Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cattle Temperament Linked to Feedlot Performance

The temperament of cattle may have a significant impact in how they perform in the feedlot, according to recent studies.

Cattle classified as temperamental appear to be less susceptible to lung damage and related respiratory diseases and have decreased yield grades, but at the same time may produce lighter weight carcasses with decreased quality grade.

Researchers used 2,800 cattle at a commercial feedlot to determine cattle temperament solely by exit velocity upon arrival to identify the impact temperament had on feedlot performance. Infrared sensors were attached to the processing chute and alleyway and used to time how fast cattle exited the processing chute.  Once exit velocity was determined, within each pen the fastest 20 percent were classified as temperamental and the remained deemed non-temperamental.

Exit velocity was used as a measurement of temperament because it is the only objective and practical measurement of temperament that can be applied in a commercial setting. Scientists sought to evaluate the impact of temperament on animal health and carcass merit with an eye toward using the data as a sorting tool within feedlots.

After scientists determined exit velocity, the cattle were maintained in their original pens, not sorted based upon temperament, and finished.  At the end of the finishing period, the research team followed the cattle to the packer and evaluated lung damage, liver abscesses and collected all the variables for carcass data.

One of the major findings of the trial was the difference in lung damage associated with respiratory disease. The results suggest that the non-temperamental cattle had more observable damage to the lung, indicative of the animal being impacted by respiratory challenge, when compared to cattle classified as temperamental.

Research has suggested that temperamental cattle have an altered immune response and display limited clinical symptoms of illness and this altered immune response may be a more resilient immune response compared to non-temperamental.

The studies also found that cattle classified as temperamental had lighter carcass weight at harvest and decreased quality grades. More than 53 percent of the non-temperamental cattle received a quality grade of choice, compared to 49 percent of the temperamental animals.

The findings suggest that utilization of temperament may be a viable management tool for feedlots. It might provide for a unique management strategy that might increase returns on these temperamental animals. With the difference in lung damage in the temperamental cattle at the time of harvest, and previous research indicating limited clinical signs of illness in temperamental cattle, segregation may allow for some modifications to the processing procedures and management of these cattle to take advantage of this alterations.

Ty Schmidt, Ph.D., assistant professor, animal science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 402-472-6772; Jeff Carroll and Jeff Daily of USDA-Agricultural Research Service; Justin Waggoner of Kansas State University.

Artwork: Cattle Feedlot
Animal Husbandry and Livestock Books
Farm Supply
Feed & Hay

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Managing Cattle in Cold Weather

Bitter cold temperatures and extremes in wind chills are particularly stressful for groups of cattle that have not adequately acclimated to such conditions. The most susceptible animals are newborn calves in cow-calf operations and new cattle arriving in feedlots. Cattle that lack body condition for insulation also may be at risk from cold weather.

Most cattle can easily handle cold weather conditions if they are dry and maintain dry hair coats, even if temperatures are sub-zero. The most adverse conditions occur around freezing (32 degrees) when cattle get wet and the pens turn sloppy and muddy. The presence of moisture or mud on the animal draws heat from the animal's body at a much faster rate than when the animal is drier in extreme cold temperatures.

The ideal wintertime temperatures for feedlot cattle are around 20 degrees. At these temperatures, the snowfall that does occur is normally drier and will blow off the animal. Feedlot surfaces also remain firm and allow cattle easier access to feed bunks.

Healthy, dry, well-conditioned and well-fed cattle can handle wind chills of 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, but tissue damage may start to occur when wind chills drop to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

There are a number of things that can be done in feedyards and other cattle holding areas both before and after major weather events.

Smooth or knock down rough frozen pen surfaces with a blade or harrow. Sharp edges that form when cattle tracks freeze can cause bruising of the feet which can lead to foot injury. When pen surfaces are rough, cattle don't make their way to feed or water often enough which can cause decreased performance.

Bedding such as wheat straw, corn cobs, or corn stalks can be used to help insulate cattle from the cold ground during severe cold outbreaks. These are better for bedding than hay-like materials because they are less palatable. Cattle will be less likely to eat the bedding and more likely to stay on the ration provided in the bunks. In feed yards, apply bedding after feeding to minimize bedding consumption.

