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Cow-Calf

Six Tips for Successfully Grazing Cornstalks

By Acidosis and Shipping Fever, Cattle, Cow-Calf, Feedlot No Comments

Finding economical feed sources that provide adequate nutrition is a major concern for producers. Grazing cornstalks offers producers a great opportunity to utilize a by-product that might otherwise go to waste. Turning cattle out after harvest allows the corn farmer and cattle producer to work together towards a mutually beneficial goal; the farmer’s fields are cleared of leftover plant matter and the producer can feed his cattle inexpensively.

The quality of feedstuffs will vary depending on several factors, including the weather, how long the stalks have been standing, how much grain is still left, etc.

Here are five tips for making the most of your cornstalk grazing program:

  1. Know what you’re feeding. Assess the amount of grain remaining following harvest. Do this prior to turning cattle out. Adjustments to supplementation will depend on how much corn is left in the field.
  2. Support optimum rumen pH. Rumen microbes take time to adjust to the increase in starch in the diet. When microbe populations must shift in composition to process starches, it can take around two weeks for this adjustment to take place. Bloat becomes a concern during this transition, so supporting a proper rumen pH is essential to ensure that there are not major increases in rumen acid (which can lead to microbe die-off and sub-acute ruminal acidosis).
  3. Be prepared to supplement protein. Cornstalks and grain are low in protein, making it necessary to boost the daily protein intake through supplementation. A non-protein nitrogen (NPN) may need to be used to help increase the breakdown and utilization of proteins. It is important to maintain a proper nitrogen-to-starch ratio to help support microbes and stave off bloat.
  4. Vitamin A is key. Vitamin A is most abundantly present in green plant matter – for cattle, lush pastures are the main source of naturally-derived vitamin A. Unfortunately, both cornstalks and grain are markedly low in vitamin A. It will be necessary to supplement vitamin A on a daily basis to cattle grazing on cornstalks.
  5. Provide loose salt and minerals. Cornstalks and grain lack in many essential minerals and the salts needed for the proper functioning of every system in an animal’s body. Phosphorus, for example, is vital for proper digestion, while adequate calcium must be available for lactating cows. Loose salt and mineral supplementation allow for customization depending on regional soil deficiencies and the particular needs of the animals being turned out for cornstalk grazing.
  6. Consider tubs for supplementation. Tubs offer a great all-in-one solution for the supplementation of cattle. Many offer regional formulas to address specific deficiencies unique to the areas they are formulated for. In addition to salt and mineral supplementation, tubs make it possible to fill in the gaps in the nutritional profile of cornstalk grazing without breaking the bank.

Using cornstalk grazing as an economical way to feed cattle is a great way to take advantage of by-product resources. Establishing that fine balance between affordability and optimum conversion may take a little research and work, but the end result can mean more dollars in your pocket come sale time.

Lice Season is Approaching – Are You Ready?

By Cattle, Cow-Calf, Feedlot, Pre-Conditioning No Comments

When cold weather sets in, many cattle producers can take a sigh of relief as fly season draws to a close. However, the winter doesn’t herald complete freedom from external parasite concerns. It’s only starting for cattle lice.

Winter – the season of the louse

While always present on cattle, these opportunistic parasites spend the summer months laying low and not reproducing.  Because they are sensitive to sunlight, they tend to hide in dark places on the underside of an animal’s body, and especially when the haircoat is short and provides no protection. Lice take advantage of the cooler weather, shorter days, and longer hair coats to start laying eggs and wreaking havoc.

Lice emerge from their hiding places (folds of skin, mainly) as the hair coat increases in length, usually around late October into November and December. They can inhabit any part of an animal, but they seem particularly bothersome on the neck, shoulder, back and topline.

Consequences of uncontrolled lice infestation

Even though small numbers of lice are always present on healthy cattle, they are also opportunistic and will take advantage of cattle that are experiencing abnormal levels of stress. This stress may come from weather extremes, nutritional deficiencies, or other factors. Typically, a stressed animal will have higher levels of blood cortisol, the stress hormone that, in larger amounts, will cause a decrease in appetite and immune suppression.

A weakened immune system opens an animal up to a number of potential problems, external parasites being just one of them. Even in normally healthy animals, a significant lice infestation can have detrimental effects to their ongoing health.

Cattle that are experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of lice will spend the majority of their time attempting to relieve the itching, taking them away from their number one job: eating. This can have dire consequences, considering their rumen health is dependent on a steady intake to function properly.

Some of the most significant effects an infestation can have include:

  • Reduced feed intake
  • Shrink
  • Higher susceptibility to infection
  • Cold stress (from rubbing off protective hair coat)
  • Reduced milk quality and production in cows (especially important for those fall calves)

Symptoms of lice infestation

The signs of lice infestation often manifest with animals rubbing, scratching and licking various areas on their bodies. Fence lines may be the first indicator of a problem, with tufts of scratched-off hair deposited in the barbs. Upon closer inspection of the animals themselves, there may be areas of raw, abraded skin or even crusted-over patches. When the itching becomes severe enough, they may even rub the majority of their winter coats off, leaving them susceptible to cold stress.

Cattle with severe infestations will also lose weight, as they are occupied with trying to relieve the irritation caused by the biting and chewing of these parasites. In the absence of feed intake, they can also experience sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA), leading to rumen microbe die-off and reduced nutrient absorption, opening them up to infection.

Types of lice found in cattle

There are two different groups of lice that the different species are divided into: sucking lice and chewing lice. Sucking lice feed on body fluids and skin secretions produced by the host, while chewing lice consume hair, skin and debris found on the body of their hosts.

Some of the most common species of louse found on cattle include the short-nose cattle louse (Haematopinus eurysternus), the biting or chewing louse (Bovicola bovis), the little blue cattle louse (Solenopotes capillatus) and the short-nose cattle louse (Haematopinus eurysternus). The variety of species can vary somewhat depending on region.

Heading off a serious infestation

One of the biggest mistakes made by producers is treating for lice too soon. Oftentimes, calves that are being weaned in the late summer and fall, prior to being moved to feedlots or pasture will be treated with either a pour-on dewormer or injectable dewormer. While this may have a small impact on the lice that are semi-dormant, it will not easily reach them if they have not moved to the upper portions of the animal. This means treatment is wasted and won’t prevent infestations from developing once the weather has truly gotten cold.

Pour-ons have shown the greatest efficacy, but the timing must be right. Early winter is an ideal time to treat for lice. It’s important to communicate with your herd veterinarian, as they will be able to advise on the most effective and economical timing.

