Dr. Brian Dorcey, DVM
Dr. Brian Dorcey, DVM
DVM and FBN®’s Head of Veterinary Strategy
Apr 15, 2022
Is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But as you start to think about grass turnout this spring, there are a number of factors to keep in mind in order to keep your herd healthy and to maximize your ROI. Watch now Watch as Dr. Brian Dorcey, FBN®’s Head of Veterinary Strategy and Dr. Monty Kerley, Sr. Ruminant Nutritionist and Business Development discuss the best practices for grass turnout: Pasture management When it comes to pasture management, make sure your cattle match your grass. Pasture management can be affected by heat units and the amount of moisture, so it will be a little different every year. Cattle and farmers can be anxious to get out to pasture but it’s important not to overgraze too early. Take out your herd and rotate pastures frequently instead of letting them graze too much or mud down a pasture. It’s good to know the balance of cool season and warm season grasses in your area as well as in your pastures. This will help you maximize the amount of growth you can get off that grass. It’s also important to not let the grass get ahead of you. When the grass matures, the seed heads can actually damage the eye and possibly lead to pinkeye challenges later in the grazing season. Consider haying or clipping your pastures to refresh the growth and remove some of the mature grass from the face of your cows. Pasture maintenance Good fences make good neighbors. Ensure your fences are maintained. Spray for weeds and cut trees before your pasture starts to grow too much. Pasture sprays such as and are available on . It’s also a good time to evaluate the ROI of a fertilizer program. This will differ from farm-to-farm and pasture-to-pasture but thinking about how you can introduce fertilizers into your management program can help you maximize the value of your pasture. Factors influencing nutrition needs One of the things to focus on at this time of the year is the mineral needs of the cows. There are several factors that influence a cow’s nutrition needs: Cows have added nutrient requirements for fetal growth, reproductive tract repair and milk production. Milk production increases calcium and mineral requirements. Trace minerals are important for conception. The mineral nutrition of the cow determines the mineral status of the calf at birth, which is important for growth and health. By utilizing a breeder mineral, you increase the calcium available to the cow, which is needed for milk production. Introducing trace minerals in a hydroxychloride form will maximize the availability of trace minerals that the cow can actually use because they prevent minerals from being tied up by antagonists like sulfur. In rapidly growing forages during spring, potassium and magnesium compete in grass. The plant can be limited or deficient in the amount of magnesium it provides when cows eat it. This can cause a magnesium deficiency in cows that is also known as grass tetany. Breeding & bull power As you’re doing semen evaluations on your bull batteries on farms, it’s good to consider the bull to cow ratio. This differs from farm-to-farm and the specific area of the country you may be in. On average, a good bull to cow ratio is in the range of one to twenty or one to thirty. This can be determined by the age of the bull and how many acres the bull has to cover. When there’s a lot of area to cover, the one to twenty ratio is more practical. In a more confined range situation, the one to thirty ratio makes sense. Try to semen check your bull as close to turn out as possible for a real time measure of fertility. It’s also important to monitor a bull’s body condition. If a bull loses a significant amount of weight throughout the winter, this will affect its fertility. It’s a best practice to stratify bulls by age and size in multiple pastures. Disease prevention Knowing biosecurity risks for your herd will help inform some of the management decisions that you face throughout the year. Be aware of animals that you’ve purchased and monitor them closely. These animals have the potential to bring in new strains of pinkeye, Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD), or Johne’s disease. To protect against these diseases, you can find products like from Elanco or from Zoetis on the store. Being aware of biosecurity risks can help you develop an appropriate vaccine and management strategy. For example, you may need to quarantine new animals for 30 days or consider using a metaphylactic antibiotic treatment strategy. In some cases, you may want to contact the person who sold you the animals to get a better understanding of their herd status. You should also consider consulting with neighbors who may have fence line contacts. Many diseases can be introduced across fence lines. Having conversations with your neighbor about the health of their herd could have potential implications on how you manage your own herd. Some common questions to ask your neighbor about their herd: Did you see any changes in health? Did you see more abortions this year? Did you have more open cows than you did last year? Are you treating more calves for summertime pneumonia? Are you seeing more foot rot or pinkeye? If both you and your neighbor are more vigilant about biosecurity risks, you both have the opportunity to ensure your herd is healthy. Keeping disease off your farm There are diseases that you may not be able to keep off your farm because they’re endemic in your cow herd. In this case, work with a veterinarian to develop the right vaccine protocols for your operation. Pasture management checklist As you think about grass turnout, keep these tips in mind: What is your plan for pasture management and grazing? Have you chosen the right mineral supplement for your herd? What does your breeding program look like and what is your plan for bull power? What biosecurity measures do you have in place and how are you managing disease? What is your deworming strategy for your cows and calves?