Accumulation of snow in the pens can cause cattle bunching or piling on, which can lead to increased death losses. When heavy snowfall or drifting snow occurs, remove the snow from the pens before the next storm arrives.

It is important to keep feedlot animals from going off feed during even the worst of weather conditions. Erratic feed intake can result in digestive problems and loss of performance, possibly even death in severe cases. Cattle that are within 30 to 45 days of slaughter are particularly prone to go off feed and can be difficult to get back on feed. Moving cattle to a higher roughage, storm ration may be advisable.

Terry Mader, beef cattle specialist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Artwork: Cattle in Winter, 1862
Animal Husbandry and Livestock Books
The Corral
The Illustrated Guide to Cows

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Beekeeping In The City

Banned in the city limits of Los Angeles since 1879, beekeeping is returning to the nation's second largest city after the Los Angeles City Council voted this month to repeal the old law. New York City made beekeeping legal within its jurisdiction in 2010.

While legalization of urban beekeeping may be trending positively, Homegrown Honey Bees author Alethea Morrison cautions beginning beekeepers to check with local authorities before setting up a hive. "Many municipalities regulate beekeeping or prohibit it outright. Find out what the rules are where you live, ideally from your local bee association."

Talk to your neighbors before setting up a hive, Morrison suggests. She blames much of the public's fear of bees on yellowjackets, or wasps, which have similar coloring and are considerably more aggressive. Educating them on the differences can help make urban beekeeping less frightening.

An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping
by Alethea Morrison
Storey Publishing, 2013

Artwork: Yellowjacket Eating a Bee
Here's How To... Control Yellow Jackets
Homegrown Honey Bees
Animal Husbandry and Livestock Books

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Calming Separation Anxiety

"Fearful dogs who are very insecure are more prone to separation anxiety. With these dogs, the dog becomes so afraid of being alone that he panics," writes Peggy O. Swager in her book "Rescue Your Dog from Fear: Tried-and-True Techniques to Help Your Dog Feel Secure."

"Dogs who panic will sometimes eliminate in the house while you are gone, even if you just put the dog outside. Some will tear holes in the couch or chew a favorite item such as a shoe. Some dogs are more silent sufferers and may pant and pace while the owner is gone. Punishing any unwanted behaviors can increase the anxiety the dogs has, making a separation anxiety event all the more likely the next time."

While specialized training may be needed for some dogs, Swager suggests that the confidence building techniques outlined in her book will help most dogs feel better about being left home alone. Owners should try to keep their arrivals and departures low-key and try to desensitize their pet to cues that signal the separation.

A separate DVD, "Separation Anxiety-A Weekend Technique," teaches owners an "I'll Be Back" technique that alleviates their dogs' fear.

Tried-and-True Techniques to Help Your Dog Feel Secure
by Peggy O. Swager
Lyons Press, 2015

Artwork: Anticipation
Separation Anxiety-A Weekend Technique (DVD)
Pet Supplies
Dog Food

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Chocolate Poisons Pets

A chocolate bar can send a person's taste buds to heaven. But for dogs and cats, consuming even a little bit of chocolate could send them to the emergency room.

The trouble with chocolate is that it contains theobromine and caffeine, both methylated xanthine alkaloids. While not harmful in small amounts in humans, these chemical compounds can be deadly in dogs and cats. They stimulate the sympathetic - "fight or flight" - branch of the nervous system, causing release of a chemical called epinephrine (commonly known as adrenaline).

In small doses, adrenaline gives humans and animals extra energy to react in potentially harmful or emergency situations. But toxic doses of methylxanthines lead to the over-stimulation of this system.

A pet that ingests a harmful amount of methylxanthines may breathe rapidly and become very restless and overheated; its heart rate and blood pressure may increase drastically, possibly culminating in cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat). The pet may also vomit, have diarrhea, and drink and urinate more than usual.

Ingesting chocolate could ultimately lead to seizures or even death without appropriate veterinary care.

The concentration of methylxanthines vary by the type of chocolate, ranging from the least in white chocolate up to the most in cocoa powder. Cocoa bean mulch, a commercial product for gardens, is especially harmful to pets.

The more chocolate a pet ingests, the more likely there will be significant symptoms. Also, the less a pet weighs, the more likely exposure will bring severe effects.

