BEEF COWS should be building up body condition for spring calving, and the main concern is to maintain this and avoid pugging wet paddocks.
It’s only cows with dairy genes that have suckled more than one calf that may be thin and need priority feed. Skinny pregnant cows have poor calves, are slow to cycle and get pregnant again soon after calving, and will calve later each year.
It takes 180kg of Dry Matter to replace one condition score - that’s on top of what the cow needs for maintenance - and this can take a month or more to achieve. That is a lot of wet feed to get them into calving at a condition score of 5 (with rounded hips).
Mature cows don’t need drenching for worms. Consult your vet if young stock are scouring and losing weight, something known as ‘ill thrift’ as there are many causes such as mineral deficiencies, salmonella and yersiniosis, and not internal parasites, that may be the cause.
Base any decisions to drench for worms on an FEC, and seek advice on products to use. Endectocides (for internal and external parasites) are easiest to apply as pour-ons if you don’t have good cattle handling facilities, but they have been shown now to be less effective at killing worms. They are causing more drenchresistant worms (especially Cooperia species) than oral drenches.
Young cattle such as calves and rising yearlings are a special priority, and keeping them growing in winter is always a challenge. If they stop, they need extra feed and extra time to catch up to reach their target weight for October mating.
Lice are also a common winter problem on young stock that aren’t thriving. Consult your vet about suitable products as there’s also developing resistance in these chemical families too.
Facial eczema will be gone, but watch for its long-term after-effects. Long-term zinc treatment can strip the copper reserves from the liver, so copper supplementation may be needed - check with your vet. The liver can be damaged by toxins (check this with a GGT enzyme blood test) which can result in milk fever when stress comes on at calving.
Vets can do mineral profiles from a liver biopsy on a live animal, or arrange for liver samples to be collected at the meatworks if any cull stock are sent off. The liver acts like a battery and needs to be charged with minerals over a long period.
If any stock show sudden signs of anaemia and become weak and stop eating, consult your vet to test for the Theileria parasite which has spread rapidly via cattle ticks in the North Island. Infected ticks can also be spread by goats, horses, and domestic pets, and wild rabbits and hares.