For those of you who don’t know it yet, winter is officially here, and by all accounts it has already been a cold one. I would like to cover a few points to think about while you read this next to the fireplace or wood stove; these small things can help your livestock in the upcoming months.
1. Lice Control
Winter is the season when lice are at their worst, affecting most if not all cattle to some degree. There are two primary types of lice-those who suck blood or biting lice, and those who feed on dead skin cells or chewing lice. Lice cost livestock producers millions of dollars in lost productivity due to itching, blood loss and hair loss due to rubbing by the animal. These small parasites are transmitted from animal to animal by direct contact, as they cannot survive in the environment for long periods of time. Fortunately, there are numerous products that are available for control of lice. Pour-on products containing permethrin are effective in eliminating lice on cattle for 2 to 4 weeks at a time. The topical deworming products are also very effective at eliminating lice, and have a longer period of control.
2. Feeding Adequate Energy
When temperatures dip to the levels we have already seen and moisture in the form of ice and snow is added to the equation, nutritional requirements for livestock jump significantly. Be prepared to offer cows an additional one percent of their body weight in dry matter to provide the necessary energy and protein to keep warm in addition to maintenance. Cows trying to maintain body temperature need much more energy available to them; if not eating the necessary nutrients, cows will pull fat and muscle of their back and decrease milk production to maintain themselves. This hurts both cows, nursing fall calves and pregnant cows carrying spring calves. For those of you feeding weaned calves, poor nutrition leads to stress. Stress coupled with up and down weather conditions can lead to widespread respiratory problems. I am already seeing a number of cases of pneumonia this fall and winter, in all sizes and ages of cattle.
3. Vaccinate Spring Calvers
It should not be your sole solution to controlling scours, but vaccinations can play a valuable role in a management package.
4. Pasture Planning
Plan your pasture rotation for the next calving season to ensure that cows can be moved and rotated to decrease pathogen load on pastures while calving.
I look forward to the upcoming year with anticipation and optimism. Yes, there appear to be some bumps in the road ahead for everyone, but careful planning now can hopefully prepare you to weather problems. I wish each and every one of you a safe and prosperous New Year.
Mike Bloss, DVM, owns Countryside Animal Clinic with his wife, Kirstin Bloss, DVM, in Aurora, Mo.