By Susan Hurt
Spring is an exciting and eventful time on the farm. Farmers begin preparing the ground for crops, and new life emerges as daffodils sprout and animals are born. Veterinarians are preparing for issues that may arise with the increase of lamb and calf births.
It’s a time of change as cattle transition from winter silage to spring grass, which can be problematic for animals that spend their time grazing. Dr. Todd Freeman, veterinarian at Little River Veterinary Clinic, shares his tips for keeping cattle healthy this season.
- Continue to watch cows for grass tetany or hypomagnesemia, which is an illness caused by forage that is low in magnesium and soil that is high in potassium. Signs of disease include weakness, staggering, inability to stand, seizures and eventually death. Continue to feed cattle high-magnesium mineral until the grass becomes mature.
- It’s almost time to turn the bulls in for spring calving. Bulls should be breeding soundness evaluated (BSE’d) before going in with the cows. Remember, the bull contributes 50 percent of the genetics for each calf. Don’t skimp and buy inferior bulls. A high-quality bull could add thousands of dollars to the value of your calf crop versus an inadequate bull.
- Get hay equipment ready. Hay quality declines greatly after June 1. Mid-May cutting optimizes both quality and quantity. Hay is usually better if it gets a little rain on it after cutting in May as opposed to waiting until mid-June or later after it matures.
- Start planning now for spring herd work, including vaccinations, castration, dehorning, deworming and fly control. These practices pay off and are more humane when performed at a young age.
- Horses and ponies can founder on lush grass just as they can on grain. Founder means “to sink” and the condition occurs when the sensitive and insensitive laminae break down, causing the coffin bone to bear down on the sole of the hoof. Limit access to lush spring grass, which makes horses and ponies more prone to founder. Take time to stop and enjoy as spring unfolds.