How to help cattle that have already been affected

Even with good management, the weather can sometimes be a bit tricky and a serious infestation will occur. These animals will need a little extra help to regain their health and be able to withstand winter conditions. Here are a few things you can do to help your animals if they’re in this situation:

  • First and foremost, under the care of your herd vet, treat your cattle with a good pour-on dewormer formulated to kill the specific types of lice you are dealing with. Eliminating the cause of the irritation will help eliminate stress and allow any wounds to heal.
  • Treat ALL animals – even those that appear to be unaffected.
  • Base dosing on the weight of the animal. Too little and the product won’t work properly; too much is like pouring money down the drain.
  • Ensure complete coverage. The deworming product must come in contact with the lice themselves (or the areas they may migrate to) in order to be effective.
  • Help them reestablish normal eating patterns. This may require that problems like SARA are addressed. Neutralizing the rumen’s pH will encourage them to resume eating.
  • Support gut microbes. The rumen is responsible for 80% of the immune system’s ability to function. A very large part of this depends on a healthy microbial population. If the microbe balance has been disrupted, it will be necessary to provide nutritional support that will feed not only the animal but its damaged microbial colonies.
  • Take measures to help prevent recurrences, such as retreating at appropriate intervals during the winter months.

The time, money, and effort spent to properly treat your animals at the right times is a wise investment for the overall well-being of your herd. It will not only save them the discomfort of a lice infestation but can help boost your bottom line in the long run by preventing unnecessary shrink and illness.

Maximizing the Efficacy of Your Calf Vaccinations

By Branding, Cattle, Cow-Calf, Pre-Conditioning No Comments

As weaning time moves into full swing, the topic of vaccinations should be at the forefront of producers’ minds. An effective vaccination program can be the difference between having a great year or one that results in disaster.

Vaccines are essential for providing protection against diseases not only to an individual animal but the herd at large. When “herd immunity” is developed through an effective vaccination program, the number of animals that get sick goes down exponentially, which, in the bigger picture, minimizes sick treatment costs, performance losses and even deaths.

The benefits of vaccinations in today’s marketplace

As a growing number of consumers push for cattle that have not been fed antibiotics during the finishing period, or beef that hasn’t been raised with antibiotics in the feed, it is more important than ever that cattle going to market start out healthy and stay that way. While a few “natural” certification programs don’t allow for vaccinations to be used, the majority do and for good reason.

A cow that has developed a strong immune response to certain diseases is much more likely to remain healthy, even in situations where an outbreak may occur. This reduces the likelihood that they will end up in the sick pen being treated with antibiotics to combat whatever pathogens may be lurking in the environment.

Making the most of your vaccination dollar

There are a few things you can do to help guarantee a successful vaccination program. Below are our recommendations for getting the most out of your vaccine investment.

  1. Ensure calves are healthy enough to receive vaccinations

Vaccines depend on the immune system to react to the “invasion” they create, facilitating an immunity against the pathogens to develop. Factors such as stress or poor body condition can have a significant impact on the efficacy of vaccinations. Cortisol, a stress hormone that is released when animals respond to internal or external stress stimuli, suppresses the immune system. Calves that are not well-nourished or dehydrated will not develop an adequate immunity.

  • Handle and store vaccines properly

Vaccines are delicate – they are both light and temperature-sensitive. They should always be stored at the recommended temperature range. This information can be found on the packaging. Modified live vaccines (MLV) in particular are especially sensitive to temperature changes. If you are only vaccinating five calves, bring enough to vaccinate those animals and leave the rest in the refrigerator. Fluctuations in temperature – even if they’re being kept cool – can compromise the integrity of the vaccine.

  • Keep stress levels as low as possible

Calves are very susceptible to the effects of stress. Some of the major stressors include tagging, branding and weaning. In particular, weaning can be detrimental to a calf’s performance over its lifetime. Because of this, it is recommended that calves that are preparing to be weaned are vaccinated at least two weeks (three weeks is even better) prior to weaning, as they will be experiencing low stress at that time and they will have a greater vaccine response. A follow-up with a booster two or three weeks after weaning, too, will have allowed them time to adjust to their new environment and rations.

  • Determine what vaccines you really need

Vaccination needs are determined by several factors, including the region you’re in, what types of diseases your cattle may encounter at your operation and what they might face during transportation or in a feedlot, etc. Your herd veterinarian will be able to guide you in choosing the right vaccines for your geographic area. A good rule of thumb is to vaccinate against the most common and damaging diseases, including BRSV (bovine respiratory syncytial virus), IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis), BVD (bovine viral diarrhea) and PI3 (parainfluenza). Other diseases to consider, depending on region would include a 7-way clostridial (blackleg), Vibriosis, 5-way Leptospirosis, etc.

Each operation is different – by choosing the proper vaccinations for your herd and practicing smart vaccine administration, you can ensure that you are getting the greatest immunity in your cattle while maximizing your profit come sale time.

Feed and Water: The Best Medicine

By Acidosis and Shipping Fever, Cattle, Cow-Calf, Pre-Conditioning No Comments

In today’s stocker and feeder industry, producers must rely on “high-risk” sale barn calves for inventory. Trailer weaning, commingling, and non-existent health programs make these calves challenging to precondition and put into production. The fact that most of these calves have no immunity and have a rumen that is not mature makes them very susceptible to environmental and airborne pathogens. Exposure to other cattle, dusty sale barns, and hours without feed and water during the sale and transportation to an unfamiliar environment starts the process of “shipping fever.”
Pressure from consumers – both foreign and domestic – for less antibiotic use has increased the focus for alternatives to antibiotics. Nutritionists I veterinarians, and academic researchers are starting to focus more on Sub-Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA) – often a result of stress – and the effects it has on appetite, immunity, and cortisol levels in cattle. Stress is unavoidable when cattle are weaned I transported, commingled, and processed and is the leading cause of SARA.

How Stress Affects Ruminal Health

Stress creates a physiological chain reaction that increases acid production in the rumen, resulting in a lower ruminal pH. This imbalance must be corrected for the calf to digest any feedstuffs that are ingested. Prolonged acidity in the rumen compromises the protective mucosal lining, allowing bacteria from the rumen to leak into the bloodstream, causing shipping fever. A compromised rumen also means that the calf’s immune system is being negatively impacted as 80% of the calf’s immune system is contained in and around the rumen and small intestine.
A compromised immune system allows secondary pathogens in the respiratory tract to multiply and migrate to the lungs where irreparable damage occurs. These pathogens are the main cause of death in “high-risk” calves.

The three physiological effects of stress that impact a “high-risk” calf are:

• An increase in acid production and a decrease in pH of the rumen suppresses the appetite and impacts digestion.
• An elevated core temperature causing fever and increasing morbidity.
• An increase in blood cortisol levels suppresses the immune system and appetite.

An increase in cortisol suppresses appetite by affecting the brain’s ability to release hormones that trigger appetite. Elevated cortisol levels also suppress the immune system, making vaccinations ineffective when administered to stressed calves. A climb in the core temperature can prove detrimental as fever greatly increases morbidity and the possibility of mortality.

How CattlActive® Can Help

CattlActive® is an all-natural oral drench that is proven to raise the pH of the rumen 0.9 units in 15 minutes. It is also proven to lower the core temperature by as much as 6° F in 15 minutes. In addition, it has been shown to lower cortisol levels from an elevated 229 nmols to a more beneficial level of 153 nmols.

