Jessica Laurin, DVM, says unvaccinated neighboring herds and an influx of stocker animals from other states are a threat to unvaccinated animals.
If calves have had pre-weaning vaccinations, Laurin boosters them with a 4-way, deworms and implants. “I strongly recommend deworming any calf pounds or older,” says Laurin. “I have done fecals on 2-month-old calves and seen strongyle eggs present. It seems sensible with the reduced cost of deworming to deworm young calves if they are in the chute. It also makes sense to deworm a bred cow to reduce the potential of shedding intestinal worms to the neonate, just as I have dog breeders do with their females.”
In Hawaii’s brand/wean program, cattle are only handled at weaning, and the same procedures are done to them as the pre-weaned calves. “The difference here is that once the cattle are shipped to the mainland, they receive a follow-up vaccination series as their weaning processing is their first exposure to vaccines,” explains Richards.
Richards says the brand/wean program is a labor-saving technique for those herds that aren’t handled often, but for those producers who can gather calves twice, the branding and then weaning program gets vaccinations and boosters into the calves before they leave the island.
Tim Richards III, DVM, says nutrition, stress, immune function and performance are all tied together.
Pen and fenceline weaning
How your clients wean their calves may influence stress levels and susceptibility to disease. Laurin says some producers can make fenceline weaning work incredibly well. Cows and calves are on summer pasture, and at weaning time, calves are moved to a grass trap connected to that pasture. “If there is not a trap available, then the herd needs to be moved to the right set of pen conditions amply in advance, so cows and calves are calm and adjusted to a new home setting.”
Calves need proper nutrition for this to work. “Calves at weaning age are already getting most of their nutrition from the grass,” explains Laurin. “Bringing them across the fenceline onto a similar grass allows them to make the transition to grass consumption alone. The cows alongside the fence give them a contented feeling.” At this point, many of the calves have been eating alongside their mothers – learning to eat from the unrolled bale, fighting for the range cubes or they have been fed a creep feed – and the transition from grass, supplement and cow to just grass and supplement is smoother.
Laurin notes, however, that this system will not work with cows that are extremely possessive or have poor behavior. It also will not work well with calves that are not receiving adequate nutrition from the grass.