Oct 27, 2021
Preconditioning calves is a broadly used term, but at its essence it means preparing calves to perform well in the feedlot. It not only reduces sickness and death, but gives cattle a foundation to gain at faster rates. This is because calves that are preconditioned experience shipping fever and respiratory diseases at a much lower rate and are already acclimated to drinking water and eating feed from a bunk. Get ‘em feedlot ready A good preconditioning program is achieved through a three prong approach setting calves up for success in the feed yard. Management Wean calves at least 45 days prior to shipping, train them to drink water and eat a dry feed diet from the bunk. Immunizations Vaccinate for shipping fever, bovine respiratory disease, and other health challenges you experience in the fall. Nutrition Show calves to fresh, clean water in a trough as soon as possible. Start calves on a good quality dry feed diet balanced for energy, protein, minerals and vitamins. Shop FBN’s animal health online store for pre-conditioning vaccines . Contact us Consult with FBN’s nutrition team to sample your feedstuffs and balance the diet ensuring you are meeting nutritional requirements without overspending. Contact our livestock team to start the conversation. Preconditioning calves prior to feedlot arrival increases the value of the calf and improves the quality of the overall beef supply chain by sending healthy, bunk-broke calves to the feed yard. Resources https://www.iowabeefcenter.org/bch/PreconditioningCalves.pdf https://beef.unl.edu/preconditioning-calves-can-it-add-value
Oct 21, 2021
Transitioning calves from pasture to the feedyard can be a stressful process for cattle...but it doesn't have to be. Anything we can do to minimize that stress helps calves respond better to vaccines, stay healthy, and start eating feed sooner. Animal stress factors Some of the factors that contribute to an animal’s stress include: Learning to eat from a bunk Drinking from water tanks or automatic drinkers No vaccinations pre-weaning Coming off poor forage due to drought Lighter placement weights Gathering, sorting and trucking Shrink Commingling with other calves It’s worthwhile to have a plan to minimize stress. While hiring help seems to be a challenge in many places, securing enough labor to process the wave of cattle that comes in the fall is best. It’s also important to train employees on low stress handling techniques to keep cortisol levels as low as possible returning cattle to a normal immunological status as soon as possible in order to respond to vaccines. Implement a vaccination protocol that accounts for the risk level of the calves arriving at the feedyard. From a nutrition perspective, help calves find the water as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to supplement microminerals to get the immune system off to a good start and ensure the diet includes high quality forage. Download the FBN Fall Run Guide Download the FBN Fall Run Guide for a calf risk assessment and relevant viral and bacterial vaccines to help prevent and treat respiratory disease.