CattlActive® can also be used in a water source at 1 ml/gallon to sustain these beneficial levels of pH, core temperature, and cortisol. Every time a calf is processed, handled, revaccinated, or treated for sickness it is stressed, increasing the risk of SARA affecting that calf. The ability of CattlActive® to neutralize acid in 15 minutes makes it ideal for “high-risk” calves.
Good quality feed and water are the best medicine for cattle – creating the environment in the rumen to receive feed and water is paramount. This encourages the beneficial microbes to flourish and promote proper digestion. It also increases the calf’s ability to regain shrink, respond to vaccines, and fight off disease. Remember, antibiotics are only 20% of the defense against disease in cattle. Vaccines, good management, and nutrition are the other 80%. Using CattlActive® in your operation will encourage “high-risk” calves to eat and drink, supporting a healthier animal overall.

For a printable copy of this article, including cost analysis of CattlActive®, please click here.

Stress Management in Calves

By Cattle, Cow-Calf No Comments

Stress Management in CalvesIn the cattle industry, stress among livestock is one of the top issues producers face. Stressors can hinder the overall productivity and health of cattle. Calves may be even more susceptible to the adverse effects of stress. Fortunately, producers can take steps for stress management for a calf to reduce its stress levels.

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What Is Stress?

Stress refers to the symptoms that result from an environment or situation that is not normal for an animal. Think of stress as an external influence that impacts the homeostasis of a system. Stress can manifest physically and psychologically in cattle. Some of the physical changes that occur as a result of stress are the release of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones. A psychological manifestation of stress is fear of specific objects, environments or situations.

Causes of stress include:

  • A triggering event
  • Socialization
  • Hunger
  • Sickness
  • Injury
  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Temperature extremes

Fear can come from triggering events such as restraint, transportation, handling, neglect, noise, unfamiliar objects and a variety of other causes. As such, restraint and handling are two of the most significant topics of concern when it comes to lowering cattle stress.

High levels of stress, especially prolonged stress, can have long-term negative impacts on cattle, such as a weakened immune system, reduced reproduction, weight loss, digestive upsets, inflammatory reactions and reduced feed consumption.

Stress can make cattle unhappy and unhealthy, resulting in less productivity and the potential for disease outbreak. Animals instinctively want to maintain homeostasis, which means they may respond to external changes to re-balance the body’s internal system. For example, when experiencing heat stress, cattle may drink more water and seek out shade. Collectively, we call these stress-reducing behaviors thermoregulation.

Thermoregulation has its limits. For one, thermoregulation is easier for animals on hot days than cold ones. A cow can only do so much on its own to reduce stress from external factors. Because stress can have a significant negative impact on a herd, owners should take steps to minimize stress among cattle.

Effects of Stress on Cattle

How does stress affect the overall health of cattle and calves? What are the implications of stressed cattle on growing livestock and the quality of life the cows have? The following are effects of stress on cattle.

Effects of Stress on CattleReduction in Feed Intake

When cows suffer from stress, they may experience a loss of appetite. When cattle are coping with high temperatures in hot weather, for example, they consume less feed. This reduction in feed intake can decrease a cow’s production of fatty acids and cause ruminal acidosis.

Lower Energy Levels

A decrease in the rate of consumption of feed also leads to lower energy levels in cattle. Cows and calves become lethargic and less productive. The fat content in a cow’s milk may also become compromised, as well as their milk production.

Weight Loss

Stress can also lead to weight loss in cattle. In cold weather, the loss of an insulating layer of body fat can make a cow or calf more susceptible to the frigid conditions. The animal may not be able to keep itself sufficiently warm or be productive.

Reduced Conception Rate

When cows feel stressed, the success rate of insemination drops. Producers will have fewer calves and productivity will slow.

Reduced Production of Milk

When stressed, dairy cows may also produce less milk. Heat stress, which typically occurs in summer months, can be a cause of reduced milk production. Because stress causes a loss of appetite, cows have less energy and aren’t able to produce milk at the same rate. This lack of productivity can have a significant impact on a producer’s livelihood, making this a sign of much concern.

Small or Premature Calves

Another effect of stress on cattle is that calves may be born premature or small. Stress among cattle could make growing viable, productive livestock more difficult for producers.

Weakened Immune System

Prolonged stress can also result in a weakened immune system in cattle. Cortisol levels increase due to stress, compromising the animal’s immune system. As a result, stressed cows and calves are more likely to get sick.

Though vaccines are common in the livestock industry to prevent disease, a stressed animal has a less effective response to pathogens than an unstressed one. Often, a stressed animal with a large concentration of cortisol will still not have an effective immune response, even with a vaccine. This animal can still get sick and spread diseases to the rest of the herd.

Calves are particularly susceptible to contracting diseases from other cattle, so ensuring the entire herd is healthy is especially important to maintain healthy calves.

Diseases

Stress-related diseases include coccidiosis, pasteurellosis and Mannheimia haemolytica. The cow’s immune system typically keeps these under control. When an immune system becomes compromised by stress, however, this may result in the animal contracting one of these diseases.

Pasteurellosis is more common in calves, especially those that are being weaned. Weaning can be a stressful time on calves, and this stress can leave these young animals vulnerable to disease. Pasteurellosis is frequently a cause of economic loss. Mannheimia haemolytica causes lung infection and a form of pneumonia in stressed animals.

These diseases may cause the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Morbidity

Young animals are also more vulnerable to coccidiosis. This parasitic disease tends to occur when calves move from a pasture to a feedlot. While the animal is unlikely to die, it will likely have a low production rate. Symptoms may include:

  • Dehydration
  • Malaise
  • Emaciation
  • Diarrhea that may include mucus and blood

Cows and calves can face severe consequences when suffering from stress. A stressed cow can become less productive, sick or even die. To prevent disease or loss among your cattle, you should know the signs of stress in cattle.

12 Signs of Stress in Cattle

What are the signs of stress in cows? To keep your livestock healthy, happy and productive, you should be aware of the symptoms of stress in cattle. Knowing what to look for will allow you to deal with an animal’s stress as soon as it manifests and improve the conditions of the animal’s environment.

1. Respiratory Issues

Sick cow symptoms often include respiratory issues. Calves are especially vulnerable to breathing problems, particularly in cold weather or climates. Respiratory issues could result from heat stress, cold stress or sickness. Breathing problems can be one of the most telling signs of stress in calves.

2. Standing While Other Cows Are Lying Down

Is your cow or calf behaving abnormally compared to the rest of the herd? One sign of stress in cattle is standing while the other cows are lying down.

3. Frequent Urination

When stressed, cattle may urinate more frequently than usual. Cattle tend to increase their water intake when stressed, so frequent urination could be a sign of stress to look for.

4. Rapid Heart Rate

Another telling sign of stress in a cow or calf is an increased heart rate. The animal could be suffering from an adrenaline-induced stressor or heat stress.

