Clearing up the water

Cows consume more pounds of water a day than anything else. If water quality or water quantity are issues, your cattle have a problem.

The most common water quality concerns in the Midwest are high iron and high anion contents. Water above certain thresholds in these minerals can affect cow performance. Iron over 0.3 ppm or anions (sulfate + chloride levels greater than 1,000 ppm) are troublesome.

Water treatment methods available to remove the iron, sulfate and chloride include chlorination with filtration; ion exchange; ozonation; reverse osmosis; and an oxidizing filter. None of them are cheap.

Working with too much iron

The recommended maximum tolerable concentration of iron in drinking water is 0.3 ppm. Concentrations more than this can be detrimental to normal health and lactation performance. The common chemical form of iron in feed ingredients is ferric iron (Fe+3) which is insoluble (although low pH iron, say in calcium phosphates will be soluble). The iron in drinking water (Fe+2) is highly soluble and absorbable. Excess absorbed iron ingested from drinking water can lead to cellular stress and inhibit copper and zinc absorption.

High iron in drinking water also may reduce water intake, apparently because ferrous iron is unpalatable. When cows don’t drink enough, feed intake and milk production can suffer.

Aside from animal intake, the residue formed by iron-loving bacteria in water troughs can affect flow rates and water volume through pipes. Treating high-iron drinking water with 20 ppm hydrogen peroxide eliminates these microbes. However, immediately after treatment with hydrogen peroxide, there is a good chance there will be iron debris in the line. Check waterers to make sure everything is still flowing.

Effects of sulfate and chlorine

Excess sulfate and chloride can negatively influence a cow’s digestion, electrolyte balance, acid-base status and lactation. If the sum of the concentrations of sulfate plus chloride is greater than 1,000 ppm an evaluation should be done to determine if the anions are affecting cow health and performance.

High concentrations of sulfate plus chloride, (greater than 1,000 ppm) in water can reduce water consumption. In research at Michigan State University, animal scientists found the maximum tolerable concentrations of sulfate range from 3,500 ppm to 1,450 ppm sulfate. In that study, heifers discriminated against the water containing 1,450 ppm sulfate and rejected water with 2,800 ppm sulfate. Other research has shown levels of 3,200 to 4,700 ppm sulfate makes water unpalatable to livestock. Meanwhile, high-sulfate (1,200 ppm) in drinking water reduced performance of transition fresh dairy cows by causing reduced feed intake and milk yield, and increased incidences of retained fetal membranes and abomasal displacement.

Dealing with hydrogen sulfide

In water, sulfur present as hydrogen sulfide tends to smell like rotten eggs. While the research at Michigan State showed water intake increased when water without the smell was offered, scientists there didn’t find what concentration of hydrogen sulfide or what intensity of smell reduces normal water intake of cattle. It could be that animals simply adapt to the smell and maintain typical levels of intake if no other water is available.

Water-treatment options

If lab results show you have concentrations of iron, sulfate or chloride high enough to affect cattle performance, finding a different water source may be the best solution. If that’s not an option, treating water can work. Whether water treatment is cost effective will depend on your situation.

There are a several ways to treat water, each has its limitations, complications and expense.

Chlorination can remove dissolved iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide if followed by mechanical or activated carbon filtration. If not properly operated, a chlorination system can be expensive and potentially hazardous if chlorine byproducts escape. Cows dislike getting a strong waft of chlorine in the nose. Even adding slow release chlorine tablets into water tanks can affect water intake.

Use of mechanical filters is recommended with chlorination to remove soluble and insoluble particles and to reduce plugging or wear on equipment. Activated carbon filters use carbon granules to absorb free chlorine as well as other things that can contribute to odor, off-tasting water and contaminants like mercury, pesticides and radon gas.

A cation-anion exchange system can be used to remove iron and manganese at relatively low concentrations (less than 1 ppm).

