Empire Farm Days, which takes place Aug. 8-10 in Seneca Falls, New York, is more than a three-day equipment show. It’s where new knowledge can be acquired in various fields. For the last five years the show has facilitated a beef cattle handling demonstration. Just like the field demonstrations where producers can see the newest baler in action, the cattle handling demo gives beef producers the chance to see several handling systems presented daily. All beef producers need a handling system – this is a great place to kick the tires and see which one works best for you.

Once again, the beef tent will feature cattle displays this year. Many folks that attend the show are thinking about adding beef cattle to their farm. With five to six breeds on display and owners to talk to, what better way to find out which breed is best for your farm. Many beef producers in New York sell directly to the consumer. Attendees can pick up written materials to share with consumers, explaining various cuts and cooking methods.

Beef Quality Assurance training and certification will be offered again this year. It will be offered during the day on Thursday, Aug. 10, starting at 10:30 a.m. and finishing by 2 p.m. If you arrive early and stay late you can still take in the show and maybe some of the last-minute deals! Lunch will be provided; register by contacting Katherine Brosnan at 315-339-6922.

Thanks to the support from the show manager, this year will expand on the previous year’s offerings. On the hour through 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be 30-minute presentations covering a range of topics. As of this writing, show organizers anticipate content on beef identification, preconditioning, feeder calf grading and pregnancy detection using a simple blood test. Many presentations will be hands-on, so plan to get involved.

Preconditioning Best Management Practices

Preconditioning consists of three management practices that work together to reduce stress, thereby increasing the immune status of the young calf.

1. Vaccination/health management

a. Vaccines assist the calf in fighting diseases that are for the most part resident in the animal itself — though many of them are contagious and can be spread among animals. Building immunity begins with assuring the calf gets colostrum from a well-vaccinated dam. Cows that are not vaccinated will not have the same level of immunoglobulins as vaccinated cows. At a minimum cows should be vaccinated for IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV and leptospirosis. At a minimum calves should be vaccinated for the following:

  • IBR, PI3, BVD and BRSV
  • Mannheimia haemolytica
  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Seven-way clostridium.

b. Additional vaccines to consider:

  • Histophilus somnus
  • Lepto 5.

c. Internal and external parasite control is needed because calves that are burdened by parasites have a reduced immune system.

d. To assure the most effective immune response, calves should be boostered (if required) at least 30 days prior to movement. If killed vaccines are used, they require a booster. If not boostered, they are worthless.

2. Weaning.

Separation from the dam is a high stress event. If the immune system is not prepared as described, disease-causing viruses and bacteria have a much easier time overcoming animal health. Low stress weaning practices such as fence line weaning have shown some success in reducing stress

3. Nutrition.

Calves that have had only mom’s milk, grass and water out of a pond are further stressed when they are expected to eat stored forage and grain and drink water from a tub. Ideally, transitioning calves to their new diet occurs prior to weaning.

Preconditioning is not only good for the calf and good for the pocketbook, but also it is the right thing to do. As BQA producers, this practice should be as common as checking fences and feeding your cows.

BQA update

Marketing of feeder cattle is around the corner. The importance of preparing your calves for the next stage cannot be overemphasized. Referred to as preconditioning, this includes various best management practices. First, it is an animal welfare issue. Selling cattle direct off the cow without any preparation is a stressor that puts them at greater risk of getting sick. Cattle that get sick require antibiotics, that the beef industry is trying to reduce relative to expense, resistance and consumer perception. Additionally, it’s been well documented that cattle that get sick don’t perform well in the finishing phase and have reduced carcass quality. On average around 2 percent to 4 percent of cattle die post-weaning. This could be cut drastically if these cattle have been properly prepared for the next phase off the cow.