Your veterinarian is vital to your success in the cattle business. Cattle are big animals that can take care of themselves, but they cost a lot of money. It is important to make sure they are healthy and productive. If you are going into the cattle business, get a good vet. Ask him to give you a list of his charges, and estimate your vet charges based on the size of your herd. Since you will want to minimize the money you have to pay to keep your herd healthy, you will have to learn a lot of preventative practices and do a lot of things yourself, like give shots, apply medication, and, most of all, know when it’s time to call the vet.
1. Shipping fever pneumonia is a respiratory illness common in cattle caused by stress and exposure to certain bacterial agents. Stressors should be avoided, and cattle should not be exposed to large numbers of animals from diverse locations. If cows are purchased through a sale barn, they should be transported together and kept separated from other stock when they are placed in a pasture or lot. Be sure to give them plenty of good water to ensure hydration when they are unloaded. The vet can prescribe a long acting antibiotic for animals that are especially susceptible, young calves, for instance.
2. Beef and dairy cattle are subject to a long list of parasites that affect various parts of the body and cause problems. There is some disagreement among cattlemen about whether to worm a calf while it is still nursing, but at least by weaning, a calf should be dewormed. An annual deworming of the whole herd is a routine procedure. Adult cows may not be severely affected by intestinal parasites, but weaning weights of calves will be improved with worming.
An experiment in Florida calculated the cost of deworming at $1.57 per head with the calves returning $9.57 per head more revenue at sale due to increased weight gain. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an183
3. Dehorning cattle is favored by many cattle owners because of the risk of injury to people or other animals. If you choose to dehorn, make sure the instruments are disinfected. The procedure can cause sinusitis which must then be treated with drainage procedures and lavaged daily until the infection is cleared and the site is healed. Sinusitis can also be caused by an infected tooth. Calves should be dehorned as early as possible to minimize the risk of infection. Polled cattle do not require dehorning.
4. Calving problems called dystocia by vets is common in first-calf heifers, 10-15% and not unusual in mature cows 3-5%. Over conditioning-- a fat cow--is responsible for much of the problems seen with calving. Nutrition should ensure adequate weight gain to keep the cow in optimum condition.
You should observe cows when they are in labor. If a first-time heifer is in labor for more than four hours without progress, you should contact a vet for instructions. You may only need to observe the cow longer, but if you need him in the middle of the night, he might appreciate it if you call earlier rather than later. In a normal delivery, 4. the calf will be born with his head resting on the front feet. If you see the front feet and his nose, everything is probably OK. He may look dead at first, but don’t panic. After a few seconds, the calf will take a breath and suddenly come to life.
There are a number of situations that require the vet’s presence, but he will be able to evaluate that when the time comes. If the cow delivers the calf without your knowledge, be thankful.
Monitor her to be sure she sheds the afterbirth. Make sure the calf is nursing, walking, and healthy.
5. Brucellosis or Bangs test is still required on all adult cattle which change ownership in Texas. Texas enjoys a Brucellosis free status, but the testing insures that it will not recur. Brucellosis or Bangs disease causes abortion or weak calves, retained placentas, and reduced milk production. There is no treatment for this disease, so it is urgent that any infected animal be culled from the herd. Check with your vet or the Agriculture Department in your state for local requirements.