MANAGEMENT OF DONORS AND RECIPIENTS28-Sep-2009
**Successful embryo transfer programs require intensive management and attention to detail. The results you achieve are highly variable and the level of success is based on your ability to manage all aspects of the operation. I have broken the management into several key areas with suggestions in each area.
Nutrition is without a doubt one of the most important areas of donor and recipient management. The sources for complete nutritional guides are numerous and should be utilized as necessary. My comments will be very simple and straight forward.
First of all, I believe the nutritional management of your cattle needs to be a year long process. Attention should be placed on meeting their demands for the entire season including gestation and lactation. The most critical and demanding time however includes the month before calving through the first three to four months after calving. This is the most stressful and nutritionally demanding time to allow that cow to produce a healthy calf via colostrum production, begin lactation to raise that calf, AND become pregnant. Reproduction is not an essential process in survivability of that cow and consequently suffers first in lieu of inadequate nutrition. Maintenance and milk production will partition available energy supplies with reproduction suffering at their expense. Therefore, it is critical to meet their requirements.
It is imperative that your cattle are on an increasing plane of nutrition in preparation for flushing and transfer. This “flushing” effect usually requires supplementation which usually entails grain mixes for most of our clients. Utilize body condition scoring methods if you are not comfortable with purely visual appraisal. Do whatever it takes to be sure these cows are in condition to succeed.
Be consistent in all your management practices but particularly nutrition. Cows are creatures of habit and they prefer consistency. Preferably make no management changes on these cows through flushing and transfer through pregnancy diagnosis after 30 days. In regards to movement of recipient cattle, it is recommended to make any movement of these cattle in the first two days after transfer. Nothing stressful should occur during the 12-15 day window (counting transfer day as day 7) when maternal recognition of pregnancy should occur.
Don’t go to either extreme of body condition. Overconditioning, especially of the donors that will be carried open for an extended period of time is also detrimental to the overall success of ET. Fat cattle also create an additional difficulty in the flushing and transfer procedures. It becomes an art to keep those donors in working condition especially after the calf is weaned.
Utilize any external sources necessary i.e. veterinarian, extension, nutritionists to be sure your nutrition program is covered.
2. HERD HEALTH
Total herd health management is also critical in management practices. Many advances have been made in veterinary medicine in recent years. The tendency to look for the next great antibiotic or antibiotic combination to treat the sick cattle has yielded to the preventative approach. We have decided that prevention is much cheaper than treatment and the lingering effects of illness or disease.
This area encompasses vaccination programs as well as deworming protocols. There will be another area of information which will outline our current recommendations for vaccination protocols. Regardless of the protocol you use, leave no holes. Be sure your cattle are protected for the major disease pathogens that you might be exposed to. The purebred cattle business involves much movement in and out of your herds which greatly increase your exposure to new diseases or variant strains naive to your population. Even with stringent vaccination programs in place, this increases your risk of disaster.
***Develop an isolation area on your farm. Ideally this would be a location totally removed from the existing cowherd. If that is not possible, at least locate them in a separate pen or pasture for 2-3 weeks before comingling them with your herd. Perform necessary testing and vaccinations at this time.
***Devise your vaccination program to allow you to NEVER vaccinate the donors and recipients within 30 days of breeding or transfer.
Stress is an important factor in ALL aspects of your program. Most people are aware of the radical stress associated with cattle prods, dogs, noise, etc. that can occur and try to minimize them at breeding and transfer. For those of you that are not, please become aware. I don’t think most people are aware of the negative impact that even subtle stresses that occur in handling has on other areas of cattle management such as vaccine effectiveness, weight gain, and overall health especially in the calves on these recipient cows.
I challenge most of the cattle owners (including myself) to reevaluate the conventional methods used in processing cattle. There was a presentation at the 2009 AABP meeting for veterinarians that outlined the success of changing the methods of handling cattle. The results in calf health and weight gains were remarkable. For most people, we think we are doing it the right way now, but I challenge you to rethink your technique. The area I think it is most remarkable and the situation where I see it most abused is in loading the alleys and the sweep tubs. The cattle are approached totally different from our normal approach to drive them from behind and put as many as we can in the alleys and keep them full. I recommend you look at the videos on www.ranchtv.org. This site prepared by Texas A&M outlines many areas of management but please view the videos on low stress handling.