If you go to enough workshops about grazing, you’re bound to see an illustration that shows how biting off the tops of plants impacts their roots, and how if you graze short enough, the plant won’t have enough roots to rebound and produce more leafy material. In fact, if you’ve been with us at On Pasture for any length of time, you’ll have seen a version of that illustration.
What is Silvopasture? Silvopasture is a popular agroforestry and agriculture practice that involves collective management of trees, livestock, and forage to enhance the overall production of all three. Silvopasture can be set up either by planting trees in a current field or by planting forage in a previously existing stand of trees. Livestock grazing within […]
In every stage of animal husbandry particularly in livestock breeding, the health of the animal is extremely important particularly when it comes to animal farming. Farmers are required to implement practices that promote the health of the livestock to be raised. To keep your animals healthy, they require regular checkups by expert veterinarians who must […]
SACB Method: (pronounced ‘sawb’) a simple and easy way to graft calves. Everyone and their dog has a sure fire method for grafting a twin or orphan calf.
However, each method takes time and patience. These are things I don’t normally have during calving. Further, the very fact that an animal has to be handled individually, means that the procedure is not scalable. Scalable means a procedure can be replicated without increased labor. If something is scalable, you can grow your business in that direction and still remain a low-cost producer. That being said, there can be significant gain achieved by successfully grafting a calf onto another cow.
When we first started keeping custom grazing cows year-round, bottle babies were a bane to my existence. Twice a day someone had to prepare bottles and stand there waiting for all the calves to finish. EVERYDAY! TWICE OR THRICE A DAY! That was not my idea of fun. To get rid of a bottle baby, we had to wait for a cow to have a stillborn or lose her calf which started another adventure of time wasting and patience!
One day I heard about a drug called Atravet. Atravet is a sedative in powder form that can be added to grain and fed to a cow. Fifteen minutes after consuming the grain, the cow will have a nice buzz and allow the calf to nurse without any fuss. Normally two to three sessions were all it took for the cow to take the calf as her own. We used the Atravet method for several years until we moved away from custom cows to grazing yearlings.
When I went back to calving cows, Atravet in powder form was no longer available. Let me tell you, there was one unhappy cowboy riding the range! My idea of fun was not spending two to three hours skinning a dead calf, tying the hide onto a live calf, then trying to get a cow to stand while the calf nursed. There had to be another way. That other way presented itself though keen observation – some might call laziness – which eventually became the SACB Method.
During calving season I check the herd on horseback three to four times a day. Any twin or abandoned calf is roped, tied, put in the calf sled, and taken back to the corrals. These calves are then started on a bottle. When a cow has a stillborn, she is immediately trailed to the corral. The cow is put in the headgate and a bottle baby is brought to the cow. Getting down to calf level, I try to get the calf to nurse. If the cow starts kicking, things are made very uncomfortable for the cow until she stops kicking. Once the cow learns not to kick and the calf is nursing, the first steps of the SACB Method are complete.
Most of these tips apply to any kind of livestock that will be giving birth. So check it out!
For some the calving season is almost upon us, while for others, the start of the calving season is still a few months away. The following are practices to consider in preparing for the upcoming calving season.
1. Pay attention to nutrition needs of bred heifers or cows prior to calving.
Adequate body condition at the time of calving for young females and mature cows is important as it impacts stamina during delivery of the calf, colostrum quality, calf vigor, and also impacts subsequent rebreeding. Adequate nutrition during the last trimester of pregnancy and especially the last 50 to 60 days prior to calving is important. Two-year-old heifers and three-year-old cows are vulnerable during this time period. These young females are still growing themselves while growing a calf inside them. As this calf grows and takes up room, rumen capacity is impacted and the amount of feed the young female can eat is reduced. The impact of this condition can be compounded when this time period prior to calving coincides with bitter cold weather and available forage that is low in energy and protein. Body condition can deteriorate rapidly under these conditions.
