Monitoring Nutrient Status of Cows

Excerpt from Nation’s Center News, Feb 14, 2016 page 16; written by Ardele Harty, South Dakota State Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.

To ensure cows’ nutrient requirements are being met, Harty says to monitor body condition score and manure consistency on a regular basis, “the most important question to ask is ‘what condition are my cows in, and are they gaining, maintaining or losing condition?”
Manure consistency serves as an indicator of forage quality and animal performance and serves to help determine if cows need supplemental protein.

Manure patties that indicate a diet with crude protein greater than 10% show the center of the patty having a crater-like appearance. If there are small folds present around the edges of the patty, the crude protein is 10-13%. No additional supplementation is needed for mature cows with manure of this consistency.

Manure patties that indicate sufficient protein, CP between 6-9%, will have flat folds. As forage quality increases, the folds become smaller. This manure indicates maintenance requirements for mature cows are being met; depending on the stage of production, additional protein supplementation may be needed, particularly during late gestation or early lactation.

Manure that indicates deficient protein diets (CP < 5%) have droppings with very distinct rings at the lower portion, which tend to be firm. Manure from this forage quality tends to stack, but the rings are a true indicator of lower forage quality. This manure indicates maintenance requirements for all classes of beef are not being met and protein supplementation is needed.

It is challenging to collect a representative sample of forage to determine quality when cows are grazing dormant range. Using manure consistency will indicate when protein needs to be supplemented.

When feeding hay, have it analyzed for protein, energy and mineral content. “Hay quality varies from year to year, so what has worked in the past isn’t going to work the same every year,” she said. “Beyond that, because they are probably consuming a mixture of hay and forage grazed from pasture, monitoring BCS and manure consistency can ensure that nutrient needs are being met.”

For more information on body condition scoring cows or monitoring manure consistency to determine supplementation needs, contact Adele Harty at 605-394-1722 or
ardele.harty@sdstate.edu.

The WI Beef Information Center has Body Condition Scoring information and nutrition information including Hay Analysis Guide for Beef Cattle.

Neonatal Management

12321450_10209516221761942_5135768643973146145_nBy Sandy Stuttgen, DVM,
UW-Extension Agriculture Educator for Taylor County
At the recent Save-a-Calf Workshop, we discussed how neonatal management begins with the cow: her body condition score, nutrition, and vaccination program throughout her gestation, and especially during the last trimester, set the newborn calf up for success or failure. Successfully calving heifers is always a challenge. Heifers must be fed to reach 85% of their mature weight with a body condition score of 5.5 to 6.5 at 24 months of age when she delivers her first calf. In order for her to make this weight, she needs to be bred at 65% mature weight.

It is not economical to delay first breeding until she is the correct size! Feed her so she is the right size by 12 months of age, and then breed at the first heat after she turns a year old; it may take a few cycles before she settles. The goal is for her to be pregnant by 14 months of age.

Breed heifers one month before breeding mature cows, so they calve first. As compared to mature cows, it takes heifers longer to return to heat because they are still growing. Calving a month earlier helps the heifers be ready to join the breeding group at the same time as the mature cows.

Keep calving heifers separate from mature cows so you can closely monitor them. Once the water bag appears, a heifer should then go on to deliver the calf within one hour (mature cows will deliver within a half hour). Check close-up cattle at least three times during a 24 hour period, so you detect calvings as they begin. You can encourage 80% of calvings to occur between 7 am and 7 pm by feeding close-up cattle twice daily, at 11:30 am and 9:30 pm.

If you notice the water bag, or feet, but you are not sure how long she has been in labor, note the time and watch for progress: give the cow another 15 minutes, the heifer another 30 minutes, and see what she can accomplish on her own. Watch quietly from afar so as not to interrupt. A normal presentation is either anterior (two front feet and head resting on top of the legs) or posterior (two hind feet, with a tail between). Be prepared to examine her (after the time noted above) when you can’t see the presentation or progress is not being made.

