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Producers look to boost winter immunity

Producers look to boost winter immunity

Winter cattle herd health

Healthy coats, plenty of water and a clean environment help keep herds in top shape through the winter.

Don’t let the mild September weather fool you — cold weather is right around the corner, and now is a great time to make sure livestock are healthy.

Nutrition plays a key role, especially for animals who spend most of their time outdoors.

“For those gestating cows, making sure they are in good body condition is going to help their immune system a great deal,” says Grant Dewell, Extension beef veterinarian at Iowa State University. “With the accelerated metabolism, if their nutrition isn’t good, they aren’t going to be healthy.”

Plenty of clean water will also help keep immune systems strong, he says.

Cattle producers will want to keep an eye on the animal’s coat and skin. Dewell says skin helps keep pathogens out of the body, so it’s important that cattle are getting the vitamins and amino acids they need to allow the skin to do it job.

Colostrum is the key to boosting the immune system of newborns. Dewell says cows that are in good body condition likely will produce enough colostrum to help protect their babies.

“The calf is really a reflection of the cow, so a weak calf is going to struggle,” he says.

Environment also plays a key role in herd health. Dewell says a muddy, dirty environment will impact cattle of all ages.

“If the animal is in a mud hole and covered in manure, they are being exposed to a lot of pathogens,” he says.

Vaccination programs will also boost herd health. Dewell says vaccines will limit the ability to spread disease from cow to cow.

He says things like scours and respiratory issues are herd-based diseases and should be treated accordingly.

“You want a vaccination program that’s strong enough to give you confidence in your herd’s immunity,” Dewell says.

He says cattle coming from a pre-conditioning program into a feedlot should be in good shape when it comes to their immune system.

“If you don’t know much about those calves, you may need to go in and re-vaccinate them, depending on how they respond to the feedlot,” Dewell says.

Making sure the hog herd is healthy is helped by indoor production, says Abbey Canon, a veterinarian and director of public health and communications for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

The major component of a good herd health plan, she says, is an effective biosecurity program.

“I really cannot over-emphasize a good biosecurity program,” Canon says. “This needs to be in every part of your operation. Keeping pathogens off the farm is the best step to keeping animals healthy.”

She says with the discovery of African swine fever in the Dominican Republic, producers need to continue to be extremely vigilant when it comes to allowing access to their farm.

New pigs, such as replacement gilts, should be quarantined for a length determined by the herd veterinarian.

Canon says a strong vaccination program will also help boost herd immunity.

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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