Solidify Your Calves Health on Summer Pasture

Published on Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:01am

Solidify Your Calves Health on Summer Pasture

 By Bruce Derksen for American Cattlemen


 The easy and still most accurate answer that you hear over and over again is that prevention is the best way to deal with calf diseases and failing that, early detection and treatment is a must.  It is far easier to send your calves off to pasture equipped with the necessary resources to fight against illness, than to take shortcuts and hope for the best.  Once a calf becomes sick, it can be an uphill battle to get them back on the path to good health.

 The first consideration is to key in on exactly what you might face depending on variables such as whether you used this pasture in the past or have just acquired this grazing land.  Have you done your homework and re-visited earlier health challenges along with contacting previous owners about their experiences?  Talk to your neighbors about their calf health issues and go over your own records to refresh your memory of past problems.

 Consult a veterinarian and get their opinion on typical health issues that can attack calves in your area and region.  You only have one chance to get this right before you send your cow calf pairs down the road to summer pastures where you likely won’t have the control you enjoy on your farm.  Together with your veterinarian, put together a vaccination program that can be administered before the calves leave for the summer.    

  There are basic health concerns and problems your calves will face including blackleg, foot rot, pink eye, bloat and pneumonias.  Use a reasonably priced clostridial vaccination for blackleg strain diseases along with at minimum a version of a modified live or killed vaccine to help prevent viral infections.  An intranasal spray to stimulate local immunity in the nasal passages is also an option.

 Remember some vaccines require a booster shot to be effective, so be realistic.  Do you have the facilities and infrastructure to be able to round up your calf crop or is this challenge a non-starter?  Without these booster doses a calf’s immune response will not be as aggressive, robust and long lasting.  Will one dose be enough?  If the pathogen in question is limited, maybe the answer is yes.  Don’t forget to stock up on the treatment drugs you will need to fight pinkeye, foot rot, and bloat so they are at hand when you need them.

 Once you’ve processed your calves to the best of your and your veterinarian’s ability and sent them off to pasture, what then?  Train yourself and your personnel using the myriads of material available and be vigilant in checking for early detection of health issues.  Watch for calves that do not appear to be nursing, or show noticeable dullness in their actions.  Diarrhea, snotty noses, coughing and fevers are conditions that require a prompt medical response along with the more obvious concerns like lameness and pinkeye.

 Make a priority plan of how to administer treatments to meet any health challenges quickly and efficiently, be it by the use of nearby corrals or the employ of experienced ropers.  Ignoring what you hope is a minor health problem because you don’t have a way to provide medication, can be an expensive and ill -advised plan. 

 Implement a data retention system that includes at minimum the calf’s identity, date of treatment and antibiotic used along with the actual health issue, so that proper follow up can be done the next time the herd is checked.  

 Having a solid plan in place that includes a well- structured vaccination program, basic treatment drugs, infrastructure and facilities or experienced ropers to allow for timely response to illness, a good records management system for proper follow up and your veterinarian’s phone number close by for those unusual health concerns that may arise, will give you the best chance to maintain a healthy productive calf crop through the summer months.