Producers with large herds are believers in low stress weaning

Editor’s note: The following is the second in a two part series. See part one about the research behind two-stage weaning.

Producers who have tried it, say they are sold on reduced-stress weaning techniques. Of four beef producers across Canada contacted who have used low stress weaning measures for several years, one favoured the fence line low stress weaning system, while the others all preferred the two-stage weaning system, commercially known as QuietWean.

Fence-line weaning, which has been used by some producers for generations, is a low-stress one-stage weaning system that involves sorting cows and calves on weaning day and then dividing the two groups with some type of fencing. Cows and calves can still see each other, and often can still have nose-to-nose contact, but the fencing prevents calves from nursing. In most set ups cows and calves can wander away from the fence line to continue feeding or grazing. After about three or four days the two groups appear to lose interest in each other — weaning is complete. Continue reading

Low-stress weaning benefits on several levels

Editor’s note: The following is the first in a two-part series on low stress weaning. In part two, you’ll hear directly from producers with large herds that use these methods.

There is way more to it than just going to bed with a yard full of quiet cattle, but that’s one of the notable spinoff benefits cow-calf producers from across Canada attribute to low-stress weaning systems they’ve used for several years.

Producers say calves that are eased into weaning perform better immediately after weaning, they observe considerably fewer cases of stress-related diseases, the anxiety and stress demonstrated by both cows and calves during the more traditional abrupt or cold weaning is virtually eliminated, and yes the farm yard is much quieter, too.

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The heat is on

With many parts of the country experiencing extreme heat, it is important to remember that cattle aren’t able to dissipate heat well and are more susceptible to heat stress. Cattle can experience heat stress at temperatures around 26oC, depending on the relative humidity.  They don’t sweat as efficiently as other mammals, and the rumen produces a lot of heat through the process of fermentation; their temperature spikes four to six hours after feeding.

Heat stress can result in reduced feed intake, reduced daily gain, and death in extreme situations. Secondary effects such as acidosis or sickness from going off feed may also be an issue. Heat can reduce bull activity and change the way a cow shows signs of estrous which can result in a prolonged calving season. These various effects can add up to big dollars lost from a producer’s pocketbook if the risk or effects of heat stress aren’t reduced.

The risk or effects of heat stress can be reduced by: Continue reading

Pain, Pain, Go Away

Beef producers are busy in the spring and summer months processing cattle, performing common procedures such as castration and dehorning. Producers may also brand their cattle as a form of identification. These practices are commonplace on beef farms across Canada, and in many cases are necessary for the long-term health and welfare of the animals, however they cause pain. Reports show that producers and veterinarians who incorporate pain control measures during painful procedures often describe ease of use and potential improved gains in their herds.

Pain control is becoming a priority among producers and scientists as anesthetics and analgesics, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are more readily available.

How can producers mitigate pain in beef cattle effectively? Are there practical ways to manage pain in real life conditions? What is a Continue reading

Maintaining momentum during the breeding season

Reproductive wrecks can happen all at once or slowly over several years. With breeding season just around the corner, producers should be considering ways to maximize conception rates in their cow herds. Using fertile bulls is one part of the equation, but what about the reproductive management of cows? What are some strategies producers can use this season to make sure their cows are reaching their breeding potential?

John Campbell, DVM, from the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, shared his insight on boosting calf crop percentage and achieving reproductive goals during a BCRC webinar. Continue reading

This Will Make Your Skin Crawl

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Cattle won’t be the only creatures enjoying fresh pasture this spring; so will the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick, which can transmit anaplasmosis and other bloodborne diseases. Anaplasmosis was removed from the Federally Reportable Disease list in 2014, so the government is no longer responsible for dealing with anaplasmosis outbreaks or compensating producers with affected herds. Understanding where these ticks are and what influences their population will help develop proactive strategies to avoid the spread of tickborne disease.

Ticks have a three-stage life cycle. Tick larvae emerge from the egg and feed once on blood from small mammals (mice, voles, squirrels, etc.). The engorged larvae then molt into nymphs that also feed once on small mammals. The engorged nymphs molt into adults that feed on larger animals, including dogs, sheep, deer, and cattle. If the adult ticks cannot find a host, they may overwinter under plant material on the ground and re-emerge in spring. Adult ticks begin Continue reading

How quickly do water systems pay for themselves? New calculator available

Allowing cattle access to clean water can improve herd health, as well as  increase weight gain and backfat. A 2005 study reported that calves whose dams drank from water troughs gained on average 0.09 lbs per day more than calves whose dams had direct access to the dugout. Because water and forage intake are closely related, as cows drink more water they also spend more time eating and therefore produce more milk for their calves. Calves with access to clean pumped water were on average 18 lbs heavier at weaning time. A separate study in 2002 found that calves, with dams drinking clean water, gained 9% more weight than calves Continue reading

A few key practices can reduce internal parasite resistance

Resistance is something we currently hear a lot about in agriculture, including the issue of parasite resistance in beef cattle. As spring approaches, producers may have questions about their parasite management decisions. How can livestock operators effectively manage internal parasites in their herds? What can they do to reduce the risk of parasite resistance?

Parasites are a normal part of the gut flora of pastured cattle. Left unmanaged, however, internal parasites can cause insidious production losses including a reduction in weights. Dr. John Gilleard, with the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, covered internal parasite management in beef cattle during a recent BCRC webinar.

Strategies to Managing Parasites

Grazing management, proper biosecurity protocols, monitoring parasite loads, and strategic deworming are all tools producers can use to manage for parasites. Gilleard also suggests following the “Five C’s:” Continue reading

How Castration Method and Age Affect Pain in Young Calves

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Canada’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle requires that castration be performed by an experienced person who uses proper, clean, well-maintained equipment and accepted techniques. A producer is expected to seek guidance from their veterinarian on the optimum method and timing of castration, as well as the availability and advisability of pain control drugs for castrating beef cattle. Calves must be castrated as young as practically possible, and pain control is required when castrating bulls older than six months of age.

The requirement to use pain control in older calves was based on research demonstrating its effectiveness in feedlot bulls. A lot of information was also available regarding the use of pain drugs in baby dairy calves, but the beef producers and researchers on the Code committee felt that the vast differences in genetics, herd dynamics and familiarity with people meant that nursing beef calves may respond differently to castration than individually-housed dairy calves that had been weaned at birth. A research project funded by the Beef Science Cluster is helping to determine when pain control is beneficial in beef calves. As a first step, students working with Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein (AAFC Lethbridge) and Ed Pajor (University of Calgary) examined how Continue reading

Intranasal vaccines are timely and effective

As he follows a proper vaccination program for his cow-herd, Ryan Beierbach also makes sure calves on his southeast Saskatchewan ranch are afforded the same protection. And for the past three years that program has also included early-season treatment with a nasal vaccine, followed later with coverage with injectable products.

It’s all about providing the best protection for calves against common diseases from the get-go, says Beierbach, who ranches near Whitewood, just west of the Manitoba border.

He administers a three-way intranasal vaccine to pasture-born calves at anywhere from two weeks to two-and-a-half months of age. As the herd is processed after May-June calving, usually in early July, all calves also receive an eight-way injectable clostridial vaccine, including tetanus. And then at fall weaning, they also are vaccinated against IBR and BVD. Beierbach believes in covering the bases.

“From the research I’ve seen, the nasal vaccines do a better job of providing immunity to the calf early on,” says Beierbach. “And from my observations, I believe I am seeing improved health in my calves.” Continue reading