Fall is a very busy time of year for the agricultural industries. Harvest is under way and weaning and shipping calves and cull cattle is at the forefront on our priority lists.
Given the busy schedules of the season, it is important to us to be able to maximize our time as much as possible. If we can save a trip through the chute, we have saved valuable time and money.
An assessment should be made regarding what tasks need to be accomplished and which of those tasks can be completed as the cows come through the chute. Some of those tasks may include: vaccinating and deworming, retagging, TB testing (for accredited herds), Johne's Disease testing (for status herds), aging, body condition scoring, to name a few.
Each task should be evaluated for its ease or difficulty to perform, time required to perform, and equipment required.
It is important to note that if you are considering TB testing your cows, you should not vaccinate or deworm the cows at or around the date of injection. These products have an impact on the cows' immune systems, and can interfere with the results of the test.
If cattle are going to be TB tested, Johne's testing, pregnancy diagnosis, body condition scoring, and tagging are acceptable processes to perform as they add nothing to the cows' bodies. If you would like to vaccinate and deworm your cattle, that process can be completed after they have been given the ‘OK' on the read day, by the veterinarian conducting the TB test.
Vaccination and deworming are two management tools that can be easily and effectively integrated into the preg check appointment with the veterinarian.
Pistol grip syringes and pour-on applicators make the process even quicker. Be sure you have plenty so you don't run short at the end.
It is helpful to order some smaller vials of the viral vaccines, so you don't have to open a 50 dose vial for 5 head. It is also helpful to have tags and a tag applicator for identification of cows that may have lost an ear tag over the course of the summer.
When the cows make a trip through the chute, there are a fair number of management decisions that need to be made. Efficiency requires planning. If you know the answer to the questions before you're chute side, with your vaccines ready to go, you will be much more efficient with your time.
Whether you are planning to vaccinate and deworm, or just preg check and retag, accurate record keeping is a very important task that should be done annually.
This information can be used to keep track of inventories, as well as be a record of health protocols performed for age and source verification programs or for preconditioning programs.
Ideally, the individual in charge of keeping records will have no other responsibilities at chute side (which typically keeps the papers a whole lot cleaner) and has good, or at least legible, handwriting, so there is no confusion after the cows have been turned back out to pasture or onto the drylot.
The single most common reason, and one could argue the most important reason, for pregnancy diagnosis is to identify open cows. In the face of high feed prices, open cows are an expense that most producers can't, and won't, afford to have around. However, identification of the open cows is only the beginning.
The following are questions that should be addressed prior to finding open females in the chute.
What is to become of the opens?
In some cases, it may behoove the producer to retain the opens for a few weeks in an effort to put some additional weight on them prior to shipping. In some cases, open cows are retained, in which cases, they should be treated no differently that the rest of the cow herd.
Where will the opens go?
It is helpful to have a location in which the open cows can be housed away from the remainder of the cow herd. This facilitates load out, because the cows won't need to be sorted a second time to get them on the truck and on their way to town.
If there is no available pen to keep the opens, what is the targeted marketing date?
Cattle that have been dewormed should not be commingled with cattle that have not been dewormed. The pour-on products have a fair amount of persistence, and do not require sorting immediately. However, most of the oral products are a one-time, gut-clearing treatment, with no persistence, and reinfestation from untreated animals can occur the very next day.
If a pour-on dewormer is utilized, and the marketing date for the cows is beyond the withdrawal time for the vaccine and the dewormer, then the open cows should be treated the same as the pregnant cows. If the open cows will be removed from the herd within a week after preg check, then the open cows should not be treated with anything, so that there are no withdrawal violations at the processing facility.
How will you establish a target marketing date?
This question depends on many factors. Space limitations may be an issue. Feed supply may be a greater issue. Cash flow may even be an issue in today's economy.
If feed is in good supply and there is sufficient strength in the cull cow market, it might be worth holding the open cows to increase body condition scores before shipping to market.
On the flip side, if feed is in short supply, the sooner the open cows go to town, the more feed will be available for those cows still at home. So, when you call your herd veterinarian to schedule your annual preg check, consider these questions and prepare to answer them before the cows come into the chute. This preparation will save you time, money, labor, blood, sweat, and tears.
For more information on this or any other beef industry topics, please visit the Beef Team Web site which is located at www.extension.umn.edu/beef.