Take Control Over These 5 Spring Cow-Calf Challenges

After a long winter, don’t think the spring and summer will be without challenges of their own.
After a long winter, don’t think the spring and summer will be without challenges of their own.
(Wyatt Bechtel)

Since winter weather lingered this year, many cattlemen are welcoming warmer temperatures and sun-filled mornings however they come. But don’t think the spring and summer will be without challenges of their own. Here’s five impact areas you need to be ready for, as they might affect your profitability this year.  


1. Extra Moisture Will Spur Pasture Growth, Be Ready For Weeds

With above average moisture around much of the country during the winter and spring, grazing conditions have improved compared to the same time last year. Data from the Livestock Marketing Information Center  indicates that on average grazing conditions are about 11% better for 2019 than average in the past six years.



Several cattle operations in Wythe County, Virg., are using helicopters to apply herbicides to control invasive weeds and put pastures back into grass production. The area is at 3,000’ elevation with lots of steep hills and valleys that are hard to access with traditional farm equipment.

VIDEO: Helicopter Herbicides Attack Invasive Weeds in Pastures

Federal Grazing Fees Lowered For 2019

6 Cover Crops Your Cows Can Graze This Fall and Winter


2. Control Flies and Worms In Year-Round Action Plan

If fly season has not yet begun, it soon will. While we’ll never “win” the war on flies, early action, and a season-long control strategy can prevent stress, lost performance and disease associated with flies and other external parasites of cattle.

In 2018, flies made headlines when an unusually large spring hatch of black flies, in this case southern buffalo gnats, apparently caused the deaths of a bull and a cow on an Arkansas farm.

Whether its horn flies, stable flies, house flies and face flies, no fly comes without economic impact on a cattle herd. See Control Flies, Prevent Disease.

Despite great progress in controlling parasites, too many operations fail to consider active ingredients for specific parasite challenges—or even deworming at all. Failure to deworm calves in the spring can limit the calf's ability to reach its full genetic potential.

Unseen Damage from Parasites can Harm Your Bottom Line

Mike John, a Missouri rancher and director of MFA Health Track, says his parasite control program has evolved over time. There has also been more interest in customization of vaccination programs among his clients across Missouri and neighboring states. Across that geography, he says, production environments, management practices, forage types and parasites vary widely. Read: "Refine Your Deworming Program."


3. Sharpen Up and Adjust Hay Equipment Height

A good cut on grass will reduce leaf loss and prevent stem damage. Adjusting your rake or tedder will reduce dirt uptake. All that to make sure what you bale is the best quality forage you can make.

No matter what condition you think forage is in, always take a representative forage sample for analysis. This gives you the most control over feeding strategies later in the winter.

If you have a new addition to your hay crew this year, remind them on how to properly stack and store hay.

Missouri Hay Producer Finds Niche Market for High-quality Small Bales

Use These Checklists When Planning For First Cut Alfalfa

From Dairy Herd Management: When Should You Cut First Crop Alfalfa?


4. These Disease Pressures Don’t Quit

A hard winter and wet spring is a challenging environment for cattle. While “bad years” for calf scours, pneumonia or breeding happen, it’s all tied to the environment of our cattle.

South Dakota State University researchers say plentiful moisture might lead to 2019 being known as the “bad year” for pinkeye.

Other diseases to watch for this spring include anaplasmosis, grass tetany, bloat and warts.

Also, consider what it might mean if we could predict respiratory disease (BRD) using behavior monitoring technology. Researchers in Texas think it’s possible. Or a chute-side “sniff” test. Read more from Bovine Veterinarian.

Related: Watch for Blue-Green Algae in Stock Ponds


5. Put Priority on Breeding Season

A muddy breeding season is on tap for a large portion of the Midwest. Why does it matter? Conception rates.

Pay close attention to even the slightest signs of estrus in heifers. By exposing heifers to estrus synchronization, a social environment of other cows that are in estrus, or fence line contact with a bull can help induce estrus. 

Also, keep an eye on temperature changes. High temperatures can put additional stress on cattle during the breeding season.

Moving cattle to less muddy pastures, or other management considerations might improve breeding success.

And, while selecting cattle for mild temperament can pay off in a number of ways, more studies are showing docile cattle might also have an advantage in reproduction.

Remember, there's no calf profits from a cow that isn't bred. 



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