Slick Pick For Sicks


Are We Closing In On A Genetic Clue For BRDC Heritability

By: Jaime Pullman

One of the most costly scourges to the beef business, bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC), is currently under the microscope. BRDC is the leading cause of death in beef and dairy calves. Respiratory diseases cost over $250 per affected feedlot steer when treatment, reduced carcass quality, and death loss are considered. Two research studies nearing completion right now hope to recognize the best management practices both in the pasture and the feedlot, and to identify those animals that are genetically more susceptible to BRDC. In combination, that could reduce disease incidence, thereby saving money, using fewer antibiotics and improving animal health.

Dr. Russ Daly, the state public health veterinarian and extension veterinarian and professor at South Dakota State University, is part of a three-year summer pneumonia research project now entering its final year. The study aims to examine and identify risk factors significantly associated with summer pneumonia in calves.

“All of us on the research team, as well as most cow-calf veterinarians you talk to, would indicate that we can see problems with summer pneumonia in very well-vaccinated, well-managed herds as well as in herds that do not employ extensive vaccination programs,” Dr. Daly shares.

“It is frustrating for us, as well as the producers, to know that one year can present problems and the next year no problems will be present at all. A fact that is very apparent so far is that there is no one single ‘silver bullet’ that ranchers can implement to prevent summer calf pneumonia. If it was an easy question to answer, we likely would have found the answer by now!”

Dr. Daly recommends identifying management practices that ‘make sense’ first by working with their local veterinarian. What vaccines might be helpful? What issues are other producers in the area dealing with?

“We also want to look at potential sources for different strains of respiratory viruses or bacteria to come into a group of calves,” Dr. Daly continues. “Separation of young calves from feedlot animals, for example, would make sense. Knowing your herd’s risk for or status concerning BVD persistent infections also makes sense. A cow or calf persistently infected with BVD virus will spread a great amount of virus to their herd mates; BVD virus greatly suppresses the immune system.”

Disease shedding is no stranger to the feedlot, which is where another research project on the BRDC hunt is taking place. The Integrated Program for Reducing Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex in Beef and Dairy Cattle Coordinated Agricultural Project (BRDC CAP) is a 5-year USDAfunded project being conducted by six different universities led by Texas A&M University’s Dr. James Womack and USDA ARS.

The research examined both pre-weaned dairy heifers (Holstein) and beef feedlot steers (Bos Taurus). Using a health scoring system, the researchers identified BRDC cases and then applied genomic technology that allowed them to estimate heritability for BRDC susceptibility. The resulting susceptibility ranged from 19 to 21 percent in the dairy animals and up to 29.2 percent in the beef.


Researchers believe genetic change could reduce the BRDC incidence by one to two percent per year, which might not sound like much but would be substantial over time.

“When an economic analysis was conducted based on the differences in harvested value of BRDC affected steers, their treatment costs, and death losses,” explains Dr. Holly Neibergs, “it was estimated that the feedlot industry was losing over $1 billion annually from this disease.

Based on our heritability estimates, if feedlot cattle were selected based on susceptibility to BRDC, significant economic gains ($13-21 million annually) could be realized by the feedlot industry.”

Dr. Neibergs is a geneticist, an associate professor at Washington State University, and a member of the BRDC CAP team. She first became interested in researching the possibility of reducing BRDC via genetics eight years ago.

Like Dr. Daly, she recognized that good management wasn’t everything. “I was struck with how the dairy and beef industries have identified best management practices, have routinely vaccinated their cattle and have had access to improved treatments to reduce bovine respiratory disease, but yet the prevalence, morbidity and mortality is similar to what was experienced twenty years ago,” Dr. Neibergs recalls.

More than 20 different researchers of different disciplines are involved with the BRDC CAP. The program, now in its final year, followed 500 healthy and 500 BRDC beef cattle in two feedlot locations (Colorado and Washington). Scientists sampled cattle and followed them to harvest, tracked diagnostic data on found pathogens, treatment costs, yield and quality grades, weights and genetic information.

Preliminary results are based on data from the Colorado facility, since the Washington cattle weren’t complete at the time of this article. Those results show that both BRDC susceptibility loci and BRDC estimated heritability were similar in beef feedlot steers and the pre-weaned dairy calves. Dr. Neibergs says that the markers that have been identified with BRDC will be supplied to commercial genotyping companies once the research is complete.

