2023 Fall Cattle Producers Newsletter
Wow, it’s been a long hot summer and, now that temps are coming down, it’s a good time to take stock of inventories and plan for winter. Is there enough hay, silage, fall grazing, cover crops to carry through the fall and winter? Do we need to reduce livestock inventory? Where do we find water and how do we keep animals safe from deep mud in ponds? These are some of the discussions I’ve had recently with several producers. I thought I should share some of the pertinent points.
Hay crop this year was majorly impacted by the heat and drought. The quality is probably pretty good as very little got wet during baling. It’s time to count your bales and count the days from when you start feeding till when you will have grass next spring. It will give you an idea of what you have. Do you have supplemental feed, silage or grain? A feed analysis and ration balancing may help in the planning. Some of you are hoping to graze corn stalks. There are some reports of NO3 (nitrate) toxicity, The stalks may be low in nitrates, but the fall showers will allow grass to sprout and grow rapidly in the corn field. With the dry year, some of the grass will be high in NO3 (nitrates). Watch the grazing animal closely for difficulty breathing, incoordination, and collapse.
Many of you are going to trim the herd and keep the best. You really need to do “bovine” inventory to see where your herd is strong and where it is weak. Preg check early in the fall, and all short-bred and open cows should take a ride to the sale barn. With this year’s hot weather, there could be several culls. Age the cows and the older pregnant cows may need to take a ride, also. Your feed should go to the best cows you have. Feed will have real monetary value this year. Put it where you will get the best return.
A good pregnancy exam, with staging of pregnancy, should allow you to group cows into a shorter calving season. With the drought, vitamin A & D injections could be a real help to maintain pregnancies. Multi-Min (minerals) injections may also be helpful. Feedstuff may be short so these additives could be useful. This is important for calves and cows. This year, instead of backgrounding calves till spring as normal, it may make sense to sell after weaning. Markets are good and you can concentrate on keeping a few replacement heifers instead of the whole weaned calf crop. Reduced chores and fewer animals could mean an easier, heathier winter.
If you haven’t weaned yet, do some pre-weaning vaccinations when gathering to preg check cows. After the preg check, wean in 2 - 3 weeks and give the necessary booster vaccinations then. Getting calves off the cows should save on feed bills for cows because they’re not expending energy making milk for the calf. If the cow has maintained an average body condition, you may not need supplemental feed for a while. Fall breeding cows need to be prepped for rebreeding. After pregnancy testing, vaccinate open cows with a modified live vaccine 4-6 weeks before turning the bull in. Killed vaccines, which are safer for bred cows, are in very short supply and most are on backorder until 2024. Vaccines that are available may be on allocation, limiting how many you or your vet can buy. Buy early and refrigerate the vaccine. Depending on the size of your herd, you may have to purchase from more than one seller. Don't count on needing tomorrow and picking up today. A lot of the vaccines are just not available. Plan early. Do not run cows vaccinated with modified live vaccine with bred cows, or even across a fence from bred cows. This could result in pregnancy loss.
Are your bulls still with the cows? A cow bred now (Sept 14) will calve June 20 or later next year. Don’t keep spreading your calving period out. Late calving cows will never rejoin the bulk of the cow herd without skipping a cycle. Time to say Goodbye and let them join a herd on someone else’s farm. Your bulls need rest, especially if you have a fall calving herd. With this year's weather, fertility may have dropped due to heat stress. If you’re going to turn bulls in to breed for fall calves, you should provide 6-8 weeks rest for the bulls. This means they need to be up near the barn exchanging gossip and relaxing (pulled now in cattle producer talk) if you haven’t done it yet. Get them tested before you put them back to work (fall turnout). Be sure that they are ready to go and fertile. While they are caught for fertility testing, go ahead and vaccinate, deworm, give an A/D vitamin injection, and a dose of Multi-Min to bring them up to the mark.
Weaning those calves!
**FeraPease is a new product that helps reduce animal stress from weaning, moving, and processing. A small dose applied on the bridge of the nose and behind the poll of cattle lasts 14 days. There is a lot of information of it providing benefits to keep cattle on feed, reduce shrink, and making them easier to handle after use. Give RBVS a call to discuss this exciting product with Doc Monfort, Doctor Beyer or Dr. Westerhold.
Preg check the cow herd and haul culls to market. Vaccinate the breeding cows, deworm and give supplement injections.
2 to 3 weeks after preg checks and initial vaccinations, wean the calves and give any boosters needed. Supported by research, a product called **FeraPease, topically applied to weaning calves, will help alleviate stress, leading to fewer sick calves and better appetite. Use this now. It should pay in the long run.
Water may be fall’s biggest issue for everyone. Ponds are extremely low if not dry. A lot of producers have had cows get mired in the mud. Fencing ponds off, keeping cattle out and away from the muddy edges, and using a siphon hose is probably a better way if you don’t have dam waterers in place. Siphoning water to a tank lower down should help. We have had some reports of blue-green algae. Dr. Westerhold says that in her days with extension service, if it looks like JD Green paint on top of the water, there was a good chance of Blue Green Algae on test. We’ve attached a link to a simple jar test that may help. Water samples can also be sent to KSU Diagnostic Lab for testing. If an animal gets down in the pond or pond mud, be safe in assisting their removal. Get help, use a flat bottom boat or kayak to help you get out to them. Don’t get bogged down yourself. Use long ropes or cables to get ahold of them with halters around their head when you can. Be safe.
Let us know what we can help with. Red Barn Veterinary Service has two ultrasounds and can usually find pregnancy down to 35-40 days. Staging out to 4-5 months is usually accurate. I recommend you plan for preg checking sooner than later. Don’t waste feed on open cows. Give RBVS a call to get on the schedule. While we like big groups, it may be easier to do them in smaller groups. We will try to work with you.
If you’ve got other comments related to surviving the drought, preparing for winter, and preserving your herd let us know. We are always open to good ideas.