Replacements and expansion are different
Our newsletter in 2012 encouraged expansion over the next 4-5 years. The 4th year seems right on target. Prices dropped quickly as we have all seen. There has been some upward movement lately, but it will be a slow recovery. Now a key for profitability is to maintain a very productive herd. That means replacing your weakest link with a disciplined approach. Replace cows before they become unproductive. If your herd is 10-15 head, you will probably replace 1-2 females every year. You can do this either by keeping back a couple of heifers or buying bred replacement heifers.
Don’t fall into the trap of having a large percent of your herd in need of replacement at one time. It never fails when you are in this situation, you will end up with more open cows than you had planned. This cuts your income from those lost calves.
Top 3 reasons bulls are replaced
Keeping daughters is the number one reason for why bulls are replaced. This is especially true when the operation only has one herd bull. However, we want to remind you of barbed wire injuries. Six bulls needed to be replaced due to barbed wire injury over the last 14 months. Generally the bulls are 3-4 years old. Try to keep barbed wire out of the breeding pasture, and replace it with a hot wire.
Create your own “good luck” against feet and leg injuries. Bulls that run in creek bottoms or have access to standing water seem to have a higher rate of foot injuries. Leg injuries seem to be more common in the areas where steep hills are in the breeding pastures. Obviously some farms don’t have a pasture without a hill. But if you plan a breeding pasture with fewer steep hazards, you can help eliminate exposure to leg injuries. We have observed that over-weight bulls almost always are the ones with leg injuries.
DNA will be used to identify healthier cattle
The dairy industry now has DNA profiles to identify animals that tend to be healthier than others based on certain traits (such as mastitis). A health-based 50K DNA program for beef cattle is on the horizon. When this program starts, we will be one of the first beef herds in the country to make selections using probable health considerations.
We can think of a whole host of diseases we would like to reduce by breeding genetically superior animals. The changes coming for the future of animal health are exciting.
Prevention vs. Treatment
We are focusing on PREVENTING illness vs.TREATING disease. By keeping a high level of immunity, it makes it harder for “bugs” to overcome your cattle. Being proactive to prevent disease will reward you financially with lower medical expenses, better growth and fewer headaches (or even death loss).
Feeding prebiotics and probiotics focuses on feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut to crowd out and starve the pathogen causing bacteria (called competitive exclusion). This protocol works from birth thru vaccination time. It isn’t a treatment method and shouldn’t be used in a disease outbreak.
Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drug use
Call your Veterinarian today because the VFD rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017. Don’t wait until you have an emergency outbreak and discover you can’t purchase your “go-to fix” without a prescription.
A VFD is a statement from your veterinarian, authorizing you to feed a medically important antibiotic, for a period of up to 6 months. This includes tetracycline, penicillin, neomycin and tylosin, to name a few. This VFD rule eliminates the use of medically important drugs for feed efficiency or growth-promotion. VFD drugs may only be used to treat, prevent or cure disease.
This does not include Bovatec, Rumensin, or any drug used to treat/prevent coccidia, such as Decox. Water soluble drugs (sulfadimethoxine, for example) will become prescription products (not VFD), and should be available through your veterinarian like any other prescription product. Injectable over-the-counter antibiotics, such as LA-200 (tetracycline) are not affected by this rule.
To receive a valid VFD, you need to have a veterinarian that works on your cattle operation, has enough knowledge to help make clinical judgements for your animals, and is available for follow-up. Mineral preparations and salt blocks containing medically important antibiotics will also be included in the VFD regulation.
Protect against the cold
We use straw, corn stalks or poor hay to bed down our cattle during extreme cold. We spread the bedding in natural windbreaks on top of the snow or frozen ground. Extra bedding will protect your bulls’ scrotums. Just think of it as insurance on your breeding investment.