October 27, 2014

(Dan) Hey folks, Dr. Dan here from Doc Talk. Man, I’m glad you joined us on the show today. We’re gonna have a great show. We have Dr. Tiffany Lee joining me. And we’re going to discuss cattle comfort. And I know that sounds like pillow talks and throw rugs, but what we’re talking about are things we can control, mud, heat and different environmental conditions. Thanks for joining us and enjoy the show.

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(Dan) Tiffany welcome to the show. (Tiffany) Thank you. (Dan) It’s always a pleasure. We have Dr. Tiffany Lee who is a veterinarian and works here at the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University doing research and field events and outreach and many different things, but has practice experience. From northeast Kansas originally? (Tiffany) Yes, Leavenworth. (Dan) And a Kansas State alum. And we’re going to talk today about cattle comfort. And I think there’s a lot of misconceptions out there. But when cattle comfort equals production, it equals efficiency and when we don’t have it, we don’t have efficiency. (Tiffany) Exactly. And I think we also don’t have adequate animal welfare at times. You know when we talk about things like pen conditions, mud is a big factor in that. And when you have cattle that are slogging through mud just to get to water, you have problems and sometimes that’s an animal welfare issue. Now, mud cannot be avoided. We’re outside and it rains, so, we can’t avoid it. But we can do some things to help prevent cattle wading through knee deep mud just to get to their food. (Dan) Yes, and I was raised in southwest Iowa and if one thing that I understood was mud and getting the boot sucked off of your feet walking through the lot. So, like you said, mud is gonna happen, but what are some of the things that producers can do when we have those adverse rainfalls or those uncharacteristic rainfalls. There’s something we need to do. (Tiffany) Sure. I think prevention is probably the key thing that you need to do. You know, using adequate pen maintenance, sloping of pens, things like that. You always want to make sure that at least the areas around your water tanks and your feed bunks are clear of mud. If they have to wade through mud that’s over about four inches above their fetlocks, that’s definitely not something that we want to deal with. And again we always want to have the cattle have a place, a dry, clean place to lie down. (Dob) What’s the best way for that in a feedyard situation? (Tiffany) Pen maintenance is the best thing. (Dan) Mounds? (Tiffany) Mounds. Mounds are very good. (Dan) Building a mound. (Tiffany) Making sure that you have adequate manure harvesting. Building those mounds and then even when the cattle are not in the pen, maintenance needs to be done. (Dan) Absolutely. You know one of the things that we had when I was in practice is we developed standard operating procedures, so that we had a constant maintenance of our pen floors, constant mapping to make sure we were getting rid of low spots. And then that mound building, which as we’ll talk about later with heat stress. Not only does it give them a dry place to lay down in the winter and spring and fall but it gives ’em a place to get above and catch a breeze in the summer. (Tiffany) Yes, yes definitely. And in the wintertime it’s not necessary that they need a breeze, but that mound again gives them a clean dry place when you have lower evaporative conditions and you have mud in those lower spaces. (Dan) And I think that its important to keep your aprons around the bunk clean so that cattle, they’re kind of like us, if it’s not easy to do, they don’t do it. And so you want them at the bunk. (Tiffany) Exactly. (Dan) But we don’t want that to be the only place that they go lay down either. (Tiffany) Yes. We definitely don’t want them laying around the bunk. If cattle are laying around the bunk, a lot of them won’t eat, just because other cattle are in the way. They don’t want to move. They don’t want to do anything and then the cattle that are kind of left out are the ones that are probably not eating as much as those cattle already up there anyway and so then you’ve got some problems with those ones not eating as much as they should. (Dan) You bet. Well, we’re gonna take a break. When we come back, more with Dr. Tiffany Lee here on Doc Talk. We’re glad you joined us and we’ll see you here after the break.