Jun 23, 2021
Breeding cattle via artificial insemination (AI) is not a new technique and when done correctly, it can see successful conception rates. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of using the proper techniques and procedures for your AI program. As we’ve already discussed, planning and setting up a proper estrous synchronization protocol in conjunction with CIDRs is an effective way to make your breeding season a success. But why stop there? Knowing how to correctly perform artificial insemination and how to prepare for it will ensure your conception rates are successful. Earn $250 for Every Friend Referral to FBN Direct ® Here are 5 useful tips for AI success: Low Stress Handling One of the most important things to consider when breeding is making sure that you are keeping your cattle’s stress levels low during handling. Stress elicits behavioral, metabolic and physiological changes in animals that can initiate a fight-or-flight response that increases heart rate and respiratory rate. Given the number of trips (sometimes up to 3) through the chute, it’s important to keep handling to a minimum to prevent undue stress and achieve conception. Body Condition Scoring Successful breeding is determined by age, diet, and body condition score (BCS) so keeping a pulse on where your cow’s BCS is will help you manage them to an adequate weight for successful breeding. Thinner cows can produce calves that are slower to stand and more prone to early calf-hood diseases. So tracking the BCS ahead of breeding season can prevent an “oh no” moment at the pregnancy check appointment. When managing your cows’ BCS, you may want to consider feeding a mineral formulated for cows intended for breeding. View ® breeding mineral line-up offering a range of quality specs and ingredient inclusions. Proper Injection Techniques Depending on the protocol you’ve decided to use, you may find yourself using additional products such as Lutalyse® to improve breeding success. Lutalyse® is a prostaglandin injection that is given to cattle 7 days after a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) injection and the insertion and removal of a CIDR®. To administer an injection correctly, be sure to use a needle that is long enough and deep enough to go intramuscular. Cleaning Tools and Supplies When it’s time to insert CIDRs, give shots and AI, you will want to have the right tools and supplies. Be sure to thoroughly clean tools and supplies. When using CIDRs be sure to always wear protective gloves and avoid contact with skin. Have clean water with disinfectant solution on hand to wash the CIDR applicator between uses. Once an insert is removed, it should be disposed of in a sealed plastic container. Inserts should not be used more than once. Plan Ahead Your best bet for success is to simply plan ahead for your breeding season. Having a synchronization protocol prepared and at the ready will give you peace of mind. Take into account the effects of low stress handling, body condition scoring, proper injection techniques and utilizing clean tools for the job so you’ll have a successful breeding season. Connect with our team to start your CIDRs purchase . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7697448/ https://beef.unl.edu/learning/condition1a.shtml
May 21, 2021
With breeding season upon us, cattlemen are asking themselves how to best take advantage of their breeding window. For many, following an effective estrous synchronization protocol in conjunction with artificial insemination can be successful. When it comes down to it, no one wants calving season to drag on. Reaching your reproductive goals during breeding season is important and will help you understand whether or not you’re getting a good ROI. With the proper plan in place, you can feel confident that your breeding season will be successful. Evaluating your breeding program Determining your ideal breeding time can be based on a number of different factors. You’ll want to evaluate the breeding costs of your cow calf operations and what kind of expenses you’ll incur. Knowing your operational needs and expenses is important because it will allow you to know if you’ll have enough manpower to get the job done. Factoring in weather conditions is another consideration. If you have 10 or 15 calves that hit the ground during a cold spell, will you have the space to properly house them? Do you have the right set up to calve in the colder weather? Some cattlemen have started pushing off their calving window to May because they’ve found that they don’t have to fight weather conditions and have labor more readily available. So how can you ensure your breeding season is successful? Let’s look at how a proper estrous synchronization protocol can get you there. What is estrous synchronization? Estrous synchronization is a way to manipulate a cattle’s estrous (heat) cycle so that all of your cattle can be bred at the same time. Beef cattle generally go through a 21-day estrous cycle. But not all cattle go through this cycle at the same time. That can lead to irregularities in the timing of calving season. Late calvers can produce lighter calves and ultimately cost you money. What are the advantages of estrous synchronization? It allows females to conceive earlier in the breeding season. Reduces time and labor when you utilize AI. Produces a more uniform calf crop that are all similar in age. 1 The best way to implement an estrous synchronization protocol is through the use of a CIDR® (controlled intravaginal drug release aka controlled internal drug release). Earn $250 for Every Friend Referral to FBN Direct ® How does a CIDR® work A CIDR® is a T-shaped rubber device with a nylon spine that contains progesterone. Progesterone is the hormone that blocks estrus and helps cattle maintain pregnancy. 