OSU vet debunks cattlemen’s myths

Carroll cattleman

CARROLLTON, Ohio — The Carroll County Cattlemen’s Association combined forces with the Carroll County 4-H and OSU Extension for a fall meeting to find out the best way to winterize a cattle herd.

Organizers like John McKarns and Dr. Keith Burgett said without the organizations working together, the event wouldn’t have come together. The event was held at the McKarns’ farm.

The cattlemen’s association invited Dr. Lowell T. Midla from Ohio State University College of Veterinary  Medicine to the meeting. He worked to dispel myths many cattlemen have about their animals.
One misconception Midla finds common among cattlemen is “overfeeding cattle in late gestation will mean too big of a calf.”

Midla explained that the feed generally won’t impact the size of the calf. That is based on the genetics, which is the reason for picking a bull with calving ease.
He said he recommends cattlemen make sure their cattle have a body condition at least a five, which ensures they cycle on time.

Summer pasture

Another myth Midla dispelled is the idea that creep feeding will spare the cow’s body condition when the summer pasture is short.

He said he doesn’t recommend that method and instead tells clients to consider weaning their calves early.

Along that same thinking of a small pasture, Midla busted another myth. He said many cattlemen believe that buying and feeding hay is the best option for a short pasture. Instead, he recommends early weaning and adding some corn to the diet, especially with the current low grain prices.


Midla said he used to think that protein tubs were an expensive method for “lazy dudes to supplement cows,” but not any more. He said cattle to do need adequate protein in their diet, and use it to maintain an adequate microbial population in the rumen to get the most out of forages, particularly poor forages.

He added that late gestation cattle also need the protein.

“Basically, the protein tubs are worth the cost,” said Midla.


Midla also discussed providing supplemental minerals to the cattle herd. He said some farmers feel that their cattle need an expensive mineral with “some magic ingredients” and that is just not true.

“They need the minerals, but it doesn’t have to expensive,” said Midla.
On the other side of the coin, Midla said he has had producers say their cattle don’t need a mineral supplement.

“That is just not true,” said Midla.

He said all cattle need some type of mineral supplement. He said cattle should have access to selenium every day, especially in this part of the country.

Another myth Midla crushed was that if an animal is eating more mineral than usual, it means they are deficient. He said he finds that can be true with salt, but not other minerals. Often, there is no reason for the uptick in mineral consumption.

Read the label

He said sometimes the minerals purchased aren’t what you think they are. He said producers should read the package and decide if they are feeding zinc sulfate, zinc carbonate, zinc oxide and zinc chloride.

He told the group that minerals attached to an organic carriers are more valuable to the cow. He also reminded farmers to purchase their minerals from a reputable company.

Midla said he often finds contradictions with cattlemen that believe feeding extra phosphorus leads to better reproduction rates. He said that is not always true. He said it goes back to the body score at the time of the first birth which should be a five.

Calf scours

Midla also discussed scours in calves and how many producers automatically run for the antibiotics. He said that antibiotics are not the most important thing when it comes to treatment of scours. Instead, he said, the most important thing a producer can do is fight dehydration.

“Fluids are the most important treatment,” said Midla.

Another myth connected to antibiotics is that some producers jump from antibiotic to antibiotic, thinking they constantly need a stronger one for an ailing cow. He said that is not the case, and if a cow is not responding to an antibiotic, it usually means it’s just not the correct drug for the illness they are fighting.

“Antibiotics are like screwdrivers. You have to find the one that fits,” said Midla.

Midla also discussed antibiotic use with the group. He reminded them that just because a vaccine is available for sale does not mean it prevents a disease.

He also encouraged the group to ensure the vaccines they are administering are working, and to keep vaccines cool. Midla said one problem he often comes across is that producers let the vaccine get warm before injection.
He also recommended not vaccinating cattle when the air temperature is above 85 degrees or the heat-humidity index is high.

Another reminder goes back to the need for minerals. Midla said to be sure the animal is not selenium or copper deficient on the day of vaccination, because of it is, the producer is just wasting money on the vaccine.
Likewise, parasites should be controlled before vaccinating cattle. If the cow has some type of parasite, the vaccine will not do its job.

Midla also reminded the crowd that if the vaccine being administered is a booster and the last time the vaccine was administered three years ago, then the producer probably needs to get the vaccine again, and not the booster.

He recommend the minimum for a herd winterization program include vaccines and doing everything possible to prevent scours in your barn.

Nutrition is also of utmost importance, Midla said, and encouraged producers to group thin cows and feed them separately. He also recommends keeping a close eye on 2-year-olds that just weaned their first calf, and yearling heifers.

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  1. Dr Midla comes from a cattle family in Washington Co Pa , Herefords are their specialty . I was impressed with the article , had some items within ,especially the protein tubs , I had not considered/knew. Also the copper/selenium needs to make the vaccine effective. I admit I was always told heavy feed at the last trimester leads to big calves but ..we use grass rotation so almost no feed is employed , it is more for docility and handling ease, though in very cold weather we will supplement with feed several times a week to add calories, and in February use our second cut hay for the same purpose. Regards to the Doctor..Kris Vanderman

  2. This meeting sounds like it was really informative. Dr. Midla’s veterinary experience seems like a wealth of knowledge for these farmers. His idea about grouping thin cows for feedings is an especially interesting idea. Thanks for sharing.


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