This collection of columns from large-animal veterinarians across Western Canada was co-ordinated by the Western Canadian Association of Bovine Practitioners, supplied by
its members and previously published in Canadian Cattlemen magazine. Canadian Cattlemen has gathered these columns here as a service to readers. Click
to find out more about the WCABP and its membership and to contact the association.
Eight game changers Dr. Ron Clarke |
There are things that happen to industries that have a significant impact on how they succeed year in and year out.
How are we doing? Dr. Ron Clarke |
On Sept. 22 in Calgary, the Council of Canadian Academies released a report on Canada's capacity to conduct animal-health risk assessments into the 21st century.
Preconditioning pays Dr. Ron Clarke |
The argument over the economics of preconditioning has always been out there. The debate has primarily centred around: Who incurs the cost? Who enjoys the benefits? Does
it add value?
Leptospirosis: Re-emerging or rediscovered? Dr. Ron Clarke |
Leptospirosis is an economically important bacterial infection of livestock that causes abortions, stillbirths, infertility, and loss of milk production. Leptospirosis is
caused by pathogenic spirochetes of the genus Leptospira and is an important cause of abortion and infertility in North American cattle.
Agriculture as a social pinata |
Bruce Vincent, a Montana logger turned activist, recently warned the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association leadership team that agriculture may very well become the next
cultural pinata for the conflict industry. Through his animated and at times emotional address, he prevailed on professional groups working with agriculture to "show up."
Welfare is a coat of many colours Dr. Ron Clarke |
Animal Welfare was the topic of the Dr. O.M. Radostits Seminar during the Western Canadian Association of Bovine Practitioners' 20th annual conference in Saskatoon, Jan.
13-15. Speakers provided insight into animal welfare from the perspective of sustainable agriculture systems, accountability as a driver of progress, responsible supply-chain
management, pain control and public relations. Welfare is cloaked
Striking a balance essential for health Dr. Ron Clarke |
A balanced mineral intake is essential for optimal performance. Mineral requirements in cattle vary depending on body type, age, pregnancy, weight gain and milk production.
As well, the mineral content of feed varies widely from year to year and the unreliability of guessing what the mineral content might be lies at the root of most mineral-related
problems. For instance, the calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) content of alfalfa hay average around 1.33 per cent and 0.25 per cent respectively, with Ca variance ranging from
0.31 per cent to 2.5 per cent and that of P, 0.09 to 0.49 per cent.
Toxic dumps in backyards Dr. Ron Clarke |
Old garbage dumps litter the Prairies. Through the generations many things were dumped and forgotten by Prairie residents. Unfortunately, some of those things included old
batteries, containers of used oil from the days of lead-based gas additives, lead-based paint and elemental lead. Few appreciate lead's tenacity as an environmental contaminate.
A used car battery buried in a blow-dirt ridge, for instance, is still highly toxic when exposed by erosion 50 years later.
Potential of nitrate toxicity high Dr. Ron Clarke |
2010 was anything but a banner year for forage and hay crops. Incessant rain, early frost and delayed harvesting reduced the quality of most legume stands and the quality
of cereals destined for winter forage. Volunteer crops mixed with weeds like kochia are being baled on land that went unseeded, adding to the inventory of substandard forage.
Agriculture and antimicrobial resistance: Maybe? Maybe not? Dr. Ron Clarke |
The origin and cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues unabated with no end in sight. The urgency of finding answers cannot be overstated and finding answers to
a problem as perplexing and complicated as AMR is elusive.
Still anxious about brucellosis? Dr. Ron Clarke |
The announcement on May 26 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that it had launched a brucellosis investigation on two farms in southern British Columbia nettled
an industry already besieged by challenges. Three beef cows from adjacent ranches in the Osoyoos area were classified as "reactors" on brucellosis tests conducted during
routine slaughter surveillance in a U. S. slaughter plant. The glow of Canada's brucellosis-free status since 1989 was momentarily tarnished. The United States Department
of Agriculture's imposition of a temporary import restriction on all sexually intact cattle and bison in B. C. since March 25 sent a shudder through an industry still in
recovery stage from the serious trade implications of other reportable diseases.
Make good use of growth implants Dr. Glen Griffin |
Estrogenic and androgenic growth implants improve average daily gain and feed efficiency, which translates to more money in your pocket. A conservative return on investment
would be 10:1 ($10 for every $1 spent on implants). Most trials have shown a 20:1 return. Nutrition and age of animal will have a large impact on the added gains. Clinical
trials on implanted suckling calves show an average of 15-25 pounds advantage at weaning for implanted calves. It’s like getting a free calf for every 20-33 calves implanted.
