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Book excerpt: Reproduction and Animal Health

By Gearld Fry

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the Acres U.S.A. title Reproduction and Animal Health, by Gearld Fry. Copyright 2003, softcover, 218 pages. We republished this excerpt in 2018 in memory of Gearld Fry, who passed away and was an important figure to Acres U.S.A.

Gearld Fry

I’ve heard the comment, “I’m doing pretty good,” and there are words like excellent, profitable, and not too bad. For my part, I love numbers. Accordingly, I’ve put together numbers for 400 acres, 100 cows, assuming the average soil in the South, and I hope it will enable the cowman to draw the appropriate conclusion. This model will change according to the area, but it should guide the logic and thinking that backgrounds a profitable bottom line.

The Calf

The average calf has seven owners. It travels 1,400 miles from the time it is born until it makes it to a dinner table. There are two or three beef organizations formed recently that hope to achieve select as their target norm. The American Hereford Association recently entertained the billingsgate that Hereford select was better than Angus choice, this according to Colorado State research.

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Shift the Workload: Focus on Livestock Culling, Genetics

Raising livestock on any size operation is hard work. There’s no way around it. However, you can minimize your personal time and labor investment by shifting your farm’s workload from yourself to your animals. They have their entire lives to spend doing a few simple jobs: eat, grow and reproduce. You, on the other hand, have numerous important things to do. This mind-set for management of any species will lead to a low-input ranch that can be run on just a couple hours per day.

A Red Angus crossed with Belted Galloway, 4-month-old bull calf.

My shift-the-workload philosophy is a product of my diverse experiences in agriculture. I have a bachelor’s degree in animal science and agribusiness from West Virginia University. I have worked on ranches in Montana and Texas, and for renowned grazier Greg Judy in Missouri. As an intern at his ranch I learned how to harness the power of nature with mob grazing.

I now own Rhinestone Cattle Co., a grass-fed beef and consulting operation in western New York. I have taken much inspiration from the work of Tom Lassiter, Gearld Fry and Ian Mitchell-Innes. Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Cure Your Own Cattle

By Frank Newman Turner

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Cure Your Own Cattle, written by Frank Newman Turner. Copyright 1950, 2009, softcover, 96 pages. $10 regularly priced. SALE PRICE $6.00.

I left university with the deep bewilderment about animal diseases, which I imagine is common to all agricultural and veterinary students. The only certain thing about animal diseases seemed to be man’s inability to prevent or cure most of them. It was not until I had experienced these diseases in my own herd and started at the beginning in my attempt to eliminate and prevent them, instead of accepting the diseases and treating them as inevitable, that I discovered the root cause of most of them. Until in fact I discovered that there is only one disease of animals and its name is man!

Cure Your Own Cattle, by Frank Newman Turner

The solution was then simple. If I could get the animals back to a life as nearly as economically practicable to what it was before man perverted them to his own use, and provide them as fully as possible with all the requirements of health available under natural conditions, it was reasonable to assume that health would be restored and maintained. That in fact has been my experience, and in this section of the book I publish the treatments evolved from this assumption, which have been proven effective when used by farmers themselves on their own cattle in all parts of the world. But first let me give you some of my experiences that led to the discovery of the simple natural cures for diseases, which have hitherto seemed incurable by the involved methods of orthodox veterinary science.

I have previously written about the diseases that drained my resources and nearly ruined two herds of cattle; how artificial manures were dispensed with entirely and how manuring entirely by natural means and feeding my cattle mainly on organically grown (See Fertility Farming) food and herbs, I restored my herd and my farm to health and abundance from the stage when 75% of my animals were suffering from contagious abortion, sterility, tuberculosis and mastitis. I spent large sums of money on vaccination and the orthodox veterinary treatment of sterility and the only result was increasing disease. Some cows aborted their calves as often as three times after being vaccinated, and one after another the cows were declared by the veterinary surgeon to be useless and incapable of further breeding after he had applied a succession of orthodox treatments and failed. He told me that I should never be safe from these diseases until I adopted a system of regular vaccination of all my cattle as they reached the age of six months; I must also fatten and sell the sterile animals and tuberculosis reactors. In spite of pressure, I resisted all this advice, largely because I had not the capital to replace the “useless” animals which I was advised to dispose of, and partly because I was in any case becoming convinced that we had been tackling disease from the wrong end. Continue Reading →

In Support of Small Cows

By now most people know that more revenue and more pounds do not automatically equal more profit, which is why I am going to show you that small cows can be profitable.

I believe that you can single-trait select females for one thing: the percentage of her weight that her calf weighs at weaning. I regard this as the ultimate measure of a cow’s worth. It is a defense against the trap of selecting females based on simply having the largest calves and ending up with a bunch of massive females that will eat you into the poorhouse.

Small Cows: By the Numbers

Divide the calf’s weaning weight by the cow’s weight and multiply the answer by 100 to get the percentage. In the case of ranches that allow cows to wean calves naturally, weigh calves at the same age every year, between 6 and 8 months.

A 1,000-pound cow that weans a 450-pound calf has weaned 45 percent of her weight. A 1,500-pound cow weaning a 550-pound calf has only produced 36 percent of her weight.

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Preventing Pasture Bloat in Cattle

Pasture bloat in cattle can be prevented with a proper diet.

With grazing season starting again, please keep in mind that legume pastures (clover and alfalfa) tend to cause bloating problems at any time of the grazing year, but especially when frosts are still happening. Pasture bloat is entirely preventable, but unfortunately every year I hear of a few farmers that have lost a handful of animals.

You should wait two hours until the frost is off before putting animals onto legume pasture.

How can it be prevented? In short, make sure there is effective dry fiber in the cows’ bellies prior to putting out to lush pure stands of legume pasture. Realize that it takes a few days for the same group of animals to be on the same legume pasture stand (rotating through it onto lush growth) before any problem will be noticed.

Generally, bloating will be seen by day 4 or day 5 of animals on heavy legume stands. This is especially true if the animals are fed very little if any forage in the barn during milking times. Granted, the animals want to eat the fresh feed compared to the preserved feeds they’ve been eating all winter, but they must be persuaded to eat some effective dry fiber in the barn area about a half hour before going out to pasture. Putting molasses or some other tasty type feed on (or in) the forage will work. Otherwise they will pig out on the lush pasture offered. Continue Reading →

Calves: Rearing Them Right

Tips for rearing calves from former New Zealand dairy farmer, agricultural consultant, and all-round farming legend Vaughan Jones, interviewed by Stephen Roberts.

Calf Rearing Starts Before Calving

Vaughan, let’s talk first about the financial impact of correct calf rearing.

Correctly-reared calves continue to grow at a faster rate after weaning than poorly-reared ones

Correctly-reared calves continue to grow at a faster rate after weaning than poorly-reared ones.

If you are too busy, unsure about calf rearing, or don’t have the proper facilities, then forget it and buy weaners. Sometimes it is more profitable to buy yearlings, which often sell cheaply.

Calf rearing is a specialty job requiring specific knowledge. Correctly-reared calves continue to grow at a faster rate after weaning than poorly-reared ones, and the eventual size of adult animals relates to their weaning weight. It’s the farmer’s knowledge of this that encourages the high bidding at calf sales for well-reared ones.

How important is managing cow nutrition prior to calving?

Successful calf rearing starts before calving, with the dams not being too thin or too fat, on a rising plane of nutrition from drying off to calving. Calves can die within the first month of being born due to mineral deficiencies in the dams before birth. Deficiencies can be caused by insufficient feed for the dam or poor quality feed that lacks necessary minerals, especially selenium, copper, and iodine.

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