From the Desk of Tyler Trenkamp, D.V.M.

Importance of Necropsies

A dead calf is worth nothing, but a dead calf with a diagnosis can be the most valuable animal on the farm (Dr. Mark Hilton, Beef Magazine).” Necropsies (post-mortem exams) help diagnose diseases and nutritional imbalances. If the cause of death is uncertain it is beneficial to have a necropsy performed to determine the cause. Different causes of death include: contagious diseases (examples: pneumonia, coccidiosis, crypto), hardware, nutritional, poisoning, or other preventable problems. By diagnosing the cause of death it can determine if a management change is warranted, which drug is best suited for disease, if the current drug is working or if it was an unpreventable death.

All diseases do not present the same every time. For example a feedlot animal with acidosis or enteric disease may actually present with an increased respiratory rate and fever, which could be mistaken for pneumonia.

If the diagnosis is unclear after performing a necropsy tissues can be collected and sent to a diagnostic lab for further testing. Here they can test what bacteria or virus is causing the disease. They can also test for nutritional imbalances or levels of toxins.

For instance we had a case with high death loss of calves at 1 week of age. On necropsy it appeared to be Clostridium Type A, but not conclusive. Feces, intestines, and liver were submitted to the diagnostic lab for further evaluation. The diagnostic lab results were positive for Corona Virus and Selenium toxicity which was the cause of death. These results allowed us to remove Multi-Min from the calf program as the herd had adequate Selenium levels in their feeding program.

We expect abortion in the cow/calf herd to be 1-2%, but when there is an increase in abortions diagnostics should be performed. The best chance at getting a diagnosis is by collecting both the placenta and fetus as soon after it happens to be sent to the diagnostic lab. Calves born early or small are also a concern if they have a high death rate as it can be a nutritional imbalance.

Communication is key for necropsies. Risius Family Veterinary Service needs to be notified as soon as the deceased animal is found, even if it is on the weekend,

before the tissues start to rot or freeze. This gives us the best chance of a diagnosis. By obtaining a diagnosis we can make adjustments in vaccination protocols, management practices, reduce contamination, and hopefully before we get to a tip-of-the-iceberg situation.

A Note from Michael Slattery, D.V.M.

Pregnancy Checking Can Pay the Bills

As we approach the fall and winter seasons, diagnosing pregnancy status in your cow herd can prove to be to a financial gain. Your veterinarians at Risius Family Veterinary Service are able to accurately diagnose pregnancy in a cow or heifer as early as 30 days in to gestation. These early pregnancies are typically diagnosed with an ultrasound. If you are unsure of ultrasound or worried the technology comes at a premium, please understand that we look at a reproduction examination as the same regardless of the implement used and thus the charge for each is the same.

Perhaps more important to our producers than whether their cows

get an ultrasound or just a hand up their cow’s rectums is the savings realized by identifying open cows. Consider the recent Dyersville hay auction prices of good hay costing $120-$180/ton. With an average price of $150/ton, it costs about $2 per day to feed a cow through the winter. It will not take many days of feeding an open cow to offset the cost of pregnancy checking the entire herd.

Early identification of these cows (typically via ultrasound) also has the following benefits:

  • If you still have some pasture left, that valuable resource can go to the cows that are actually carrying a calf.
  • There is a seasonality to cull cow prices, with the late summer/early fall months typically providing the best prices.
  • These higher cull prices also represent a good opportunity to remove any cows with bad eyes/sore feet/bad bags and small calves.

Pregnancy checking cows, especially earlier in gestation, provides a great opportunity for cost savings on the cow-calf operation. If you have further questions about pregnancy checking or would like to schedule an appointment to do so, give us a call!

From the Desk of Collin Post, D.V.M.

Managing Stress during Weaning

As we are getting into late summer and early fall, pastures are showing the signs of all the wear-and-tear from providing for cows and calves for months. This probably has many of you starting to think about weaning your calves. Weaning is one of the most stressful times in a calf ’s life. Not only are we taking them away from their mom, but they are also getting a crash course on how to fend for themselves. This stress leads to a weakened immune system and makes these calves extremely vulnerable to illness. By using a few different strategies around the time of weaning, we can limit the stress and illness on these calves leading to a more profitable and healthier calf crop.

The most ideal weaning protocol is completely dependent on your management style and what you are planning to do with your calves (i.e. are you going to feed them out or are you going to turn around and sell them shortly after weaning?). Ideally these calves would have at least one round of vaccines two weeks prior to weaning. When running them through the chute, we can also place a growth implant, castrate and dehorn, and apply a pour-on and dewormer. Putting calves through the chute itself is stressful, castration and dehorning adds to the stress. However, turning them back with their mom for a few weeks prior to weaning allows them to respond to the vaccines, and get over the stress of being processed. Processing and weaning at the same time packs all of these stressors into one period further suppressing their immune system and setting these calves up for a very rough transition period.

How we wean these calves is also vital. Fence-line weaning (having the cows and calves separated by only a fence) allows for the bond between cow and calf to be broken more slowly. The calves to still see mom, but still forces them to figure out the feed bunk and waterer on their own. With their mom being on the other side of the fence though, that fence better be fairly stout or the whole weaning process can be reversed very quickly…

The overarching goal is to cut down on the number of calves who get sick during weaning, which leads to increased treatment costs and decreased rates of gain. As far as picking the best vaccine protocols for preweaning and weaning, that is where we come in. Make sure to give us as much information as possible when trying to trouble shoot or rework weaning plans. We are always more than happy to help.