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Alternative Forage Options

While many areas have gotten recent rain, drought is still in effect in many areas of the country.

Drought conditions were pronounced during the 2018 forage growing season, resulting in reduced growth of cool-season grasses and legumes. Some areas have reached severe and extreme drought conditions. Cattle producers have a low supply of forage and hay this year. University of Missouri Extension Agronomist Dhruba Dhakal offers some alternative or emergency forage options to feed beef cattle during fall, winter and spring.

Dhakal says stockpiling tall fescue is one of the cheapest and easiest options for fall and winter grazing, if fescue stands are strong. If plants are still alive and there is more than 75% fescue left, fertilize with 40-60 pounds (lb.) of nitrogen (N) per acre in late August to early September, then close the gates. Allow grass to grow until November. Then, begin cattle grazing. Read more.

Preparing for Breeding Season During Drought

Consider supplementation strategies to counter reduced quantity and quality of forages.

In a rangeland environment blessed by adequate precipitation, nature does a pretty good job of providing adequate nutrition for the well-adapted bovine to thrive and reproduce. With sufficient rain, forage typically provides the needed nutrients. However, what about those times when moisture becomes scarce?

Speaking at the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle workshop hosted Aug. 29-30 in Ruidoso, N.M., ruminant nutritionist Eric Scholljegerdes said forage quality and quantity can decline quickly after the onset of drought. The New Mexico State University animal scientist cited the sorry forage conditions resulting from the severe drought of 2010-2013, when crude protein content of forages on the university’s research ranch at Corona declined to as low as 3%. Energy values (total digestible nutrients, or TDN) hovered around 40%. Read more.

VFD Update

VFD has been in effect for almost two years; veterinarian gives insight on its implementation.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, beef producers had to comply with a new rule regarding use of antibiotics in feed. Russ Daly, Extension veterinarian with South Dakota State University, says the veterinary feed directive (VFD) works like a prescription.

“If a beef producer needs to use medication in feed, the veterinarian fills out the form, and you take the form to the feed store, and they sell you the medication for your cattle,” he explains.

The purpose was to give veterinarians more oversight of how certain medications are used in livestock feed. It doesn’t affect every feed additive. Tetracyclines are the main antibiotics for which the VFD is needed, he says. Read more.

Doomsday Strategy

Keep a contingency feeding plan in your back pocket for those worst-case scenarios.

Weather disasters happen. Feed supplies can get very tight or be of low quality. Hopefully, doomsday scenarios will never be needed, but as the old saying goes, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” University of Missouri Assistant Professor and State Beef Extension Specialist Eric Bailey offers ways to limp the herd along if absolutely necessary.

If hay quality is terrible, at less than 6% crude protein (CP) and less than 45% total digestible nutrients (TDN), he offers these strategies for both fall- and spring-calving herds. Read more.

Adverse Reactions

Some allergic reactions can be treated; here are tips to watch for.

Occasionally cattle react to vaccine or medication, whether injected, applied topically or given orally. An allergic reaction can be mild and local, like swelling at an injection site, for instance, or serious and fatal if the animal goes into anaphylactic shock.

Many of the things we administer are foreign to the animal’s body. In the case of vaccines, the goal is for the body to recognize it as foreign and develop antibodies to combat these foreign agents — antigens — in the future. Vaccine enables the animal to create an immune response. On occasion, the animal may develop an acute allergic reaction to a foreign substance. Reactions range in severity from hives and itching to systemic shock with fluid in the lungs and sudden death. Read more.

Impacts of Water on Reproduction

The most important nutrient, water plays an important role in cattle health and reproductive performance.

Water. Good old H20. It is the most important nutrient. Water comprises 60%-70% of the body weight of an adult bovine beast. In its early stages, an embryo is about 90% water. It plays an essential role in synthesis of body fluid, thermoregulation, osmotic pressure regulation and waste elimination. Water is essential to production, to reproduction — to life.

During the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle workshop Aug. 29-30 in Ruidoso, N.M., New Mexico State University Beef Cattle Specialist Craig Gifford talked about water and the livestock water quality problems ranchers face.

Gifford explained that water consumption by cattle is highly variable, ranging from 6 gallons to 15 gallons per day for a dry pregnant cow, and from 11 gallons to 18 gallons daily for a cow nursing a calf. Read more.

Bloat Treatment

Beef specialist offers multiple tips to reduce rumen distress.

Sometimes cattle on lush fall pastures bloat under certain conditions. You may need to remove them from the pasture, but don’t round them up too quickly. They may bloat more readily from movement and jostling of the rumen.

“When we move cattle into risky pastures, there will be some that bloat right away, but usually the greatest proportion will occur a couple days after they were put in,” warns Carl Dahlen, beef specialist with North Dakota State University.

Many people think the first few hours are the most crucial, and that cattle will be fine if they don’t bloat that first day. However, they can still bloat several days later. The telltale sign is a distended rumen bulging upward on the animal’s left side. Read more.

Cattle Diseases: Common Conditions/Terms

Click here for a list of common conditions and terms related to beef cattle diseases, such as anaplasmosis, brucellosis, BVD, E. coli, IBR and others.

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