JENSEN: Ensuring a healthy cattle herd this fall

North Peace Creature Feature

drFall in the Peace Country is a beautiful time of year with many things reminding us that summer has come to an end, including the kids going back to school, trees changing colour, and cooler weather.

For cattle farmers, fall is a busy time, with the cows and calves coming back from pasture and preparations for next year’s calving season already underway.

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The once lush green pastures have been grazed down, and most cattle are in the process of being brought closer to home.  Now is the time to reap the rewards of calving season, as most calves are taken to market. Weaning calves from cows is an essential part of fall, as ceasing milk production gives cows the opportunity to gain back condition to be ready for the following spring’s calving season.

Nutrition is key to successful cattle production. Cows that are too thin or too fat can have various reproductive problems including trouble calving, not being able to produce enough milk, and trouble being fertile enough the following summer to be able to conceive a calf. It is more difficult for cows to gain weight in late gestation, so now is the time to improve body condition if cows are thin. Optimal health of a calf begins with optimal health of the cow.

This is also the time to keep back some calves to replace some of the older animals in the herd. Continuation of a well-designed vaccine protocol that started in the spring is important for these young animals, as giving them the best immunity against infectious but preventable diseases is important for the whole herd. A healthy first year gives them the best opportunity for a long, successful life on the farm.

Pregnancy checking is also in full swing this time of year, as the bulls have been removed from the cows, and now is the time to ensure cows are pregnant. Feeding non-pregnant, or ‘open’ cows all winter is a large cost with no reward as the cow will not produce a calf next year, and will have to wait until next summer to be bred if kept on the farm. Pregnancy testing is commonly done using an ultrasound machine, and can quite reliably diagnose pregnancy after 45 days gestation. A 60-day breeding season should produce a pregnancy rate of over 90 per cent; anything below this level should prompt evaluation of both cow and bull fertility.

A joint effort between cattle producers and veterinarians is important for a successful operation. By working together on nutrition, vaccines, and overall herd health at this busy time of year, we can strive to maximize health and longevity of the herd and ensure a high quality food source will be available to consumers for years to come.


Dr. Corinna Jensen was born and raised in the Fort St. John community and discovered her passion for veterinary medicine at an early age. In June 2015, she completed her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She is excited and enthusiastic about joining the veterinary team as a mixed animal practitioner with special interests in beef cattle and small animal medicine and surgery.

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