The highlights of this year’s KSU Cattlemen’s Day were the tour of the Feed Intake Measurement Facility given by Dr. Bob Weaber and the necropsy demonstration given by DVM A.J. Tarpoff. The take away I want to reiterate to any livestock producers is that a post-mortem exam is crucial in determining the cause of death to an animal and identifying how we can prevent it from happening again.
Feed is the number one input cost to raising beef cattle, and improvements in the feed conversion to product can result in increased profits for beef producers. This makes the research on feed efficiency at KSU very important and promising to steakholders. The difficulty with improving feed efficiency, is that is is dependent on feed intake and gain, therefore to impact efficiency or feed conversion rate, cattle need to be selected to either gain more than average while consuming the average amount of feed, consume less than average while gaining weight at an average weight, or both gain more and consume less at the same time. Touring the Feed Intake Measurement Facility was like a trip down memory lane for me. When I was working on my masters’ project at the US Meat Animal Research Center, my steers feed intake was monitored using the same Insentec feeding system that is featured at the KSU facility. The Insentec system uses RFID tags to keep track of each animal each time they come to the feeder. The feed bunk is automatically weighed before the animal begins consuming feed and then after the animal is finished. This results in many data points for each feeding event for each animal which is then condensed into average daily feed intake over the trial period. What sets this research facility above others is their ability to also monitor water intake as well as the ability to put cow calf pairs on the lot and monitor their feed intakes as well.
The presentation by Dr. Tarpoff, Using Postmortem Examination to Enhance Heard Health Management, is a presentation I wish all producers could have attended. All too often I receive a phone call with someone asking to test their feed to determine what killed their cattle, without having consulted their vet first. A necropsy is a vet bill worth paying. Dr. Tarpoff stressed the point that even if you believe it was a death due to bloat, you must first use necropsy findings to rule out other possibilities. He said that even if a death appears to be a bloat that could just be the feed fermenting in the animal after the animal’s systems have begun shutting down. Using information from a post-mortem exam can aid in making the best possible production decisions to prevent death losses in the future. It is imperative that you work with your vet when problem solving animal health issues. At Ward Laboratories Inc. we can test for several animal health issues in feed such as nitrates, prussic acid, high mold and aflatoxin, but often all of these come up without answers and it is too late to perform a necropsy by the time our results are sent out. Use our lab tests to confirm what your vet determines. Dr. Tarpoff recommends a necropsy on a dead animal be performed as soon as possible and at a minimum within 24 hours of death.
This year’s KSU Cattlemen’s day, did not focus on nutrition, however I believe it was very valuable for producers who attended, and I would encourage any beef producers looking to make improvements to their production to attend this event in the future.