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Spring Weather Requires Attention to Cattle Health Issues

Adapting to changing weather is hard on cattle, especially in the spring when Mother Nature, it seems, can’t make up her mind. Warm days followed by a bout

Adapting to changing weather is hard on cattle, especially in the spring when Mother Nature, it seems, can’t make up her mind. Warm days followed by a bout of cold rain, or even a spring blizzard, can throw off the health of even weaned, heavy calves.

“Spring is an important season to carefully monitor health status in all sizes of cattle,” says Dr. Bruce Nosky, Manager of Merial Veterinary Professional Services. “Fluctuating weather can stress newborn calves, freshly weaned fall-born stockers, replacement heifers, cattle in feedyards — everything. Producers need to take a disease prevention approach.”

Spring weather stress weakens cattle immune systems, allowing opportunistic viruses, bacteria and parasites to more easily cause health problems. Bovine respiratory disease (BRD), coccidiosis and footrot are all opportunistic spring problems that can be hard on the bottom line for cow/calf producers, stockers and feedyards.

“A preventive approach for management of BRD and coccidiosis is a win-win for producers,” Dr. Nosky says. “It’s cost-effective and it can give producers peace of mind that they’ve prevented a time- and money-draining outbreak.”

Bovine Respiratory Disease
“The best defense against BRD is to vaccinate calves with a Pasteurella vaccine before stress. However, if that window of opportunity has passed, producers can still take steps to help protect their cattle,” Dr. Nosky says.

He says that if calves have not been vaccinated before weather, weaning or shipping stress, or if a stocker or feedyard operator is taking in calves with unknown health histories, a metaphylactic treatment with a long-lasting, broad-spectrum antibiotic can help get calves through the stress in good health.

Dr. Tim Starks of Cherokee, Okla., who is a livestock auction facility owner, consulting veterinarian and stocker owner, has seen the value of BRD prevention firsthand.

“Prevention is absolutely critical because, regardless of how fresh, local or native the cattle we’re buying are, weather is going to hit them at some point and will challenge their immune systems,” Dr. Starks says.

Dr. Starks treats low-risk calves on arrival with TETRADURE® 300 (oxytetracycline) Injection to help head off BRD problems. Usually, he uses the 300 mg oxytetracycline if the calves endured weather stress on the haul in or if he expects bad weather in the first few days after arrival — a frequent occurrence when receiving calves in the spring.

Dr. Nosky recommends treating cattle — including cattle in feedyards; heavy weaned bulls, steers and replacement heifers — with a long-lasting prescription-strength product, such as TETRADURE 300, at the first sign of respiratory disease. Feedyards also have the option of treating all cattle upon arrival.

Preventing Coccidiosis
“Producers should stay on top of coccidiosis at all times. It’s a costly disease, and once the clinical signs appear, losses have already been incurred,” says Dale Blasi, Kansas State University beef specialist. “A preventive coccidiosis program as part of an overall health plan is the best approach. If cattle become ill, producers will have to play catch-up to get them back into shape.”

Once cattle become sick, losses can be significant. Kansas State University research has indicated cattle may experience reduced feed consumption for up to 13 weeks following a clinical coccidiosis infection.¹ Clinical cases also may result in death.

Coccidia are opportunists, and fluctuating spring weather works to their advantage. But, producers can head off coccidiosis problems and help keep cattle in good health by using a coccidiostat labeled for prevention and treatment, such as CORID, during spring and other periods of stress.

CORID® (amprolium) can be used in drinking water or as a drench, and also is available in convenient in-feed or top-dress formulations. In addition to prevention, it is suggested to minimize stress where possible and avoid feeding on the ground so coccidia have fewer opportunities to infect new hosts.

Coccidia destroy the lining of the gut, thereby decreasing weight gain and feed efficiency of cattle.² For this reason, producers in the grips of drought should pay extra attention to this disease. When feed is scarce and at a premium, keeping cattle efficient goes hand in hand with maintaining profits.

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