The researchers will soon be providing the markers for dairy, since that part of the project was completed first and the incorporation of markers into genetic panels for beef cattle will follow soon.


By making the research available to breed associations and commercial genotyping companies, BRDC resistance could be incorporated into EPDs and selection indexes for producers to use.

“The heritability estimates for BRDC were better than we had predicted and improved further as we more narrowly defined BRDC,” Dr. Neibergs shares. “This provides strong evidence that by selecting for animals that are not susceptible to BRDC, we will be able to make significant gains in reducing the morbidity, mortality and economic losses associated with the disease.”

The BRDC CAP research suggests that regional differences might be in play with higher frequency of BRDC pathogens in some areas than in others, but Dr. Neibergs explains, “It isn’t clear if these frequencies change over time, or are the result of different vaccination programs, or different genetics of the cattle being exposed to the disease pathogens.

Therefore, it seems important to use a multi-pronged approach where best management practices, vaccination, careful observation to identify and pull sick animals, and the addition of selection for cattle that are less predisposed to disease will result in both short term and long term reduction in BRDC.” Saving time and money, and improving the life of beef cattle is a long-term goal for scientists and producers alike.

Advancements in management and genetic selection could make BRDC more of a nuisance than a curse. And the willingness to work with researchers helps make those advancements possible. “We would really like to recognize and thank all of those in the cattle industry that have made these studies possible,” concludes Dr. Neibergs. “Without the cooperation and collaboration of the beef feedlot and dairy calf facilities, we would not have been able to conduct these studies.”

The Time To Hay Ain’t Far Away


So Let’s Knock It Down!

By: Colin J. Cleary

Well, we’re coming out of the cold months and heading into summer with haying season looking us dead in the eyes. Maybe the ranch is due to upgrade mower conditioners to help speed up the process or get rid of that worn out, unreliable machine. Either way, I did a little research and contacted John Deere, Vermeer, Kuhn, New Holland, Case IH, and Hesston® by Massey Ferguson to see what new products they have out on the market that would be of interest to our WR readers.

JOHN DEERE The folks over at John Deere wanted the readers of Working Ranch to know they have four words when it comes to cutting hay: fast cutting & quick repairs. Want the functions of a centerpivot machine but not necessarily the big size that comes along with it? Well, John Deere’s 830 and 835 may just be the right mower for you. These two models are available with urethane rolls or impeller conditioners, and when attaching it to the tractor you have three options; clevis, equal angle hitch, and rockshaft hitch (2pt). This gives you a wide variety of options to help select the best mower set-up for you. The 830 mower cuts at 9ft 9 inches while the 835 cuts at a nice 11ft 6 inches, a perfect mid-size mower with lower horsepower requirements than the larger models. To learn more about Deere’s lineup of mower-conditioners visit them on the web at or swing on in to your local dealership.

VERMEER Vermeer has three new models to choose from this year; the MC2800, MC3300, and MC3700 are equipped with the all-new Q3 cutter bar which gives operators better performance with reduced horsepower requirements, thus saving fuel. With the modular disc design and simplistic cutter bar access, maintenance and repair becomes a breeze (always a high point!). This is possible due to their Quick-Clip Blade Retention System and Quick-Change Shear Ring. There are no spring systems on the MC lineup; they consist of a nitrogencharged accumulator suspension system which provides steady ground contact and a consistent cut. The MC mowerconditioners from Vermeer are available in sizes from 9-12 feet. I was out at Vermeer’s proving grounds last fall and ran one of these for myself; let me tell you I was very impressed with the uniformness in cut and how smooth the mower ran. For more information visit Vermeer online at or visit your local dealer.

KUHN The folks over at Kuhn offer one heck of a line-up of new generation mower conditioners, most of which are now available with a roller conditioner. Two choices of roller are available; 1) roller set in polyurethane with specific SQUAREFLEX profile to ensure maximum stem pinch no matter how the stems are positioned between the two rollers; 2) roller set in steel – more economical, and especially suited to regions confronted with highly abrasive conditions. Both roller types operate at a speed of 780 rpm and boast a large diameter of 240 mm. Kuhn mowers feature the Optidisc® cutter bar which requires no break-in oil change or scheduled maintenance for the entire life of the machine! FastFit makes changing knives a breeze with just one tool. They also feature an integral drive system in a closed gearbox (maintenance-free) providing reliable roller synchronization, and the POSIGUARD safety system to protect the machine and its rollers from foreign bodies passing through. Check them out online or at your local dealer!

