July 10, 2017

(Dr. Dan Thomson) Hey folks, Dr. Dan from DocTalk here. Thanks for joining us today. We’re gonna have a great show; we have Dr. Mark Hilton from Elanco Animal Health who’s been a practitioner for 30-some years in Iowa and at Purdue University. We’re gonna talk today about how you can build a calendar for your cowherd when it comes to breeding, health and many other practices.

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(Dr. Dan Thomson) Dr. Hilton. (Dr. Mark Hilton) How are you doing? (Dr. Dan) Good. Welcome back. (Dr. Mark) Thank you. (Dr. Dan) Folks, Dr. Mark Hilton is my guest today and we’re going to talk about building a calendar for your cow/calf herd. Dr. Hilton just kind of set the stage. We’ve had him on the show. We’ll have more episodes with Dr. Hilton on the show. He is a wealth of knowledge. He has done so much for the veterinary profession, so much for the beef industry as a practitioner for really his whole career, whether he was in private practice or at Purdue University, you’re a practitioner. (Dr. Mark) Right. Yes, I’m a practitioner. (Dr. Dan) That’s 33 plus years and now he’s a technical consultant at Elanco Animal Health. Glad to have you here. (Dr. Mark) Thank you. (Dr. Dan) Let’s jump into building this cow/calf herd health calendar. Folks, when you’re sitting there, get your notepad out and start jotting down some notes because now we’re going to start showing you how you can build that calendar for you and your herd. (Dr. Mark) Great. When I was in practice in Iowa, I saw lots of our herd owners that would call, “Oh, I need to get this done soon,” and things wouldn’t always get done on time and so I said to different producers, I said, “How about if we just sat down and grab the calendar and made a list of things we need to do at different times of the year,” and they said, “Oh, I’d like to have a schedule, I’d like that,” and we actually kept it in our office. This was pre-computer days, early in practice, Dan. I’m a little older than you. We had a chart and the gals in the office could go back and they would get the right vaccine or do the right things, but I think having a system rather than just leaving things to chance. Cattle are an investment in your operation. It’s a part of your business and you need to do it like that. My corn farmers did everything by the calendar and on a schedule. (Dr. Dan) Absolutely. (Dr. Mark) This was not different to them and so that’s what we did. My first question was, “When do you want to start calving? When is the weather conducive for you to calve outside, so these calves can be born out in nature, not in a barn where we’re going to have disease problems?” and then they would give me that date. I’d say, “Okay, that starts our calendar. Do you want to breed your heifers ahead of your cows? Do you want your heifers to calve three weeks before your cows to give them more chance to get rebred? The environment is better, your enthusiasm for calving difficulties is higher early in the calving season than it is late in the calving season.” (Dr. Dan) Yes, absolutely. (Dr. Mark) But a lot of them would say, “No, I don’t want to calve the heifer sooner because that’s going to put them in an environmental stress.” So that’s fine. We calve the heifers and the cows together. How long do you want to calve with the heifers? I think that they should not be calving the heifers as long as the cows. If they’re going to start the heifers ahead of the cowherd by a couple of weeks, I’m okay with calving the heifers for maybe 42 days, but if they say, “No,” I’m going to start the heifers. Let’s just say it’s March 23rd, they’re going to start calving cows and heifers. 30 days for heifers. I’ve really put a lot of pressure on the heifer. I have a small herd of my own and I jokingly say I go out and I show the heifer this piece of paper that says, “Here’s the rules, you want to be a cow or not? Because rule number one is, I want 12 to 15 year commitment from you.” If that heifer says, “Oh, I was thinking maybe six years and then I’d come up open and take a year off.” No, she’s a feedlot heifer. Getting high fertility heifers. That’s where we start the whole calendar. Based on when the cows calve and when the heifers calve. (Dr. Dan) Perfect. We’ve got our calendar off and running. We got our calving date set for heifers and our cows. Come back and join us here with Dr. Mark Hilton. We’re going to continue on this calendar.

