Take care of your cattle and your cattle will take care of you. That has always been a good management practice but these days cattle producers see more benefit in cattle health than ever before. Cattle do better when they are stress-free. They put on more weight gain on less food. Unstressed cattle are healthier, too, and that can impact a growers cost of production.
The Beef Quality Assurance Manual is a tool used and promoted by the N.C. Cattlemen's Association that educates growers on helpful handling tips and husbandry practices. The manual notes there is no single "right way" to do things in every situation, because cattle operations and geographical locations are different. But the tips in the manual are good guidelines that serve in many situations.
Probably the most important tips covered in the manual are those regarding the basics. Producers should make sure their cattle get ample feed and enough water, as well as minerals and vitamins.
Nutrient requirements vary according to the cattle's age, sex, weight, body condition, stage of production and environmental temperature, the BQA manual says. Generally speaking, water requirements will be about 1 gallon per 100 pounds of body weight during cold weather, up to nearly 2 gallons per 100 pounds of body weight during hot weather.
Cattle handling should be as stress-free as possible: The BQA manual notes these handling tips:
1) Be aware of the flight zone for cattle. To move cattle forward, move toward their rear past their point of balance (shoulder). To stop or back up cattle in a chute, move forward past their point of balance.
2) Never fill a crowding pen more than three quarters full; cattle need room to turn around.
3) Cattle should move easily up the chute. Avoid hanging chains, shadows, backstops, noises, dogs, or people that might prevent movement.
4) Loading ramps and handling chutes should have solid walls to prevent animals from seeing distractions outside the working area.
5) Minimize the use of electric cattle prods.
6) Reducing stress on the animal will reduce animal injuries and sickness, employee injury and increase overall efficiency.
Cattle facilities, including fences and chutes where cattle are worked, should be free of any sharp objects and protrusions that could cause them stress or injury.
Cattle do well in their outdoor environment in most circumstances. Under extreme weather cattle should have a well drained rest area, whether constructed or natural.
One of the most important aspects of cattle management is a good vaccination program. This is one area that gets a good deal of coverage in the BQA Manual from a number of different aspects. The information covers how to give injections and how to choose injection sites. Basics, including needle selection, are covered, as well as how to handle needles and syringe. There is information on properly cleaning syringes and needles with proper sterilization techniques.
Good record keeping is an important element in maintaining herd health.
To learn more, visit the N.C. Cattlemen's Association and the N.C. Cattlemen's Beef Council website at www.nccattle.com. The BQA manual can be downloaded to your computer from this homepage by selecting the link at the left of the page, labeled NC-BQA Program, and then by clicking the link labeled NC-BQA Manual from the next page.