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk, Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Tiffany Lee and we’re from the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. We’re talking about cattle comfort and as we left, we were talking about mud. And one of the things that I have found with mud Tiffany, was that we kind of get into this locked, paralyzed indecision that if we can’t clean the whole pen, we do nothing. But sometimes just hooking on that box blade, making one lap around the pen in times of adverse rainfall or in the winter to just give them a comfortable place, until we can get to the point of cleaning the whole pen. (Tiffany) That does a world of difference. It provides them a clean, dry place to lay so that they’re not making huge mud holes at certain places, like around the bunk. And they’re maintaining a clean, dry area for them to be comfortable in. (Dan) Well, we’ll move on but I always remember the dairyman who said that a cow that is laying down is a cow that’s making milk. And in the beef industry a steer that’s laying down is one that’s making beef. (Tiffany) That is true. (Dan) So, heat stress is another issue that we have during the summertime. And it’s not a Canadian issue but it is one you get south of I-70 or east with the humidity, can be a big issue. Talk to me a little bit about, what are some of the signs that cattle are going through heat stress? (Tiffany) You know, a big sign that cattle are going through heat stress, and everybody’s probably witnessed it, is respiration rate, panting scores. We actually have studies that have been out on different panting scores and how they relate to the heat stress and actually it’s a very good indicator of whether cattle are feeling the stress or not. So, that is a huge thing. Whether cattle are bunched up around that water tank, that’s a big indicator of whether they are heat stressing or not. And that’s one thing where we could definitely, I guess, look at heat stress from a prevention standpoint. Just make sure that they have clean, potable water so that they can stay hydrated during those periods. (Dan) Yeah, and you get into some of those big cattle, I used to just take the big silver tank, and put it in the corner of the pen with a water tank or balzer gun and fill those up to just give more linear square footage of cattle that are in trouble or cattle that are suffering from heat stress. When you start to think about heat stress, the first thing that I think of is first of all the thermal heat index. And as temperature stays stagnant or stays put and humidity goes up we have more heat index on those cattle. What’s one of the first things you need to do when you start to see elevated heat index? (Tiffany) I think one of the first things that you need to do is make sure you have adequate pen space and an adequate mound so that those cattle can get up off the ground into a breezy situation. Because when you talk about your temperature humidity index, one big part of that is wind as well. (Dan) Yes, and take down your wind blocks from the winter. (Tiffany) Yes, definitely. (Dan) And mow the weeds. (Tiffany) That’s a big thing. Yes. Now, those wind blocks some people might think that provide some shade. Most of the time, that’s not the case. And you’re gonna do more harm than good as far as reventing all that air from reaching those cattle. (Dan) Cool. Well, we’ve gotta take another break. (Tiffany) OK. (Dan) When we come back, we’ll talk a little bit more about pen space since we’re on that. And one of the big things folks when you get that thermal heat index up, cease and desist working cattle. Don’t want to run them through the processing chute. We’ll be back after the break.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. It’s Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Tiffany Lee and we’re from the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. And we’re talking about something that’s vitally important to beef production and beef cattle health and that is cattle comfort. And when we talk about cattle comfort we’re talking about comfort in the pen, the ability to express normal┬ábehavior, you know and to stay comfortable from the elements. And so let’s talk about pen space because it is one of those things that we access on the BQA Assessment tool. So, what exactly, when you’re looking at pen space or if I’m walking out to my pens to make sue I’m providing adequate pen space, what are some of the things you are looking at. (Tiffany) I like to go and make sure that every single head of cattle in there has adequate room to get up and have it’s own place to lay down, walk around and exhibit normal behavior. That is what I’m looking for. Make sure that they all have enough space to do that. (Dan) And I think we can even take it a step further, if you’re gonna build mounds, you should provide a mound that all the cattle can get on. (Tiffany) I agree. (Dan) Because then the ones that don’t get on the mound are those lighter, more frail animals and they wind up getting pushed out. Speaking of the lighter, more frail animals, you know bunk space is another issue within the pen. (Tiffany) Yes. (Dan) And you know it’s my rule of thumb on high risk calves, I want them all to be able get up to the bunk at once. (Tiffany) Definitely. Yes. You know, your lighter calves that come into the feed lots, they’re not quite used to the bunk maybe yet. Or they’re not quite used to being on a feedlot diet. You definitely want all of them to go up be able to go up to the bunk at once and get full at once so that they all know what they’re doing when they go on to a finisher ration. (Dan) You bet. What about slope and drainage and pen space? I mean you