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ERGOT: Have you noticed ergot in your fields? Found in grain crops and grass pastures alike, this fungus produces a mycotoxin that is very harmful to cattle. Grain screenings and pellets are also suspect. Getting a feed test gives you the opportunity to strategically manage the risk.
MYCOTOXINS: Virtually all feed can potentially be contaminated with mycotoxins if the conditions are favorable for mold or fungi growth. While the mold/fungi itself is not harmful, the toxins produced through stress negatively impact animal growth, reproduction, and can even fatal to beef cattle. The solution is dilution! Learn to recognize when testing is important and how you can manage contaminated feed.
NITRATES: Nitrates can be a concern in annual crops that have been exposed to a stress such as frost or hail. Feed high in nitrates can decrease conception, cause abortions, and may even be fatal. If nitrates are a possibility, get a feed test done and request that it be tested for nitrates.
FEED BUNK MANAGEMENT: Achieving consistent feed intake and animal growth cannot be achieved without good feed bunk management. Correct mixing, composition, quantity, and scheduling is all essential to avoiding digestive disorders, erratic intake, and a reduced feed conversion ratio. Small changes in bunk management can result in more dollars in your pocket.
STARTING CALVES IN THE FEEDLOT: Getting claves eating as soon as possible is easier said than done, planning and good management is required to minimize stress throughout the move and upon entry into the feed yard. From bedding, to fresh feed, water, and avoiding overcrowding, it is well worth identifying what you can do to keep calves comfortable during this stressful period.
EFFECT OF NUTRITION ON REPRODUCTION: Nutrition has a major impact on reproductive performance. Feeding to meet the nutritional requirements through gestation and lactation goes a long way to mitigate any potential losses due to inadequate body condition, low milk production, low birth weights, etc. Macro and micro minerals are also crucial to successful conception and fetal growth. Maintaining a balance of the essential nutrients will help ensure cows and calves thrive year after year.
BODY CONDITION SCORING: Body Condition should be monitored to assess how much fat the animal is carrying. Too much or too little can have serious implications on the breeding and calving success of the herd. Knowing and using the body condition scoring system is an easy tool that can have reproductive and economic benefits.
COCCIDIOSIS: If you are seeing scours in your calves, coccidiosis may be to blame. Watery diarrhea or bloody feces are typical signs, you may also notice straining, rapid dehydration, and weight loss. Once shed into the environment, the oocyst can survive in moist shaded areas for several years. Prevention and treatment options are available so find out what you can do to make calving a little easier.
KOCHIA: Farmers in the southwest US have grown kochia as a forage crop for sheep and cattle since it has low water requirements, good feed value, disease and insect resistant, and is highly palatable. However, caution should be exercised when feeding kochia to livestock. Liver damage, kidney damage, dermatitis (associated with photosensitization), brain degeneration (similar to bovine polio), and nitrate toxicity have been reported. There is a safe way to feed kochia, If you have this weed in your field or pasture, know how to manage it to keep your livestock healthy.
BALEAGE: This method of forage preservation can have benefits over traditional dry hay such as reduced leaf loss and fewer delays due to weather. However it is important to put up correctly to minimize mold growth and heating. Learn what you can do to minimize spoilage and preserve high quality forage.
CREEP FEEDING: Creep feeding on pasture is a beneficial tool to increase calf weaning weights when the cows milk production or pasture quality is poor. However the additional feed cost and labor isn't always necessary, know when supplementing calves provides a benefit and when milk & pasture are sufficient.