(Dr. Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Mark Hilton. Dr. Hilton is a veterinarian, bovine veterinarian, cow/calf specialist, has worked many years in practice both in DeWitt, Iowa and in at Purdue University, now technical consultant at Elanco Animal Health. We’re discussing building that calendar for your calving. We’ve defined when we’re going to start calving. What’s next? (Dr. Mark) Yes. On the cows, I think a 65-day calving season is ideal for a lot of herds. The research would prove that shorter than that may not get that 90% to 95% pregnancy rate that we would want. Longer than that, now you’ve got not a uniform calf crop, greater chance of health issues so try to get it there. (Dr. Dan) Let me back up because you said 30 days on the heifers. (Dr. Mark) If you’re calving them right when the cows are starting. It gives them two chances to get bred. (Dr. Dan) Got you. Okay. (Dr. Mark) That’s it. (Dr. Dan) Got you. Then like you’re saying, that sets it up for kind of a selection on the most fertile heifers of the ones you’re going to keep for your cows. (Dr. Mark) Right. Because a late calving heifer has two options the next year; calve late again, not good, or be open, really not good. Why start with a problem? We start with heifers. When I’ve worked with herds over the years that have had fertility issues and if I’ve been able to convince them to calve their heifers for between 30 and 42 days trying to think how many have gone to back to calving for 65 or more days. None, because they see the value in that. One of the things that I did for one of my producers because they produce calving year-round and they said, “We got to get this under control,” and I said, “In this environment, I think a spring calving season, middle of March to about the middle of May, and then a fall season, about first of September to the end of October, would work for you. Do you think that would work?” They said, “Yes”. I actually made a spreadsheet program and got some help from some other people putting together where you put in the dates you want to calve and it populates when you do everything on the calendar. I’ve got my own website and it’s on the website so people want to look at it. (Dr. Dan) What’s that website? (Dr. Mark) It’s mwbeefcattle.com. Midwest Beef Cattle Consultants is the name of my business and mwbeefcattle.com. If they look under educational tools, then spreadsheets, they’ll find it there. They can take it and use it. Veterinarians can grab it. Take my name off the top, put your name of your veterinary clinic on. Now, you can’t change the colors. It’s black and gold for Purdue so that’s it. No purple, but you put in the dates you want the animals to calve and it populates the whole thing and now you’ve got a calendar. You take that to your veterinarian or the veterinarian sits down with the producer and say, “Okay, so looks like here we need to give our pre-breeding vaccinations to the cows and heifers. It looks like this would be the date to semen check the bull because we need to get that done ahead of time. Here’s the day the bull goes in. Here’s the day the bull goes out. If you want to AI, you can put that in there and make this calendar.” Everything is run like a business. It’s not by the seat of your pants and “Oh my gosh, we’re picking corn. Yes, we’re supposed to wean the calves a month and a half ago.” That doesn’t happen anymore. Things get done on a schedule. (Dr. Dan) Yes. When we used to get the corn planters disease in our farmer-feeders and some of the guys that I used to work with. Everything is going on out in the field superseded anything that would go on the animals, and then we’d come back to the animals and go, “Oh, I wonder when that happened.” (Dr. Mark) Right. Yes. I practiced in Indiana and Iowa, so two big corn states, yes. (Dr. Dan) Big corn states. Okay, well let’s take a break and when we come back, we’re going to start getting into some of those specifics then as to what we see with the calendar and dates that maybe we need to circle and things that we need to pay attention to. You’re watching DocTalk. Thanks for joining us. More after these messages.
(Dr. Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. We have a special guest here, Dr. Mark Hilton who is a technical consultant with the Elanco Animal Health. He’s also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to bovine practitioners. I’ve been listening to him even before I was a veterinary student and even as a student and then as a student of the trade. Dr. Hilton has provided me with mentorship and things and practice tools that I’ve just really appreciate all you do. (Dr. Mark) Thank you. (Dr. Dan) We had started talking about setting up that calendar and I just love this idea because I think that ever it’s so easy what you’ve done with your website. So easy for producers and practitioners to work together instead of coming in and saying, “Hey, we’re going to work cattle tomorrow. Can you give me the vaccine?” or on a Sunday afternoon you get the phone call might not get to fish no more. (Dr. Mark) Right. Exactly. (Dr. Dan) [Laughs] But anyway, talk to me about the next step in the calendar, things that we look at. (Dr. Mark) Right. The herd health veterinarian should do this with the owner. That’s not my job. I haven’t been on the farm. I don’t want them calling me. You don’t want them calling you because the herd health veterinarian is the one that has that knowledge. When do they put in fly tags? When is the optimum time to do that? When should they implant the calves? What products should they use? What vaccines should they use? That’s their decision based on the research that they’ve read. All those things, and every herd is going to be different. There is so many different vaccines out there that you can use. If you vaccinate for everything, the poor calf is going to leak when he drinks. That’s not the goal, is to vaccinate for the things that you really need to make sense that you’re doing those things. One of the main things this program does, it puts that weaning date of those calves somewhere in that 180-day range. 205 was what we always did when I was a kid back home, and that’s too — those calves are too old. Get that calf off sooner; get him on feeder a little bit sooner. Again, we’re not weaning the calf based on when we’re done picking corn. The herds that I’ve worked with again that have gone from weaning in November in Indiana and Iowa, where the weather is miserable, miserable weather, they’re finally done picking corn. That calf – and really realistically that calf for the last month or two is probably gained a pound a day, because pastures are poor, maybe cows aren’t cornstalks by now, so its nutritional fraud to that calf, get him weaned off. A lot of these herds are weaned in about middle of September, that’s right about the time they’re picking corn. But if they vaccinated this calf ahead of time, the immune system is working, they weaned these calves, it’s easy, the calves do great. The herds that I’ve worked with that we’ve moved their calf, their weaning time from somewhere late October, November into September when the weather is better, and 100% of them stay with September. They can’t believe the difference. Some of them even have told me the weaning weights were no different. They said when we were weaning in the middle of November; those calves really weren’t gaining anything from the end of September to November. They were just surviving off of the cow, now the cow’s body condition score is poor going into winter. It’s a big circle of problems, they have to get the calf off the cow, and the program on my website, we punch it in there, it’s going to tell you here’s your ideal weaning date for those calves. I’ve even got a section on there that tells what to do with your bulls, if you have this tremendously long calving season, because people have said, “Well, I don’t have any place to put the bulls.” It tells you where to put the bulls. That’s a little bonus that I put on there. (Dr. Dan) This is great. Set that calving date, calving season, determine when you’re going to wean, lots of things you can drive off of those two decisions. When we come back, we’ll do a wrap-up on how to build your cow/calf calendar, for health and your herd.

