After a long cold winter and an overly wet spring, summer might seem like a welcome change. However, the season doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges, especially if you’re grazing stockers. As a stocker operator, you’re going to be confronted with the heat, the possibility of grazing on fescue, flies and the potential of pink eye and foot health, all while trying to get your calves to gain weight.
“The ultimate goal of the stocker and backgrounder phases is to put on as many pounds as efficiently possible,” said Kevin Glaubius, Director of Nutrition at BioZyme® Inc. “To best do that, they need to do everything they can to keep their animals healthy and eating.”
However, with limited energy available to the calves, the first area they will expend their energy on is sheer survival. When it gets hot, they will go into survival mode, making sure they are staying cool and comfortable before they worry too much about converting pounds of feed to gain.
Due to increased heat, and the fact heat stress can impact an animal when the temperature reaches 70-degrees Fahrenheit, it is vital to have a summer stress management plan in place.
Be sure to provide ample fresh water to your calves. Not only is water vital for hydration and cooling, but water intake, water quality and feed intake are correlated. Additionally, make sure that you provide a shade source for the calves during the hottest parts of the day. This might be a tree row, a windbreak, a shed or a temporary, man-made source.
Providing proper nutrition, through a quality mineral program, to your calves will jump-start their eating, helping them stay healthy and help them convert their feed to pounds of gain. Consider using a mineral like VitaFerm® Gain Smart® Stocker HEAT® mineral. This free-choice vitamin and mineral supplement for stocker cattle is designed to balance basic nutrient needs for maximized efficient gain on grass pasture. This mineral contains HEAT, a mixture of plant extracts, to help minimize heat stress during temperatures of 70 degrees and above or anytime cattle are grazing fescue.
In addition, all VitaFerm products contain Amaferm®, a precision-based prebiotic, designed to impact intake, digestion and absorption. Gain Smart Stocker HEAT also contains organic copper and zinc plus added iodine for maximum bioavailability to the animal to support hoof health and immunity.
“Keeping those animals healthy with a balanced vitamin and mineral program helps them keep eating and growing. If they are heat stressed, getting pink eye or foot rot is going to set them back and that is going to eat into those already tight margins very quickly,” Glaubius said.
Flies, ticks and other insects can be a huge nuisance to cattle in the summer causing distractions from grazing and therefore reduced gain and ultimately economic losses. An additional benefit to the VitaFerm Gain Smart Stocker HEAT mineral is it contains garlic, a natural insect repellent. Using this mineral paired with one of several other fly control methods is the best bet to reduce fly and insect stress, keeping calves eating and performing, according to Glaubius. Other fly control methods to consider include fly tags, fly rubs and dusters and fly sprays.
Summer can have its challenges, but implement and follow a summer grazing plan that includes a high-quality mineral, proper shade and adequate water with a fly control plan, and this summer might just become your favorite season of 2019.