Farm Talk

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September 19, 2012

Field day explores drought & antibiotics

Parsons, Kansas — Dealing with impacts of drought on cattle and the changing views on antibiotics, was the topic of discussion during the early beef session at the recent University of Missouri Southwest Center Field Day.

University of Missouri State Extension Beef Specialist, Justin Sexten examined how to cut feed costs, and make the most important resource—water—last longer during a drought.

“Selling cows is the easiest way to quickly reduce feed costs,” Sexten said. “Also, preg testing is the most valuable dollars you can spend right now. The sooner you can diagnose pregnancy the sooner you have the opportunity to adjust feed rations based on it.”

Sexten explained that one benefit of a drought is the chance to genetically change the look of a herd, by culling cattle.

“Cull cows to make the herd look how you want,” he said. “There are a number of culling strategies I’ve had to use because of the drought, but as a result my herd is leaner.”

Just as important as culling, Sexten suggested producers examine how efficient their hay feeding system is.

“Think about hay feeders with skirting along the bottom, or feeders with restrictive access where cattle can only fit their heads inside.” Sexten said.

Another way he explains to reduce forage waste is ammoniation.

According to Sexten, ammoniation increases dry matter intake, reduces fescue toxicosis, improves digestibility by 15 percent, while doubling the CP content of most forages, and reduces waste due to bale covering and ammonia fungicide properties.

Sexten says if you are already feeding hay to continue to do so.

“This little bit of rain we’ve had is going to cause the grass to start growing again,” he said. “Feeding hay will give pastures more time to grow and recover instead of being ate down by cattle.”

By giving pastures time to recover in the fall there will be less weed pressure in the spring, more forage to eat through the winter, and also there is less hay waste by feeding in the dry ground of fall, unlike winter where hay will be stomped into the mud, Sexten continued.

Missouri Department of Agriculture District veterinarian, Dr. Larry Forgey wrapped up the early beef session with an overview of antibiotic safety.

“The two things that need to be watched with antibiotic use is residue and drug resistance,” Forgey said.

According to him, producers need to maintain records of every drug administered. Records should always at least include the animal’s ID, drug given, date given, withdrawal time, and who administered it.

“If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen,” Forgey said. “Records show what you did, that way if a residue does show up, you can prove that you are not responsible for it.”

Drug care is also another important measure to take, says Forgey. Prescriptions should always come from a veterinarian, and all youth and family members should be educated on proper drug use and storage.

The public has become very emotional toward the subject of antibiotic use in livestock, he said.

“People believe antibiotic use in livestock causes obesity, along with other human related diseases,” Forgey explained. “We know however that isn’t true since all drugs are FDA regulated.”

According to him, because of the growing public concern it’s important to have a public record of everything that happens on the farm, as well as a good working relationship with your vet.

“Because of the way the world is changing we all need to start thinking about how you can use less antibiotics,” Forgey said.

He concluded by stressing the importance of producers knowing the FDA guidelines for antibiotic use, care and storage.

“The FDA Website is a good place to keep up,” he said. “Also, don’t be afraid to get on related Websites and make comments, that’s how change is made.”£

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