Maternity pens (sized to a minimum of 120 sq ft) are to be used for one calving cow. So put a calving cow in them, do not ‘hold’ close-up cattle in maternity pens! This only builds up the pathogen levels in that area and creates more chores for you! Move a calving cow into a maternity pen when you see the water bag or feet of the calf showing. If you move ahead of this Stage II of labor, you will interrupt progress, which is harmful for both calf and mother. Move pairs out as soon as they have bonded, the calf is up and has nursed. You may need multiple heifer maternity pens so you can hold heifer-calf pairs together longer. Sometimes heifers, especially after a difficult delivery, will need extra bonding time in order to learn mothering skills.

After each calving, scrape the pen down completely, lime and re-bed. Once calving season is done, or if possible during a break in the action, consider scrubbing the maternity pen. Do not use a pressure washer, as it will aerosolize germs throughout the building. Water, soaps and acid detergents and brushes or foaming devices are the tools you will need to scrub the area.

Keys to successful calf health include calves born into clean environments and living with stable, similarly aged herd mates. Consider using the Sandhills Calving System of calving pasture/paddocks to unlock the door for healthy calves born outdoors. In this system, all calving cattle start together in the first paddock, and after 2 weeks, those who have not yet calved move to the second paddock. After two weeks in paddock 2, all who have not yet calved move to the third paddock; each subsequent week, non-fresh cattle move to the next paddock. Multiple paddocks result with calves all within one week of age of each other. The herd can be co-mingled back together once the youngest calf turns 8 weeks old.

Well-drained, sloping lots would need to be sized at 250-300 sq ft per cow-calf pair; flat outdoor lots would need to be 500-800 sq ft/pair. The first paddock is the largest, and pairs are in it the longest. Feed and water delivery must occur in every paddock.

A normal newborn should immediately be active, shaking its head, snorting, shivering, and taking deep breaths and trying to stand. Weak Calf Syndrome results from prolonged Stage II labor (longer than 30 minutes for cows, 60 minutes for heifers), during which carbon dioxide levels build up in the calf. This results in poor gasping and respiratory efforts, slow heart rates, and subsequent low internal body temperatures.

Weak calves are slow to stand and slow to nurse; depression ensues and many of these calves scour and die within the first week of life. Good mothering helps stimulate calves. Sometimes you may need to be the mom—vigorously towel dry the calf, tickle its nostril with a firm piece of straw, pour cold water in its ear, and turn it from side to side.

Encourage mother to get up and help: immediately after calving give her a warm bucket of water to drink. I have found cows do not like to put their head into deep narrow buckets, so you may need to refill a short, shallow calf bucket several times until she is satisfied. Some producers mix electrolyte or milk replacer into this water, making it more interesting to drink. Salting the calf or sprinkling sweet feed over it will stimulate mom to lick the calf.

The calf must nurse several times during the first 6 hours of its life in order to obtain the immunity (antibodies, or IgG), fat, protein, insulin, and other factors provided in the colostrum (first milk available at calving). If you have calves less than 10 days old who are sick, scouring, or dying, then chances are they failed to obtain enough good quality colostrum. Your veterinarian can help measure levels of passive transfer in the calves, as well as diagnose the pathogens involved.

Have a supply of good quality refrigerated or frozen colostrum or colostrum replacer product (containing 100-150 IgG per dose) on hand to feed when nursing quantity or quality is suspect. Mix exactly as the label states.

Dip the newborn calf navel in 7% iodine or other product recommended by your veterinarian. The navel is attached to the liver, it serves to wick pathogens from the environment. Keep the neonatal calf’s environment as clean and dry as possible until the navel dries and falls off (and after then too!).

Rotating the Calf to Aid in Delivery

Excerpt from Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers, publication E-1006, Animal Science Department, Oklahoma Cooperative extension service, Oklahoma State University

Pulling a calf should only be done when the presentation and posture of the calf are correct. This applies to both the anterior (forward) position and the posterior (backward) position. A large calf, with shoulders too wide for the cow’s pelvis, may be delivered by pulling one limb only so that the elbow and shoulder of one limb only enter the pelvis. Then, while the pull on the limb is continued, the other limb is treated in the same way until both feet project equally through the vagina. Now apply traction on both limbs and on the head until the head protrudes from the vulva, and from this stage the principle traction is exerted on the limbs again. It can be seen that traction on both limbs at the same time will result in both shoulders entering the pelvis at once.

