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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Cut Costs Carefully

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Beef producers managing cows and calves in winter

Research that’s underway now won’t solve this year’s drought, but it should help us deal with the next one. By the same token, research done during the big drought of the early 2000s provides some valuable lessons about managing the cow herd in today’s drought.

Dr. Cheryl Waldner of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon led a large beef cow productivity study from the start of the 2001 breeding season through weaning in 2002. This corresponded to the widespread drought that impacted much of Western North America and inspired the original Hay West program.

What They Did:

They 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 British Columbia. 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., not calve year-round), and worked with the research team to collect the needed samples and data.

What They Learned:

Drought had significant impacts, even in these well-managed herds. Continue reading

Feeding Decisions Are Important Breeding Decisions

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the December 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

When life gets really stressful it can be hard to remember what you already know. This column probably won’t tell you anything new, but it might remind you of some important principles that can get overlooked in the scramble to buy feed and make important financial decisions.
Black Angus cattle eating hay as winter feed
Winter feed costs are a key financial make-or-break factor for cow-calf producers, especially this winter. Weaned calf sales bear most of the responsibility for offsetting those winter feed costs, so reproductive performance is another financial make-or-break factor. The most profitable cows are those that wean a calf every year for the greatest number of years.

The big challenge is that feed costs and reproductive performance are inseparable. Drastic measures to minimize per head feed costs usually have a negative impact on reproductive performance. Maximizing reproductive performance can increase feed costs significantly. But there can be some room to move in the middle. Maintaining or even improving reproductive performance can often be achieved by carefully managing the feed you have to maintain optimal body condition scores. This may mean spending money differently, not necessarily more of it, and will help maintain or improve reproductive performance. 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