eluded to that at the beginning when we were talking about mud but talk to me a little bit about the positives of slope. (Tiffany) Well with your slope you definitely want the slope to be away from your apron and that’s because you want the most drainage at the places where you want them the most, where they are going to eat basically. You want to provide adequate drainage so you don’t have mud in areas where they want to eat, or where they want to drink or where they want to lay down. If you have adequate slope, that provides enough drainage so that they can do all three of those things in a clean, dry area. (Dan) High traffic areas folks, its really important that you get out every year and look around your water tanks. You know there’s nothing worse than dropping off the face of the earth right at the water tanks where the calves have spent a lot of time and there’s a lot of traffic. And that’s where your wear and tear on your pens is going to be. So, make sure you haul some rock in. You know we’re so busy worrying about hauling stuff out, sometimes we have to haul some things in. (Tiffany) True. (Dan) On pen space, what are we looking at? There’s a lot of range isn’t there? (Tiffany) Sure, oh yeah. And your range really depends on kind of where you’re at in the country. Dr. Dan and I were talking before and you know, I guess you can have a little bit less space in the more dry, arid regions of the country. And you can have a little bit more pen space in the wetter areas of the country. (Dan) OK. Let’s take a break and when we come back we’ll put some numbers to it and we’ll wrap up the show. Thanks for watching Doc Talk.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. We’re Dr. Dan Thomson and Dr. Tiffany Lee and we are veterinarians here at the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. And when we talk about pen space, when you are in arid regions like west Texas, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, we can get away with 150- 250 square foot of pen space per head. But when you get into southwest Iowa on outdoor facilities where the elements are not blocked, we’re not talking about the barn situations, now you’re talking 500 – 700 square foot provided. The more mud you have in your geographic region, the more pen space you have to provide cattle so that they have adequate places to lay down and stay down. Alright, Tiffany, you’ve been working some with the Beef Quality Assurance Program. (Tiffany) Yes. (Dan) Let’s talk a little bit about how all this plays into the new welfare assessment or the BQA Assessment Tool for feedlots. (Tiffany) Sure. So, our BQA Assessment Tool, I think it’s a great tool. It’s a self evaluation tool. So, that’s the biggest thing. It’s not an audit or anything like that where you’re gonna get punished for having someone come out here and look at your facility. It’s something that you can use as a tool to improve your facility. And what we evaluate on these assessments are things like pen conditions, the way that you handle your heat stress, along with other things such as processing, handling and things like that. (Dan) Yeah. And you all have done quite a few of these assessment tools. And like you said before the difference between an audit and an assessment, an audit is a bean counter, coming in saying yes or no, you do this or you don’t. An assessment is something that a veterinarian can work with with their producer and walk through and as you see something that you want to have corrective action on, let’s talk about it. Let’s plan it. Let’s fix it. Let’s make it better for the cattle. And that’s a lot different. Audits I think are built on distrust between groups. And assessments are building blocks and bridges towards improving animal welfare. (Tiffany) I agree. I very much agree. And I think that this not only builds a better facility for your animals, but I think it builds a relationship with your veterinarian. And a relationship with your clients as well. (Dan) Yeah. When I think of BQA I think the thing that makes me the most proud about that document is its a document written by veterinarians and producers for veterinarians and producers to improve the welfare and the health of animals. (Tiffany) Yes. I agree. I would definitely agree. I think that you know, it’s a great tool to use. And I hope that we can pretty much get every producer to at least try to use it and try to work with their veterinarian to improve not only their facility, but it will help us improve the industry as a whole. (Dan) I sure appreciate you being on the show today. (Tiffany) Thank you. I appreciate you having me. (Dan) I appreciate you watching Doc Talk. If you’d like to know learn more about what Tiffany and I do here at Kansas State University, you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Remember, we always recommend that you work with your local practitioner. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. Thank you very much for joining us today on Doc Talk, and I’ll see you down the road.

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