Beef Buzz News
Good Management Can Help Alleviate the Effects of Drought Stress in Cattle
Tue, 13 Nov 2012 13:01:08 CST
Dr. Harold Newcomb Beef Buzzes about alleviating drought stress in cattle.
With the drought continuing to linger, the stresses affecting cattle herds continue to multiply. Dr. Harold Newcomb, technical services manager for Merck Animal Health, says the impacts are readily apparent in the feed available to the animals.
“We’ve seen a lot of dry conditions and that has caused a decrease in the quality and amount of forage that these animals are being exposed to. We’ve seen a decrease in the quality of grain. So, all of this translates into an animal that has, probably, a weakened immune system. It’s not able to operate for optimum production.”
Newcomb said the effects of sub-optimal nutrition are cumulative, especially with the drought now moving into its third year across much of cattle country.
“If they’re not taking in the correct nutrition, then they obviously cannot give a correct immune response to vaccine. They’re going to be more susceptible to the effects of parasites. And you’re going to see a drop off in reproduction. And you’re going to see a drop off in weaning rates. And you’re going to see a drop off in overall animal health.”
Obtaining and feeding high-quality forage and feed is the obvious solution, Newcomb said, but that is not always easy to do given the length and breadth of the drought. When that is the case, he said, solid management decisions can lessen the impact.
“Efficient management is going to pay for some of it. When you look at that, you’ve got to look at ways to optimize your animal health program. Obviously, if you’re going to look at the animal health program, you’ve got to look at parasites. They have to be the cornerstone of your herd health program. The reason for that is they’re going to touch every segment of cattle production. Whether you’re a cow-calf, stocker, or feedlot, parasites are there so we have to deal with those.
“We look at the three things parasites do: they decrease their appetite, decrease average daily gain, and they alter the way these animals can respond to viral vaccine and viral disease. So, we have to deal with the parasites first.”
Newcomb said it is important to ensure that any treatment for parasites be followed with a fecal egg count reduction test to confirm its effectiveness. Once the parasite load is under control, a better choice of vaccine can be made because some are more stressful on the animals than others.
Newcomb said that growth implants can also help make up some of the difference in lost efficiency by returning an additional 25 pounds of growth for every dollar invested in implants.
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