5. Trembling

Cattle may also tremble when suffering from stress. Shaking could be a fear response to a stressful trigger. Cows will remember an object, situation or environment that caused a fear response in them before, and trembling could be a sign of fear of that object or environment. Trembling could also be a sign of weather stress if the animal is in an ordinary situation where a stressful trigger is absent.

Cattle may tremble when suffering from stress6. Seeking out Shade

Are your cattle clustering together under a shady tree? On a hot, sunny day, this could mean cattle are experiencing heat stress. They want to find a cooler spot away from the sun so they can return their body temperature to the right range for homeostasis.

7. Open-Mouthed Breathing

If your cattle are breathing with open mouths, this may be another sign of stress, particularly heat stress.

8. Slobbering

The increased production of saliva is another indicator of stress. Make sure cows are out of direct sunlight and have access to enough water to keep them hydrated.

9. Lack of Coordination

Dealing with a few clumsy cows? Lack of coordination is a severe sign of heat stress. This condition can lead to collapse and even coma or death. If you notice your cattle beginning to stumble around, take immediate action.

10. Restlessness

Cows can also become restless and agitated when coping with stress. You may be unable to get the animal to lay down, and its productivity levels will drop. Handling and managing the animal may also become more difficult, so do your best to prevent external factors that may cause cattle to become restless or agitated.

11. Splashing Water

On a hot day, a cow splashing water may be a sign of heat stress. Because cattle don’t produce adequate sweat to cool themselves off, they may seek ways to get moisture on their bodies that can then evaporate, allowing them to cool down.

On a hot day, a cow splashing water may be a sign of heat stress12. Huddling Together

In the winter months, you may notice your cattle grouping together. Cattle stand close in groups during cold weather to share body heat and keep warm. If you see cattle trembling or clustering together in the cold for long periods, your animals may be experiencing cold stress. Since thermoregulation during cold stress is more challenging for cattle than thermoregulation during heat stress, owners must note cold stress as soon as possible and take steps to minimize the stress cattle are experiencing.

Knowing the signs of stress in cattle and calves can help owners minimize stress for their livestock.

Handling Stress in Calves

Minimizing the stress in the cattle’s environment is beneficial not only for calves, but for the people who work with them. Producers will benefit from having happy, healthy cows, so how can you handle stress in calves? Are there ways of reducing stress in a calf?

1. Recognizing Signs

One of the best ways owners can manage stress in calves is by knowing what to look for. If you notice any of the above signs of stress in cattle, take action as soon as possible to lower a calf’s stress levels. Minimizing calf stress can ensure your young animals are healthy and have a good quality of life, which will then increase their production.

2. Provide Accessible Shelter

If your calves are often out in the elements, provide a shelter they can access easily during storms, heat or frigid temperatures. Shelter can help calves avoid weather stress. Since severe weather stress can lead to sickness and even death, providing adequate shelter is a way for producers to minimize this stress calves may experience.

Provide accessible shelter if your calves are often out in the elements3. Reducing Calf Stress at Weaning

Producers want to raise quality calves to ensure their future. Weaning is one of the most stressful events for calves. Because severe stress can have dire consequences for cattle, producers should go above and beyond to make sure calves are experiencing minimal stress at weaning.

One step producers can take to reduce calf stress at weaning is implementing an effective vaccination program. Calves should receive a clostridial product, a pasteurellosis vaccine and a quality deworming product at the opportune stages of their growth. For example, at birth or turnout, administer clostridial, followed by a second dose a few weeks before weaning. A deworming product can control parasites, which can help reduce calf stress at weaning, as calves will be able to respond more effectively to vaccinations and will be better able to use nutrients from feed.

Considering a calf’s age in regards to weaning is another crucial step to reduce calf stress. When a calf’s age and the weather are more conducive to good health, this may be the optimal time for weaning. A calf may fare better by being weaned at a younger age, under four months old, or when the calf is at least seven months old, as its immune system has developed more if it received the appropriate vaccines. At this age, weaning begins to occur naturally, so leaning into this natural weaning can be a good way for producers to reduce stress on these young animals.

Also, consider weaning earlier in the year, when temperatures are consistent, to reduce calf stress. Even if the weather is hot, this is still a better time of year to wean a calf than during months when the temperature fluctuates, which can compromise the calf’s immune system.

Stress is an external influence that impacts the homeostasis of an animal’s body. Stress can have several negative effects on calves, some of the most vulnerable and valuable animals a producer has. To help your calves handle stress when it’s begun to affect their stomachs, use CattlActive®. This product neutralizes excess acid in a cow stomach that builds up due to stress. CattlActive® can help encourage water and feed consumption, which then allows for the intestines and rumen to begin healing.

To help calves manage or alleviate the effects of stress, try CattlActive®.

Related Posts

Sources

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7240033
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18218157
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18218156

Lodoen Cow-Calf

Tips for Improving Profit for Cow-Calf Operations

By Cattle, Cow-Calf No Comments

Ranchers who want to know how to improve the profitability of cow-calf operations must understand how many factors play into the costs and earnings of this endeavor. It is possible to turn a profit from raising beef cattle, but producers need to provide everything for the animals until their sale. When an operation is small, though, every dollar spent must be an investment in the overall cattle production.

The USDA Economic Research Service collates data for various farm products across the country. The average cost of maintaining cattle from 2008 through 2018 was $562.23 per head. Adding the overhead costs of running a ranch, the total rises to $1,374.45 per head. Operating costs factored into this maintenance price per animal were graze feed, fed feed, purchased feed, harvested feed, vet bills, medicine, bedding, marketing, lube, fuel, electricity, repairs and interest on costs.

Costs of raising cattle are not stagnant. While operating expenses have slightly increased overall since 1996, in some years, the price tag was much higher. For example, in 2014, the operating costs per cow reached a high of $628.47 per head. That year, though, overhead budgets, including pasture maintenance costs, were lower, bringing the total to just a dollar below 2018’s total, $1,375.63. The real factor behind rising costs for cattle ranchers has appeared in overhead expenditures, which more than doubled from $387.24 in 1996 to $812.22 in 2018. To make up for these rising overhead costs, the rancher must do everything possible to improve the profitability per animal.

Producers typically have small herds. Just under half, 45.6%, of all beef cows came from farms with fewer than 100 cattle. Fewer cows correlate to spending less time on beef production. Those with fewer than 50 cows averaged only 28.6% of their time in caring for the operation, whereas 47.3% of those with farms up to 100 cows did. These numbers still relate to cattle producers spending a minority of time raising their animals, which means a smaller margin of error in things that improve profitability.

Profitable cattle ranching, though, is a possibility, with a mixture of skill and luck. The factors affecting profitability fall into two categories: those that are under the producer’s control, and those that are not. When ranchers make the most of changeable factors, they will help offset issues beyond their control, such as weather or increased feed costs.

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Major Factors Impacting Cow-Calf Operations

When it comes to profits, several factors are under the ranchers’ control, while others are not. Understanding the factors behind ranch operations that influence earnings and debt-to-equity ratio, a producer will be able to change the profits from the ranch.

