Fall is when many beef producers repair facilities, wean calves, vaccinate and move cattle to fall grazing. Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist, joins Sound Ag Advice to discuss the many management and labor decisions that producers need to make going into winter.
What is Sound Ag Advice?
“Sound Ag Advice” presented by the NDSU Extension Service features NDSU Extension specialists and staff talking about current crop and livestock issues. “Sound Ag Advice” is free and can be used in any way you see fit.
Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension Veterinarian and Livestock Stewardship Specialist
Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined this week by Dr. Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. Today we're going to talk about some of the things that producers should kind of be thinking about. So, Dr. Stokka, let's first talk about scheduling pregnancy checks for your cows. What do producers need to know about that?
Gerald: You know, a lot of things are going on this fall. In fact, what we're going to talk about is undoubtedly been delayed, whether it's kind of pushed everything back, still soybeans in the field and corn to be harvested and a whole bunch of things that the pressure starts to build, how am I going to get all this stuff done. So, I'm going to schedule with my veterinarian preg check time, for example. And all of a sudden, it gets to be a nice day. And I'm in the field trying to combine soybean. So I understand the pressures that are being dealt with right now.
But let's talk in a general sense, when we can get these things done. What am I doing when I'm preg checking cows, really, what I'm trying to do first of all, of course, is identify cows that have conceived and are carrying the pregnancy now into the fall time of the year. But I'm also, in addition, to finding those cows that are open or in other words, not pregnant, I have to look at some other things in the cow herd because I don't want to keep some cows over that either have feet and leg issues have other issues, maybe they just didn't raise a good calf, or maybe they've reached a stage in their life where it's unlikely that they'll be able to raise much of a calf again.
So I need really need to make some objective decisions based on who I'm going to keep over the winner. I don't know if I should use term freeloaders, but we got to have only those cows that we're gonna keep over and hopefully raise a calf for the next year. The other thing too, that to remind people of is that bulls need to be locked out. Maybe some of these bulls, they've been a fabulous source of genetics for my herd, but maybe they're reaching an age where I've got daughters out of this bull, or maybe raised a lot of steer calves out of this bull. And you know, maybe it's time, or maybe the bull has feet or leg issues or maybe he's got some reproductive issues, and we're not sure about him next spring being able to to breed cows again. And so, a number of decisions that need to be made at that fall time when we're going to bring that herd in and determine pregnancy but there's a whole lot of other decisions.
Kelli: You mentioned to me commingling. Tell me what that term means and how it affects calves that are coming in off a summer pasture?
Gerald: Now this is a really important topic and sometimes even veterinarians and our producers forget about commingling. Commingling is a term that we use when we put groups together that don't know each other. That's in simplest terms. I can think about it even happens with people. We mix groups of young children together in nursery schools. The same thing can happen even on a ranch where all the calves and cows are treated the same. What happens is that those cows and calves don't spend the summer together. There are undoubtedly in many different pastures. When I bring them together, let's say even before weaning, or even at weaning, that's a stress those calves have to adjust to.
And most of the time, the biggest problems we see with commingling on ranch raised calves on the same ranch is when I do this commingling at weaning. So now what I've done is that I've compounded the stress of removing the calf from the mother, I've changed his diet, I'm going to give him something else to eat, get him used to different feed stuffs. And then I'm going to put them with some strangers, so to speak. And we have to keep in mind that, you know, these calves, they may be 550 to 600 pounds, we think of them as big animals. They're relatively young animals. And so, a little bit like a nursery school. Now they're going to trade bugs with each other. I won't say we necessarily see ear infections, but you could.
But all those bugs that cause ear infections or upper respiratory disease, or even pneumonias, respiratory disease, now they're going to share those bugs. And I got this stress of commingling compounding the sharing of bugs. And so that's when I start see what we call clinical disease that I might need to treat. My advice is if you've had this problem in the past at weaning, and you commingle that weaning, is there any way you can bring all these groups together while they're still with their mothers? Maybe apply pre-weaning vaccinations, but group them together at that time when that stress doesn't get compounded by removing them from the mother and commingling at the same time.
Kelli: Great things to think about for our North Dakota beef producers. For more items on a fall checklist that you should be thinking about as a cattle producer. Go to NDSU Ag News and Google NDSU Extension fall checklist. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.