Ozonation can remove soluble iron and manganese if water passes through mechanical or activated carbon filtration. Ozonation also destroys microorganisms. This method can be used to remove color, offtaste, odors and hydrogen sulfide.

Reverse osmosis technology removes iron, sulfate, chloride and other unwanted compounds. Impurities are filtered from water using membranes. However, initial and maintenance costs are steep, and the process requires a lot of volume because the rate of filtration is slow. Meanwhile, you’ll be collecting the filtrate—the stuff on the filter to dispose of. If you pull water out of the ground and treat it, what’s diverted from consumption is technically waste water. What happens to the waste water might be regulated by county, state or federal agencies. Be sure to check first.

Finally, oxidizing filters remove iron and manganese through filtering and chemical reactions. Hydrogen sulfide can also be removed in this manner.

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Start your foal right for future health

A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height and weight. From birth to age two, a young horse can achieve 90 percent or more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as 3 pounds per day. Feeding young horses is a balancing act, as the nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound effect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life.

At eight to 10 weeks of age, mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet a foal’s nutritional needs. As the foal’s dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains importance. Following are guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to help horse owners meet the nutrient needs of young horses.

  1. Provide high quality roughage; hay and pasture should be available free-choice.
  2. Supplement with a high-quality, properly balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates are desired. (MFA Strut and Shine).
  3. Start by feeding 1 percent of a foal’s body weight per day (a 300 pound horse gets 3 lbs. of feed). If you are in doubt of the weight/feed ratio, you can feed 1 pound of feed per month of age.
  4. Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape can help you approximate a foal’s size.
  5. Foals have small stomachs, so divide the daily ration into two to three feedings. Remove any old feed daily.
  6. Make sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
  7. Use a creep feeder or feed the foal separate from the mare so the foal can eat its own ration. Try to avoid group creep feeding situations.
  8. Do not overfeed. Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease.
  9. Provide opportunity for abundant exercise.

The foal’s first months of life is a time of rapid growth and digestive changes, and a time when nutrition plays a critical role in skeletal development. To achieve each foal’s genetic potential, you must provide feed to complement their changing digestive system in a form they can absorb and meet their nutrient needs of proteins, fats, calories, macro minerals, trace minerals and vitamins.

A common management practice in the past has been to allow nursing foals to eat with their dams. Unfortunately, the foal under two months of age has little ability to digest the higher fiber feeds of adult animals. Young foals have a digestive system geared up to take advantage of milk, but that changes over time. When a foal is between three and four months of age its digestive system changes to better handle cereals.

Nutritional shortages can develop from the decline in the mineral density in mare’s milk. If this is the reason, the foal will begin to show signs of developmental orthopedic disease between two to four months of age.

To help ensure adequate consumption, offer a creep feeder for the foal during its first week, then find a way keep foal and mare feed separate.

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Fly Fighting

Flies cause substantial economical losses to cattle producers; e.g., biting flies carry diseases such as anaplasmosis and bovine leukosis virus. Face flies can spread pinkeye from animal to animal. Flies are well adapted to the environment. They have been around for thousands of years and are doing very well for themselves. The adaptability of flies means that it is going to be impossible to completely remove them from your operation. However, there are ways to control flies and to lessen their negative impact.

1. FEED AN INSECT GROWTH REGULATOR. These are either Altosid to treat horn flies on pastured cattle, or Clarifly for confinement cattle. Clarifly has a claim for face flies in addition to horn flies. Clarifly costs about twice as much to use compared to Altosid, but it gets twice the fly species. The pesticide should be fed starting 30 days before flies typically appear, and should be continued for 30 days after a killing frost. This roughly means feeding it between March 15 to Nov. 15. While horn flies don’t travel far, face flies will travel up to two miles.

