Jan. 25, 2021
Regional hay issues due to western drought
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist
Recent USDA reports provide a picture of the hay situation across the U.S. December 1 hay stocks were down a scant 0.6% year over year for the entire U.S. Table 1 shows the top ten states for hay stocks as well as 2020 all hay, alfalfa hay and other production. Among the top ten states for hay stocks, Texas was up 14.3% year over year along with Kentucky, up 27.5% and Tennessee up 1.0 % compared to the previous year. Nebraska had an equal level of hay stocks on Dec. 1. The other six states had year over year reductions in end-of-year hay stocks led by Missouri, down 13.0%; North Dakota, down 11.9%; South Dakota, down 7.2; Montana, down 5.9%; Kansas, down 5.7% and Oklahoma, down 2.4%.
Total 2020 hay production was down 1.6% nationwide with alfalfa hay production down 3.3% year over year and other hay production down just 0.3% compared to 2019. All hay production in Kentucky was up 22.7% year over year, led by a 24.2% increase in other hay production. Texas had a 4.9% year over year increase in both all hay and other hay production. Nebraska had a 4.7% increase in all hay year over year, the result of a 9.5% decrease in alfalfa production and a 25.3% increase in other hay production.
Table 1. U.S. and Top Ten States Hay Stocks and Production, 2020
Drought persisted across much of the west in 2020 and has extended into much of the Great Plains at the current time. Several states reveal the impact of the drought on hay production and supplies and the challenges for cattle producers in those regions.
Colorado had Dec. 1 hay stocks down 15.0% year over year, with 2020 alfalfa hay production down 11.9% and other hay production down 32.1%. New Mexico had Dec. 1 hay stocks down 36.4% year over year and the lowest end-of year-hay stocks in the state in data back to 1973. New Mexico alfalfa hay production was down 12.1% year over year and other hay production was down 21.8% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
While overall U.S. hay supplies appear to be adequate, it is clear that some drought regions are experiencing severe challenges to get through the winter. The 16 western and plains states (not including Texas) had Dec. 1 hay stocks down 5.8% year over year. Texas has some drought regions but overall hay stocks in the state are up.
Helping the cow and the calf during, and after Stage 2 of calving
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist
An issue facing the rancher at calving time, is the amount of time heifers or cows are allowed to be in labor before assistance is given. Formerly, traditional text books, fact sheets and magazine articles stated that Stage 2 of labor lasted from two to four hours. Stage 2 is defined as that portion of the birthing process from the first appearance of the water bag until the baby calf is delivered. Research data from Oklahoma State University and the USDA experiment station at Miles City, Montana, clearly show that Stage II is much shorter, lasting approximately 60 minutes in first calf heifers and 30 minutes or less in mature cows.
Table 1. Research Results of Length of Stage II of Parturition
|Source||No. of Animals||Length of Stage 2|
|USDA (Doornbos, et al.1984. JAS:59:1)||24 mature cows||22.5 min.|
|USDA (Doornbos, et al.1984. JAS:59:1)||32 first calf heifers||54.1 min.|
|Oklahoma State Univ. (Putnam, et al. 1985. Therio:24:385)||32 first calf heifers||55.0 min.|
In these studies, heifers that were in Stage 2 of labor much more than one hour or cows that were in Stage 2 much more than 30 minutes definitely needed assistance. Research information also shows that calves from prolonged deliveries are weaker and more disease prone, even if born alive. In addition, cows or heifers with prolonged deliveries return to heat later and are less likely to be bred for the next calf crop. Consequently a good rule of thumb: “If the heifer is not making significant progress one hour after the water bag or feet appear, examine the heifer to see if you can provide assistance. Mature cows should be watched for only 30 minutes before a rectal examine is conducted.” Make certain the cervix is completely dilated before pulling on the chains. If you cannot safely deliver the calf yourself at this time, call your local large animal veterinarian immediately.
Despite our best efforts at bull selection and heifer development, cows or heifers occasionally need assistance at calving time. Every baby calf has a certain degree of respiratory acidosis. Acidosis is the result of the deprivation of oxygen and the accumulation of carbon dioxide that results from the passage of the calf through the birth canal. The excess of carbon dioxide results in a build-up of lactic acid (therefore the acidosis.) In order to correct the lack of oxygen and the excess of carbon dioxide and its by-products, the healthy calf will pant vigorously shortly after birth. Some calves, however, may be sluggish and slow to begin this corrective process. Calves born after a prolonged Stage 2 or calves delivered backwards (hind feet first) often are sluggish and severely acidotic.
It is imperative that the newborn calf begins to breathe as soon as possible. To stimulate the initiation of the respiratory process, a few ideas may help. First, manually clear the mouth and nasal passages of fluids and mucus. Traditionally, compromised calves were held up by their hind legs to allow fluid to drain from the airways, but now many veterinarians and animal scientists don’t recommend this. Most of the fluid that drains from an upside-down calf is stomach fluid, important to health. Holding the calf by its hind legs also puts pressure on the diaphragm from abdominal organs, interfering with normal breathing. It’s better to use a suction bulb to clear the airways.
Hanging the calf over a fence also is NOT a recommended method for a sluggish newborn. The weight of the calf on the fence restricts the movement of the diaphragm muscle. The fence impairs the diaphragm’s ability to contract and move. This diaphragm activity is necessary to expand the lungs to draw in air and needed oxygen.
A better method is to briskly tickle the inside of the nostrils of the calf with a straw. This will usually cause the calf to have a reflex action such as a “snort” or cough. The reflex cough or “snort” expands the lungs and allows air to enter. Expect the calf to pant rapidly for a few minutes after breathing is initiated. Panting is the natural response that increases oxygen intake and carbon dioxide release and will allow the calf to reach normal blood gas concentrations. Click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEKy2pHjmoE to watch a video of this technique. Read more about working with cows and heifers at calving time by downloading Oklahoma State University Extension Circular E-1006 “Calving Time Management for Beef Cows and Heifers”.