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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 867
January 8, 2014
Hypothermia & Newborn Calves - Tracey Renelt, South Dakota State University Extension
Whether you are a dairy producer who calves year round, a beef producer who may calve early, or if you have a calf that is born under less-than-desirable conditions, hypothermia is something that we need to be concerned about, especially this time of year. The National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) in 2007 found that the average mortality of pre-weaned calves on farms during 2006 was 7.8%. Often pre-weaned death is a result of respiratory infections or diarrhea, and often come about due to dystocia and poor environmental conditions at birth. Surveys also show that mortality in beef herds from birth to weaning also ranges from 3-7%. The majority of normal deaths occur within the first 24 hours of life. The leading causes of death during this 24 hour period is dystocia (difficult births) and hypothermia (cold stress), especially this time of year.
There are two types of hypothermia: exposure (gradual) and immersion (acute). Exposure hypothermia is the steady loss of body heat in a cold environment through respiration, evaporation, and lack of adequate hair coat, body flesh, or weather protection. Immersion hypothermia is the rapid loss of body heath due to a wet, saturated hair coat in a cold environment. Immersion hypothermia often occurs after the birthing process because the calf is born saturated with uterine fluids. Other causes of immersion hypothermia of young calves may include being born in deep snow or wet ground, falling into a creek, or being saturated from heavy rains followed by chilling winds.
Mild hypothermia occurs as the body's core temperature drops below normal (approximately 100° F for beef calves and 101.5° F for dairy calves). Severe hypothermia results as the body temperature drops below 94° F. Below core temperatures of 94° F, the vital organs are beginning to get cold. Below 86° F, signs of life are very difficult to detect and the calf may be mistaken for dead.
The use of the thermometer is essential to determine the degree of hypothermia. Often a calf does not appear to be hypothermic, however upon taking its temperature, you find that the calf's body temperature is below normal. This is often brought on by dystocia, which may have put the calf in a hypoxic (lack of oxygen) situation. The calf being hypoxic, is slow to dry off and nurse, which allows hypothermia to set in.
Returning the calf's core body temperature to normal (100° F for newborn beef calves or 101.5° F for newborn dairy calves) is the immediate concern versus maintaining the calf's body temperature long-term. Clean dry towels or calf blankets can be used to help dry the calf off and help increase the core body temperature while rubbing the calf vigorously. Floor-board heaters or pickup trucks, placing calves next to the heater in the house, submersion of wet calves in warm baths, or placing the calf in a warming box are all methods which have been used over the years, especially if the calf is experiencing severe hypothermia.
Feeding the hypothermic calf warm colostrum as soon as possible speeds recovery and increases the probability of full recovery. Breathing the warm air, coupled with consumption of warm colostrum, heats the calf from the inside out and provides the needed energy to overcome the trauma they just went through.
Once the calf has regained its normal body temperature and is completely dried off, it should be returned to its normal environment.
Early treatment of hypothermic calves is important. The severely hypothermic calf can be revived and saved. However, they often are set back from the experience and their immune system can be compromised. Thus, these calves should be watched more closely as further calfhood health complications may arise.
Re-Warming Methods for Cold-stressed Newborn Calves - Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Extension
The extremely cold winter weather has reminded us that spring calving season is just around the corner. More cold temperatures are likely during the upcoming calving season. Several years ago an Oklahoma rancher called to tell us of the success he had noticed in using a warm water bath to revive new born calves that had been severely cold stressed. A quick check of the scientific data on that subject bears out his observation.
Canadian animal scientists compared methods of reviving hypothermic or cold stressed baby calves. Heat production and rectal temperature were measured in 19 newborn calves during hypothermia (cold stress) and recovery when four different means of assistance were provided. Extreme hypothermia of about 86o F rectal temperature was found in the calves before re-warming was initiated. Calves were re-warmed in a 68 to 77o F air environment where thermal assistance was provided by added thermal insulation or by supplemental heat from infrared lamps. Other calves were re-warmed by immersion in warm water (100oF), with or without a 40cc drench of 20% ethanol in water. Normal rectal temperatures before cold stress were 103 oF. The time required to regain normal body temperature from a rectal temperature of 86oF was longer for calves with added insulation and those exposed to heat lamps than for the calves in the warm water and warm water plus ethanol treatments (90 and 92 vs 59 and 63 minutes, respectively).
During recovery, the calves re-warmed with the added insulation and heat lamps used more stored body energy to produce heat metabolically than the calves re-warmed in warm water. Total heat production from body stores during recovery was nearly twice as great for the calves with added insulation, exposed to the heat lamps than for calves in warm water and in warm water plus an oral drench of ethanol, respectively. By immersion of extremely cold stressed calves in warm (100 oF) water, normal body temperature was regained most rapidly and with minimal metabolic effort. No advantage was evident from oral administration of ethanol. When immersing these baby calves, do not forget to support the head above the water to avoid drowning the calf that you are trying to save.
