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Give Your Herd an Annual Review

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January 6, 2020


Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today, we're talking about giving your cow herd an annual review. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with Dr. Brandi Karisch, Mississippi State University Extension beef cattle specialist. Brandi, why is this important, for cattle producers to give their cows an annual review?

Brandi Karisch: Well Amy, many of us as employees have an annual review that we go through for our job that evaluates our performance and how good of a job we're doing. It's often good for cattle producers to think of their cows as employees, and giving them an annual review is a good idea to assess their productivity and their soundness and how that's gonna affect that producer's bottom line.

Amy Myers: Yes, that does sound like the best way to be efficient. What should producers look for at calving?

Brandi Karisch: Well Amy, calving's a good time to monitor a few things that are important for that producer's annual review. One thing that's really important to look at during that time of year is udders. Calving is the best time for us to evaluate a cow's udder, so that's when it's a good idea to mark down any problems. Any cows that might have a pendulous udder or really coarse teats, that might make it hard for that calf to nurse. Those are some things that we wanna mark down and we maybe need to think about adding that cow to a cull list for that reason. Another thing that's important to look at during calving is body condition score. Body condition score is our best way to look at that cow and visually assess how much energy she has in reserve. It's a one to nine score that anybody can learn how to assign to a cow, and it's a good way for us to also monitor the health status and the nutritional status of our herds.

Amy Myers: There are several things that they should look for when working cattles in the chute. What do you want them to know about that?

Brandi Karisch: Well Amy, it's really important whenever we're handling cattle and we can look at them in a close facility to monitor things such as disposition. It's important for us to eliminate those bad actors, those cows that might get some people injured whenever we're trying to handle them or some that maybe need to move to the cull list. Some other things that producers should look closely at whenever cows are working through a facility would be to look closely at eyes. Cancer eye is the number one reason that cows are condemned, and that's something that if we monitor and keep a close eye on that we can maybe catch early on and we can do some things for that cow.

So, eyes are something they should keep a close eye on, as well as their mouth. As cows get older, we know they'll tend to wear down or lose some of their teeth, and that's gonna affect their nutritional status, that body condition score that I spoke about earlier. If we notice a cow starting to get a little on the thinner side, we wanna open her mouth and look at her teeth whenever she's in that chute. Another thing that they should look at is feet and legs. We wanna monitor those cows closely for any lameness issues and get those treated as early as we can, and we wanna make sure that any cows we determine need to be culled because of those reasons we cull early, while those cows still have value.

Amy Myers: Reproductive management is also really important to look at, right?

Brandi Karisch: Yes, Amy. Reproductive management includes both the bull and the cow. When we talk about it in terms of the bull, that's doing a breeding soundness exam on your bull before the beginning of every breeding season. Remember, that breeding soundness exam isn't good forever, so we wanna make sure that it's done each time before turning those bulls out with cows. That breeding sound exam is gonna include a physical examination, a scrotal circumference, and a semen evaluation. On the cow side of things, pregnancy check in is a really important reproductive management practice, just because open cows don't make us money.

Amy Myers: If there is anything that folks have questions about, where can they go for more information?

Brandi Karisch: Well Amy, I just wanna emphasize how important it is for producers to send their cow herd through this annual review process and to monitor their cow herd closely. For more information for any beef production practices, they can always go through their county extension office, visit with their local county agent, and they can always find more information. Online resources are found at

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today, we've been speaking with Dr. Brandi Karisch, extension beef cattle specialist. I'm Amy Taylor Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Animal & Dairy Science

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