Cow-Calf Corner: Arctic freeze and government thaw; Reducing the risk of a calf scours outbreak

Jan. 28, 2018

Arctic freeze and government thaw
by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist

Extreme cold temperatures and heavy snow will grip much of the eastern half of the country this week. From eastern Montana, across the Great Lakes and the Midwest to the east coast and the southeast, wind, snow and winter mix will likely impact cattle, travel and a host of markets in the coming days. 

Beef markets will mostly be impacted by reduced feedlot performance and carcass weights; possible disruptions in movement of cattle to packing plants; and potential transportation delays of products through wholesale and retail markets. Production losses due to winter weather can reduce beef supplies and may have residual impacts for several weeks. Individual cattle producers, in feedlots and in the country, will face numerous management challenges and increased production costs. Beef demand may also be impacted as weather disrupts travel and business.  

Additional data will help to determine the market impacts of severe winter weather. Although USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) continued to release price reports during the shutdown, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and other agencies that provide agricultural data were closed. The opening of the federal government late last week will eventually lead to resumption of interrupted data flows. Among many repercussions of the federal government shutdown, agricultural data has been severely disrupted. Some reports will resume after a delay and some may be completely skipped. Numerous crop, livestock and trade reports were missed in January, which are important for cattle and beef markets.

Missing from delayed or skipped January reports are the monthly crop production (including the Dec. 1 hay stocks by state) and the annual crop production report that will confirm 2018 production of corn and other feed grains, soybeans and hay. The grain stocks report provides information about crop market conditions for the current marketing year. The winter wheat/canola seedings report will provide information about winter wheat pasture.

The January livestock trade data (for November) was not reported and will be important to close out 2018 livestock and meat import and export totals.  Detailed weekly cattle slaughter data has not been reported since early December along with carcass weights by slaughter class. These are important to finalize 2018 beef production totals and also to assess the current status of cattle markets including weather impacts. 

The January Cattle on Feed report was not released last Friday (and may be skipped entirely) and the very important annual Cattle report that was due to be released Jan. 31 will undoubtedly be delayed. This crucial report will confirm cattle inventories as of Jan. 1, 2019, and will provide indications of cattle herd dynamics in the coming year. It is critical that these and other data reports resume quickly.  

Reducing the risk of a calf scours outbreak
by Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
(Adapted from “Neonatal Calf Diarrhea Complex” by John Kirkpatrick, DVM

Neonatal calf diarrhea (commonly called “calf scours”) is one of the most costly disease entities in the beef cattle business.  Fall-calving herds have the help of the hot, late summer/early fall sunshine to reduce the buildup and spread of the pathogens that cause calf diarrhea. 

However, whether you have spring or fall-calving cows (or both) there are some key management procedures that will reduce the likelihood of a scours outbreak in your calves.  These procedures are meant to decrease the pathogen exposure to the newborn calf. Other measures will be discussed in a later newsletter that are intended to increase the immunity that protects the calf from the pathogens in his environment.

1)Calve in clean and dry areas. 

2)Calve heifers earlier than the cow herd.

3)Avoid congregating and creating muddy, pathogen infested areas in calving pastures
a) If possible, avoid loose hay feeding in calving pastures.
b) If hay is fed, use bale rings or hay feeders and move feeders frequently.
c) Move pairs to larger pastures promptly. Larger herds may want to study and employ the Sandhills Calving System.

4) Use biosecurity and biocontainment measures for all herd additions: 
a) Isolate, quarantine, and perform appropriate tests on all herd additions.
b) Introduce pregnant herd additions at least 30 days prior to the start of calving season. This will allow time for exposure to new pathogens, antibody development and secretion of antibodies into the colostrum.
c) Do not add calves to the herd until the youngest calf in the herd is over 30 days of age. Buying a calf at a livestock auction or from a dairy for a cow that has lost a calf can introduce diseases that your herd may not have immunity against.

5. Isolation and treatment: 
a) Remove sick calves from the herd immediately. One sick calf can produce overwhelming pathogen exposure by shedding as many as 100 million bacteria or viruses per milliliter of feces (500 million bacteria and or viruses per teaspoon of feces).
b) Visit with your local large animal veterinarian to determine best treatment options for the pathogens affecting your calves.
c) Treating the sick calves should occur after handling the well calves.  Clean and disinfect all equipment.  Clothing, boots, gloves, etc. worn while treating sick calves should not be worn when handling well calves.

Cow-Calf Corner is a newsletter by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Agency. 

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