animal unless the reaction is reduced with prompt and proper treatment. Check with your veterinarian for advice on insecticides and which products might be best for your situation and climate. Cattle can be treated for grubs after heel fly season is over, no more risk of new eggs being laid, and about three months before the anticipated first appearance of grubs. Treatment for grubs in northern regions should be given before December, while treatments in warm southern states should be no later than mid October.

Check each cow closely

This is also a good time to check cows for problems that might affect future health or productivity. As they go through the chute, check cows’ eyes for injury or signs of early cancer lesions (these are primarily a problem in cows with non pigmented skin, but do occasionally occur in dark skinned cattle), which can often be successfully treated in early stages, before they become malignant. Check face and jaw lumps to see if they are soft tissue abscesses that should be drained or bony infections that must be treated with sodium iodide.

Check teeth on any older cow who seems to be losing weight (a cow who has lost teeth may not be able to chew feed properly and will be difficult to keep in proper body condition to feed her calf and breed back). This is the time to make culling decisions on cows with serious problems such as bad teeth, bony lump jaw, bad eyes, bad udders, etc. It’s also a good time to carefully assess body condition to see if cows came through summer in good flesh (if pastures were good) or thin (if pastures were dry or sparse towards Fall). This will help you decide whether to wean calves early to enable cows to regain needed weight before cold weather.

Body Condition Scores are rated 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese). Most stockmen try to keep cows at score 5 or 6 for best health and fertility. The ideal score will depend upon the genetics of the cattle; some cows need more flesh covering than others to cycle and breed successfully and produce milk for their calves. Know your cattle and try to keep enough flesh on them for optimum production.

When weaning calves and putting cows through Winter, remember that high producing cows may have body condition pulled down more than the cows who give less milk, and will go into Fall and Winter carrying less flesh. These high producing cows need a higher plane of Winter nutrition to get ready for the next calving and lactation. A good practice is to check body condition in Fall and sort out thin cows and young ones (yearlings, first calvers and sometimes second calvers) to feed separately. If cows will be on hay or any type of supplement during Fall and early Winter, this will ensure the young or thin ones get their share. It is not cost effective to feed the whole herd to meet the needs of young ones and thin ones; the majority of the cows don’t need the extra feed. It’s better to sort them in the Fall, or whenever they go from an adequate pasture to dry pastures or hay, so the ones who need the extra nutrients will be the ones who get it.

Cows should not be left on marginal Fall or Winter pastures while still nursing calves, or they’ll lose too much body condition. A research project at Kansas State University a few years ago showed that cows on unsupplemented pasture who continued nursing calves until December lost about 150 pounds and 1.5 points in body condition score by their next calving. If calves must be left on the cows this late, pasture must be supplemented. When the pastures get dry, it is often better to wean the calves. It is cheaper to supplement the weaned calves, rather than the whole herd.

Fall working is one of the rancher’s best opportunities to make management decisions that improve the herd health situation and also affect profit or loss. This is a good chance to have “hands on” every cow and to know what is happening.

For Ranch Wives Everywhere

Reprinted – Source unknown

This time of year, when the cattle are being worked and shipped, is usually a time of high stress on ranch marriages – not unlike calving, lambing, planting, haying, combining, feeding, and all of the other seasons of ranch wife life.
Julie Carter of Carrizozo, New Mexico, whose ‘Cowgirl Sass’ articles sometimes appear in Agri-News, wrote these Ranch Wife 101 Guidelines, which seem very appropriate to share during shipping season. She is obviously a genius because these are good enough to hang on the refrigerator!

Never – and I repeat never – ever believe the phrase, ‘We’ll be right back,’ when he has asked you to help him do something on the ranch. The echoing words, ‘This will only take a little while,’ have tricked generations of ranch wives and still today should invoke sincere distrust in the woman who hears them.
Always know there is no romantic intention when he pleadingly asks you to take a ride in the pickup with him around the ranch while he checks water and cattle. What that sweet request really means is that he wants someone to open the gates.

He will always expect you to be able to quickly find one stray in a four-section brush-covered pasture, but he will never be able to find the mayonnaise jar in a four-square-foot refrigerator.
Always load your horse last in the trailer so it is the first one unloaded. By the time he gets his horse unloaded, you will have your cinch pulled and be mounted up – lessening the chance of him riding off without you while your horse tries to follow with you hopping along beside it, still trying to get your foot in the stirrup.

Count everything you see – cattle especially, but also horses, deer, quail or whatever moves. Count it in the gate, or on the horizon. The first time you don’t count is when he will have expected that you did. That blank eyelash-batting look you give him when he asks, ‘How many?’ will not be acceptable.

Know that you will never be able to ride a horse or drive a pickup to suit him. Given the choice of jobs, choose throwing the feed off the back of the truck to avoid the opportunity for constant criticism of your speed, ability, and eyesight. ( How in the $@*!&* could you NOT see that hole?’)

Never allow yourself to be on foot in the alley when he is sorting cattle on horseback. When he has shoved 20 head of running, bucking, kicking yearlings at you and hollers, ‘Hold ‘em, hold ‘em!’ at the top of his lungs, don’t think that you really can do that without loss of life or limb. Contrary to what he will lead you to believe, walking back to the house is always an option that has been exercised throughout time.

Don’t expect him to correctly close snap-on tops on plastic refrigerator containers, but know he will expect you to always close every gate. His reasoning is that the cows will get out, but the food cannot.
Always praise him lavishly when he helps in the kitchen – the very same way he does when you help him with ranch work – OR NOT!

Finally, know that when you step out of the house, you move from ‘wife’ to ‘hired hand’ status. Although the word ‘hired’ indicates there will be a paycheck (that you will never see), rest assured that you have job security. The price is just right, and you will always be ‘the best help he has’ – mainly because you are the ONLY help he has!”

Best Bald Spot

Well we loaded up with great anticipation the livestock (12 head but it felt like 40) and 4 grandkids and headed to Houston. Everything was good and going well. But were we ever surprised when we arrived and unloaded. There before our eyes were some bald spots. Now these were not little either, as a matter of fact they looked HUGE to us. And not on one heifer but two, no THREE (yikes)!! We couldn’t believe our eyes and the grandkids were shocked they had worked so hard on that hair and now here they were with heifers and bald spots. But we began to look around and realized we were not alone and that was comforting (if you can be comforted in that situation). So I thought hey why not have a Biggest Bald Spot Award. Surely we could win that one with hands down from the looks of it. With that thought in mind of having a fun award I began to ask anyone that wanted to join in to come on and many did. Even Jeff Fulgham entered, but not his heifer (who had no bald spot), he entered his own head can you believe that. Well when the voting was done we had a winner. And the winner was not LK Robinson Farms with that huge bald spot on that heifer but instead Jeff Fulgham and the bald spot on his head. Jeff in turn donated his bald spot winnings to the MHYF and was just happy to have received the very first Biggest Bald Spot Award given at a Miniature Hereford Show (and hopefully the last but who knows maybe not). His winnings and donation totaled $200.00. We want to thank everyone that participated and Jeff for his donation to the Miniature Hereford Youth Foundation. Hope to see everyone again next year and hopefully with no bald spots.
Sherry Robinson
LK Robinson Farms Inc.

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.