NEW HOLLAND New Holland wanted the readers of Working Ranch to know about their new Discbine 313 and 316 models. These two models feature the all new MowerMax II™ with larger gears, bearings and shafts. The cutter bar also features a ShockPRO™ hub which is larger and heavier than in previous years; this feature protects the cutter bar driveline for maximum uptime. New Holland is also proud to feature the 125”

WideDry™ system (a 22% increase in size over previous models) which delivers a thinner crop mat that feeds more smoothly and speeds up drydown time. The 313 and 316 can come equipped with either chevron-patterned intermeshing rubber rolls, steel rolls, or LeaningEdge™ flails to match whatever your haying needs happen to be. New Holland also improved access to the cutter bar with poly bifold upper shields which are light, easy to lift and foldable which would make life a lot easier when replacing blades. For more information swing on in to your local dealer or go online to

CASE IH Take a look at the two new mowerconditioners from Case IH; the DC133 and DC163. The new DC mowers feature simplified drivelines; they are driven from the left side of the machine, which delivers consistent power across the entire mower. Being left-hand driven, the swivel gear box does not require a steering link, meaning the PTO shaft stays perfectly aligned.

The DC133 and DC136 from Case IH have three options in the conditioning system; rubber on rubber rolls, flail conditioning, and steel on steel rolls, which gives you plenty of options in selecting a mower for your ranch. The new cutterbar features larger gears, bearings and interconnecting shafts for a more durable and fuel efficient mower. The DC133 can cut a nice 13ft. and the DC163 knocks down a whopping 16ft. For more information check out or visit your friendly local dealership.

KUBOTA Finally, let’s take a look at the Kubota DMC8500 models, which are equipped with a center pivot drawbar. The SemiSwing conditioner utilizes centrifugal force to offer an aggressive conditioning effect while providing excellent tine protection. The 8.8″ diameter wide chevron rubber rollers are made from highly durable polyurethane with a steel core. If a foreign object is encountered, the spring-controlled pressure system will allow the rollers to separate leaving an opening of up to 2.4″ for the object to pass through without damaging the machine.

The complete mowing section is suspended independently from the main chassis with four long adjustable suspension springs, allowing field contours to be closely followed. If an obstacle is encountered in the field, the mowing section will lift up and backwards, protecting the cutter bar from damage.

With three blades per disc, Kubota mowers are constantly cutting, resulting in a third less load per blade; an even load on the drive; smooth power usage; and a neat, cleanly cut stubble. The long curved gear wheels run smoothly in oil and provide efficient power transfer. DMC8500 Series mower conditioners can be fitted with the ‘Express’ system for quick and easy changing of knives.

For more information, go to and click on ‘hay tools’, or head down to your local dealer. Overall, these super six manufacturers have some very impressive mowerconditioners… it’s just a matter of getting out and deciding which one fits your operation the best. So, with hay season right around the corner it’s time to hook up and be ready to knock it down fast and efficiently.

Top Tub Tips


How To Get The Most Out Of Low Moisture Molasses Tubs

By: Gilda V. Bryant

Low moisture molasses tubs are convenient to use and come in many formulations to suit changing seasons, classes of cattle and available forages. On the market since the mid-1970s, these popular supplements are in high demand.

Manufacturers combine molasses with oil or fat, then cook the mixture to remove most of the moisture. Dry ingredients such as protein meals, minerals and vitamins are blended and incorporated into the hot, thickened molasses mixture. Poured into plastic tubs, the mix forms a dense, hard candy-like consistency as it cools and cures. Common sizes for cooked tubs run 250 and 200 pounds, although smaller tubs in the 30 to 60 pound range are available for weaning calves or placement in feedyard sick pens.

