As a Nutritionist, I often field questions from cattlemen on calf scours, weak calves and other calving time disasters. Most all of these questions come after the problem has already set in. While we cannot control the weather that will play a large role in stressing newly born claves, we can control the management of stress in our herds.
Providing more than just “adequate” facilities/pastures for calving is one management tool that will pay dividends when trying to prevent a scours outbreak. If you are calving in or around buildings, providing a clean, dry area for the cows and calves is essential. A buildup of manure or moisture, as well as other calves that may be sick, are your worst enemies if you calve in a small area. If you calve in pastures, you can reduce the pathogen load normally seen in smaller lots or around buildings. In addition, the University of Nebraska Sandhills Calving System may provide even greater protection to newly born claves. In short, this system suggests you move the pregnant cows to a new pasture every two weeks or so. By leaving the cows with calves behind, you minimize the pathogens that can affect newly born calves in the new pasture.
Nutrition is also a management tool we all control. For spring calving cows, most forages are deficient in the trace minerals and vitamins necessary for production of good quality colostrum. Supplementation of trace minerals, vitamins and phosphorus is then absolutely essential to building the quality of colostrum that will provide the calf with a robust immune system necessary to avoid scours. Supplementation should start at least six weeks prior to calving and may be required all winter (for protein) if low quality forages are used. If you wait until scours become an issue, you will have waited too long. It takes weeks of proper nutrition to build quality colostrum.
In recent years, we have seen a number of supplements with Altech’s® Bio-Mos® become available to cattlemen to use pre-calving through the end of calving. Bio-Mos® is a mannan oligosaccharide (mos) that attaches to harmful bacteria in the gut of cattle. It has been suggested that this attachment renders the bacteria harmless as it can no longer cause damage to the gut wall.
If you are worried about colostrum quality, take steps to provide some nutritional insurance. CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements are an easy way to affordably provide protein, trace minerals, vitamins, phosphorus and Bio-Mos® in a supplement block that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.
Winter isn’t just for calving. Sheep and goat producers are gearing up for lambing/kidding season, too.
The last month of gestation is a key time in gestational development. Fetuses are rapidly growing and the body is mobilizing nutrients for milk production. Space in the rumen becomes a limiting factor. The rapidly growing lambs or kids push the uterus into the space normally occupied by the rumen, leaving less and less space for feed. Consequently, the dam may not have enough room in the rumen to get all her energy needs fulfilled (especially on an all-forage diet).
This negative energy balance can cause ketosis, also known as pregnancy toxemia. Pregnancy toxemia usually occurs in the last few weeks of gestation in females that are thin or fat and carrying a large single or multiples. Since the dam physically can’t eat enough to meet her energy needs, the body starts burning fat. This may seem like a great idea, but the body isn’t as efficient at burning fat for energy as it is with carbohydrates. This can result in a build of ketones in the liver and result in pregnancy toxemia.
The symptoms of pregnancy toxemia include going completely off feed, lying down and refusing to get up when approached, depression and teeth grinding. You may also notice that the dam will have a ketone (sickly sweet) smell to their breath. The negative energy balance can also be accompanied by tremors, blindness or incoordination. Treatment options for a ewe or doe diagnosed with pregnancy toxemia revolve around getting energy into the dam. This generally means sugar (glucose) delivered via drench or IV along with other electrolytes.
Providing your ewes or does with an energy source in late gestation can help prevent, or even treat, pregnancy ketosis. Molasses-based supplements, such as CRYSTALYX®, provide a readily digestible source of energy for the rumen microbes. This in turn can help increase fiber digestibility in the rumen and thus more energy available to the dam. At a time where the dam’s intake (rumen space) is restricted by the fetal growth, maximizing every bite is key.
CRYSTALYX® offers a number of protein and mineral/vitamin supplements formulated especially for sheep and goat. Click on the 'By Species' tab above and select sheep or goat to learn more about these products.
Hay quality will vary due to forage type, stage of maturity at harvest and harvest conditions. In addition to hay, feeding harvested crop residue such as corn stalk bales is common. Often a combination of different quality hays are fed at the same time using past experience and some nutritional “cow sense” helping to determine the correct blend. Cow body condition and cow contentment are used as rough indicators of meeting the dry matter intake and energy needs of the cows. Evaluating the manure is a tool that can help indicate when changes in the forage mix or supplement strategy is needed. We need to be aware that the nutritional needs of the cow will change depending on production cycle.
Hay supplies are tight due to fewer hay acres and increased demand for hay in the southwest due to drought. Supply and demand dynamics have driven hay prices higher across the country. Hay quality varied greatly due to weather challenges during growing and harvest. Forage analysis is the best way to know the quality of your hay. Using average values from forage testing labs can be misleading. Dairy nutritionists will sample forages on a weekly or monthly basis. The number of dairy quality hay samples will skew the average to the high side. A recent survey of hay destined for beef cattle was conducted in northern Missouri, southeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois. This was not a large survey but does give an indication of the wide variation in hay protein content and relative feed value (RFV).
For 17 samples the average crude protein content was 10.32% and the available crude protein was 9.41%. The available crude protein takes into account heat damaged and bound protein that is not available for digestion.
The relative feed value ranged from 61 to 106 points for an average of 81. This is an indication that many of the samples were from quite mature forage with increased fiber content. RFV will decline as fiber content increases and the more readily digestible sugars decrease.
Manure evaluation can be used to evaluate the extent of digestion. This gives an indication of forage quality and can help determine if a change in supplement strategy is needed. The ideal cow pie would have an even consistency and be uniform in size and color. The height of the cow pie should be 2-3 inches. Manure from diet containing only low protein and low RFV forage will have larger fiber particles. This is due to poor digestion in the rumen due to a lack of readily available protein and carbohydrates. Manure can be washed through a screen to show the extent of fiber digestion. However, it is more common to flatten the cow pie under your boot for further observation. For example, hay number 8 is around 6% CP and RFV of 60 points. The cow pies from cows consuming hay number 8 would be large, very firm and stack higher than desired. Nutritionally this indicates that the low protein and high fiber content is limiting digestion. A supplement strategy that brings addition protein and carbohydrate sources is needed.
Stage of production must be considered. Relying on manure scoring alone is not advisable. Hay number 1 is around 11% CP and has a RFV of 84 points. The manure may look acceptable most of the time, but during times of higher nutrient demand, such as late pregnancy and early in lactation, the change in body condition would be greater than desired. If body condition declines excessively then breed back will be delayed.
Forage sampling, manure scoring, body condition scoring, supplement strategy and “cow sense” are tools for determining the best combination of feedstuff to meet the nutrient needs of the cow herd. Optimizing the forage blend is the most economical approach and Crystalyx® Brand Supplements offers a variety of formula options to deliver additional nutrition when needed.