There are also negative effects, such as increased bullers and decreased marbling (grade). Therefore, when considering a growth implant you must first consider the end point
for the animal, and then weigh the advantages and disadvantages.
Build your reputation with buyers: Think whole-herd vaccination |
Minimize disease, optimize production and improve the bottom line. BVD spreads quickly through a herd, resulting in a varied list of complications. It can affect reproductive
performance, calfhood disease, weaning weights and feedlot performance. The disease is particularly harmful when a fetus is infected. Early embryonic loss, abortion, stillborn
calves and the birth of persistently infected (PI) calves or those with congenital defects are just some of the effects seen when susceptible cows are exposed to a virulent
field strain of BVD virus.
Mycotoxins in livestock feeds Dr. Barry Blakley |
Proper nutrition is an important aspect of livestock production. In many instances, the emphasis is placed on vitamin, mineral, protein and energy content of the ration.
With appropriate ration formulation, the producer can control these basic nutritional factors. Unfortunately, there are many aspects of livestock production that are not
Can we eradicate BVD? Dr. Andy Acton |
"We have the science -- when are we going to use the results?" This title from an article I read years ago concerning humane processing of calves, suits my topic perfectly:
bovine virus diarrhea, and the possibility for control and eventual eradication of BVD virus. This article will not discuss all the basic biology of BVDV infection in a herd,
which has been well described many times in the veterinary and lay literature. Instead I'll discuss some of the implications of BVD infection and why we need to pay more
attention to it as an industry.
Preg checking: A good investment! Dr. J.D. Long |
One U.S. study noted on average fewer than 35 per cent of cow-calf producers pregnancy test, but herd size was a factor showing a dramatic increase from 26 per cent for herds
less than 50 animals up to 86 per cent in herds of 300 or more. No matter how many head you manage, preg checking should be an annual ritual for your herd. Some choose not
to use it on grounds of cost; however, the economic benefits of this practice are simple to realize.
Selecting the right antibiotic Dr. Roy Lewis |
With most older antibiotics still available and several powerful long-acting ones released, drug choices for the rancher or feedlot owner have never been greater.
Treat 'em early, treat 'em right Dr. Wayne Tomlinson |
The ultimate in early treatment is prevention. For some diseases there is no treatment. Prevention is the only option. The first sign of blackleg is often dead calves scattered
around the pasture. In my experience blackleg starts with the good calves, the very best. We aren't going to successfully treat blackleg very often, but there is an inexpensive
blackleg (clostridial) vaccine that is very effective at preventing death loss from these bacterial organisms. Treat them early and treat them right.
This parasite may be stealing your profits Dr. Anita Hellquist |
As calving season wound down at the end of April many producers were looking forward to some balmy spring weather. Having made it through the first two or three most vulnerable
weeks, their hope was to reduce the risk of disease by getting the cattle spread out on pasture.
Bulls require a breeding soundness evaluation Dr. David Hamilton |
At this time of the year, we begin to prepare for the upcoming breeding season. The nutrition and management of the heifers and cows is obviously very important to success
but the bull is even more important. If he does not do the job, we are faced with a number of open cows or late calves next spring.
No magic cures for scours Dr. Valerie Smid |
In the springtime, I can safely say that one of the most frequent questions asked is "What is the best drug to treat scours in my calves?" Oh if only the answer was as easy
as marching over to the shelf and handing you the bottle of Magic Scour Cure. Unfortunately, no such thing exists.
Dealing with an abortion wreck Dr. Andy Acton |
It's 6:30 on a February morning and you are lying awake, afraid to go outside. You've found three aborted fetuses in the past four days, and worry you may have a
"wreck" on your hands.
Air quality and health Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed |
Medical doctors from regional health authorities in some agricultural regions have been raising concerns about odor and human health. They sug gest that odor and dust from
confined feeding operations (CFO) are responsible for increases in respiratory disease, including asthma and allergies, in communities that reside near these feeding operations.
Don't put off setting up a biosecurity plan Dr. Oliver Schunicht |
All of the publicity associated with foot and mouth disease (FMD) has emphasized the importance of biosecurity programs in disease prevention. In the context of a serious
foreign animal disease, such as FMD, it goes without saying that the appropriate steps to minimize the risk of FMD virus entering Canada, and subsequently entering a livestock
operation in Canada, must be taken.
Having a successful breeding season Dr. Bill Sanders |
Many little things go into a successful breeding season. One measure of success is the first cycle conception rate. It is the number of cows that conceive or settle during
the first cycle. The average is 50 per cent. It doesn't seem to matter whether it is natural service or AI or synchronized or timed breeding or not. That seems unacceptably
low to me.
