Get cow-calf pairs out onto clean ground, such as fresh pasture, and give them as much space as possible. That’s how Ryan McCarron sidestepped a calf scours outbreak on his eastern Nova Scotia farm in 2019.
McCarron, who farms with family members at Antigonish, about 160 km northeast of Halifax, became alarmed when a few calves became sick and died early in the 2019 spring calving season.
“It was a frustrating situation,” says McCarron. “Calves were getting sick, we treated them but several still died. Something had to change.”
Necropsy examinations showed the dead calves had picked up a harmful strain of E. coli bacteria, likely from fecal contamination of the soil in the yard next to the barn, which led to the serious and fatal cases of scours. Continue reading
Calving is a natural process, but sometimes disease, weather, and many other factors can cause stress. How can beef producers best prepare newborn calves to get a healthy start? What are some effective ways to enable calves to be resilient against bugs like bacteria, viruses or other pathogens they will encounter? How can farmers and ranchers manage disease if and when it strikes?
“Having healthy calves takes planning,” said Dr. Claire Windeyer, Assistant Professor in Cattle Health at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Program. Windeyer shared a number of useful ideas during two previous webinars, Management During Calving Season for Healthier, More Productive Calves and Managing Young Calves to Prevent Disease. Many practices can be implemented on-farm immediately and there are links below to particular segments of the video. Continue reading
Whether it is the Sandhills Calving System or a variation, the objective is the same.
Photo supplied by Dr. Claire Windeyer
Doug Wray believes in keeping newborn calves separated as much as possible from other two-week and older calves on his south-central Alberta farm to avoid livestock congestion and dramatically reduce the risk of congregated calves developing and spreading scours. And for the past several years the plan has worked.
Wray, who along with family members operates Wray Ranch near Irricana, north of Calgary, has developed this calving-on-pasture system over the past 10 years. In his year-round grazing system, his herd of about 300 bred cows moves onto grass about May 10. They actually begin calving May 1 on swath grazing and then by May 10 the pregnant cows move to grass and the first batch of cows-with-calves stay behind.
The first grass pasture is 160 acres in size, divided into eight 20-acre paddocks.
“The herd is managed in one group on pasture for about two weeks before we make the first split,” says Wray. At roughly the first two-week mark cows with calves (usually about 120 head) “are taken to fresh pasture in one direction, while the bred cows head to new grass in another direction,” he explains. Wray essentially runs two herds at Continue reading