2 Basically, a CIDR® is a transport mechanism to introduce progesterone to modify the breeding cycle in cattle. One of the reasons CIDRs are so useful is that they make insertion simple and can be used in a variety of ways for producers. Depending on your breeding schedule, using a CIDR® will give you the option of using a short-term or long-term synchronization protocol. Next steps to success You know that dialing in your estrous synchronization protocol is important and utilizing CIDRs can help you manage your breeding season to be as precise as possible. There are tradeoffs to having an earlier or a later calving season. Only you can determine what’s best for your operation and how your marketing plan is going to work. But with some small management changes, you can be confident this breeding season is a success. Connect with our team to start your CIDRs purchase . 1. Dyer, Ted G., Graves, William M., Estrous Synchronization Procedures for Beef Cattle, University of Georgia https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201232_5.pdf 2. https://extension.sdstate.edu/setting-replacement-heifers-breeding-cidr-protocols 3. For more detailed information on estrous synchronization protocols, visit https://www.iowabeefcenter.org/estrussynch.html
Apr 15, 2021
Most cattle producers feed their cattle minerals but are they feeding the right ones? And how much should be fed? Dr. Brian Dorcey, DVM and ® ’ s Head of Veterinary Strategy, specializes in cow-calf and feedlot health. He addresses some common questions and offers suggestions on what beef producers should consider when setting up a cow mineral program. Why feed minerals? Mineral deficiency is a health issue on a lot of farms and ranches. In fact, some of our health events could be mineral deficiency that we often don’t fully understand or appreciate. But producers should think about the quality of what mineral they choose and be able to quantify the results. In the past, ranchers would put out salt — no minerals in it — just straight white salt. There’s a new generation of ranchers that understand the need for minerals so they are putting out more of a mineral product with a salt component to drive intake. When should minerals be fed? Minerals should be fed to cows at all stages of production. Feeding a breeding mineral to cows helps ensure adequate nutrition and at key stages of production to benefit conception. Minerals formulated for the gestation period are essential for the developing fetus. What are regional factors that go into choosing minerals? Regional differences greatly impact mineral choice. Have you done any pasture or water testing to better understand the mineral levels present in your environment? Are you aware of any toxicities or deficiencies? For example, South Dakota has areas where the soil is naturally high in selenium which could lead to selenium toxicity in the cow if the mineral is not formulated taking this into account. You also should consider soil salinity. Salt is the ultimate driver of mineral intake. Cows need to eat to their salt requirement each and every day. If they are picking that salt up somewhere else, that can decrease mineral intake. In Montana, western North Dakota and South Dakota, there's enough salt in the water that cows may not be interested in consuming minerals in the needed quantity. It may be time to consider a mineral program with more bioavailable forms of the minerals so they are getting more usable minerals per bite. How does weather affect mineral selection? Problems can arise if there is too much or not enough moisture. When it's too wet, the grass can be washy and generally lacking in mineral content, so cows have to eat a lot to meet their mineral requirements. If it’s really dry, the forage has very little mineral uptake from the roots because there’s nothing to transport it. So there’s a high probability of being mineral deficient if range is either too wet or too dry. How much is enough? Consumption rate for most minerals is 4 ounces per head per day. How do producers choose a mineral program? It all comes down to getting more bang for your buck and getting more minerals per bite into your cows. offers three levels of mineral - select, choice and prime, designed to meet the specific needs of cattle producers across a broad variety of production systems and environments. You also need to think about getting the minerals to your farm. Budget for your cows at four ounces per head per day and order ahead for the summer season to get it all delivered at one time and save on shipping costs. All cow minerals are on sale until April 30th. View our complete price list and connect with our team.