The pelvis has an oval shaped opening with the largest dimension being the vertical axis and the smaller dimension is the horizontal width (Figure 10).

calf article pixIf the shoulders of the a large calf can be made to enter on a slant and can be pulled through in that position, delivery will be made easier. Apply traction that will allow the calf to be turned about 90 degrees so that the widest part of the shoulders matches the larges dimension of the cow’s pelvic opening (Figure 11).
After the shoulders have passed the pelvic opening, the calf can be returned to the normal upright position because the torso is larger in the vertical dimension (Figure 12).

calf article pix 2Hiplock may happen when pulling a calf. If the passage of the hind end of the calf presents any difficulty, the body of the calf should be grasped and twisted 45 degrees. Delivery is then made with the calf half-turned on its side. This allows for easier passage of well-developed stifle joints.

Traction in the early stages should be exerted upward (toward the cow’s tailhead), directed downward once the calf is in the pelvic canal. The calf passes through the birth canal in the form of an arc.

To judge whether extraction of an anterior position is possible, in the standing cow, with the calf’s head in the pelvic cavity and with the pull of one person during a contraction, you should be able to place a hand between the calf’s head and the cow’s backbone and be able to feel both points of the calf’s shoulder 2 inches (three fingers wide) or less forward to the pelvic inlet. In the recumbent cow, you must be able to feel the points of the shoulder two inches or less forward of the pelvic inlet.

Extraction of a posterior presentation may not be possible when you can’t see the hocks with one person pulling; when the calf’s hip joints pass into the pelvic canal, its hocks will be visible about one hand’s width beyond the vulva. If you can’t extract the hocks, a pelvic mismatch is occurring. Place traction on one rear limb at a time until the corresponding stifle joint enters the birth canal. It may be necessary to push the other limb partly back into the uterus at the same time, so the two stifle joints enter separately. Rotating the calf approximately 90 degrees may help; you can cross one limb over the other and pull on the lower limb. This will rotate the calf, aligning its and the cow’s pelvis. Once the calf’s hips are out, rotate the calf back into its normal upright position as the torso is larger in the vertical dimension.

Management of the Out-wintered Beef Herd

Jack Johnson 4by Dr. Rhonda R. Gildersleeve, UW-Extension Grazing Specialist, UW-Lancaster Agricultural Research Station

Beef producers often feed hay out on sheltered pasture and cropland areas
during the winter months in lieu of using inside housing systems, a management strategy known as “out-wintering”. Besides reducing costs associated with investment in buildings, there are several other benefits to be realized from out-wintering. Cattle are often cleaner and healthier when housed outdoors at wind-protected locations, and feeding, bedding, and labor savings may also be realized.

Nutrient management costs are also significantly reduced; out-wintering systems can be managed for deposition and distribution of manure nutrients directly onto sites that are either sod-covered or will be cropped during the next production year. Placement of large round bales at consecutive locations across the field using multiple bale feeders on a daily or even weekly basis or spacing out round bales at intervals before winter feeding season and utilizing electric fencing to limit access until feeding are common methods of moving feeding and bed-ding sites around a designated winter field to distribute manure.

Here are a few management practices to consider when using out-wintering systems for beef cattle groups to ensure that environmental impacts are minimized and that animal health is not compromised at these congregate feeding and bedding areas. Ideally, out-wintering sites have a few common features:

  • Protection from prevailing winter winds: Options may include natural shelter belts or nearby woods, or constructed permanent or temporary windbreak structures including walls, rows or stacks of feed/bedding bales, or even a lineup of large, solid
    equipment such as silage wagons.
  • A clean year round water source with capacity to handle the herd size: Watering options may include a permanent heated water source located near buildings, or an improved natural water source that provides year round water, but limits access to the rest of the water body to prevent environmental damage or ice hazards where animals may slip and fall.
  • An upland location situated away from natural water bodies and/or drainage areas to prevent manure runoff risk during late winter/early spring thaw events: Although historically Wisconsin has seen cattle out-wintered along creeks and other natural water bodies, moving feeding and bedding locations to protected sites in upland areas away from water is recommended to reduce potential water quality and animal health issues.
  • Accessibility: Producers need to have access to their herd to check on animals and ensure their welfare no matter what the weather. Ideally, animals are ob-served at least once daily throughout the winter months.