2. Review your herd health plan with your veterinarian.
Discuss the production system, identifying critical control points where management could reduce risk and effectively improve herd health. Utilize treatment records from last year to identify particular areas where problems occurred. Use this information to develop a plan to specifically address management options to mitigate health problems that have historically been an issue. If needed records have not been kept, what records should be kept in the upcoming year that would provide information that would be helpful in making management and husbandry decisions?
3. Examine calving facilities making sure they are in good working order.
Frequently it has been 9 to 10 months since calving facilities have been used. Inspect gates, pens, alleys and head catches, fixing or replacing broken items. Good lighting is an important part of a calving facility. Check lights and have replacement bulbs on hand. Thoroughly clean calving areas, pens and barns. Starting the calving season with clean areas can help slow the development of health problems related to “dirty” areas that can encourage disease proliferation.
In the last four articles we talked about how to properly drive cattle. (Here are the last four articles in case you missed them: Approaching the Herd, Starting Herd Movement, Driving Your Herd, Turning Your Herd.) Driving pairs deserves special attention because this could well be the #1 livestock handling problem on ranches; that is.
The primary problem when driving pairs is cows and calves getting separated, which often leads to runbacks, or at least to very unhappy, stressed out cattle and people. But it needn’t be that way. Cows and calves trail all over by themselves and don’t have runbacks, right? Have you ever seen a run back when humans weren’t around messing with them? So, that tells us that trailing out is natural to cattle–they already know how to do it–so think how nice it would be if we could stimulate that natural behavior.
So, when driving pairs our goal is (a) for cows to think of their calves first, (b) to stay mothered-up, and (c) to trail out properly so they don’t become unmothered.
The question, then, is: How do we do this?
1. Foster the herd instinct.
Imagine how much easier it would be to trail our cattle out if they preferred to be in a herd. As a prey animal, bovine want to be in herd unless we do something to make the herd an unpleasant place for them to be. So, the main idea in fostering or rekindling the herd instinct is that it’s not something that we actively teach them; rather, it’s a by-product of working our animals properly so the herd is a nice place to be. Unfortunately, in conventional handling, the herd becomes a place cattle don’t want to be because of mishandling.
2. Teach them to walk calmly through gates past a handler.
This is something that we should do with our cows before they calve. We should not let them get in the habit of rushing through gates uncontrolled. Why? It will really hurt us when it comes to trailing out pairs because too many will get unmothered. A basic rule should be that when someone goes up to open a gate they should stay there and regulate the flow of cattle through it. However, an exception might be very young calves if they are overly sensitive to the presence of the gate person and don’t want to go past him or her.
Perimeter fencing is an important part of a rotational grazing system, and if, like a high tensile fence it’s also electrified, it makes it easier to set up paddocks and move livestock.
Over the six years, I’ve been raising cattle, I have built 33,000 feet of perimeter high-tensile electric fence, all by hand, with minimal equipment and my Dad’s help. I work on leased land, so I need a fence that’s easy to put up and take down. In my lease contracts, I explain that the fence belongs to me. If the landowners do not want to buy the fence (for the replacement cost of the materials), when the lease ends, I remove the fence and take it with me.
I far prefer fiberglass fence posts over wood or metal posts for the electric fence. Fiberglass does not require insulators because it’s non-conductive. That means no broken insulators to fix and no shorts due to the wire contacting the post. Fiberglass does not rot or rust over time. Finally, I really like the clean, attractive look of white fiberglass posts. I buy line posts coated and drilled from Kencove.
My preferred posts for perimeter fence are 1”-1.25” solid fiberglass. I have built whole fences with these posts, but they require more effort to hand-drive than a 7/8” post. I feel that the 7/8” posts are too flimsy to use for a whole perimeter. My most recent fence used 7/8” posts with every fourth post a 1.25” one, to add stability. Alternating the smaller posts with the larger ones saves money.
