Going the Extra Mile By Caitlin Griffin

It’s that time of year to make sure your herd is up to par. Have you been checking on the productivity of your herd this year? Make sure your herd is up to date on vaccinations, provided with the proper minerals, good nutrition and parasite control. All four of these management practices go hand in hand to impact the productivity of the herd.

Developing the appropriate vaccination schedule for a herd is what prevents disease and is a must for any beef operation. Base the vaccinations on what type of herd you are managing and the region in which you are located. Diseases can be transmitted from wildlife, insects or simply from the environment itself. Even if you diligently vaccinate cattle, they may still get sick if they are below their nutrient requirements or have a mineral deficiency.

Trace mineral deficiencies can be corrected by using supplements (added to salt mixes) or given to each animal orally or by injection. Mineral concentrations can be used as a guide when choosing a mineral supplement to complement a particular feed ingredient. The most important points to consider when purchasing minerals are the calcium to phosphorus levels, salt level, bioavailability, level of “trace minerals” in the supplement, and additives. Mineral feeder placement is a very important part of supplying minerals to the cowherd. Make sure to use an adequate number of feeders for the stocking rate. A rule of thumb is to provide one mineral feeding station for every 30 to 50 cows. A great area to place mineral feeders are near water and near the best grazing areas.

Nutrition plays a big role in herd management. A balanced and adequate diet that fits each class of animal is essential. Whether we’re talking about young calves, lactating cows, bulls or yearlings, they each need a specific and sufficient diet to be able to perform and excel in production. Poor nutrition is a huge cause of diseases such as scours, respiratory illnesses, and foot rot, along with infertility in adults and slow growth in young animals. Pregnant cows with inadequate protein levels don’t produce enough colostrum for their newborn calves, which makes those babies more prone to disease during their first weeks of life. Separating heifers from older cows for winter feeding time is ideal because they are still growing and need a higher level of protein. Protein helps optimum health, growth, breeding, or to produce adequate colostrum if they’re pregnant with their first calves.

Always provide adequate sources of clean water because dirty water can spread disease. If cattle are short on water, they suffer from dehydration or impaction, and steers may develop urinary stones if they don’t drink enough during cold weather, causing their urine to become too concentrated. Parasite control can be overlooked because the herd may look healthy but parasites could be taking away nutrients. Parasites result in lower weaning weights in calves, less milk production, less efficient immune system, and lower reproduction rates. External parasite prevention can be maintained by using insecticide application or insecticide ear tags. Internal parasites can be prevented by vaccination. Also keep in mind that cattle that are spread out in a large area together are less prone to get internal parasites compared to cattle that are held in small areas. A healthy herd is a prosperous herd. These four essential management strategies play a huge role in maintaining that prosperous herd. So the main question is, are you making sure your herd is up to par?