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Beef Management Tips
Livestock Update, October 2003
John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Virginia Tech
October Beef Management Calendar
Spring Calving Herds
- Give pre-weaning injections to calves not already weaned (VQA )
- Wean calves this month or early next month
- Market calves at VQA sales, graded sales, telo-auction or as off-farm truckloads
- Make arrangements for backgrounding calves
- Feed replacement heifers to gain 1.5- 1.75 lbs per day or use the Target Weight method to calculate rate of gain
- Pregnancy check cows
- Body condition score cows at weaning and separate thin cows
- Cull open, old and very thin cows; check feet and legs, udders and eyes; cull especially hard is feed is short
- Switch to high magnesium minerals to prevent grass tetany, if fall rains occur
- Inventory feed supplies and secure feed for winter
Fall Calving Herds
- Continue calving
- Move pregnant heifers and early calving cows to calving area about 2 weeks before due date
- Check cows 3 to 4 times per day, heifers more often- assist early if needed
- Keep calving area clean and move healthy pairs out to large pastures 3 days after calving
- Body condition score cows at calving; plan nutrition/grazing program based on BCS
- Ear tag and dehorn all calves at birth; castrate male calves in commercial herds
- Give selenium plus vitamin E and vitamin A & D injections to newborn calves
- Feed cows extra energy after calving; some protein may be needed also if good pasture is not available. Cows calving at BCS < 5 should receive special nutritional attention.
- Keep high quality, high magnesium high selenium minerals available
- Reproductive tract score and measure pelvic areas on yearling replacement heifers; RTS should be 3 or better and pelvic areas should be >150 sq. cm
- Purchase estrous synchronization supplies; line up AI technician or AI supplies
Fall-Calving Herds at Risk for Grass Tetany
Plentiful rainfall and cool growing conditions made excellent pasture this fall. However, the same conditions that create this lush pasture also reduce magnesium levels in pastures. In addition, well fertilized pasture can exacerbate the problem. Producers with fall-calving herds should feed a high magnesium mineral free choice this fall. Cows in early lactation are most susceptible to grass tetany.
High magnesium mineral supplements should contain 12 to 14% magnesium. The most common form of magnesium is magnesium oxide (MgO). While MgO is an acceptable form of magnesium for supplementation, it is bitter and causes cattle to decrease mineral intake. Producers should monitor mineral intake by cattle to ensure they are eating the recommended level indicated on the feed tag.
Acorn Poisoning Could Cause Problems This Fall
Cattle will often head for woods and wooded lots around the farm in search of grazing or browse. However, that could be dangerous. Green acorns are plentiful this year. Hungry cattle love acorns that can quickly poison them. Green and ripe acorns contain gallotannins, which cause kidney damage and death. There does not seem to be as great a problem after a few hard freezes. The reduced palatability of acorns after weathering may be part of the answer.
To prevent acorn poisoning, cattle should be allowed access to abundant pasture and fenced out of areas with large amounts of oak trees until this winter. There are few other options as only a few pounds of acorns can cause enough damage to kill cattle. Outward signs of acorn poisoning are few but include weight loss and diarrhea, but often these are not noticed until other cattle in the herd have died.
Virginia Cooperative Extension