I use 7/8” posts only on straight stretches only. When I want to create a curved fence line, I use 1” or preferably 1.25” solid posts because they won’t bend with the strain. If I have a sharp bend to make in a fence line, I use a big corner post. For added stability, I add a floating brace on the big post, pushing the post against the greatest strain. I would love to use 3” or bigger fiberglass (foam-filled or solid) posts for corners and bends, but I don’t have a local source for them or a way to get them economically shipped to me. Therefore, I use wood for these purposes.
Thanks for this article go to Karla H. Jenkins, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cow/Calf Systems and Stocker Management and Mary Drewnoski, Nebraska Extension Beef Systems Specialist. Listen to a discussion of the content in this article on this episode of the BeefWatch podcast.
As spring nears and grass begins to turn green, producers are anxious to get cows out to grass. However, cool season predominate areas tend to have lush spring growth which can lead to grass tetany in cows. While there are treatments for cows caught quick enough, prevention is always the best policy.
Grass tetany occurs when circulating Magnesium (Mg) is low in the beef animal. Symptoms include staggering, convulsions, excitability, twitching, and can result in death. While it can affect growing cattle, it generally affects older lactating cows. The Mg requirement in the pregnant cow is 0.12% of the diet on a dry matter basis and jumps to 0.2% with lactation. Moreover, the Mg in colostrum is 3 times what it is in the milk the rest of the lactation.
Additionally, unlike some other minerals, Mg is not stored and mobilized in the tissues for times when it is deficient in the diet. Magnesium is absorbed across the rumen wall and how much Mg is circulating in the blood is highly dependent upon how much was consumed.
In addition to the fact that the Mg requirement increases with lactation, if the feed is high in potassium (K) or nitrogen (N) as many lush growing forages can be, then Mg absorption can be compromised as well. Cool, cloudy days associated with wet springs often times increase the risk of grass tetany issues.
Dr. Matt Poore also contributed to this article. The tools to improve productivity that we have at our disposal are quite astonishing. Computers that allow us to analyze our operations, equipment used to plant/harvest crops to produce feed, and the genetic predictions used to select better livestock are just a few examples of tools that
have changed livestock production. As managers, we must determine which tools to incorporate into our farms and some will prove to be useful while others will be discarded.
In grassland agriculture, temporary electric fence has changed everything for us. Reels, poly-wire and tread-in posts coupled with a good energizer allow us to more actively manage our pastures. But, as with most technology, getting started can be a challenge. It helps to know that even the most advanced graziers started with a single strand (or 2-3 strands for small ruminants) subdividing one permanent pasture at the water source. From there, all improvements in your grazing management journey depend on “the power of one wire”.
So, what benefits does adaptive grazing management – using smaller paddocks and more frequent movement – have on the system? We know that when we only graze for a few days and then rest the grass for a long period the grass stand is healthier and produces more total forage. Furthermore, this approach alters the grazing behavior of the livestock making them less selective and improves the amount of grass consumed rather than wasted. These and other benefits are well documented, and it is all because of the effective use of temporary electric fence. But, many producers do not fully realize the numerous advantages of using this technology.
So, what are some of the benefits you can expect if you adopt temporary fencing?
Better Animal Health
First, using temporary electric fence gives you the opportunity to observe your livestock as they move to new grass. Cattle producers can use this time to check body condition, udders, feet and leg soundness and fly populations. What about that cow that is moving slowly? You can clearly observe how she walks and determines if she needs treatment for foot rot or needs to be added to the cull list due to age or some other unsoundness. Most all of these items fall into the Beef Quality Assurance programs and will allow producers to effectively monitor their herds and provide for their welfare. Moving cattle more frequently also improves their disposition and makes them easier to handle. Just moving them one to two times weekly can make a big impact as they will learn you most often are there to give them better grass, and they become accustomed to being near you and walking by you without being afraid.
Most of these tips apply to any kind of livestock that will be giving birth. So check it out!