1. Percent of Mothers Weaning a Calf

Choosing when to cull females that fail to produce calves affects the amount of feed used throughout the year, as well as income earned. Ideally, ranchers want to maximize the number of females weaning calves, which will increase operations profits from sales of young animals. Females that do not produce a calf use resources without generating income in the form of a saleable calf. Early culling of females without calves can positively affect operating costs.

2. Calves’ Weaning Weight

The weight at which a producer weans calves determines those animals’ final selling price. When to wean calves is a decision that rests solely on the shoulders of the rancher, who must balance the calves’ health and weight to the milk production, pasture conditions and age. Weaned calves and culled low-fertile females account for the majority of income in operations, both of which the rancher directly influences without external forces.

3. Overall Cow Nutrition

Keeping up with the nutrition of cattle helps them gain weight as needed. Heavier calves that stay healthy can sell for higher prices. The cost of feed, though, impacts operations. How many acres needed per cow and the ranch size affect the total amount spent on raising the animals. Across all cow-calf operation sizes, the majority, 93.7%, owned their land for cattle grazing.

4. Cattle Stress

Cattle stress can significantly impact the health of animals in a herd, which ties to cow-calf profits. Separation and handling stress can occur at weaning for the calves and at birth for the mothers. Reducing stress does more than keep the animals happy. Less stressed cattle have healthier immune systems, and vaccines work better because excessive stress levels negatively impact the effectiveness of immunizations.

5. Price Received for Weaned Animals

While market conditions will influence the amount received for weaned animals, some aspects of the price fall within the rancher’s influence. Selecting the best cattle with marketable attributes for raising can help when working toward profitable cattle ranching. Beyond keeping the animals healthy and reaching a good weight, there is little else a rancher can do to affect the price received for weaned calves.

6. Environment

The environment plays a direct factor in the percentage of weaned calves. Longer or shorter winters can cause minor fluctuations in the rates, but other environmental factors also play a role. Air pollution and mineral depletion in the soil can affect the health of cows and their calves.

For example, in Montgomery County, Tenn., the soil already lacks adequate copper and selenium. Forage for cow-calf operations did not have enough of these minerals. The problem increased when nearby coal plants started burning sulfur-containing fuel that bound what little copper and selenium the cows had available. The weaning rate in this area is only 78%Adding cattle supplements to feed with the lacking minerals can help the problem as long as the practice remains economically feasible.

7. Breed

The breeds of cattle used can also affect the weaning rate and profitability. For instance, in Florida, weaning rates have dropped because operators prefer using single-breed animals instead of crossbreeds. The crossbred cattle could improve weaning rates by creating herds better adapted to the environmental challenges of heat, humidity and low-quality forage. Producers do not seek such opportunities, however, due to the higher costs of choosing better-bred animals.

While economically, in Florida, choosing more crossbreeds may not make economic sense, it could improve operations in other parts of the country by selecting cows that have more natural abilities to thrive in the local environment.

By selectively crossbreeding cows to be superior to their parents, weaning rates and productivity can both improve. Maternal heterosis offers the cheapest, most effective means of increasing weaning rate without breaking the budget. With better weaning rates, profits may increase, depending on the region.

Tips for Improving the Profitability of Cow-Calf Operations

When it comes to changing how much ranchers make per cow, keeping the animals healthy is key. But other factors will help producers find what is the most profitable way to raise cattle for beef production. Pricing, animal stress, nutrition and weaning are among the factors that can help raise profit margins.

1. Maintain Animal Health

Keeping up animal health reduces the costs of treating sick cows and the economic loss of lower-weight cows and deaths.

Part of ensuring the long-term health of cows requires preventing diseases. For large-scale cow-calf producers, vaccinations are standard. Farms of between 100 and 199 cows reported 95.9% of them vaccinated their herds, while 92.1% of producers with over 200 cows inoculated their animals. Compare that to only 59.4% of small-scale producers with fewer than 50 cows that vaccinated. Vaccinating animals can help boost their immune systems and protect them from diseases such as shipping fever, also called bovine respiratory disease. Against this specific condition, only 26.3% of producers with up to 49 cows vaccinated, while 82% of operations with over 200 animals did.

Vaccinating against preventable diseases may add to the costs of raising the cows, but it can prevent loss from animal death and lower-weight cows that sell for less. Because each animal contributes a higher percentage to the total profits earned, small-scale producers must do everything possible to maintain animal health.

Hiring a local veterinarian to assess and help maintain the herd’s health may be an investment, but it can provide access to vaccinations and give the producer advice on diseases that could affect the health of the cows.

2. Reduce Cattle Stress

Cows and calves experience significant levels of stress at various times during the seasons. At birth and during weaning, both calves and their mothers see high levels of stress that can affect their health. To ensure the healthiest herd, inoculating cows against disease, providing quality feed and giving freshwater are not the only things that will help cows live their healthiest lives.

Reducing stress in cows requires them to eat and drink enough to keep up their nutrition requirements. When cows experience ruminal acidosis, supplementing their diet with CattlActive® can help the pH balance of rumen in their digestive systems, which can help them eat enough to recover from stressful times. When cows have low stress, their immune systems will work more efficiently and swiftly.

3. Make Birthing and Weaning Changes

In some regions with lower weaning rates, such as Florida, shortening the weaning season could help. For instance, removing cows that do not produce as well and reducing Florida’s standard weaning season of 120 to 180 days could lead to an improvement in weaning rate from 82% to 85% in three years.

In other parts of the country, such as the Midwest, breeding cows earlier to produce heavier weaned calves influences profits. California, however, already has a high weaning rate and particular problems with its herds to warrant maintaining its current status quo.

Even for small-scale operators who do not have specific weaning seasons, controlling the herd and making decisions based on maximizing its economic value are essential. Culling non-pregnant or low-fertile females early will prevent the extra cost of feeding and maintaining them throughout the year. The earlier producers can cull open cows, the more money they can save and the higher the profits from the operation.

4. Offer Adequate Nutrition

Offering adequate nutrition to cattle ensures they stay at a healthy weight to re-breed. When cows do not have an optimum body condition score (BCS) after giving birth, they will be less likely to have a successful breed back. To maintain nutrient levels, farmers must recognize the higher nutritional needs of cattle just before giving birth and while lactating. Meeting these needs through adjusting the feed for the animals will keep the cows from losing weight.

Changing food availability and nutrient needs can stress an animal’s digestive system, which relies on balance. Signs of digestive problems such as acidosis include weight loss, refusal to eat or drink, unusual behavior, high pulse rate and lethargy. These symptoms necessitate immediate action to prevent permanent damage to the health of the animal. Re-regulating the system with supplementation can help the cow’s digestive system to restore itself.

When the animals have enough nutrition, they will produce healthier calves and be more likely to continue breeding in the future.

