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Proper feed, vaccinations keep baby calves healthy

Mindy Ward A calf in a livestock chute being injected with vaccinations
KICK START: A calf receives a vaccine in a livestock chute. This early protection allows for the calf to boost its immune system.
During a stressful time for calves, make sure their nutritional needs are met and their immune systems are primed.

Raising cattle since 1953, Warner farmer Larry Stroschein said he’s never too old to learn more.

“Even though our daughter and son-in-law have taken over,” he said, “I still have cows and a lot of interest in cows — cattle were my living my whole life.”

So, he tuned in to the South Dakota Farmers Union webinar, which featured Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University Extension beef feedlot management associate and Roxanne Knock, PhD. nutritionist with Dakotaland Feeds. The two discussed how to get freshly weaned calves off to a strong start.

Alleviate calf stress

“My feed salesman said to buy medicated feed and that it paid for itself,” Stroschein said. “I always wanted to know if he said this so he could sell more expensive feed, or if it was true. It turns out, according to the experts, my feed salesman was correct,”

Along with medicated feed, Rusche and Knock both emphasized the importance of a timely vaccination program and a well-balanced ration to keeping calves healthy during what is a stressful time.

“Remember, [at weaning] we are taking away their companion for their whole life up to this point,” Rusche explained. “There are things we cannot change, so we need to make sure what we can control is done right. We want to make sure nutritional needs are met early and we want a prime immune system when starting these calves.”

To ensure a strong immune system prior to weaning, Rusche advised producers to visit with their veterinarian and make certain that calves are properly vaccinated pre-weaning. And to ensure their nutritional needs are met, he and Knock both said not to skimp on the starter diet.

“It all comes down to the cost of gain,” Knock noted. “If a calf does not gain anything, maintenance still costs something. In fact, your costs become extremely high because you have not advanced the weight or value. Take into consideration how much you want them to gain and get the right feed into the bunk right away to do this.”

On demand delivery

Rusche and Knock also discussed the nutritional needs of calves and what to consider when adding cover crops or other on-farm forages to a feed ration.

In addition to sharing research-based information, because Rusche and Knock both come from cattle backgrounds, they also shared tried and true tips for successful introduction of newly weaned caves to life off pasture and on a feed program.

“I grew up on a cattle operation and for a time, I was responsible for managing cattle health on our family’s feedlot,” Rusche said. “So, although I’m able to share the science, a lot of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned the hard way.”

Connecting South Dakota cattle producers with expert advice is among the many ways South Dakota Farmers Union works to support family farmers and ranchers, according to Doug Sombke, SDFU President and a fourth-generation Conde crop and cattle producer.

“Like Warren Rusche said, there are many things out of producers’ control these days,” Sombke said. “One thing we can all control, is continuing education. As a grassroots organization, we see connecting producers to timely information just one of many ways we can support them.”

To learn more about this topic and to watch the webinar, visit and click on the Media Library link under the News/Events tab.

Source: The South Dakota Farmers Union is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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