Sound Ag Advice

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Producers are busy with haying and harvest this time of year, but they should not forget about the bulls out breeding cows, says Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. Stokka joins Sound Ag Advice to discuss the things he looks for when checking bulls during breeding

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, 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. Now it's the time of year when some of our North Dakota beef producers have turned their bulls out, and they might get busy harvesting haying. But we want them to not forget the bulls.
Dr. Stokka, I know that you're also a livestock producer. What do you look for when you go out to check bulls that are out on pasture?

Dr. Stokka: Yes, thanks Kelli. That's a good question. And we know that some are done with the breeding season now. But many others have turned the bulls out recently. And you get busy doing other things. And they've become an afterthought. But it's critical, especially in the early part of the breeding season that these bulls not only know what they're doing, but are actually capable of mating.
But there are several things that can happen to these bulls out there. The first thing that I do, is to go out check because I want to make sure they are there. And are they in shape and in condition to be able to breed? Or are they�re missing, and I might spend some amount of time just trying to find them? Or do I find extra bulls in the pasture that shouldn't be there. So that's an issue as well. But what I'm looking for is bulls that are active with the cows, that they're not laying off by themselves, which they will do later in the breeding season when perhaps they think they're done. But they shouldn't be laying around now they should be acting right with those cows. And if they're not, if they're off by themselves, or if they're lagging behind, the reason could be an injury, could be disease, or a condition like foot rot or pinkeye. So we�ve got to be mindful of all those things. That's one of the most important things I do when I go out and check cows and calves is to make sure the bulls are doing what they're supposed to do.

Kelli: If we suspect one of our bulls is unhealthy, what should we do?

Dr. Stokka: Yes, proper diagnosis. And so most of our producers are pretty well in tune with making a diagnosis of pinkeye. You know, it's where you got an infection in the eye and, you got tears coming down the side of the face, we call it photophobia, which just means it�s painful in the sun. So you got an eye that's trying to be partially closed because it's painful, and there's a lot of tears coming down. Most of the time, that's going to be pinkeye. In a pasture setting, it could also be just a foreign body that's lodged in the cornea. Like sometimes we get, but if you have more than one, it's usually a diagnosis of pinkeye that should be treatable provided you catch it early enough.
And the other one, of course is foot rot. Now, sometimes we tend to think that all lameness is foot rot. Not necessarily, there are several different diagnoses that can be made regarding lameness. Is it an injury? Is it actually the foot or is it a crack in the hoof that's become infected. Foot rot is pretty classic in that the animal is severely lame. The bottom of the foot, the skin and soft tissue around the hoof will be swollen, I mean, dramatically swollen. And if that's the case, the diagnosis usually is pretty clear. It's what we call foot rot.

Kelli: What are some of the treatment options for pinkeye and foot rot?
Dr. Stokka: Good question. Both of those conditions are mostly caused by a bacterial infection. And most of them are quite amenable to being treated with an antibiotic. But in a pasture situation, that can be a little bit of a problem. And in some cases, or in many cases, you may have to bring the entire group in just to treat one or two animals. Now I know some have used darts to treat animals on pasture if they can get close enough with an air pump rifle within 15 to 20 feet. But I just caution people about that because you need to spend time to get close enough. Is the dose right? Have you got enough for a larger animal? And is it delivered properly? There are some studies that indicate that you're really not getting the right dose, it's not the right amount actually into the animal. And so it's way less than second best to dart an animal for some of those conditions. The best is actually to provide restraint and put the right antibiotic or the right dose into that animal.

Kelli: Great advice from Dr. Gerald Stokka, our NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. For more information on keeping your bulls healthy throughout the breeding season, go to our NDSU Extension Ag News site and find the news release called Don't Forget the Bulls. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.