(Dr. Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Mark Hilton. We’re at Kansas State University, and this has been a great show. It’s one of those things that I can just see folks, you go into the website and again that website is mwbeefcattle.com, all one word. It’s right here on the bottom of the screen, mwbeefcattle.com. Dr. Hilton has done so much work to prepare this. But again, you’re using it to drive – certain dates drive the rest of the calendar. (Dr. Mark) Right, yes right. Again, it’s under educational tools, I’ve got some videos there too if they want to take a look at those on calving and things, but I’ve got some spreadsheets they can have any of them that they want, no charge. I made this because I had a producer that came to me and said, “I’ve got this long calving season, I don’t know how to get it solved.” I said, “Would a calendar work for you?” He said, yes, so I made this for this one client, and after he and I tweaked it many times to make it good, I thought, “Geez, I should use this for other people too, I put a lot of hours into it, so let’s use it.” The key to the whole thing is, when is the ideal calving season for you? For a lot of people, it’s later than what they think it is. Most places in the United States I’ve looked at calendars, the first day of spring is March 21st. If you’re calving in February, that would be winter calving, not spring calving. If you truly want to calve in the spring, then you’re going to start calving after the 21st of March. That may not be ideal, I don’t know for your environment. In the southeast, that probably wouldn’t be the time, but I’ve not practiced down there. Your veterinarian can help you. Set that calving date, breed the heifers for a short amount of time, 30 to 42 days and that’s it. Keep more heifers back than you normally do, because you’re going to have reduced conception rate when you breed them for a shorter time, but don’t allow your herd to have a late calving heifer. Get her in the swing right off the bat, so you got the date your heifers are going to start calving, the date your cows are going to start calving. It asks you what day you want to preg check your cows, and then what day – it tells you what day you should wean your calves, based on when you start calving. Again, if they have a herd that’s calving for a long period of time, and they don’t know what to do with their bulls, and the bulls are out with the cows for seven months, and that’s why they calve for seven months, there’s a little side part on the website that shows what to do with the bulls, if you can have two calving seasons at spring and a fall season. I’ve had many people use it and they’ve said it’s been really helpful, getting their herd run like a business, and that’s what it is. (Dr. Dan) We had the same thing in feed yards. The feed trucks are on a regimented time schedule, and then the animal health was kind of well we’re going to get to the pens rode, and we’re going to the doctor. I went through and made a daily calendar for feedlot crews to keep everybody busy, keep everything moving forward so that we get done earlier. This probably saves people a lot of time by just having the time periods mapped out. (Dr. Mark) Yes. It really helps the efficiency of the whole thing, and I love efficiency, I love a schedule and I love efficiency. This is right down my alleyway. (Dr. Dan) Well perfect, and thank you for coming on the show today. (Dr. Mark) You bet. (Dr. Dan) Thank you for watching DocTalk. It’s been a great show here with Dr. Mark Hilton. Remember, always work with your local veterinarian, and if you want to know more about what we do at DocTalk, you can find us on the web at www.doctalktv.com. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Mark Hilton, and we’ll see you down the road.

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