Late winter-early spring calving beef herds also need to develop a management plan for moving close-up cows away from the herd wintering site onto clean areas before calving is likely to occur. Research indicates that out-wintering areas can host several disease
organisms that cause scours in newborn calves, including Clostridium perfringens, Cryptosporidium, E. coli and Salmonella, which may all survive and even multiply dramatically on organic matter such as manure and wasted forage at congregate sites.
Contamination tends to peak in late March/early April, at roughly similar times that many spring herds are calving. As a further precaution, cow-calf pairs should be kept at a separate location once calves are born to minimize disease risk, prevent separation issues and provide cows with appropriate feeds to support early lactation.

“Housing under the stars” can be an effective, low cost, environmentally sound method of managing Wisconsin beef herds. Information concerning out-wintering strategies and other housing systems for beef cattle are available through your local University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension office.

Management of the Outwintered Beef Herd

Jack Johnson 3Beef producers often feed hay out on sheltered pasture and cropland areas during the winter months in lieu of using inside housing systems, a management strategy known as “outwintering”. Besides reducing costs associated with investment in buildings, there are several other benefits to be realized from outwintering beef cattle. Cattle are often cleaner and healthier when housed outdoors at wind-protected locations, and feeding, bedding, and labor savings may also be realized.
Nutrient management costs are also significantly reduced, since outwintering systems can be managed for deposition and distribution of manure nutrients directly onto sites that are either sod-covered or will be cropped during the next production year. Placement of large round bales at consecutive locations across the field using multiple bale feeders on a daily or even weekly basis or spacing out round bales at intervals before winter feeding season and utilizing electric fencing to limit access until feeding are common methods of moving feeding and bedding sites around a designated winter field to distribute manure.
Here are a few management practices to consider when using outwintering systems for beef cattle groups to ensure that environmental impacts are minimized and that animal health is not compromised at these congregate feeding and bedding areas. Ideally, outwintering sites have a few common features:

• Protection from prevailing winter winds: Options may include natural shelter belts or nearby woods, or constructed permanent or temporary windbreak structures including walls, rows or stacks of feed/bedding bales, or even a lineup of large, solid equipment such as silage wagons.

• A clean year round water source with capacity to handle the herd size: Watering options may include a permanent heated water source located near buildings, or an improved natural water source that provides year round water, but limits access to the rest of the water body to prevent environmental damage or ice hazards where animals may slip and fall.

• An upland location situated away from natural water bodies and/or drainage areas to prevent manure runoff risk during late winter/early spring thaw events: Although historically Wisconsin has seen many cattle outwintered along creeks and other natural water bodies, moving feeding and bedding locations to protected sites in upland areas away from water is recommended to reduce potential water quality and animal health issues.

• Accessibility: Producers need to have access to their herd to check on animals and ensure their welfare no matter what the weather. Ideally, animals are observed at least once daily throughout the winter months.
Late winter-early spring calving beef herds also need to develop a management plan for moving close-up cows away from the herd wintering site onto clean areas before calving is likely to occur. Research indicates that outwintering areas can host several disease organisms that cause scours in newborn calves, including Clostridium perfringens, Cryptosporidium, E. coli and Salmonella, which may all survive and even multiply dramatically on organic matter such as manure and wasted forage at congregate sites. Contamination tends to peak in late March/early April, at roughly similar times that many spring herds are calving. As a further precaution, cow-calf pairs should be kept at a separate location once calves are born to minimize disease risk, prevent separation issues and provide cows with appropriate feeds to support early lactation.
“Housing under the stars” can be an effective, low cost, and environmentally sound method of managing Wisconsin beef herds when the time is taken beforehand to develop an appropriate management strategy. Information on outwintering strategies and other housing systems for beef cattle are available through your local University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension office.

December 2015 WCA newsletter article by Dr. Rhonda R. Gildersleeve, UW-Extension Grazing Specialist, UW-Lancaster Agricultural Research Station