Beef producers hear research reports during Division of Agriculture livestock field day

April 18, 2014
Contact Information:

Don Hubbell, Director, Livestock and Forestry Research Station
870-793-7432, dhubbell@uark.edu

Fred Miller, Division of Agriculture Communications
479-575-5647, fmiller@uark.edu

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james caldwell

Dr. James Caldwell of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., discusses research with Dr. Shane Gadberry, extension animal scientist, during a University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture livestock field day.
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tom yazwinski

Dr. Tom Yazwinski, an animal scientist for the Division of Agriculture, discusses control products and strategies for parasitic worms in cattle during a University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture livestock field day.
(Click on image to download full-resolution version.)

Field day presentation videos: http://batesvillestation.uark.edu/7211.htm.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas beef producers aren’t known for being squeamish. Nevertheless, it was probably best that animal science professor Tom Yazwinski waited until after lunch to discuss his research on parasitic worms.

Yazwinski was the last presenter at a livestock field day held April 15 at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Livestock and Forestry Research Station near Batesville.

About 95 people attended the field day to hear about division research aimed at improving cattle health, reproduction and profitability.

Yazwinski said he considered titling his presentation, “It’s a great time to be a parasite.”

“There have been no new treatment compounds developed for worms since 1982,” Yazwinski said. Parasitic worms have had more than 30 years to develop resistance to the existing medicines, he said, and they’re pretty good at it.

Parasite control is important, Yazwinski said, because worms can cause a lot of damage and even death to cattle. He said it’s not possible to eradicate parasites, but they can be controlled to maintain healthy cattle.

Yazwinski focused his discussion on five nematode worms common to Arkansas. “All five of these can kill your cattle,” he said.

Common effects on cattle include anorexia, reduced feed efficiency, blood and tissue loss, reduced productivity, and reduction of immune response that can, among other things, make cattle susceptible to secondary pathogens and illnesses.

Despite the lack of new medicines, Yazwinski said producers can employ strategies to control parasitic worms. He emphasized that producers need to give their cattle the proper dosages of medicine. “Especially, don’t under-dose,” he said. Under-dosing parasite medicines encourages resistance, he said.

In addition, Yazwinski said parasite treatments should not be administered in the summer or winter. These are periods of low worm activity in pastures. The medicine will kill the susceptible worms and leave only the resistant worms inside the cattle, which continue to reproduce resistant offspring.

Treating for worms in the fall and spring, when there are active parasites in the pastures, means that cattle will ingest more susceptible worms that will dilute the populations of resistant worms remaining in the cattle.

Producers should also sample their cattle’s feces to test for parasite eggs, Yazwinski said. Egg counts are the most efficient means of determining when cattle require treatments for worms.

Yazwinski said drug companies are researching new medicines for parasite control, though it’s unknown when they will be available or how effective they will be.

Earlier in the field day, Tom Troxel, associate head of the department of animal science, gave an update on the Division of Agriculture’s “300 Days of Grazing” demonstration program. The program, now in its sixth year at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station, aims to show how pasture management can permit beef producers to keep their cattle on pasture for 300 days or more each year.

Troxel said the programs goals included maintaining a 90 percent net calf crop, averaging 550 pound weaning weights and reducing supplemental feeding to 60 days or less per year.

The key to the program, Troxel said, is to inventory pastures and, if necessary, develop them to keep a good ratio of warm and cool season forages. He said soil testing coupled with fertilization by season maintained proper soil fertility for quality pastures. Using electric fences to manage cattle movement in the pastures and testing forage for proper nutritional value were also important.

The result, for the demonstration project is that cattle could graze in the station’s pastures more than 300 days in all but 2013. Last year, Troxel noted, was a severe drought that damaged pastures.

In the previous four years, cattle grazed on pastures for as many as 337 days, reducing hay feeding days to as little as 28. Troxel said purchases of supplemental feed were reduced to zero.

Percentages of pregnancies and calf crops, after the first year, were maintained at or above the 90 percent goal, except for 2013, because of the drought, Troxel said. Also, weaning weights topped the 550-pound goal beginning in the second year of the program.

Troxel said the program allowed the division to gain about $2,500 in value added for its demonstration herd.

Information about “300 Days of Grazing,” including regular updates, can be found online at www.arkansas-livestock.com or www.arkansas-forages.com, Troxel said. Visitors to the site can sign up to receive email updates.

Other presentations during the field day included the use of CTC mineral for spring-calving cows on stockpiled KY31 fescue, growth-promoting technologies for stocker cattle, performance of fall-born calves weaned in the morning or in the evening, and the influence of growth-promoting implants on development and reproduction of low-weight beef heifers.

Videos of all the field day presentations can be viewed online at: http://batesvillestation.uark.edu/7211.htm.