With classes out for the summer, veterinary students spend time gaining field experience and learning to apply skills they’ve gained in their studies, while recent grads adjust to the challenges of bovine practice. So, with that in mind here is the question our panel of veterinary students and recent DVM graduates address this month:
What is the most memorable or important lesson, related to veterinary practice, you have learned so far this summer?
This summer I enrolled in Kansas State University’s Advanced Cow- Calf and Feedlot Rotations, taught by national thought leaders of beef cattle veterinarians in the U.S. I also had learned a lot at Lincoln Memorial University’s large animal ambulatory rotation where I began my veterinary school journey with three years ago.
I also had an opportunity to attend the Veterinary Agri-Health Services (VAHS) Advanced Beef Production Medicine Rotation at their facilities. The experiences I gained were invaluable to me as I learned how to provide value as a beef cattle veterinarian, in and outside of traditional veterinary services.
The most memorable lesson was from a Canadian rancher, Stephen Hughes, in Longview, Alberta. At Chinook Ranch, Mr. Hughes has been grazing his cattle 12 months out of the year for over 20 years, despite the Canadian snowfalls in the winter. He does this through his sustainable range management practices, which continue to improve the land’s native and tame grasses.
Due to his strategic grass management, his cattle have plenty of nutrition the entire year, move constantly to fresh pastures, which decreases chances of illnesses that require antibiotic treatment. The environment and wildlife populations are taken care of, and any invasive weeds are managed without using herbicides.
In the summer, Mr. Hughes moves his cattle herd to a new pasture every 48 hours, allowing the grass from the previous pasture to rest and regrow. This method keeps the grass in its vegetative state, and allows for a higher nutrient content in these grasses going into the fall and winter, which can then be grazed through the snow in the winter months, just like how the bison had thrived on this land many years before.
The lesson learned was not only how to graze cattle through the winter months without putting up hay, but to do this, it is important to go into the winter with at least 8" of grass that was frozen in its vegetative state, increasing the quality of grass to sustain the cattle through winter grazing.
Mr. Hughes also said the greatest factor in rotational grazing is not about getting the correct number of cows to prevent over grazing. It is about determining the correct amount of time you allow your herd to graze.
Going forward, I can see this experience helping me to provide value to producers to help decrease their winter feed costs by increasing the number of months the cattle can graze during the year.
For additional responses from our panel of students and recent graduates, see these articles on BovineVetOnline: