Animal Industry News Update - October 2014

Theresia Lavergne, Page, Timothy G., Harborth, Karl, Navarre, Christine B., Walker, Neely, Pruitt, J. Ross  |  10/11/2014 6:45:15 AM

Blister Beetle Toxicity in Horses

blister beetle

Dr. Neely Walker

Purchasing hay is routine to many horse owners. While selecting quality hay is important, it is equally important for horse owners to be aware of tiny, toxic and potentially fatal passengers in some alfalfa hay bales: the blister beetle.

Blister beetles are members of a family of plant-feeding insects that contain cantharidin, a toxic defensive chemical that protects the beetles from predators. Blister beetles have long (3/4- to 1-1/4-inch) and narrow bodies, broad heads and antennae that are about a third of their entire bodies. Four species of blister beetles are common throughout the eastern and central states; ashgray, black, margined and striped. While the amount of cantharidin content contained in each beetle varies, the amount within the striped blister beetle is consistently higher than the other three species. In addition to their high toxin content, striped beetles tend to congregate in large clusters along field margins, which can result in a higher amount of beetles in one section of hay. During the hay crimping process, the beetles are killed but remain in the hay once it is baled. These factors, in addition to the fact that blister beetles remain toxic even after they are killed, increase the importance of choosing quality hay.

The lethal dose of cantharidin is between 0.5-1.0 mg per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight, but as few as 25 ingested beetles may be toxic to an average-sized horse. The severity of the reaction, which ranges from temporary poisoning, reduced digestive ability or death, depends upon the amount of cantharidin ingested and the overall health of the animal. Symptoms typically appear within hours of ingestion and can include inflammation of the digestive and urinary tracts, colic and straining during increased urination. Secondary infection may occur, causing kidney failure, increased heart rate and respiration, dehydration, sweating, diarrhea, and decreased calcium levels, which may cause damage to the heart. Animals that recover from the potential intestinal damage may develop complications, including laminitis or other systemic infections. Since animals can die within 72 hours, it is extremely important to contact your veterinarian as soon as blister beetle poisoning is suspected.

Tips to reduce the chance of blister beetle poisoning:

  • Buy hay from local producers if possible. Develop a relationship with your hay producer and be aware of their production practices.
  • Buy first-cutting hay, when blister beetles are not active.
  • Look for hay that is harvested at the late bud stage or when the first flowers open.
  • Learn to recognize blister beetles and understand their behavior.
  • Check all hay prior to feeding for the presence of blister beetles.

While an effective preventative program will reduce the chances of blister beetle poisoning, there is no efficient way to inspect baled hay carefully enough to be sure that it is completely free of blister beetles. Horse owners must be responsible for identifying and understanding the biology of blister beetles and for following the suggested tips to protect their horses. If you suspect your horse has come into contact with blister beetles, contact your veterinarian immediately.



Dr. Christine Navarre

Anaplasmosis is a disease of cattle that is caused by the blood parasite Anaplasma marginale. This organism infects red blood cells, which leads to anemia. This disease is endemic in some parts of Louisiana, meaning that it occurs regularly and is basically “native” to the area. Be aware that due to increased movement of cattle in previous years, some areas that have been considered non-endemic in the past may now have more anaplasmosis. With cattle moving in and out of hurricane- and drought-ridden areas, the possibility of introduction of diseases, including anaplasmosis, increases.

Anaplasmosis is transmitted by insects or people. Horse flies and some species of ticks are the main insect vectors. Spread by other biting flies (such as stable flies), horn flies and mosquitoes is unlikely but possible during severe infestations. People can spread anaplasmosis through reuse of needles and improper cleaning of instruments during dehorning, castration or tattooing. In one study, when a needle was used on an infected cow, the next animal had about a 60% chance of getting infected if the same needle was used.

Clinical Disease
Once the Anaplasma organism infects an animal, it usually incubates in the body for 3-5 weeks before the animal actually gets sick. Cattle less than two years of age rarely show any signs, even if they become infected. Cattle older than two years of age have more severe disease and are more likely to die. Whether or not an animal shows any signs, if it becomes infected, it is usually infected for life. These carrier animals are immune to future disease but become a source of infection for other cattle.

Outbreaks of anaplasmosis usually occur in summer and peak in the fall. Some of the common signs are fever, weakness, depressed attitude, decreased appetite, decreased milk production and a white or yellow color to the gums, white of the eye or vulva. Aggressive behavior also is common, especially in beef cattle. Abortions may occur in females, and temporary infertility can occur in males. Animals with severe disease may die. If they survive, they are likely to be “poor-doers.” Infected animals with less-severe signs or no signs at all can have drops in milk production and infertility or embryonic death. This leads to decreased numbers of calves born and decreased weaning weights, both of which add to the financial losses due to anaplasmosis. In endemic areas, some herds may only suffer these less-noticeable problems without having the very obvious illness and deaths. This makes the disease harder to recognize, but financial losses still can be severe.

If anaplasmosis is suspected, producers should contact their veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis. There are other diseases, such as “red water” (caused by a Clostridium) and leptospirosis, which can appear similar. Deaths from toxic plants also are more common in the fall and can be confused with anaplasmosis.

Treatment of cattle with long-acting formulations of injectable oxytetracycline can be beneficial if done in the very early stages of the disease. Many times beef cattle are not recognized as infected until they are severely anemic, and treatment may be too late. In fact, the stress of treatment may kill the animal, so it is sometimes best to leave them alone. A blood transfusion could be considered in valuable animals, but still may not prevent death. Consult your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

Prevention and Control
For herds in endemic areas (much of Louisiana), there is constant potential for exposure, and total prevention or elimination of the disease from a herd is not realistic. Therefore, the goal is to prevent and minimize clinical and subclinical disease and production losses. Producers in endemic areas should assume there is a good chance they have carrier animals in their herd that look perfectly healthy but can be a source of infection, so practices that could potentially spread the disease (such as reusing needles) should be eliminated. Supplying tetracycline products in feed or mineral supplements during peak transmission times will reduce the likelihood of clinical cases. Tetracycline is added to these supplements at different levels, so make sure that the supplement is labeled for the “prevention of anaplasmosis” to assure the correct dose. Control of ticks and flies also will decrease spread of the disease. One of the most effective means of prevention is vaccination. The only vaccine currently available is from University Products, L.L.C. (, and not all states have approval to use this vaccine. This product is relatively expensive compared to other vaccines, but when the costs of deaths, chronic poor-doers, abortions and milk production decreases are all considered, the vaccine may very well be cost-effective in herds in endemic areas. The time to vaccinate is in early spring. Producers should talk to their veterinarian about the availability and cost-effectiveness of this vaccine in their herds.

In non-endemic areas, prevention of infection may be possible with biosecurity measures, especially testing of herd additions with the cELISA. However, since this test may miss animals in the very early incubation phase, single-use needles, proper cleaning of equipment and vector control are important just in case a carrier slips into the herd undetected. Vaccination of valuable animals also should be considered.

Introducing cattle from non-endemic areas to endemic areas should be done carefully. If possible, introduce new animals during the non-vector season (if there is one here in Louisiana!). Consider vaccination on arrival. If vaccination is not available, consider treatment of the new animals with long-acting oxytetracycline two weeks after the vector season starts or two weeks after arrival if introduced during the vector season.

Deciding Margin Coverage Levels Under the New Margin Protection Program-Dairy

Dairy cattle

Dr. Ross Pruitt

The Agricultural Act of 2014 replaced the Milk Income Contract Program with the new Margin Protection Program that began its sign-up period on September 2 and extends until the end of November for the years of 2014 and 2015. Sign-up for this program is available through USDA’s Farm Service Agency. The new Margin Protection Program (MPP) is based on the difference between the U.S. All Milk Price and a ration of corn, soybean meal and alfalfa hay that reflects national prices. The difference is calculated monthly and then averaged for two consecutive months to determine the margin for that two-month period. Producers choose to insure a certain margin and which percent of their highest production from 2011, 2012 or 2013 they want to insure. Margin levels that can be insured start at $4/cwt and increase in $0.50/cwt increments to $8/cwt. Percentage of production that can be insured ranges from 25% to 90% in 5% increments. USDA Farm Service Agency is stating that catastrophic coverage level is $4/cwt at 90%.

Producers wishing to enroll in the program must pay an administrative sign-up fee of $100. The only cost to those wishing to insure at the catastrophic level of $4/cwt and 90% of production is the sign-up fee. Producers will only pay premiums for insuring a margin of $4.50/cwt or greater, and the total premium cost will depend on the percent of production insured. Although the premium rates are the same for 2014 and 2015, a producer’s maximum production from 2011-2013 will be adjusted slightly higher for 2015, resulting in a slightly higher premium cost for 2015 than 2014. Finally, producers also should be aware that if they sign up for any year, they are required to pay the $100 sign-up fee each year until the program expires at the end of the 2018 calendar year. The margin coverage level and percent of production to insure are annual decisions, but once a producer pays the initial sign-up fee, they are required to pay the sign-up fee each year through 2018.

Although the margin in the program is determined by national prices, understanding your farm-level milk-feed margin can help make an informed decision on what margin level to insure. Determination of the farm-level milk-feed margin that coincides with difficulty paying non-feed costs, and when that occurred can be compared to the historical national margins shown in Table 1. For example, if your operation experienced financial stress in the first four months of 2013, your operation may want to consider insuring either at the $5.50 or $6.00/cwt margin level.

USDA Farm Service Agency has a tool available on their website ( that calculates the premium associated with different margins and percent of production history insured. The combination of percent of production history insured and margin level impact total premium, so producers will likely want to analyze the premiums before deciding on a margin and percent of production history to insure.

With enrollment for the remainder of 2014 now available, does it make sense to enroll for the rest of this year? Those who choose to sign up would only potentially benefit from the final two periods of the year (September-October and November-December). The tool on the FSA website also allows a producer to see the forecasted margin and the chance that the margin will fall below a certain insured margin level. Additionally, the tool calculates the cost to the producer and expected returns from any program payments that may be triggered. For the remainder of this year, the forecasted margin exceeds $13/cwt, meaning no margin level would receive a payment. From 2000 to 2013, the margin exceeded $8/cwt in September-October in 70% of those years and  in November-December in 80% of those years.

With regards to 2015, producers have until November 28 of this year to make a decision on whether or not to sign up. Producers should consider waiting at least until late October to make a decision on whether or not to enroll for 2015. While corn and soybean harvest will not be complete nationally, any surprises that may result in a larger or smaller than currently expected margin based on feedstuff prices may be known, which may alter producer decisions. It is highly unlikely that any significant declines in the national price of alfalfa hay will occur until sometime next year. As of now, the Livestock Marketing Information Center is forecasting the U.S. All Milk Price at $18.20/cwt to $19.20/cwt next year. Even though milk prices are forecast to be lower next year, lower feedstuff prices would suggest a fairly strong national milk-feed margin next year. The Margin Protection Program Decision Tool on the FSA website is projecting a margin of greater than $10/cwt for next year as of this writing. Insuring at the catastrophic level ($4/cwt and 90% of production history) is always an option for 2015, and the decision on which margin level and percent of production history to insure can be altered from year to year once enrolled in the program.

Table 1. Historical Margins for the Margin Protection Program-Dairy








$ 7.54

$ 7.28

$ 7.46

$ 8.53

$ 8.43

$ 8.10


$ 8.39

$ 9.66

$ 11.23

$ 11.56

$ 11.63

$ 9.29


$ 8.74

$ 7.91

$ 7.05

$ 6.05

$ 6.58

$ 6.87


$ 6.45

$ 5.86

$ 5.66

$ 7.73

$ 9.58

$ 8.75


$ 7.68

$ 10.30

$ 12.12

$ 9.74

$ 10.65

$ 11.66


$ 11.04

$ 10.40

$ 9.36

$ 9.64

$ 10.70

$ 10.30


$ 9.14

$ 7.35

$ 6.74

$ 6.87

$ 7.89

$ 8.01


$ 8.20

$ 9.24

$ 11.85

$ 14.60

$ 14.33

$ 13.79


$ 10.86

$ 8.30

$ 8.05

$ 8.00

$ 8.34

$ 7.67


$ 3.84

$ 3.55

$ 2.49

$ 3.58

$ 5.88

$ 8.13


$ 8.33

$ 7.33

$ 7.68

$ 8.44

$ 9.62

$ 8.09


$ 7.83

$ 9.04

$ 8.43

$ 9.61

$ 8.96

$ 9.07


$ 6.62

$ 4.59

$ 3.48

$ 2.88

$ 6.71

$ 7.64


$ 6.01

$ 5.62

$ 5.56

$ 5.87

$ 8.91

$ 11.04


$ 13.48

$ 13.88

$ 11.94

Cow-Calf Profitability Timely Topic: Want a Bigger “Piece of the Pie”?


Dr. Karl Harborth

With the current unprecedented markets in the cattle industry, it is human nature to want a bigger “piece of the pie.” Also, it is easy for cattlemen to become complacent in a time when business is good! But, how do you increase your operation’s revenue during a period of record prices? Ultimately, since most cow/calf producers get paid by the pound at weaning, they try to increase weaning weights by creep feeding, implanting or purchasing bulls with a stronger genetic potential for growth traits. What will this do to input costs? A yearly evaluation of an operation that may be deficient and need improvements is a must to determine the effects on input costs.

Extension specialists at Texas A&M University Agrilife Extension (Russell and Young, 2014) reported that producers can increase net income by simply incorporating already-proven management practices. These management practices include vaccinating, castrating, dehorning and deworming. All of these have been shown to increase the value of the calf crop. In their study, operations incorporating these management practices increased net income by 16.1%. We must remember the economic conditions that were assumed in this study may vary due to geographic conditions, and budgets are always personalized to each individual operation. However, the take-home message is still the same – if we are not incorporating any of these management practices, we may be leaving money on the table.

Even if you already are using these management practices, you may still be able to increase your portion of the pie. Are you weaning a 100% calf crop? Most likely not. A 100% calf crop is hard to attain in even the best of operations. So, what is your operation’s weaning percentage and how do you increase it?

First, you need to be sure you are keeping good records. Without records it is impossible to see the smaller problems that may be robbing you of potential profit. I have never heard anyone mention that they keep too much data on their business. Actually, most of us do not keep enough data to have adequate benchmarks. Many factors affect weaning percentages. Most can be attributed to one of three factors: nutrition, reproduction or health. From a nutrition perspective, you need to make sure that your cows are in adequate body condition at key times in their production cycle. The most important point in time for a cow to be in optimum condition is at calving. Cows need to have a body condition score (BCS) of 5 at calving to give them the best chance of rebreeding. Ultimately, this will help if you have any possible reproduction issues since nutritional status is highly correlated to reproduction performance. Make sure you have a complete mineral program to address any potential deficiencies in your operation. And work with your veterinarian to create a comprehensive herd health plan. Calving and weaning rates can be subtly reduced by disease and may not be as obvious as diseases like Trichomoniasis.

Increasing weaning rates can have major impacts on your operation’s revenue. For example, if your operation’s average weaning weight is 550 pounds and the calves are worth an average of $2.50 per pound (I can’t believe I just typed that!), weaning 85 calves from a total of 100 cows, your potential gross revenue is $116,875. If you can increase your weaning rate to 95%, then your gross revenue potential increases to $130,625.

To get a bigger “piece of the pie,” most of us need to look at how well we currently are utilizing the best management practices to maximize our profits and take advantage of these record prices.

Russell and Young. 2014.

Managing Show Pigs in High Temperatures


Dr. Tim Page

I have had numerous calls recently about show pigs going off feed, feed intake reduced and, therefore, pigs not gaining enough to make show weights for this fall. Every year we have to deal with this in Louisiana. That is one of the reasons we do not raise a lot of pigs commercially in Louisiana. With the extreme hot conditions we have had this summer; heat stress reduced growth and performance and even caused death in severe situations.

Heat stress occurs when an animal cannot remove enough heat from its body. Heat stress can affect all species, but can be a more severe problem with show pigs. One of the reasons is that pigs do not sweat like humans and horses. They cannot perspire or utilize evaporative cooling off of their skin to cool off. There are two primary means that pigs use to minimize heat stress. One is increasing heat dissipation. Pigs attempt to increase heat dissipation by increasing contact of their body with a cooler surface, such as a concrete floor or dirt in the shade. Increased respiration, or panting, increases air flow and evaporation of water from the lungs, thus releasing additional heat. This is not near as efficient as sweating. Another way pigs reduce heat stress is by reducing feed intake. Pigs reduce the amount of body heat they generate when they reduce feed intake. The digestion of feed creates body heat, which then must be dissipated. You can actually reduce heat increment from digesting feed by adding fat to the diet. You can either purchase a pig feed with at least 4.5%-5% fat content or add fat to the diet they are eating. The easiest way to add fat to a show pig feed is to add ½ cup of vegetable oil to each feeding.

One of the most important management practices in reducing heat stress and ensuring pigs (all animals, for that matter) do not dehydrate is to always provide free access to fresh, clean water. Cool drinking water provides the most heat relief. A large amount of water intake during hot weather will dissipate heat through evaporative heat loss from respiration. Be sure all waterers are checked daily to ensure they are functioning properly. Nipple waterers are notorious for clogging up with sand particles.

Shade is critical. This sounds like common sense, but I have seen youth pig projects that did not have any shade. Pigs also will sunburn easily. Shade prevents sunburn but also aids in cooling and reducing heat stress. If there are no other options, even a wet mudhole in the shade can go a long way toward reducing heat stress.

Another management practice that exhibitors can use is to spray the pigs regularly with water. Spraying or misting show pigs a few times a day and putting a fan on them will help tremendously toward relieving heat stress. There are many ways to accomplish this, and a fairly easy method is to set up a mist or drip system by poking small holes in a garden hose, hanging it above the pigs and letting it run off and on throughout the day. It can even be set on a timer. Commercial drip and mist systems are available at most feed stores and plant nurseries. One key to making a mist or drip system work more effectively is to use fans to provide plenty of air movement.

Hopefully, a few simple management practices that can prevent or reduce heat stress in show pigs will maintain feed intake and weight gain as desired.

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