5. Choose Forward Pricing

Forward pricing allows farmers to set a price above the break-even point. Regardless of what happens in the market later in the season when the sales occur, the amount agreed upon at the beginning of the season stands. A minority of operators, 2.3%, with up to 49 cattle use this strategy. Among operators with 50 to 99 cows, 3.1% chose forward pricing. Large-scale operations, though, select this option more often, accounting for 15.4% of operators.

Selling larger lots of cows can also increase pricing and make buyers more likely to purchase from a single group. Having a large lot with several uniform calves can improve the selling price, increasing profits.

The downside to choosing forward pricing is the legally binding nature of this pricing system. Farmers must promise a set number of cows for delivery at the agreed-upon price. As long as producers keep up with the health and reproduction of the cows, the guaranteed number of cows should be ready at sale time.

6. Sell Higher-Value Calves

Choosing animals that will fetch a higher price will affect profits. The breeds sold depend on the region of the country, but crossbreeds often sell at a premium price compared to single-breed animals. For example, in Florida, compared to the usual Brahman/Angus mix, an Angus crossed with Hereford gets $5.76 more.

Calves with horns negatively affect the price because the horns can damage the animals and require the additional cost of removal. Polling or dehorning calves can improve their selling price.

When cows give birth to male calves, producers must choose whether to castrate the animals. Steer calves sell for more at auction, at an average of $8 to $10 more, compared to heifers. Bulls do not sell for as high a price as steer calves. Castrating males will improve the amount received at auction.

Discover How CattlActive® Can Help

Cattle stress can affect the health and well-being of each animal maintained. CattlActive® has a palatable formula that encourages cows to eat and drink by neutralizing the acid. Once a cow begins regularly consuming healing feed, both its stress levels and overall health can improve. Through this all-natural formula, producers can see better gains in the cattle as the animals increase their nutrient intake. Make a purchase or get answers to questions from us. For more information, ask one of our consultants.

Related Posts

What is E.coli?

How Does the Digestive System Work in a Cow: Understanding the Ruminant Digestive System

Prebiotics: What They Are and What They Do

What is a Microbiome?

Understanding Adaptive Immunity

Sources:

  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/cattlactive/cow-calf/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/product/cattlactive/
  • https://www.northernag.net/what-influences-profit-for-cow-calf-operations-and-what-can-you-control/
  • https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an278
  • https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/smallscale/downloads/Small_scale_beef.pdf
  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/DataFiles/47913/CowCalfCostReturn.xlsx?v=68
  • https://www.beefmagazine.com/cowcalfweekly/0624-pushing-weaning-envelope
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/how-does-the-digestive-system-work-in-a-cow-understanding-the-ruminant-digestive-system/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/mineral-supplementation-a-summer-essential/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/herd-health-vaccinations/
  • https://www.beefmagazine.com/weaning/weaning-basics-help-keep-calves-healthy

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What is E. coli?

By Cattle, Cow-Calf No Comments

It’s a well-known fact that cattle producers face many problems that can cause productivity and economic losses. The leading cause of these losses, however, is usually a result of calf scouring (diarrhea).

It has been reported by the National Animal Health Monitoring System for U.S. dairy, that half of the deaths in unweaned calves (calves who are usually younger than 8 or 9 months of age) were due to scours.

There are multiple agents that can cause a calf to develop scours, such as malnutrition, stress, and infectious pathogens, with the leading and most common cause being a pathogen that is best known as E. coli (Escherichia coli).

E. coli is a species of bacterium that inhabit the stomach and intestines of calves and, “can be classified into six pathogroups based on virulence scheme: enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), shiga toxin-producing E. coli, enteropathogenic E. coli, enteroinvasive E. coli, entero aggressive E. coli, and enterohaemorrhagic E. coli.” (Cho, Yong-Il)

Among the six types of E. coli, ETEC is the leading cause of neonatal diarrhea as this bacteria produces toxins that stimulate the lining of the intestines. This stimulation causes the intestines to secrete excessive fluid, which then becomes diarrhea.

In order for ETEC to stimulate the intestine and cause diarrheal diseases, it must first colonize, or adhere to intestinal mucosal membranes in the intestine of the calf. This is done as a result of pili or fimbriae, which are adhesins found on the surface of the bacteria, and are known as K99 adhesin antigen.

When a calf becomes infected with ETEC, they will produce an abundant amount of diarrhea and experience abdominal pain. E. coli will also prevent the calf from absorbing the water and nutrients found in their dam’s milk, as most of the water and nutrients in the calf will be lost in diarrhea.

Once infected, the calf will lose fluids, minerals, and salts (electrolytes) which results in dehydration and acidosis, and being that a calf is 70% water at birth, the mortality rate is high.

When a calf is suffering from scours, it is quite apparent in their appearance as they may show several symptoms such as sunken eyes, weakness, dryness in the mouth or nostrils, depression, and weight loss to name a few.

The best action to combat scours caused by E. coli is through preventative action, as treatments to reverse scours can prove to be expensive and sometimes futile measures. E. coli is usually transmitted from the consumption of contaminated food and water, from insect bites, and unsanitary living conditions.

To reduce the likelihood of a scour outbreak, a calf must first and foremost have a strong digestive system. This means that it is at an optimum pH and is primed to absorb water and nutrients.

It is advised to always provide clean feed and water to the calves, keep them properly vaccinated with the latest vaccines, provide clean living quarters, and, perhaps most importantly, keep their stress as low as possible.

Understanding the causes of calf scours will allow producers to provide preventative measures to protect their investments and livestock; this includes having a firm understanding of E. coli and the effects it can have on the young calf.

Sources
Baecker, P A et al. “Expression of K99 adhesion antigen controlled by the Escherichia coli tryptophan operon promoter.” Infection and immunity vol. 56,9 (1988): 2317-23.
Cho, Yong-Il, and Kyoung-Jin Yoon. “An overview of calf diarrhea – infectious etiology, diagnosis, and intervention.” Journal of veterinary science vol. 15,1 (2014): 1-17. doi:10.4142/jvs.2014.15.1.1
E. coli.” Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 6 Jun. 2011. academic-eb-com.aurarialibrary.idm.oclc.org/levels/collegiate/article/E-coli/472242. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.
“Enterotoxigenic E. Coli (ETEC) | E. Coli | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014, www.cdc.gov/ecoli/etec.html.
Henderson, Greg. “Calf Scours: Causes, Prevention and Treatment.” Drovers, www.drovers.com/article/calf-scours-causes-prevention-and-treatment-0.
Stokka, Gerald, and Louis Perino. “Calving Tips: Going To War On Calf Scours.” Beef Magazine, 26 Dec. 2018, www.beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_vets_opiniongoing_war.

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Prebiotics: What They Are and What They Do

By Acidosis and Shipping Fever, Branding, Cattle, Cow-Calf, Pre-Conditioning No Comments

Prebiotics are an important part of the digestive cycle and especially for mammals. Although much research has been conducted on the importance of probiotics, it’s only been in recent years that the role of prebiotics has been closely examined and studied.

Not to be confused with probiotics, prebiotics support the health and continued growth of the beneficial microbes that make up prebiotics.

