How Telemedicine Can Be a Tool to Support the Health of Your Herd

Bov-Innovation: How telemedicine can be a tool to support the health of your herd


Pictured from left: Dr. Elizabeth Homerosky, Dr. Eugene Janzen, Alberta rancher Stephen Hughes and Dr. Tommy Ware

Picture this: you are checking calves and notice one is wobbly and having trouble. The closest bovine veterinarian is two hours away, but you are unsure whether this calf truly requires medical attention. You don’t want to waste the veterinarian’s afternoon, or yours, checking on what might be a non-emergency, but you could use an expert opinion. It may be possible to video call for a quick answer.

Veterinary telemedicine provides a unique opportunity to improve and streamline the way producers access their veterinarians and how veterinarians provide care to rural producers.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I guess a video is worth a thousand miles,” says Elizabeth Homerosky, DVM, Msc, DABVP, who practices near Airdrie, Alberta. “It’s hard for us to get to a lot of these operations quite regularly throughout the winter, so we feel like we have eyes on the cows and eyes on the place.”

In the following clip, presented during last year’s Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC) Bov-Innovation session, Dr. Homerosky and Dr. Tommy Ware, DVM, both with Veterinary Agri-Health Services, discuss the value of videos captured by producers as another tool to help monitor and treat herd health issues in remote locations.

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Calving Records Will Be Especially Valuable This Year

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
red newborn cow calf on straw
Last month’s column profiled a beef cow productivity study that coincided with the massive 2001-02 drought that impacted most of Western Canada. That study got less attention than it deserved, because Canada’s entire beef industry became preoccupied with BSE in 2003. But research is an investment, and the lessons learned from research done two decades ago are still paying dividends today. This month’s column focuses on what that study learned about reproductive performance.

What They Did:

Dr. Cheryl Waldner and her colleagues from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine examined factors affecting the productivity of over 30,000 beef cows in more than 200 well-managed herds across Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Peace Region of B.C. Participating producers individually identified each cow and calf, recorded all calf births, maintained an active veterinary-client-patient relationship, had good animal handling facilities, pregnancy tested all breeding females, had a veterinarian evaluate all herd bulls, had an established spring or summer breeding season (i.e., didn’t calve year-round), and worked with the researchers to collect the needed samples and data. These results have been published in Theriogenology 79:1083-1094, Theriogenology 81:840-848 and Livestock Science 163:126-139.

What They Learned:

This spring’s calving records can help identify cows that are less likely to rebreed successfully or more likely to have problems next spring. Continue reading

Optimum Condition = Maximum Production

When feed supplies are short, it may be tempting to feed less and allow cows to lose body condition, but this short-term solution can have a long-term impact on the performance and profitability of a cow herd. A herd of cows maintained in the right condition with an ideal layer of fat cover will have more (and heavier!) calves than a herd of thin or over-fat cows.

In a drought year, when feed access and quality is uncertain, hands on body condition scoring (BCS) is a simple and accurate method to assess the condition and productivity of your herd. Continue reading

Decision Making During Drought


Canadian beef cattle during drought in pasture with dwindling water supply
Producers coping with severe drought and feed shortages have tough decisions to make about culling, weaning and cow management. The following considerations may be helpful when making herd decisions in the coming weeks and into the fall:

Culling

  • Know what feed sources you have available and the true nutritional quality of them so you can make the best decisions for your herd. Sending representative feed samples to a lab for analysis and working with a nutritionist or livestock specialist who can interpret the results and help develop balanced rations is crucially important.
  • Prevent cows you plan to keep in the herd from losing too much condition. Cows with an ideal amount of fat cover (a body condition score of 3.0) eat less and are easier to maintain through the winter and get rebred. Cull early to help keep the remainder of the herd in good condition.
  • Now is a good time to let go of any cattle you have let slide through in previous culls. Check your records. Cull anything that has a bad temperament, that has been treated repeatedly for health issues or that weans calves that perform below your herd benchmarks.
  • The value of the investment in pregnancy checking your herd is even more evident in dry years as it allows you to cull any open or late-calving cows.
  • Consider culling any bulls that are older or that are producing less desirable progeny based on your records.

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The hand is better than the eye when it comes to cattle condition



Reproduction is the single most important factor in the productivity of a cow-calf operation. Body condition (amount of fat cover) is a key factor in reproductive success. New research from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine suggests that a body condition score (BCS) of 3.0 is the ideal fat cover for beef cows for several reasons, including:

  • very high pregnancy rates
  • very high percentage will show estrus 30 days after calving
  • high calf weaning weights
  • low abortion and stillbirth rates
  • low risk of severe dystocia

Body condition scoring is a low cost, hands-on method to determine the condition of cattle. This easy hands-on method is much more accurate than just looking at the animals. Continue reading

Based on 2017 calf prices, how much did last summer’s cows in ideal condition earn?



