Sunday, December 12, 2010

Keep Pets Healthy During Holidays

Holidays can mean potential hazards for pets. Table foods, ornaments, and other holiday items can be harmful to cats and dogs. Every year veterinarians see an increase in a variety of digestive diseases during the holiday season.

Table food can cause dogs to suffer from acute gastroenteritis (an inflammation of the stomach and intestine) or pancreatitis. In both diseases, dogs experience severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and listlessness.

Bones may lead to obstructions in the esophagus, the stomach, or the intestine and lead to severe digestive signs.

Furthermore, grapes, raisins, onions, and chocolate are foods that dogs and cats should not receive. They are toxic to pets and can cause potentially fatal diseases, such as acute kidney failure, anemia, or seizures.

Finally, most ornamental plants (e.g., poinsettias, mistletoes, holly, etc.) can cause stomach upset.

Decorating usually involves more electrical cords, so please check to make sure that your pets are not chewing on them, as electric shock may have devastating consequences. Also, some pets may try to eat batteries, so please make sure that they are put away safely.

Candy wrappers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or ribbons can lead to serious problems if eaten by dogs or cats. Tinsel is particularly enticing to cats. When ingested in sufficient quantities, it binds into a rope that can cause severe intestinal obstruction and require surgical treatment.

Any small decoration or toy poses a swallowing hazard. If a child can choke on small toys or parts, then so can the family dog or cat.

The weather in December and January can be quite chilly, so, please remember to bring in your outside pets overnight if a hard freeze is forecast.

If your pet becomes sick or if you think that it may have ingested something harmful, contact your veterinarian immediately. Delays in seeking veterinary help may seriously complicate the problem.

Source: Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Teaching Hospital

Friday, August 13, 2010

Feed Cattle Hay in Summer When Pastures Limit Performance

Hay should be fed anytime the forage supply is limiting optimum animal performance according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

When hay harvest is underway in the summer, cattlemen typically think the hay shoould only be used in the winter when snow, ice and cold weather arrives. But pastures fall in the "too short for optimum performance" category whenever there are less than three or four inches to graze. That is when hay should be put out according to Cole.

"The per animal hay requirement should be less than in the dead of winter, but could still be around 15 to 20 pounds per day for a cow," said Cole.

Alternative feeds such as the grain by-products, corn gluten feed, dried distillers grains and soybean hulls can help stretch the forages for some classes of cattle. These supplements are especially helpful for stocker steers and heifers and spring

"These cattle may be hand fed daily or every other day for greatest efficiency. Self-fed supplements are convenient, but more costly," said Cole.

Early weaning is an option to explore if the dams are first-calf females or old, thin cows. Calf removal allows the females to get by on less forage and forage of lower quality.

The main concern with early weaning may be the hot weather and dusty pens that could set the calves up for respiratory problems.

These stressors can be partially reduced with fenceline weaning (where the calves remain on pasture just across the fence from their dams).

"If the pasture on the other side of the fence is eaten in to the ground there could be a dust problem. Sprinkling the weaning pen and corral area can help control the dust," said Cole.

Stockpiling fescue should be started now with the spreading of 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen on good stands of fescue. Move cattle off the pasture until November, if possible, to allow maximum stockpile growth providing rains cooperate.

"A good stand of fescue can produce 250 to 300 pounds of dry matter per inch per acre. If your stockpiling goes well and you get 8 or 10 inches of growth, that's about one ton of total growth for fall-winter grazing."

When grazing begins, use power fencing to strip graze the forage for greater efficiency. The fence can be moved every 3 or 4 days so fresh stockpiled fescue is available.

"Cattle prices have been strong for several months and forecasters see continued strength for both stocker cattle and breeding replacements. With that in mind, investing now in hay, supplement or fertilizer for dry pastures should pay off."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shade Helps Cattle Growth, Producer Profit

Don’t underestimate the value of shade for beef cattle, says University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Eldon Cole.

Management intensive grazing, where larger pastures are reduced in size for more efficient use of the forage, can leave some pastures without shade. Research shows that shade for cattle is both helpful and profitable.

Two years of shade research was carried out at University of Missouri's Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon with impressive results favoring shade.

According to Cole, in 2000 a group of spring-calving cows were compared using portable manmade, metal roof shade (8 ft. x 12 ft.) or no shade. The trial was done on both endophyte infected and endophyte free fescue.

The greatest difference showed up on the infected fescue where the shaded cows outgained the others by .72 pound per day for 84 days. The calves nursing the shaded cows also made slightly better gains, 0.17 lb. per day, but that was not significant. The trial ran from July 3 to September 25 and the animals were all black.

The most dramatic finding of the shade study was the difference in pregnancy rates at the end of the summer. The overall pregnancy rate was 87.5 percent for the cows given shade while it was only 50 percent for cows with no shade.

"The difference was more pronounced when only the endophyte infected pastures were considered. The elevated body temperature is likely the culprit for the drop in percentage bred," said Cole.

The following year, the same trial was conducted at the Southwest Center using 550 pound steers. The shaded steers gained 0.2 pound more per day for 84 days than the unshaded ones. As with the cows, the difference increased up to 0.35 pound per day when the shade, no shade comparison was made on the “hot” fescue pasture.

University of Kentucky researchers have also compared manmade shade to no shade pastures on fescue and fescue-alfalfa mixed fields. Their data shows daily gain advantages for the shade cattle as follows: 1.25 lbs. for cows; 0.41 lb. for nursing calves and 0.89 lb. for steers.

Arkansas researchers used dry, Brangus-cross cows in a June 12 to August 14 trial on Bermudagrass pastures to compare no shade (daily gain 1.47 lbs.); artificial shade (1.81 lbs. ADG) and tree shade (2.34 lbs. ADG).

“Shade trees can present a problem since cattle traffic can kill them and the manure will not be distributed around the pasture. Trees may also present a lightning risk,” said Cole.

The bottom line on the economics of shade will be a farm-to-farm situation according to Cole.

Here are several considerations to keep in mind:
  • pastures that have fescue toxicosis problems will definitely benefit from shade
  • shade response will be greatest in mid-summer
  • cattle breeds, colors and even individual genetic differences will give varying differences in response
The Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon, Missouri, uses portable shade for both their beef and dairy herd.

Eldon Cole, livestock specialist
(417) 466-3102;