Of course the calf must be dried off before returning the cold weather outside. Time honored methods such as drying the calf off with the gunny sack and then putting them under a heat lamp or in the floorboard of the pickup cab will still be helpful to many calves born in cold weather. These methods may not re-warm the calf as quickly or be quite as effective for the severe case of hypothermia. The source of research cited is Robinson and Young from the Univ. of Alberta in the 1988 Journal of Animal Science.
Cattle Nutrition Requirements Increase During Extended Periods of Cold Weather - Aaron Berger, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska
Cattle typically have a lower temperature comfort level at around 20° to 30° Fahrenheit under dry, still conditions. When air temperature or wind chill drops below this threshold then cattle begin to need more energy from feed or use their own fat reserves in order to maintain body temperature. Beef cattle in a Body Condition Score of 5 or higher will be able to handle cold stress better than thin cows as they have fat reserves to help insulate them from the cold and can also use that fat as an energy source.
A rule of thumb is that for every 1° Fahrenheit the average daily temperature is below 30° a cow with a dry hair coat in a moderate body condition will have their average energy requirements go up 1%. Wind chill and wet conditions can drastically increase these requirements. Cattle with wet hair coats under windy conditions may not be able to produce enough body heat to stay warm.
Windbreaks can significantly help to reduce weather stress. Also, having a dry place for cattle to lie down can help ease cold stress. For cattle in a dry lot or feedlot environment under extreme cold conditions for an extended time, bedding such as cornstalks or wheat straw can aid to reduce the stress of having cattle lay on frozen ground.
If additional supplemental feeds are needed to help meet nutrient requirements for beef cows on roughage diets in cold weather, consider using feedstuffs which are high in digestible fiber and energy dense. Distillers grains and soy hulls would be two examples of such feeds.
Last year Dr. Rick Rasby recorded a webinar - Caring for Cattle in Cold Weather - that provides additional information on management practices to consider when cattle are under cold stress.
OCA Accepting Bull Consignments for Seedstock Improvement Sale - Deadline January 31
The Ohio Cattlemen's Association is currently accepting bull consignments to the Seedstock Improvement Sale. The sale, held on Saturday, April 12 at noon at the Union Stock Yards Company in Hillsboro, Ohio, offers an affordable way to market bulls from multiple breeds in one location and on one day. Buyers have the assurance of buying bulls with known genetics, a completed vaccination regimen and a breeding soundness exam.
The Seedstock Improvement Sale is open to consignments from all breeds of bulls. Consignors must be a current member of the Ohio Cattlemen's Association to participate. Bulls are required to be registered and to have expected progeny differences (EPDs). The bulls will be placed in sale order based on a within breed evaluation star system using EPDs for birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, milk, marbling and ribeye. Bulls consigned to the sale can be from one to five years of age. History of the sale shows that bulls 18 months of age and older command a higher price. Consignors will be allowed to substitute bulls for entries made to the Seedstock Improvement Sale. All bulls are required to be tested for Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) persistent infection (PI) status.
For more information on the sale including all requirements, visit ohiocattle.org and look under the Beef Improvement section or contact the OCA office at 614-873-6736 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested consignors or buyers can also contact John Grimes, sale manager and OSU Extension Beef Coordinator, with any questions at 937-763-6000 or email@example.com. Consignment deadline for the sale is January 31, 2014.
Forage Quality Could Impact Cow Performance - Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Extension Beef Specialist, University of Kentucky
The wet spring this year resulted in several acres of hay that were cut and baled late. This can be problematic since much of our hay is derived from fescue and fescue-legume mix stands. The later the hay harvest, the more the plants advance in maturity from a vegetative stage, which is all leaf, to an advanced reproductive stage when the seeds are developed.
The ideal time to harvest cool-season grass for hay from a yield and quality perspective is from boot stage (i.e. just prior to the flower emerging from the stem) to early flowering. Due to the excessive precipitation received this year, many fields were cut beyond this ideal time frame. Hay that was in the soft dough to fully ripened seed stage was harvested from several fields. The quality of hay at these later stages of maturity poses problems for our beef cattle, especially those with high nutritional needs such as lactating cows and growing calves.
The figure below is a plot of approximately 60 forage analysis from hay sampled in 2013. The lines represent the energy and protein needs for a cow in late gestation. Hay samples that are left of the vertical line require protein supplementation. Samples below the horizontal line are energy deficient. Thus, those in the lower left quadrant are both energy and protein deficient while those in the upper right quadrant exceed both the energy and protein requirements. You should be able to see that many of the hay samples are adequate in protein but deficient in energy. Thus, in many instances, energy is first limiting during this phase of production while protein will likely be limiting along with energy as the cows start their lactations.