When a pet has ingested a toxic dose of chocolate, veterinarian will explore treatment options that include induced vomiting, treatment with activated charcoal to prevent intestines from absorbing the methylxanthines, or treatment with intravenous fluids and medication to prevent seizures.

Dr. Sandra Yi, assistant professor of toxicology, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, Illinois; 217/333-2907

Artwork: Theobromine Molecule

Pet Supplies
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Cat Food

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Raising Livestock Without Antibiotics

Anyone who has raised livestock commercially knows how important antibiotics have been in maintaining the health, well-being, and productivity of their animals. But times are changing, and antibiotics are on the way out.

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the Guide for Industry 209 (GFI 209) that stated the intention to phase out the use of antibiotics in animal feeds or water for purposes of growth promotion. (Ionophores and bacitracin are not included in the GFI 209.)

The FDA has given producers a deadline of December 2016 to institute these changes, so now is the time to discuss these changes with a veterinarian and prepare for them.

The restrictions are focused on preventing antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause diseases in humans.

Randy Wiedmeier, livestock specialist, University of Missouri Extension, (417) 256-2391

Artwork: Friesian Bull, 1895
Animal Husbandry and Livestock Books
Farm Supply
Feed & Hay

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Feeding Cornstalks Cuts Cow-Calf Costs.

Feeding co-products and cornstalk residue in the winter can save cow-calf producers up to $1 per day per cow as compared to feeding hay.

With feed comprising 60 percent of a producer's costs, any measures producers take to minimize expenses can make the difference between profit or no profit at the end of the year.

Most feed costs occur in the winter when cows can't graze and utilize pasture. Typically, cow-calf producers feed large round bales because they are easy, but that can be pretty expensive. Feeding harvested and stored feeds is a common practice, but it's also costly.

As ethanol production increases, so has the availability of corn co-products. More corn residue such as cornstalks is also being used as an energy source.

Cornstalk bales are an adequate source of energy, but they are low in protein and need to be supplemented, especially when fed to cows in early and peak lactation.

Experiments on a herd of Angus and Simmental cows at the Orr Research Center in Baylis, Illinois revealed ways producers can save money. The cows calved between January and March and were evaluated from calving until breeding.

The first experiment compared new co-products developed from improved fractionation processes. The study compared free-choice cornstalk residue with 14.3 pounds of distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), free-choice cornstalk residue with 9.7 pounds of corn bran and 4.8 pounds of DDGS, free-choice cornstalk residue with 11.2 pounds of corn bran and 3.3 pounds of high-protein (HP) DDGS (a low-fat distillers grain with 40 percent or more crude protein content), and free-choice hay.

The study revealed that producers could save about $1 a day per cow when feeding a combination of cornstalk residue and co-products as compared to hay.

Feeding methods and delivery systems formed the basis of a second experiment. Researchers compared free-choice cornstalk residue and 14.3 pounds of DDGS, a total mixed ration of 14.1 pounds of ground cornstalk residue and 14.3 pounds of DDGS, a total mixed ration of 9.9 pounds of ground cornstalk residue and 16.5 pounds of HP-DDGS, and free-choice hay.

In a 50-cow herd, the least expensive winter feeding strategy is to offer free-choice cornstalk residue and handfeed DDGS. If producers use a tractor to feed DDGS instead of buckets, they are better off to feed free-choice hay. Feeding total mixed rations requires more equipment which in turn increases cost for the producer.

In a 100-cow herd, handfeeding with buckets is not the most practical, but it's the cheapest. With this size of a herd, producers can use a tractor to deliver DDGS to the cattle at a more economical price per day than free-choice hay.

The major savings occurs in a bigger cow herd with more than 200 cows. The total mixed rations at $2.33 per cow a day become even more comparable to feeding free-choice cornstalk residue and DDGS at $2.21 per cow a day. In contrast, the free-choice hay is $3.21 per cow a day.

This is a good time to contact area corn producers to identify who will have cornstalk bales for purchase. It's also a good time to price co-products depending on what you have available for storage. Prices tend to go up in the winter, and it's best to have stored feeds in order before the winter sets in.

Dan Shike, University of Illinois assistant professor of animal sciences, 217-333-0322.

Artwork: Corn Stalk Shocks
Animal Husbandry and Livestock Books
Farm Supply
Feed & Hay