Mark Robbins, Manager of Research and Nutrition Services with Ridley Block Operations/Crystalyx, says newly weaned calves will eat about a quarter pound per head per day. This kick starts the calf’s rumen and appetite. The licking action also creates more saliva, a natural buffer for the rumen. Studies indicate that when feedyard calves are exposed to these tubs fewer get sick. Plus, calves tend to have better mixed ration intake and
feed efficiency. For mature cows in pasture grazing situations, ranchers may initially place tubs in loafing areas near a water supply.

Once cattle are familiar with molasses products, producers may entice them to move to an underutilized area of the pasture by placing tubs in ungrazed forage, away from riparian areas. Robbins adds, “Research conducted with GPS tracking collars has shown cattle will visit them all hours of the day and night.”

Rain and snow don’t alter the palatability of the product—cattle simply drink the collected water, then lick the tub. Experts recommend placing containers in the shade during sustained 100 degree temperatures because they tend to soften in the heat. Intake consistency is a positive feature of tubs. Instead of chewing the hard surface, cattle must lick it. Randy Rosenboom, Beef Specialist with Kent Feeds, says if cattle are eating more than expected, producers may simply move the tubs away from the water supply. Animals will adjust their intake, consuming less.

Cattle should lick the container so the surface remains flat. Rosenboom says if wells appear, that’s an indication there are too many animals for the number of tubs. The solution is easy… add two or three additional tubs. Generally, experts recommend one container for every 25 head.

Jim Drouillard, PhD, professor of animal science at Kansas State University and consultant for SmartLic, reports that tubs control intake based on humidity. “The surface absorbs moisture from the atmosphere,” Drouillard explains. “It becomes a little liquid on top. Animals can lick that liquid away. When they get down to the dry portion, they stop. It’s a neat method of controlling intake because the animals have a desire to eat it, but because of the physical properties of the tub, they are restricted.”

Molasses tubs are manufactured for all seasons, classes of cattle and types of forages. For instance, during spring
when grass tetany can be an issue, tubs with magnesium are available. If corn stalks, dried grasses or hay bales are the main diet, protein tubs are just the ticket. These supplements have mineral formulas for breeding and weaning; some include chelated minerals for those regions of the country that struggle with antagonists in the water and soil.

Use caution when making your purchase to be sure the product is rated for beef cattle. The levels of copper which cattle require can be toxic for sheep, because they are sensitive to it. “If the species you want to feed is listed on that label, then you’re good,” explains Robbins. “I can’t emphasize this enough. If it does not list the species you’re going to feed it to, then don’t feed it to them. Look at the label. By law the label has to have a purpose statement. It says what species of animal you can feed it to.”

Kent Tjardes, Field Cattle Consultant with Land O’Lakes/Purina recommends that producers look for quality tubs that are properly dehydrated. He says, “Animals should only eat three fourths to a pound of protein tubs. On the mineral side it should be four to eight ounces.” Look for a reputable manufacturer that mixes quality ingredients. Tubs should consistently meet label guarantees.

Ask how long the company has been in operation and what quality assurance programs are in place. Most companies will have some indication of their quality assurance program on the label, usually in the form of logos.

“Knowing intake is critical for supplements,” Tjardes advises. “Try to understand the tags. Look at them to learn what the intake is supposed to be. Are the cattle eating according to what is on the tag?”

Robbins says, “If you put out 1000 pounds of supplement for 200 cows and it took them seven days to consume that, do the math. 1000 divided by 200 cows, divided by 7 days. That’s seven-tenths of a pound.” There are situations where tubs aren’t the answer. Robbins explains, “If you have cows at the end of January and you’re going to start calving the first of March, and they are too thin, it’s almost too late to put ‘one’ body condition score on them. If you want to put one body condition score on a cow in a month, you’re going to need to use a hand-fed supplement, feeding two to four pounds a day to increase their energy intake.”

In the next five years, cattlemen will see enhanced bioavailability of minerals in tubs as well as those that target reproductive and immune functions. “Producers need to get an understanding about the variety of products that are available, that target very specific needs, and take full advantage of that,” Drouillard explains. “It’s precision agriculture.

Most of the manufacturers have a good handle on what those needs are and are producing an array of products with the intent of fulfilling those needs. There are some cost-saving measures that have come about. Getting the biggest bang for the buck is the bottom line.”