2. USE FLY TAGS. Newer-generation fly tags are quite useful in controlling fly populations. To reduce pyrethroid resistance, after using pyrethroid tags for two consecutive years, switch to an organo-phosphate tag for one year. For optimal fly control, many products require two tags for an adult animal and one tag for a calf. As always, whenever you are using a pesticide follow the label directions. Applying the tags too early will be result in less effective fly control. The ideal time to apply tags is when there are about 200 horn flies per cow. The best time to check this is in the early morning hours: it is cooler, and the wind tends to be down. Look at the animals as they graze, it is relatively easy to see the flies on their sides.

3. USE POUR-ONS. You can apply a pour-on at the same time you flytag your cattle. If you are doing this during spring turnout time, you can use a product that kills internal parasites, these products are also effective against flies. If you do this later in the year, use products that are just labeled for flies and/or lice.

4. PROVIDE DUST BAGS/CATTLE RUBS. If you place a dust bag or rub at a site where all cattle use it, and keep it charged with insecticide, it can provide a very economical means of controlling face and horn flies.

5. SPRAY CATTLE. If you use a spray product on your cattle at timely intervals it can be very effective at reducing the fly population. Though useful, this method can be time-consuming.

When working on controlling flies and lessening their damage to your cattle, it is unlikely that one strategy alone will be sufficient. When you use several methods in conjunction, you are better able to lessen the negative impact of flies. If grass tetany is a concern, use Mag- Ade Meal IGR-CTC. If you offer free-choice mineral and want to minimize problems, feed Ricochet FESQ Max CTC-Alt. If you need a fescue equalizer, feed Fescue Equalizer CTC-Alt.

Horn flies cost the American cattle industry a couple of million dollars every day. Horn flies are about half the length of a house fly. Both males and females are blood feeders and congregate on the shoulders and backs of cattle. When disturbed, horn flies will fly up in a swarm, but they will return to animals almost immediately. Females leave occasionally to lay their eggs in fresh manure piles.

The close association between horn flies and host helps with control. The flies leave animals only to lay eggs or to change hosts. Thus many methods will expose flies to control practices (ear tags, topical products, feed-through feed additives). With some chemistries (pyrethroids), insect resistance has been an issue. Resistance is not a problem when using IGR-insect growth regulator, chemical name S-methoprene; there is no known resistance to IGR-methoprene-Altosid. The appropriate application of an IGR feed-through product is that the horn fly control is long-term and preventive, not reactive. IGR is ingested as part of the animal’s feed. Cattle then excrete manure which has IGR. Given that horn flies must lay their eggs in fresh manure, the IGR is there to keep the horn fly pupae from developing into breeding, biting adult horn flies.

Ricochet FESQ Max CTC-Alt is a convenient, ready-to-use mineral formulated to balance range or pasture feeding programs for beef cattle. The inclusion of IGR and CTC allows for both horn fly control and medicated feed claims.

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6 steps for a successful lambing or kidding season

The health, growth and early performance of a lamb or kid crop directly impacts future performance in the milking parlor, pasture or showring. As a result, long-term successes can be driven by success during the lambing and kidding season.

Nutrition is essential in giving lambs and kids a solid start. High quality milk replacer can be a solution to success; however, success is not guaranteed on milk replacer alone. Here is a look at six steps to a successful total management program shared at the 2015 Dairy Sheep Association of North America Symposium.

1. Set obtainable goals

Before the first lamb hits the ground, analyze past performance of the flock, set tangible goals and determine a path for achieving these goals. Consider a 200 percent lamb or kid crop as an attainable goal. Mature and well-conditioned ewes and does should be able to lamb at least two lambs or kids. Strive for less than 5 percent pre-weaning mortality. The industry target is less than 5 percent, but it’s estimated that 20 percent of lambs are lost before weaning, with 80 percent of those losses in the first 10 days.

2. Provide newborn care

Within the first few minutes after a lamb or kid is born, they are exposed to bacteria and pathogens. Two ways to protect against these pathogens are navel disinfection and quality colostrum.

