Get Ready for Fall

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch
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It seems as if the summertime has gone by pretty fast. We had rain in some places and very little in others. I guess you would say typical summer in Sampson County. Unfortunately we did have some oppressive heat and at times were dry, but hopefully you were able to make some hay and your cattle had grass to eat so they will be going into the fall and winter in good condition.

Your cow herd and calves will benefit greatly from being dewormed in late summer or early fall before going to new grazing. Eggs from mature worms are deposited on the pasture in cattle manure. Larvae hatch from the eggs and move to the grass where they wait to be picked up by a host animal. Cattle pick up worm larvae while grazing. By deworming shortly before moving the cattle to new grazing, you greatly reduce the number of viable eggs that are spread to the new pasture. This is particularly true if you use a product that has some sustained efficacy, such as an ivermectin product, Dectomax, or Cydectin. These products are systemic dewormers. They move through the animals in the bloodstream. Due to this fact, these products will also do a respectable job of killing lice.

If you choose to use a non-systemic dewormer, such as a drench, paste, block, or pellet, you should also treat the animals with a product that is labeled to control lice. I think lice are an often overlooked problem that is more widespread than we think. Most of us don’t think about it until we see cattle with patches of hair missing. Cleaning them up late fall or early winter will help the cows tremendously. The lice will live on the cattle in the thick winter hair coat and feed on blood. You will notice signs of lice on cattle by the constant scratching against objects and lost patches of hair. Lice not only cause discomfort to the cattle but also cause a loss in productivity and significant hide damage.

I am often asked if it “is worth” deworming a young calf. My response is usually another question. How old is the calf? A calf will mimic it’s mother and begin to nibble at forage a few weeks after birth. If the calf is only a few weeks old, deworming probably isn’t necessary. Once the calf reaches two to three months old, and is spending considerable time grazing, it is picking up more worm larvae and likely has developed a worm load. Deworming calves at this stage is definitely an advantage. The cost for such a small calf will be minimal but the return will be significant.

Finally, start planning now for your fall and winter grazing. Some years, seed is in short supply. Planning early will allow you to either acquire seed or find a suitable alternative. Oats will give more early grazing but are less cold tolerant than rye or triticale, with the exception of black oats. Ryegrass will offer grazing longer into the spring than small grains but will shade out bermudagrass if not managed properly. In addition, if planted in fields where small grains will be grown and allowed to make seed, ryegrass can become a nuisance. Also, remember that forage planted into a bermudagrass sod will not provide significant grazing for the fall unless planted early. By early, I am talking mid-September to mid-October. Once you have chosen a forage, be sure to plant it at the proper time, depth, and rate. Planting too much seed can be just as bad as too little, not to mention the additional expense. Many stands have failed due to planting too deep. The small grains can be planted deeper than the most grasses and clovers due to the larger seed size. Ryegrass will make a good stand broadcast onto the ground and rolled over with a cultipacker or trampled into the sod by cattle. If you decide to add a clover to your pasture, don’t forget to inoculate the seed prior to planting.

As always, if you have any questions or would like more information, contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Sampson County office at 592-7161.