Designing Facilities Considering Cattle Health | Dairy News

Having facilities that allow livestock to be handled safely and efficiently offers rich opportunities to improve animal health.

While efficiency is important, it is important to focus on safety when designing processing facilities, as this will allow you to manage cow health while reducing the risk of injury to both livestock and people.

While many dairy cattle are handled safely in the hood or behind a gate, the same is not true for beef cattle. The only truly safe handling systems for beef cattle are trough systems.

If you want to add or upgrade handling tools, remember that extension educators and veterinarians travel from farm to farm and use a variety of equipment. They can provide the pros and cons of many brands that can help you narrow down your search before you go to the hardware dealer.


In late fall or early winter, the risk of new parasite infections is fairly low, but your cows may still harbor parasites in their intestinal tracts, which can negatively impact feed efficiency and weight gain.

The utilization system provides an opportunity to free cows from parasite burdens and optimize feed efficiency when cows need extra energy to stay warm in cold weather.

Stool samples that can be collected from fresh manure caps without handling cattle can be tested by your veterinarian to determine if your cattle would benefit from deworming, as well as the best product to use to treat your herd if needed.

Vaccination programs

Another opportunity presented by good management tools is the optimization of vaccination programs.

Which vaccines are given and when depends on several factors, including when cows enter and exit winter pens, if your operation uses them, the calving window, the timing of the next breeding season, the biosecurity level of the herd, and existing disease problems. .

Since there is no single vaccination protocol that works for every farm, your veterinarian is the best resource to help you establish a program that will work for you and your operation.

Although good facilities make handling cattle easier, it is best to minimize how often cattle are handled. Your veterinarian can help you integrate your vaccination program into your deworming and breeding programs to get the best results every time you manage cattle.

When discussing the integration of a vaccination program with your other routine management procedures, your veterinarian may discuss vaccines that fall into three main categories: reproductive vaccines, respiratory vaccines, and calf vaccines.

Reproductive vaccines are designed to prevent diseases that can cause embryo loss or abortions in cattle. These vaccines are prescribed to protect cows during the breeding season and into early pregnancy.

Respiratory vaccines are considered the primary vaccine for all livestock. They protect against a variety of viral respiratory pathogens, as well as providing the ability to add protection against bacterial pathogens. These vaccinations are especially important for livestock kept in herds and enclosures that bring in animals from abroad. In beef cows, these vaccines are not only important to protect the cows, but also help to increase the antibodies in the colostrum. Therefore, they help protect the calf.

Acne prevention and management

The final category of vaccines are those specifically designed to protect the calf. These increase in cow antibodies against scrapie pathogens that most commonly affect calves.

As the cow produces colostrum, these antibodies will enter the calf, protecting the calf early in life. Typically, vaccination is timed so that cows reach peak antibody production during colostrum production. Ask your veterinarian when vaccinations should be given for maximum benefit to the calf.

While inoculations are a great way to improve calf health, they cannot be the only practice to prevent scabies.

Regardless of whether you use this vaccine, the cornerstone of calf health is colostrum consumption.

Calves should be raised and nursed immediately after birth so that they receive plenty of colostrum. If the calf is not nursing, it must be hand-fed to prevent disease at an early age.

Easy access to remedies can allow you to collect colostrum from a cow to feed a weak calf that won’t give milk.

Even with the best handling facilities, some cows will not tolerate it. A good alternative is to have a high-quality colostrum substitute on hand. Although these products are expensive, they have a long shelf life and are worth the investment.

If you are designing a storage facility for your livestock, consider incorporating some insulation pens into the design. These towers can make it convenient to separate cattle for a variety of reasons, but they are especially useful in managing scabies.

A distressed calf can quickly infect many other calves. Having facilities where these calves and their dams can be separated from the herd can help break the cycle of disease transmission. It also allows intensive handling of the calf, increasing its chances of survival.

Ideally, these insulation pens will have a concrete floor with plenty of clean, dry bedding on top. Concrete floors allow for thorough cleaning after the calf has healed.

While working livestock is no easy task, good facilities can improve efficiency and safety for both people and livestock.

Good management practices can prevent problems by simplifying deworming, vaccination, and other preventive practices.

Good handling facilities help farm management when problems arise with collecting colostrum for a weak calf or separating and treating sick animals.


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