Dip the newborn’s navel in 7 percent tincture of iodine immediately after birth. Make sure the disinfectant covers both the outside and inside of the navel.

Colostrum or the first milk in lactation is the primary protection newborns receive against environmental pathogens and bacteria. Lambs and kids should receive 10 percent of their body weight in colostrum by 18 hours of age, fed at 105 degrees F. For example, a 10-pound lamb should be fed 1 pound or 16 ounces of colostrum in the first 18 hours of its life.

Keep in mind that fluctuations in colostrum quality and quantity are probable; a colostrum replacement can be used to ensure all lambs and kids receive a high-quality, disease-free colostrum.

3. Select a species-specific milk replacer

After newborns are fed high-quality colostrum or colostrum replacer for the first feeding, they can be transitioned to a milk replacer.

Look for a milk replacer made specifically for lambs or kids. Many options of milk replacer may be available to you, but calves, lambs, kids, pigs, alpacas, puppies and kittens all have different nutrient requirements. Milk replacers formulated for lambs are better able to provide the nutrients lambs require because they closely mimic the composition of ewe’s milk. The same is true with kid-specific milk replacers for kid goats.

4. Choose the right feeding system

Bottle feeding, free-choice feeding or an automated system are the three primary means of feeding lambs and kids on milk replacer.

Select which system is the best fit by considering the facilities, size of operation, labor situation and performance objectives. Make sure the system provides enough nutrition so lambs and kids at least triple their birth weight by 28 days of age. Clean and disinfect the system as often as possible.

5. Stimulate rumen development

The rumen is the main site for nutrient breakdown. Absorption in mature ruminants and in other species has been highly correlated to health and performance of the animal.

When a lamb or kid is born, the rumen is not fully developed and neither are the papillae inside the rumen. Growth of the rumen papillae and rumen development can be correlated with what the lamb or kid eats pre-weaning.

If the rumen is not developed appropriately, weaning can be delayed or unsuccessful. Water is a critical ingredient in the development of bacterial growth and the beginning of rumen fermentation. Always provide free choice water.

6. Promote a smooth weaning transition

Lambs and kids are ready for weaning when they consume an equivalent of 1.5 percent of their body weight in high-quality creep feed along with adequate water. Usually this will occur near 30 days of age or 35 pounds of weight. At weaning time, each lamb should have consumed at least 25 pounds of lamb milk replacer powder.

Follow these steps to weaning:

  • Plan weaning protocol, timing and facilities 14 to 21 days prior to weaning.
  • Ensure animals are consuming creep feed and utilizing water.
  • Gradually remove milk replacer or remove ewe.
  • Feed a high protein ration (18 to 25 percent crude protein).

Following these six steps provides a total management system for successfully raising lambs or kids, especially when on milk replacer. Setting goals, providing a high-quality colostrum and milk replacer, comfortable housing, and ready access to high quality feed and water will help lambs and kids thrive.

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Stocker health is stocker profit

Stocker cattle health has always been a challenge, but the challenge seems to have increased over the years. We have some of the best vaccines and technology, but the mortality number has continued to rise.

Any number of things can influence stocker calf health. I have been told by backgrounders that the feed I formulate doesn’t influence calf health nearly as much as other variables. They tell me where the calves come from is important. How they were previously managed, weaned, bought and transported is a big factor. And how they were managed when received is important, too. Somewhere in the discussion, I usually try to point out that Cattle Charge really does help get calves off to a good start.

While variables other than feed are important in the health risk equation, the feed/ration that formulated is of absolute significance to how the calf will perform as soon as they hit the facility. For example, with long-haul, weaned-on-the-truck calves, the first few days is very important to offer a highly palatable and nutrient-dense pellet/ration that will compensate for low intake. Getting them to eat and having sound bunk management is absolutely key to prop up immunity status of the calf. You can have the best vaccination protocol, but if the calves do not eat a fully fortified/balanced diet for the expected intake, any amount of vaccine/medicine will not work as expected.