These findings have led to a major change in the way prebiotics and probiotics are being used in the cattle producer’s operation to help minimize the need for antibiotics while increasing gains.

Definition of Prebiotics

Prebiotics are feed ingredients that are not digestible or only partially digestible. They provide colonies of beneficial bacteria in the gut with “food” so they can continue to flourish. This, in turn, works to maintain a balanced digestive microbiota.

In specific, cattle benefit from the undigestible sugars that are often found in fibrous plant material. Most feedstuffs contain at least a small amount of prebiotic material. Prebiotics can be found naturally at some level in almost any feed.

This includes grass and other forage, grains, and formulated concentrated feeds. Some products on the market even add specialized blends of prebiotics.

How Do Prebiotics Work?

When a cow consumes feed, the rumen works to break it down more and more as it moves sequentially through each stomach chamber. In this way, the feed it is eating has the highest chance of being gleaned of nutrients for the cow’s utilization.

By the time this digesta reaches the intestinal tract nearly all of the nutrient-containing components have been extracted, allowing for the final stages of digestion and absorption into the body. The only exception to this is the undigestible matter that remains unprocessed. Much of this matter serves as a prebiotic.

Once these prebiotics reach the intestinal tract they begin to ferment, where they produce volatile fatty acids such as butyric acid. The beneficial bacteria in the gut thrive on these volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which in turn allows them to grow more robust and increase their numbers.

What Is the Most Common Source of Prebiotics in the Bovine Diet?

In an unenhanced diet (i.e. feedstuffs that have not been seeded with prebiotics), the most plentiful source or prebiotics comes from plant material such as hay or alfalfa. The undigestible fiber and other components in this roughage provide an excellent source of prebiotic material.

This is, in part, why cattle that are on a concentrated feed diet may be more prone to experiencing intestinal microbial imbalances.

To counter this issue with concentrated feeds, many companies are now offering diets using a wide variety of prebiotics. Perhaps the most widely known of these are mannan oligosaccharides (MOS).

MOS are highly beneficial for attracting and carrying harmful pathogens from the gut. They work by drawing in bad bacteria with a sugar known as mannose. These bacteria cannot derive energy from the sugar but do stick to it. They are then carried from the animal’s system without managing to infect it or further populate the gut.

Other prebiotics that have also shown to be valuable in developing a healthy digestive system include fructooligosaccharides and beta glucan.

Why Are Prebiotics Necessary?

The health of the digestive system and gut microbiota (as discussed in the first installment) is dependent upon the balance of microbes inhabiting the intestines.

Every animal has a different microbial makeup that forms their own individual microbiome. Despite this, there is one fact that is the same across the board – there must be a much higher level of beneficial microbes than commensal or pathogenic.

Prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria that line the gut walls. They are responsible for helping further digest food, increase nutrient absorption and keep the pathogenic microbes at manageable numbers. They also provide a sort of “buffer” that prevents toxins from passing through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream.

When enough prebiotics are not being introduced into the digestive system, the beneficial microbes don’t have access to the needed “food” that keeps them functioning and multiplying. As they “starve” they begin to die off in increasingly larger numbers.

As this die-off occurs, acid-producing harmful bacteria are able to establish themselves in larger numbers on the gut walls.

Once too much of the beneficial microbe population has been destroyed, it’s difficult to get the balance back where it belongs.

How Can Prebiotics Help?

In animals with a healthy gut microbiota, keeping an adequate level of prebiotics in the diet will help maintain the status quo. However, for those animals that have a compromised digestive system, prebiotics may be the key to giving them an honest chance at becoming healthy.

It has been found that calves that receive adequate prebiotics both pre and post-weaning tend to have greater gains. This is due to increased nutrient absorption.

A popular remedy for calves that are poor doers is to administer lactulose, a synthetic disaccharide. Studies have found that calves that have been given this course of therapy frequently develop strong immune systems and are able to overcome some of the issues associated with premature birth.

Additionally, prebiotics increase the body’s ability to rid itself of waste and toxins by increasing stool size, moisture content and composition. Both constipation and diarrhea can be devastating conditions for the young calf.

In Conclusion

Prebiotics are an absolutely necessary aspect of maintaining a healthy microbiome. The gut’s ability to function optimally depends on two main things – how strong the beneficial microbial population is and whether or not the pH is properly balanced.

Both of these functions depend on the presence of adequate amounts of prebiotics to support the digestive system.

SOURCES:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462921/

http://ijlr.org/issue/prebiotics-new-feed-supplement-dairy-calf/

http://www.credenceresearch.com/press/global-prebiotics-in-animal-feed-market

https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/feed-nutrition/youve-heard-about-probiotics-for-cows-but-what-about-prebiotics

http://feedlotmagazine.com/benefits-of-using-probiotics-prebiotics-in-cattle-feed/

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What is a microbiome?

By Acidosis and Shipping Fever, Branding, Cattle, Cow-Calf, Pre-Conditioning No Comments

What In the World Is A Microbiome?

Part one of a three-part series on the microbiome and the role of the digestive system in the overall health of cattle.

Let’s face it – ruminants are some of the most complexly-designed animals on the planet. Their multi-chambered stomachs must be in sync like clockwork to ensure the animal gets the nutrients it needs.

These inner workings are further complicated by the fact that the resident microbial population must maintain a careful balance in order for proper digestion to take place.

You may have heard the term “microbiome” before. For as important as it is, it very rarely features in discussions surrounding the gut-immune system link.

To understand the roles of the various parts of the digestive system, including its microbial element, it’s helpful to know what the microbiome is and how it functions as a whole.

The skinny of a microbiome

The honed-down definition of a microbiome is a group of different kinds microorganisms that live together, creating a unique miniature ecosystem in a host. Think of it this way: The entire body is a city. Within that city are numerous inhabitants including plants and animals that create the residents.

Within this microbiome, these residents include symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. In this particular case, the microbiome is the cow’s body.

Now, onto these neighborhoods. In every living organism are multiple “neighborhoods” or communities known as microbiota. Each of these is unique in the types and numbers of different microbes living within that group. Microbiota are present in every part of the body.

For the purposes of this article, the main focus will be on the bacterial microbiome that is found in the cow’s digestive system.

The Good, the Bad, The Lazy: different bacteria of the microbiome

There are three different categories of bacteria that live in the microbiome. These three categories are symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic.

Symbiotic bacteria are those bacteria that work with the body and contribute positively to the animal’s well-being. In true symbiotic fashion, they take what they need from the host, and in return, give the host something it needs.

Commensal bacteria are the freeloaders of the bacterial world. They don’t hurt the host, but certainly don’t provide anything, either.

Then we come to the pathogenic bacteria. These “criminals” of the bacterial world are usually present in the fewest numbers. They are very opportunistic and will take advantage if they find a weakness in the system. This is when they are most likely to cause disease.

