One has only to think back a few years and realize the major changes that have happened in the production of beef in our country.
Some are pharmaceutical in nature, while others are advances in equipment or services. Still others are reduced stress in cattle handling. It is promising to see advances that will improve profitability in cattle production and the quality of the final beef product.
Pharmaceutical companies continue to work on newer and broader spectrum vaccines. Newer vaccines for pateurella, mannheimia, corona virus, as well as bovine viral diarrhea have been developed in the last several years. The theory of prevention of both respiratory and enteric diseases, rather than treatment, makes a lot of sense, especially given the necessary trend of reducing the use of antimicrobials.
We must all accept that in cattle production, it is very unlikely we will see any new antimicrobial drugs in the immediate future and we must get used to that in all animal production systems.
The Class 1 and 2 pharmaceuticals are being restricted in use so prevention methods, whether in vaccination protocols, management changes for early detection of disease or natural treatments, are going to increase in the future. Immune stimulants or immune modulators are being launched and the future will tell us how well they work. Have your veterinarian keep you posted.
The changes in all medically important antimicrobials needing a prescription have been a positive thing in that the veterinarian-client relationship has producers reviewing vaccination protocols and they may find gaps. Many of these gaps are in the very young calves, and often the newer intranasal vaccines can fill these voids. Talk to your veterinarian about reviewing your vaccine protocols, both in which diseases you prevent and the timing of the vaccines.
The timing of these vaccines is critical, and often booster shots are missed, making livestock susceptible.
I have always been a promoter of proper storage, handling and administration of vaccines. There are now commercial coolers that keep the vaccines at the right temperature. All vaccines have undergone extensive testing and we pay good money for them, so we must try and administer them properly.
Better and earlier detection of disease, including respiratory diseases, will go a long way in preventing relapse of diseases or chronic conditions. From thermography to reading temperature with ruminal boluses, we are on the cusp of a commercially viable option for early detection, although it has been difficult to replace the reliable feedlot pen checker.
Vaccinators and oral drenchers are made that run on air, reducing labour and doing a more accurate job of administration in some cases. I have even seen scale heads now that quickly round to the nearest five pounds, are easy to read, and connect to computer programs and tag scanners.
Equipment for traceability, such as readers, will continue to provide better record keeping, better compliance with drug withdrawals and more accurate treatment dosages. The old adage of “you can’t improve what you can’t measure” is no truer anywhere than in the cattle business. Watch for these refinements coming down the road.
Huge changes in animal welfare from the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for most conditions we treat these days will have cattle doing better. In lots of cases, it could reduce the amount of anti-microbials we give as well. NSAIDs now come in many ways to administer, including injectable, oral and pour-on, and one is combined with an antibiotic. Cattle are more comfortable and generally recover quicker with the proper use of these anti-inflammatory, pain killer products.
Handling systems that reduce stress are continually being refined. There are programs available that can help cattle acclimate in their pens and with processing, handling and loading. If cattle have reduced stress they are more likely to gain more weight, develop better protection when vaccinated and be less susceptible to disease. Squeeze chutes, neck-restraint devices, double alleys and properly designed tub systems make handling far safer and quicker than ever. Good systems essentially never need prods to move animals.
Sliders prevent piling up, and squeeze chutes with head gates that open to the side facilitate cattle flowing through them. I have always been a hydraulic chute fan because both handler and the cattle are safe and processing or treatment goes much smoother. They pay for themselves in no time and are a joy to run.
Beef quality audits will look at slips, trips and falls and we need to keep them to a minimum to prevent injuries.
Many new implants have come on the market recently, a lot of which have a delayed release component to them. This means fewer passes through the chute so less disruption of feeding, less chance for injury, fewer behavioural problems and reduced labour and use of handling equipment. This should all convert to less overhead costs and disruption of cattle feeding patterns.
If any of these advances interest you, discuss it with your herd veterinarian.
If you need a new handling system, check out the possibilities because many quality systems have made changes and many are manufactured in Western Canada.
I find that head and neck restraints, ratchet bars and good access panels make vaccinating easier.
It never hurts to ask a neigh-bouring producer, nutritionist or herd veterinarian what improvements they have seen that might benefit your operation.