Because cows maintained with an ideal layer of fat cover will have higher reproductive efficiency, they positively impact an operation’s economics. Sorting and feeding groups based on body condition helps avoid over-feeding cows in adequate condition, particularly when only part of the herd needs extra feed.

As the cattle and feed grain markets change, the economic implications of maintaining the right body condition of cows also change. When calf prices move higher, the economic benefit of maintaining the right body condition score (BCS) is larger. Meanwhile, when feed costs are high, the cost of adding condition to cows will be higher. Continue reading

Different approaches/same goal for winter management of heifers

Recognizing replacement and first calf heifers need extra management, producers take different paths to get to the same destination.



Beef producers like Darren Bevans in Alberta, Tyler Fulton in Manitoba and Murray Shaw in southwest Ontario know that replacement and first calf heifers need some extra attention, especially heading into and over winter — the heifers are not only pregnant and about to produce calves, but these young females are still growing themselves.

The “extra attention” doesn’t require over the top management, but just paying attention to feed and weather conditions to ensure heifers maintain a proper body condition to meet the nutritional requirements of the unborn calf as well as to support their own body growth.

In their respective operations, with extended fall and winter grazing programs, Bevans and Fulton manage heifers separate from their main cowherds so that Continue reading

Are those girls in good shape? Raise your beef IQ


beef_cattle_fact6_body_condition_reproduction_2017 600x600 web

The productivity, and by association profitability, of a beef cow largely depends on the amount of fat that she carries. Cows with a body condition score of 3.0 have higher pregnancy rates, heavier and healthier calves, and re-breed sooner than cows with lower body condition scores. They also typically have fewer calving difficulties and increased milk production compared to cows with high body condition scores.

Cows in ideal condition are not only more likely to get bred, they’ll rebreed up to 30 days sooner than thin cows, which means more calves on the ground in the first 21 day cycle. This can add up to 42 extra pounds of weaning weight to these earlier born calves.

Eyeballing body condition is often not accurate, so hands-on scoring is recommended.  Feel for fat cover at the short ribs, spine, hooks and pins and either side of the tail head.

By scoring cows around the calving season, you’ll be able to identify animals with a BCS lower than 3.0 and work to get their condition back up before breeding. Scoring when it’s convenient throughout the year will help you identify which animals are maintaining, gaining or losing condition (despite their deceptive hair coat!) and manage them accordingly.

To calculate the difference between the value of weaned calf crops from cows maintained at different body condition scores, visit:  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/body-condition-scoring.cfm

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5 articles for cow-calf producers heading into fall

With Fall around the corner, it’s a good time to (re)consider a few production practices. These 5 articles are full of ideas, scientific evidence, producer testimonials and interactive calculators. By taking a closer look at their options and potential, you may discover more ways to benefit your herd and bottom line.

Feed cows, not worms

Picture1
Managing internal parasites
Internal parasites can be much more detrimental to your bottom line than you may realize. Effective parasite control can have a greater economic impact on cow calf operations than many other management procedures. To learn more about the options for internal parasite control and how to prevent resistance to dewormers:

  1. Visit www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/internal-parasites-50, and
  2. Register for our upcoming webinar on managing internal parasites: www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

Reduce sickness and sell more pounds
Preconditioning


By spreading out the stressors that normally occur at weaning (change in diet, vaccination, transport, etc.), calves gain more weight per dollar. Does that mean
net profits for cow-calf producers? See for yourself
by Continue reading

How to improve weaning weights, conception rates and calf health: Webinar November 24

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

It is clear that the value of a calf crop is related to the number and weight of calves, but you may be very surprised by how much those factors are influenced by the cows’ body condition.

Join this free webinar to learn more about the impact cows’ fat cover has on conception rates, calf health and weaning weights. Our guest speakers will explain how to accurately determine whether cows are under- or over-conditioned, and offer practical tips on how to manage their nutrition accordingly in order to economically increase the value of your calf crop.

When



Tuesday November 24th at 7pm MST

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB
  • 8:00pm in SK and MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Duration

Approximately 1 hour.

Cost

BCRC webinars are available and free of charge thanks to guest speakers who volunteer their time and expertise to support advancements in the Canadian beef industry, and through the Knowledge Dissemination and Technology Transfer project funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster.

Register now


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https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1156073074814546177 Continue reading