The overall health of a microbiome determines how everyone lives together and whether or not the pathogenic bacteria will be able to take hold and cause disease. In healthy animals, they live side-by-side with smaller populations of the “bad” bacteria being kept to a minimum.

Got microbiome?

Literally every multi-celled animal (and even plants) on the planet depend on their microbiomes to keep them healthy and alive. Focusing in even closer, the individual microbiota in a microbiome serves its own purpose, making sure the whole can function properly.

A cow’s body has a multi-layered system of defenses that protect it from disease. This is where the microbiome shines as the hero.

Starting with its hide, this is the first defense barrier. It physically protects against the invasion of pathogens and other foreign substances from entering the body.

Up next are the mucous membranes. They play host to a wide variety of cells and microbes that help prevent disease. They also provide a layer of protection for underlying tissues.

Last, but not least, we have the gut. The gut is the number-one most important element of a healthy microbiome.

How?

Sure, it breaks down food and makes it useable. Between digestive enzymes and acids, the bulk of the feed gets broken down. Then what? This is where the symbiotic bacteria present in the gut get their moment to shine.

They further break down feed into absorbable nutrients and, in the process, create some pretty amazing metabolic by-products that are actually highly beneficial to the cow.

These chemicals support a healthy gut lining. They neutralize excess acid and encourage the growth of more beneficial bacteria. This not only crowds out any extra pathogens but also keeps toxins from crossing the gut barrier and entering into the bloodstream.

Big bonus: they promote stimulation and support of the overall immune system.

How does the ruminal microbiome develop?

A calf’s system is a blank slate when it’s born. When in utero, the calf doesn’t have to contend with bacterial or viral issues – ideally, its mother’s body takes care of all of that.

Once it is born, the creation of its unique microbiome begins.

Exposure to microbes found in the birth canal are the first the calf will encounter. From there, the next introduction is to those found in the environment around it – the air, soil, and plant life it comes into contact with will contribute new microbial elements to the overall development of its microbiome.

A calf’s gut doesn’t have any marked populations of bacteria, fungus, yeast or viruses until it nurses for the first time. The combination of the microbes found in those first feedings of a cow’s colostrum, along with any found on the teats provide the framework for the gut’s development.

Because these first nursings determine a calf’s health for the rest of its life, it’s integral that the mother have a strong and healthy rumen that allows her to produce a high-quality colostrum.

Obviously, the microbial population plays the biggest role in the development of the digestive microbiome. Despite this, additional factors such as genetic makeup and the diet have a significant influence on the ongoing health of the microbiome.

Antibiotics: both friend and foe

Believe it or not, the average cow’s microbiome, and in turn its digestive microbiota, was actually healthier a hundred years ago than it is today.

This is due to the introduction and overuse of antibiotics. While these drugs can literally be the difference between life and death when facing a major bacterial infection, they can also be the worst enemy of the balance of the microbiome.

The reason for this is because antibiotics are unable to determine which microbes are beneficial and which are harmful. They end up killing the majority of the bacteria they encounter, pathogenic or not.

As the balance of bacteria is disturbed, the entire microbiome – not just in the gut – is thrown out of whack. This gives opportunistic microbes such as yeasts and funguses a chance to grow unchecked.

The use of antibiotics is being closely examined now. Careful use and management are helping many producers avoid developing antibiotic-resistant diseases in their herds.

Sustaining a healthy microbiome

Ensuring your herd maintains healthy microbiomes can be a big task but is well worth it. The most important aspect of this is giving your cattle a stress-free environment. This helps reduce the production of various chemical components (including gastric acids and cortisol), thus helping maintain homeostasis.

Secondly, directly supporting the microbiome with a healthy diet that is rich in nutrients and has a high prebiotic content.

The cow’s microbiome is the determining factor in its success or failure. Whether raising breeding stock, a feeder calf or a dairy cow, maintaining the balanced microbiome is pivotal in ensuring that animal thrives during its lifespan.

In the next installments, we will cover the importance of prebiotics and their role in maintaining a well-balanced gut and overall microbiome.

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Understanding Adaptive Immunity

By Acidosis and Shipping Fever, Branding, Cattle, Cow-Calf, Pre-Conditioning No Comments

The Adaptive Immune System:

What It Is and How It Works

The immune system. It’s an abstract concept that, at best, is confusing.

It’s common knowledge that the immune system protects against disease-causing pathogens. For instance, a cut may become contaminated with foreign material such as dirt or debris that contains bacteria.

The immune system then detects a threat, kicks in, and sends an army of different cells to mop up the damage and kill off the invading germs.

This type of immune response is the perfect answer when there is an immediate threat; the body does what it must to take care of the pressing possibility of infection.

In a perfect universe, a basic immune response would eliminate any threat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

So, what about when the body is exposed to specific pathogens time and time again? This is where the adaptive immune system gets its chance to take the wheel, or in some cases, work alongside the innate immune system.

A Closer Look at Adaptive Immunity

Every creature on the planet must carry some sort of immunity that allows it to fight off disease that can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. From insects to elephants, they must have a strong immune system in order to thrive.

Babies of all species are born with a small amount of immunity (innate immunity) and receive a major boost from the colostrum they get from their mothers in the first days of life.

This immunity allows them to contend with minor infections and helps them to resist common, everyday pathogens. What they are lacking is the more specific responses of adaptive immunity. This is where time, exposure and vaccinations come in.

Each time the body is exposed to a new pathogen, the adaptive immune system “remembers” it and develops specific antibodies to destroy that disease. For instance, childhood chickenpox is only contracted once (in most cases).

Once the body has recovered from a disease, it then recognizes and ideally develops specific antibodies to prevent infection by that disease from ever occurring again. The next time exposure occurs, the adaptive immune system will recognize the virus and be lying in wait to kill it off before it can cause infection again.

Vaccinations work from this principle. A weakened, modified or killed version of a disease is introduced into the body. It elicits a response from the immune system to take care of the invading pathogen.

Because it is not a full-blown version, it does not cause clinical illness. It does, however, pack enough of a punch to make the body recognize it and build antibodies to protect against future infection from the pathogen.

Unfortunately, the body doesn’t just come by strong adaptive immunity. There are a few factors that help determine whether an individual’s immune system will be able to properly develop antibodies. The most important of these factors is digestive integrity.

While it may sound odd, most of the immune system develops in and is dependent on a strong digestive system.

Leaky gut syndrome and acidosis can wear down the body’s ability to create effective defenses. This, in turn, leads to an inability to develop strong, disease-specific antibodies, opening the animal up to the possibility of serious disease.

What Does This Have To Do With Cattle?

In the case of cattle, a focused protocol that encourages the growth and support of beneficial gut flora is key. Maintaining a thriving colony of beneficial microbes relies heavily on a balanced pH.

Although any species can experience acidosis, cattle are arguably one of the most impacted by this condition.

By keeping acidosis from developing, a cow has a much greater chance of being healthy and maintaining a strong adaptive immune system.

Want to learn more about how you can help your cattle thrive? Check out what CattlActive can do for you!

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