The vaccine to use will depend on the targeted pathogen, as well as the complexity of where the pathogen resides in the calf and the level of protection that can come from the vaccine. Your veterinarian should make specific vaccine recommendations based on your operation, the risk level of your cattle, and the past disease issues they have experienced.

The real cost of sick calves is reduced performance and death loss, not the cost of medication. Yes, some medications are expensive upfront costs, but the cost of poor performance or losing a calf is greater. Whittling away at costs of medication is to lose focus on the real cost—one dead calf buys a lot of medicine.

If you bring calves to the farm and don’t have a detailed knowledge of what you are bringing in, you’ll have little control over how they were weaned. You won’t know vaccination history or the what exposure to pathogens the animals have had. Nor will you know how they were handled, sold or transported. Somewhere in this discussion, I usually try to point out that buying Health Track calves assures you of previous management, ability to handle stress and generally improved performance.

Regardless of where you get backgrounders, it is important to match the available resources to the calves once they are settled and go onto grass or the backgrounding yard. The objective is to manage for performance.

If the calves are on a pasture, forage allocation/stocking rate is key. Animal performance will tend to improve as forage availability increases, but only up to a point. And increasing stocking rate tends to increase pounds of gain per acre, but only up to a point. The right forage availability/stocking rate depends on forage production, forage quality, cost inputs and value of weight gain.

Calves on a forage base will need to be supplemented. They will need added protein if the forage base is corn silage. They will need energy if the forage base is cool-season grass. Supplementing energy to energy-short forage rations improves calf performance and improves efficiency of feed utilization. In all situations their performance can be improved with feeding an approved feed additive—ionophores such as Rumensin or Bovatec and fly control when needed. If you do not feed a supplement, at least feed a mineral. Feeding mineral on pastured calves usually shows about a 0.25-pound improvement in average daily gain for calves compared to calves without access to mineral. Feeding an ionophore is worth about 0.2 pounds of average daily gain.

Consider using implants when feasible. In feeder cattle, estrogenic growth-promoting implants improve feed efficiency and daily gain 5 to 15 percent. Implants that include TBA can provide an additional 3 to 5 percent improvement in feed efficiency and daily gain. A good re-implant program can sustain implant-associated performance beyond the payout that would be expected for a single implant. If you are looking for a high quality grade, the most important thing is to never have an implant dosage that exceeds what the caloric intake can support at any stage of production. If they are eating enough to gain 3.5 lbs per day, that boost is 0.5 lbs per day. If they have enough calories to gain 1.5 lbs per day, the improvement is only 0.15 lbs. When the implant is going full-tilt and the calories aren’t there is what may negatively impact grade potential. Proper implant administration can improve the response to implanting. Proper use of disinfectants, using sharp needles, and proper placement are important. The principal problems of getting it wrong will be abscesses and crushed or missing implants. While some implants come with antibiotics, this is not a substitute for good implanting technique.

At weaning, calves not intended for breeding should be implanted with a “feeder”, or low-to moderate-potency implant. The feeder implant can be either an estrogenic implant or a combination estrogenic/TBA implant.

It is important to finish the feeding period with the most potent implant selected in the implanting program. Therefore, if a combination estrogenic/TBA implant is selected as the first implant, it should be used again in subsequent implantings. If an estrogenic implant without TBA is selected as the first implant, a similar product or an estrogenic/TBA implant can be selected for subsequent implanting.

You can delay implanting if the days on implant program do not fit with the expected days on feed. If the animals are high risk, implanting them increases nutrient requirements when their intake is already low.

Delaying implanting 20 to 30 days after they are placed in the feedlot has proven effective. For example, if a group of calves arrives at the feedlot weighing 500 pounds, and the expected days on feed to reach market weight is 240 days, delaying 30 days would allow for use of two implants rather than three.

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