Repairing broken legs in calves Dr. Marcel McFarlane |
It can be truly disheartening when checking calves to find one with a broken leg. Preparation in advance for this possibility will improve your chances of saving the calf.
Here are some steps to follow:
Bull essentials Dr. Marian Johnson |
A bull is more than a pasture ornament. He has an important job to do and if he can't, he shouldn't be there. A breeding soundness evaluation should be done on all
bulls by your veterinarian 30 to 60 days before the bulls go out. It is an effective way to identify poor potential breeders before the breeding season and replace them.
BVD in feeder cattle Dr. John Campbell |
Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) may be one of the most important infectious diseases of feedlot cattle. Its ability to suppress the immune system of calves may allow other
bacteria or viruses to cause disease. The unique way in which this virus persists in the cattle population also makes it a difficult disease for the feedlot operator to control.
Abdominal disorders in baby calves: The colicky calf Dr. Nancy Bruyere |
You notice a calf lying down and kicking at its belly, back up and running, then dropping down and kicking again. Suspecting a serious problem, you get him in but in an hour
he is back to normal. What about the beautiful six-week-old calf - fat and healthy - that you found dead in the field? A post-mortem revealed a ruptured abomasum with stomach
contents floating in the abdomen. What is happening?
Colostrum saves calves Dr. Tom Schmidt |
The transfer of antibodies from cow to calf protects young calves from infectious disease. Those antibodies help the calf ward off infection as it goes from the sheltered
environment of the uterus to the outside world where it encounters many bacteria and viruses for the first time.
Cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed |
Cryptosporidium and giardia are two protozoal parasites found in the intestinal tract of domestic and wild animals and humans. These protozoa are of concern to cattle
producers because they can cause disease and lower production in cattle. Recently, these two parasites have also received a lot of media attention because they can cause
gastrointestinal disease in humans who consume contaminated water supplies.
Dart guns may do more harm than good Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed |
Occasionally cattle get sick on pasture and we have to treat them. They may have pinkeye, foot rot, pneumonia or some other ailment that requires individual treatment. Since
the cattle are out on grass, and handling facilities are usually not close by, there are only a few options for treatment. If the disease is a herd problem, sometimes we
can medicate the water or mineral supplement.
Beware the evil eye Dr. Ken Linde |
Picture the cow you have just discovered with a rotting, maggot-filled cancer eye, or one with an eye injury that has popped the eye out. No doubt your first response is
"We've got to do something for this poor animal!" Why? Well, not only because they present a gruesome sight, but more so because we know how eyes are extremely sensitive
Forage is a source of disease (if not put up properly) Dr. Phil Andersen |
Forage management is one of the most important factors in success of a cattle operation. Forage can be a source of sickness, a major determinant in profit, and a major area
of labor and financial investment. Adequate forage intake is essential for every bovine over three months of age. As the rumen develops as a fermentation vat, forage acts
to buffer changes in the vat which occur from eating different feedstuffs, and create a stable, healthy environment.
Freemartins Dr. David Hamilton |
Question: I have a cow who had a set of twins, one heifer and one bull calf. The heifer calf is very nice and we do intend to keep her for further breeding. I have heard
opinions that heifers coming from a mixed set of twins might not be fertile. What is your knowledge about this? Would you recommend to keep her or to ship her? -- Isabelle
Ruch, Prince George, B.C.
Reasons for hair loss Dr. Ken Linde |
A Cattlemen subscriber recently wrote: We have had a calf born and after only two weeks he has lost 80 per cent of his hair, mostly along his spine and head and
legs. It is very sad. None of the other cows or calves is suffering from this. Someone mentioned there is a rare allergy to the sun. Have you ever heard of this? What is
Protecting Canada's herd is everybody's business Dr. Gerald Hauer |
As the media reports the precautions taken by the European Union to prevent the spread of avian influenza, it seems like a good time to remind producers there are measures
we can take to ensure Canada's animals stay healthy
Dealing with lame cattle Dr. Chris Clark |
Whenever and wherever it occurs, dealing with lame cattle is a pain. It can also be extremely costly when it occurs in an outbreak or affects the bull at breeding
Avoid nitrate poisoning Dr. Jason McGillivray |
As the winter feeding period fast approaches, many ranchers are busy trying to secure sufficient quantity and quality of feed for the winter at the least cost. Our
area has been extremely dry and feed supplies are tight. With conditions such as we have experienced this year, nitrate levels in feeds can be a problem. The key to avoiding
a "wreck" with nitrates is remembering the risk factors and planning ahead.