Late cut hay is lower in protein and is less digestible leading to less energy available to the animal. The low protein and lower digestibility of this hay also negatively impacts forage intake. This can lead to lactating cows being in a severe negative energy balance resulting in excessive body tissue mobilization to support nutritional needs. The loss of body condition can negatively impact reproduction costing the operation in the long term.
To ensure the livestock are receiving an adequately balanced diet, producers should sample their hay and have it analyzed for nutrient content. This information is then used to develop a strategic supplementation strategy for cattle. Their nutritional requirements at different stages of production must be taken into account. In other words, dry, non-lactating bred cows in the mid-trimester of gestation will have lower nutritional needs than cows 60 days from calving in which rapid fetal growth is occurring. Forage analysis allows ranchers to more efficiently match hay quality to the nutrient needs of the cows.
Producers that wish to utilize their forage analysis in developing a supplementation strategy should visit http://apps.ca.uky.edu/forage-supplement-tool/ by searching the internet using the keywords Kentucky Forage Tool. This simple web program allows a producer to enter a few pieces of information from their hay analysis, select the stage of production the cows are in along with various supplements to arrive at a supplementation program. It was developed to help producers utilize their hay analysis rather than simply look at the paper and toss it in a drawer. Producers are still encouraged to contact their nutritionist or county Extension agent for assistance in designing supplement programs. This tool will, however, get a cow-calf operator started down the right track. Stay warm and supplement smart this winter.
2013 Wrap-Up & Look Forward to 2014 . . . - Glynn T. Tonsor, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University
Tis the season for analysts to look back at the nearly completed calendar year and to engage in speculation regarding the forthcoming year. In that spirit, I first encourage readers to make use of the growing list of available resources that summarize the situation experienced by cattle producers in 2013. It is important to pause, look back and appreciate core fundamentals including historically tight beef supplies and beef demand strength that underlying the current economic situation.
Given that foundational perspective the remainder of this piece will be devoted to outlining, albeit from what I usually describe as a cracked and cloudy crystal ball, key things I encourage producers to monitor in 2014. Namely, expect in 2014:
* . . . uncertainty "outside" the cattle industry to persist.
While weather uncertainty may have improved over the past several months, multiple topics including federal budget debates, regulations, farm bill details, and a host of other issues beyond the control of individual producers continue to underpin an environment of higher uncertainty than most producers are likely comfortable with. This uncertainty in 2014 will reduce and delay investment (e.g. constrain expansion of the beef cow herd) as well as decrease desire to "stay the course" by some entities operating in sectors with excess capacity concerns (e.g. feedlots and processors).
* . . . the unexpected to become typical.
While it is nearly impossible to predict events such as the beta-agonist use controversy (recall the surprise debate in 2012 around lean finely textured beef), producers are encouraged to recognize the trend of the public asking more questions about how their food is produced is likely to continue. Along with this trend is an increasingly complex situation around new technology development, adoption within the industry, and acceptance by the public. The entire food production system will continue to struggle with this.
* . . . composition of beef consuming households to continue adjusting.
As per capita beef supplies hit historically low levels in 2014 the make-up of households remaining active beef consumers will change. That is, there will not be a uniform reduction of consumption across all prior purchasers. Understanding this not only in aggregate both domestically and globally, but in less aggregated forms across product types and buyer characteristics will become increasingly important. Fortunately beef demand was rather robust in 2013, in part because of these non-uniform adjustments, and I remain cautiously optimistic that this trend will continue in 2014.
* . . . national policy debates within the industry to continue.
The past year involved continued debates on national issues including animal identification and country of origin labeling. Given the above noted public interest in food production and the diversity of views and situations characterizing operations in the U.S. beef industry related deliberations are bound to continue.
* . . . ongoing prospects of trade deals being passed or adjusted to continue.
It is well established that U.S. cattle producers operate in an increasingly global marketplace. The ability of the industry to send its products to the highest value market outlets and the comparative interest in countries worldwide to expand or adjust their meat consumption patterns will progressively influence economic prospects for the U.S. industry.
Several readers will note this bullet list looks very similar to what was offered last year. This is not a reflection of my willingness to compose a new article but rather mirrors how many of the same issues face the industry and remain challenges to recognize and opportunities for improvement.
In summary, 2014 appears likely to be another interesting year offering profitable opportunities to many stakeholders in the beef-cattle industry. Regardless of your agreement with this or the specific issues raised here, I encourage everyone to stay informed and make use of available resources to guide decision making throughout the upcoming year.
I wish everyone a healthy, enjoyable, and prosperous 2014.
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BEEF Cattle is a weekly publication of Ohio State University Extension in Fairfield County and the OSU Beef Team. Contributors include members of the Beef Team and other beef cattle specialists and economists from across the U.S.
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