Like in any other part of our cattle operations, resolving to do some things better for the health programs we have on our beef cattle operations might pay us dividends. So here is my list of top 10:
1. Inspect cattle often to look for ones with health problems. Probably nothing else improves the odds for a good outcome from a health event more than early discovery and treatment.
2. Develop a relationship with your veterinarian. He/she is a lot more likely to make the trip to help you with your midnight calving if you've used them to buy some products and perform some routine vet work. Investing in veterinary inputs into keeping our high-priced cattle healthy is a sound financial practice.
3. Use your veterinarian to help you with sick animals. We have sometimes developed a mindset that we couldn't afford a vet when cull cows were worth $200. With $1000 cull cows and weaned calves, an investment in veterinary care for beef cows makes a lot more sense.
4. Prevent exposure to any disease you can. This means carefully considering how you introduce herd additions. It often also means thinking about how you feed and manage calving cows so that scour bugs don't build up in your calving lots or barns.
5. Administer dewormers with a plan. Not every deworming makes economic or control sense. For example, midsummer deworming of spring born calves and two spring dewormers given at the right times to yearling replacements and stocker calves can give returns of $10 to $30 per dollar spent on a dewormer.
6. Give calving cows lots of attention. If there appears to be a problem, examine them early. Getting cows and calves successfully through the calving season has never paid bigger dividends.
7. Give newborn calves lots of attention. National figures show newborn losses to be nearly 5%. Dealing with chilling, inadequate colostrum consumption, too little milk, mismothering, scours and pneumonia has never been more important.
8. Vaccinate with a plan. Poorly chosen or improperly timed vaccinations may afford no benefit and even make things worse if vaccines add to the stress of already sick cattle. Well timed vaccines against the right diseases give huge advantages in keeping cattle healthy.
9. Make a plan to market the vaccination program that you have given. Calf buyers will pay premiums for well vaccinated calves if they marketed through a program like VQA or on the Tel-O-Auction where the vaccination information can be passed along and there is a way to get a competitive bid.
10. Follow the rules in using antibiotics to treat cattle. Not only are many antibiotics expensive, but their use is a concern to our consumers. Consumers generally agree that it is good to treat animals with infections with antibiotics. But they want us to be sure we follow withdrawal times and only treat when necessary.
Applying good health management practices in our herds help insure a profit, make cattle production more satisfying and help out the whole beef industry by maintaining our image as responsible keepers of cattle.
Source: W. Dee Whittier, DVM, MS, Extension Veterinarian, Beef Cattle - College of Veterinary Medicine, VA Tech