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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
trojan horse

Don't buy the Trojan Horse


Drought in different areas of the United States has moved many cows hundreds of miles from origin. In many cases cows are under-valued in drought areas due to lack of water and low winter feed supplies. As a result, many times even with higher freight costs cows can be bought cheaper out of drought areas compared to local markets. I think it is important to realize that cows from different areas of the country and from drought-stricken areas are not without potential pitfalls.

Additional management needs to be placed on cows purchased under these scenarios. Here are the main areas to focus on:

Herd Health

Don't let these "cheap" cows suddenly cost you thousands of dollars. Cows from any location need to be monitored closely for diseases that could ruin herd health. A lapse in herd health management and biosecurity to accommodate cheap cows could result in a disaster. Quarantine periods need to be at least two weeks. If there are signs of health risk in any part of the two weeks, quarantine should remain until otherwise specified by your veterinarian. Some diseases that should be managed against or tested for include Trichomoniasis, Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD), Johnes, Leptospirosis, and Vibriosis/Campylobacterosis. These diseases are potential herd-wreckers. Abortion storms, repertory disease and sub-clinical symptoms associated with several of these diseases could quickly erase any herd profit potential. Vaccinations and testing for these diseases are good insurance practices, but they are not a substitution for maintaining quarantine period and strict bio-security. Buy cattle from a reputable source that has a well-executed herd health program. Always consult with your local veterinarian when bringing in new cattle.

Body Condition Score(BCS)

Cows that have been subjected to drought conditions and nutritional stressors are good candidates for problems. Body Condition scoring is a good way to evaluate past nutrition. Due to limited forage availability in a drought, cows tend to drop below ideal Body Condition Score (BCS) and thus problems or added feed costs can follow. Dystocia/Retained Placenta is one concern that can surface as a result of poor nutrition. Calving problems arise as cows are weaker and less equipped to meet the nutrient and energy demands involved with calving. If cows are brought up slowly on nutrition, you may avoid these issues. It is important to have a time period to adjust cows to the new environment and add some condition. Another pitfall of under-nourished cows is immunosuppression. Thus, they are more susceptible to becoming ill or contracting diseases. There is also data to support that calves that are in-utero or born into these stressors have lower performance and less immunity. These are hidden costs that can eliminate potential profits. It is important to realize thin cows need to be supplemented until they re-gain condition.

Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies

Cows that are from drought areas can potentially be deficient in some minerals and vitamins. Obviously, with these deficiencies cattle cannot perform to maximum capacity and in severe cases they can be compromised. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also contribute to immunosuppression, thus leading to increased health risk. It is crucial that vitamins and minerals be adequately provided through feed, mineral, and injectables if needed. I would recommend direct-feeding the mineral with a supplement or an injectable mineral supplement to ensure these valuable components make it in the cow. Free-choice mineral consumption is extremely variable and at times not all cows consume free-choice mineral. If you must use free-choice mineral, place it in the path of the cattle and near a water source.

In summary, risk is always involved with purchasing cattle from another source. Level of risk depends partly on the source and previous environment, but mainly on the level of management applied to them upon receiving. There is opportunity in the cattle industry. However, it is important to realize the potential downside and manage against it. There is no substitution for good management. I urge producers to develop a good working relationship with your veterinarian, nutritionist, and extension specialist. Good relationships, good management, and common sense makes the cattle business a fun and profitable place to be.



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