For many ranchers, spring is typically a busy time – wrapping up calving season, and planting crops, fertilizing pastures and fixing fence. There is just a lot to do before summer grazing begins. In addition, breeding season is just around the corner; here are four things to cross off the to-do list before turning the herd bulls out with the herd.
1. Breeding soundness exam
Whether it’s a yearling virgin bull or an older herd bull, the small investment in having a veterinarian conduct a breeding soundness exam (BSE) is worth every penny; however, many ranchers skip the BSE because of the cost and inconvenience.
"The most obvious management strategy a cattle producer can deploy is conducting a BSE on bulls. All bulls that will be used in a breeding season need to be tested. Without a BSE, producers are taking a huge risk,” says Travis Meeter, University of Illinois Extension beef specialist.
2. Pre-breeding vaccinations
You can’t expect a healthy calf if you don’t have a healthy cow. Don’t overlook pre-breeding vaccinations for replacement heifers and lactating cows. Vaccinations should be given 30 days prior to breeding. These vaccinations protect against bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) Types 1 and 2, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), parainfluenza-3 (PI3), Campylobacter fetus (vibrio), trichomoniasis and leptospirosis.
“If the cow is shedding viruses or bacteria, she could infect the fetus or other animals in the herd. Protection against disease starts with the cow. If you start with a clean cow herd, the chances of having healthy calves improve dramatically,” says Doug Ensley, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI), professional services veterinarian, for Vet-Advantage.com.
3. Parasite and fly control
When you’re working the cows through the chute to administer pre-breeding vaccinations is also the perfect time to consider parasite and fly control. According to research conducted by Iowa State University, not controlling parasites can negatively impact a cattle producer’s breakeven by about $200 per head.
“Controlling parasites at spring turnout is an important cost-effective way to boost calf weaning weights and gain reproductive efficiencies in cowherds,” says Joe Dedrickson, DVM, Merial Field Veterinary Services director and veterinarian.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to fly control. In our operation, we fly tag the calves and use fly spray and dusters for the cows. Whichever method you use, consider the pros and cons of convenience, cost and effectiveness.
4. Vaccinate the calves
Consider vaccinating calves at 30-90 days of age. This typically works out well with branding or when working the herd before summer turnout. This might also be a good time to think about dehorning and castration, if they haven’t been done already. Now is the best time for a primer dose of 7- or 8-way clostridial/blackleg; IBR-BVD-PI3-BRSV viral vaccination; and internal/external parasite control. Consult a veterinarian for recommendations that best fit your program.
Also, check out this article from BIVI, “Protect calves from a summertime struggle.”
Will you be checking these four items off your to-do list before summer turnout? Share what works best in your operation in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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