The Cow-Calf Manager
Livestock Update, July 2004
John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, VA Tech
Mid-Summer Cattle Working Pays Dividends
When July rolls around, most of our thoughts are on second cutting alfalfa hay (OK this year first cutting hay of all types), fence repair, the beach, golf or baseball games. The tendency is not to work cattle the grass is good and calves are growing. However, a mid-summer working of cows and calves can result in big benefits next fall.
Your mid-summer cattle working should include:
Deworming. All calves and cows less than 3 yearsold should be dewormed. Deworming calves will result in increased weight gains of 30 to 40 pounds. Deworming replacement heifers and first-calf heifers will increase their growth and body condition. The dewormer you choose depends on the amount of persistent activity you want. Many dewormers will not only get rid of worms already in the calves, but over the next 4 to 6 weeks, they will kill any worms that re-infect cattle. The extension publication "Current Strategies in Parasite Control in Beef Cattle" (VCE pub no. 400-802; http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/beef/400-802/400-802.pdf ) has more detailed information on different types of dewormers. Visit with your veterinarian about which dewormer is right for your operation.
Research at Virginia Tech and other Universities demonstrated that mature cows develop immunity to worms. Worms don't cause significant economic damage in mature cows due to this immunity. However, young cattle and highly stressed cows will benefit from deworming. Although the cows will still shed worm eggs, deworming the calves ONLY is the most effective and economical control measure.
Vaccinations Mid-summer is the perfect time to give the first injection of vaccine for Blackleg and other clostridial diseases. Any good 7-way clostridial vaccine will work fine. Calves can then get their booster in 21 days or the early fall prior to weaning. Remember for best results follow the label instructions on the timing of the booster. Don't forget that all injection should be made in the neck or in-front of the shoulder.
For producers participating in value-added calf programs, like VQA Certified Feeder Cattle, or retaining ownership on calves, July is a good time to vaccinate for respiratory diseases. The VQA program requires that calves be vaccinated for IBR, PI3, BVD and Pasteurella with leucotoxiod. In most cases, producers will be using killed vaccines for these diseases because calves will be nursing pregnant cows. Remember killed vaccines require a booster to be given to confer immunity to these diseases. There are some "one-shot" modified live vaccine products that can be given to calves nursing pregnant cows, BUT the cows MUST have been vaccinated with the same product before the breeding season. Consult you veterinarian for the proper vaccines to use in your herd. Also, the "Beef Cow/Calf Herd Health Program and Calendar" (VCE pub no. 400-007; http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/beef/400-007/400-007.pdf ) contains excellent information on vaccination programs for VA cow calf herds. Calves need to be at least 120 days old when vaccinated to establish "permanent" immunity.
Implanting All calves not being used as replacement animals should be implanted or re-implanted at the mid-summer working. Implants are safe and legal. Growth rates are increased by 8% to 15% by using implants. Increased weaning weights of 15 to 30 pound are typical for implanted calves. All implant guns should be kept clean and needled wiped with a disinfectant between calves. Make sure you have extra needles for your implant gun. I do not recommend implanting heifers that you are going to keep for replacements.
Checking Cows for Problems Check cows for pinkeye when they are in the chute. It is important to treat cows for pinkeye right away. Any cows that have foot problems or are limping should be treated or culled. You will receive more income from a fleshy cow with a slight limp than you will with a thin cow. Cows with joint injuries rather than a foot infection don't usually get better. Calves from these crippled cows that are over 4-months can be weaned early and left to graze with the rest of the herd or they can be fed a special early weaning diet. This is a good time to note which cows are poor milkers.
This is also a good time to check the effectiveness of your fly control program. If flies are a problem, you may need to switch control method or types of insecticides. Often horn flies are under control, but face flies are a problem. Consider adding dust bag bullets or face wipers to your control program.
Remove or Check Bulls most spring calving operations should be removing their clean-up bulls. This will give you a 60 to 90 day calving season next year. Calving will go better because all calves will be born over just a few months. It will be easier to work calves as a group because of the limited age range between calves.
If your calving season is not due to end until after mid-summer working, then you need to check your bulls. Bulls should be sound with no injuries like a bad leg or a broken penis. Any bull with one of these problem should be replaced as should bulls that are too thin < BCS 4 or with signs of illness. "Damaged" bulls will not breed cows.
Planning calf marketing strategy Mid-summer is not too early to plan your calf marketing program. After a day of working your cattle, sit on the porch with your beverage of choice and really think about how you want to market your calves. Ask yourself some questions:
Some programs will require that producers are Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Certified. Many of the value-added feeder calf marketing programs require special vaccination, as previously indicated. In addition, calves are usually "pooled" from many producers in order to sell tractor trailer load lots of calves. This pooling of calves requires coordination so producers need to inform the group of their intentions to market the calves as part of the group in advance. Although they involve extra work, value-added feeder calf marketing can still net you more dollars per head. For example, over the last 7 years VQA calves brought $15 to $30 more per head than calves sold at graded sales during the same week. It costs about $8 per head to vaccinate, buy a special eartag, and work the calves. For more information about VQA or value-added feeder cattle marketing opportunities in your area, contact you Extension Animal Science or Agricultural agent.
So pick a cool morning for your mid-summer cattle working and you will be pleased with the results this fall.