Dr. Perry Spitzer: Grass at last!


At this time of year, the Peace region enjoys long days and will grow rich forage. For the next two to three months, Mother Nature provides the best source of feed for our livestock. Better yet, they can go out and get it themselves!

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Pasture turn out will see many barnyards go empty as the grazing animals are sent out to take advantage of the plentiful food source. Fences are checked and mended and water access ensured. All producers want to take advantage of the growth potential of their young animals. Best results are achieved from healthy animals.

Besides supplying nutrition, other aspects need to be considered. Controlling parasites will add gain to most growing animals. Your veterinarian can help find a strategy that suits your situation.

Another consideration is that the animals are going to be away from the yard and corrals for the next weeks to several months. Prevention is always better than cure. During the sorting into breeding groups and branding, or other processing that is needed before turn out, vaccinations are also recommended.

The most basic of recommendations is for a multivalent Clostridial vaccine to be given annually. Calves should receive their first dose before their first pasture season. Outbreaks of blackleg can quickly result in heavy death losses and are very easily prevented by vaccinating. Also consider adding other vaccines that will make boosting in the fall much more effective and weaning time much easier for the young animals.

In light of the anthrax outbreak in our area last fall, this is the time to consider your herd’s risk of anthrax exposure as well. This vaccine is best given early in the year, to prevent disease when the risk is highest as the grazing season is drawing to a close.

Another consideration for beef producers is getting next year’s crop of calves made as efficiently as possible during breeding time. Cows need to be healthy. Good nutrition and mineral supplementation, vaccinations for viral diseases that can limit reproduction, and good sound feet and legs to walk around on are all important.

When the bulls are going to work, they need to be at their best. A breeding soundness evaluation before they go out helps sort out fertility issues that may not be obvious. The bull must travel the most during breeding season and his feet and legs must be sound. Vaccinations are important for these guys too. The vaccines already mentioned, as well as a footrot vaccine can help to keep bulls working efficiently.

Many challenges must be met to raise a strong set of healthy young livestock. Producers are always striving to do better. Low-stress handling will help keep the animals gaining their best. Plan to move animals as easily and safely as possible, and avoid undue stress like moving in hot weather when water and shade are limited. Plan and adjust as needed. There are lots of daylight hours, and a morning pasture move may make more sense than an afternoon.

Your veterinarian can help set up a program that is best for your situation. Come in and discuss your needs. It’s part of a good veterinarian-client-patient relationship to keep your veterinarian in the loop when developing your ranch protocols for processing livestock before pasture turn out. We can help maximize your Peace Country pasture season. 

Dr. Perry Spitzer is an owner and director of North Peace Veterinary Clinic Ltd. with his life and veterinary partner, Dr. Corinne Spitzer. 

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