Don't give up on adequate nutrition and pregnancy checking Dr. Colin Palmer |
As both a veterinarian and a cattle producer I certainly understand the current crisis in our industry. There appears to be little most of us can do to affect the
border closure and low prices so we have focused on reducing costs.
Vaginal prolapse: A pain in the rear! Dr. Christina Bredin |
A cow with a vaginal prolapse can be a significant pain in the rear for several individuals: the producer, the veterinarian and especially the cow herself.
Feed the right ration, the right way Dr. Andy Acton |
Ensuring proper cow nutrition at calving time is easily one of the "make or break" management decisions that can be made in a cow-calf operation. Calf survival and vigor,
early return to cycling, milk production of the cow over her entire lactation and high conception rate can all hinge on the nutrition program in place at calving time.
Ringworm: Scourge of the 4-H calf Dr. Ken Linde |
After countless hours of feeding, cleaning, grooming and training, a 4-H calf is ready for the show circuit. Not only is this calf a learning project, it is also
a source of pride for the 4-H member, and definitely needs to be displayed at the exhibitions. You can imagine, or may have experienced, the anguish that ringworm brings
to the 4-H member whose calf is affected.
Preventing calf scours, part 1 Dr. Sylvia Checkley |
Calf scours (neonatal calf diarrhea) is a common problem in cow-calf herds. This is the most common infectious disease of baby calves. Neonatal calf diarrhea accounts
for approximately a third of all death losses during the first month of life.
Preventing calf scours, part 2 Dr. Sylvia Checkley |
Prevention of neonatal diarrhea focuses on several different aspects of management. These infectious agents are found in healthy calves too. Whether the disease
will occur or not depends on.
Seminal vesiculitis Dr. Nancy Bruyere |
The bulls are out on pasture and we now have time to consider one of the bull problems we encountered this spring. Seminal vesiculitis is the most common abnormality
detected on rectal examination during breeding soundness examinations on yearling bulls and, much less commonly, in older bulls. Many of these bulls would have shown no indication
of a problem.
A sudden death on pasture Dr. Sylvia Checkley |
A dead animal out on pasture is an unpleasant and unexpected loss. "Sudden death" refers to an animal that is found dead but wasn't noticed as sick prior to death. Many diseases
cause an animal to show signs of sickness for a few days before death. Some animals thought to be "sudden deaths" on pasture might have been observed ill in a situation where
close daily observation was possible. Unfortunately this type of close observation is not possible for animals on pasture.
Summertime ills Dr. Doug Mann |
Late spring and early summer is the time for cattle to be turned out to grass to fend for themselves. The cattle producer can relax and admire the growth and quality of their
livestock during a weekly visit. Is a once-a-week check on the herd sufficient? Perhaps the cattle should be monitored more often.
Here's how to avoid trich Dr. Will Lindeman |
Tritrichomonas foetus can cause significant reproductive losses in affected cattle herds. Trichomonas, found in North and South America, South Africa, and Australia, is a
"true" venereal disease. That is, infected cows and infected bulls spread it during breeding. One infected bull can infect every cow he breeds. Breeding an infected cow infects
Vaccine selection: A daunting task Dr. Doug Myers |
A key role of bovine veterinarians is to make recommendations they believe will improve the health and economic return of a client's cattle. Most veterinarians do
not believe this role puts them in a conflict of interest; however, some may feel uncomfortable about recommending specific products such as vaccines to producers.
Vaccines and immunity Dr. John Campbell |
Most cattle producers rely on their veterinarians to advise them about which vaccines to use and how and when to administer them. However, having a better understanding
of how vaccines work can help you understand the importance of proper administration and timing to these disease prevention tools.
Sorting is key in winter feeding of beef cows Dr. Andy Acton |
Proper sorting and feeding of animals in a beef cattle operation is one of the most profitable decisions you can make. On the other hand, lack of proper sorting and feeding
in a cow-calf operation needlessly costs many producers thousands of dollars every year. It is unfortunately a common problem and leads to an increase in calving difficulty,
calf sickness, delayed conception and open cows next fall.
Winter confinement Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed |
According to some provincial environmental regulations, such as the AOPA (Agricultural Operation Practices Act) in Alberta, livestock are considered confined feeding operations
(CFO) when they are fenced or enclosed in areas for growing, sustaining, finishing or breeding by means other than grazing.
Calving season scorecard |
Careful observation while in the calving barn and notes kept by producers during calving season becomes an important scorecard for improvement and a management tool for the
Preventing the blemish of downer cows |
Animals unable to stand or walk without assistance are a major welfare issue for the beef and dairy industries.