Building a healthy foundation

Braun farm uses MFA Shield Technology to help calves hit the ground running

Nestled in the hilly, historic area near Ste. Genevieve, Mo., Alvin and Janet Braun’s family farm has been carefully cultivated over five generations. The operation that was founded by Janet’s great-grandparents has now evolved into an expansive 1,100-acre farm with 200 head of cattle.  

“Through the years, my grandfather and then my dad added on to the original farm as the little settlements surrounding it folded,” Janet said.  

“When I took over for her dad in 2009, there were 40 cows,” Alvin added. “As we’ve grown, we’ve figured out a few things out along the way.”
One of those things is learning how to keep their cattle healthy. When the Brauns began working to build the herd and improve genetics, they turned to MFA to help ensure the animals had the right nutrition to support their growth and development.

“Our relationship with MFA has evolved into a very strong, family-like bond,” Alvin said. “As we were getting a feeding program established, MFA staff would visit the farm, look at the calves and give us suggestions. If you’re going to put all that time and money into bringing in genetics, you need to raise healthy calves that are going to become good producers.” 
With guidance from Stephen Daume, MFA livestock specialist, the Brauns found success with a menu of products and practices that include MFA Shield Technology, Ricochet minerals and supplement tubs. The combination has led to “a nice improvement in the health of all our cattle,” Alvin said.

MFA’s Shield Technology is an all-natural additive that helps improve the animal’s immune system, protect against oxidative stress, boost digestive health, and increase feed efficiency, daily gain, rumen function, breedback and overall performance.

Formulated for animals at all stages of production, Shield is available in several MFA feed products, including all Ricochet minerals. The blend of essential oils, probiotics and additives in Shield helps to enhance the performance of cattle grazing fescue pastures. Plus, Ricochet’s complete vitamin-mineral formulation covers the animal’s dietary requirements. The Brauns feed Ricochet mineral all year, with the fly control larvicide, Clarifly, added through the summer.
Including supplement tubs in the feeding program helps ensure everyday consumption of protein, vitamins and minerals by the cattle. Tubs are continually available to cattle, and the molasses base makes them palatable. This consistency is one of the major benefits of using tubs, said Stephen, who has worked with the Brauns for almost 10 years.

“Intake on dry mineral goes up and down, and sometimes cows might not lick mineral every day,” he said. “With tubs, the cow will hit it four or five times a day.” 
MFA offers a wide selection of supplement tubs for any season, condition and forage quality to meet the herd’s nutritional needs. The newest addition is the Vitalix line of tubs, several of which are available with Shield Technology.
“We use supplement tubs for all our pregnant cows. Healthy cows give birth to healthy calves,” Alvin said. “A couple of weeks prior to calving, we put the tubs out for the cows to boost their health. And for the calves, a few weeks before and during weaning, the tubs are out to help them through a stressful transition.”   

To further enhance animal health on their farm, the Brauns also use Shield Plus, which is designed to be administered to newborn or stressed an­imals. Available in liquid or paste forms, Shield Plus contains concentrated colostrum extract, synbiotics, botanical extracts, fatty acids and vitamins to promote animal health and immu­nity from the start. In addition, freeze-dried egg antibodies help combat scours, one of the most serious problems that plague newborn calves.

“As soon as the calf is born, we put Shield Plus in its mouth,” Alvin said. “Before we started using Shield, we had a lot of calves with scours.”

“Since we’ve used Shield and the tubs, scours are almost nonexistent,” Janet agreed. “Our calves are bigger and healthier and hit the ground running.” 
When it comes to breeding, the health benefits of Shield Technology also give the Brauns better peace of mind. All of their heifers and mature cows are artificially inseminated (AI) using top genetics that the producers have carefully selected.

“We started dabbling in AI with our young heifers to bring in some new genetics,” Janet explained. “And before we started using Shield, we were losing a few calves, which was very discouraging after putting in so much time and money.”
Likewise, disease can negatively impact the bottom line, Stephen added, either in loss of performance or even loss of life.

“Any time a calf has a disease situation, it decreases its performance at the time and impacts its performance through the rest of its life,” he said. “So, anything we can do to keep that calf healthy from the start helps us make sure we are getting the maximum expression of genetic potential that calf has to offer.”    

Restrictions on antibiotic use in the livestock industry make it increasingly important to manage animal health with preventive methods, Stephen emphasized. Reducing the need for antibiotics is another advantage of the Brauns’ multi-faceted approach.

“Before we were using Shield and Ricochet, we had to get a VFD (veterinary feed directive) and put CTC (chlortetracycline) in feed or mineral,” Alvin said. “Now we don’t have to do that because our cows are healthy. The Shield has really helped.”   RFD TV

The Brauns also add value to their herd by participating in MFA’s Health Track preconditioning program, which provides feed and animal health protocols to keep calves healthy before and after weaning.

“We are trying to promote the health of the herd year-round,” Stephen said. “You want to make sure those cows never have a bad day. With Health Track, we are working on adding some flexibility designed to improve whole-herd health. We’re going to have some other options available to keep cows on Ricochet throughout the year because of all the great health benefits.” 

There is no “magic bullet” when it comes to herd management, he added. Rather, it takes a combination of care to raise healthy, high-performing cattle.

“Shield is a great tool we have in the toolbox, along with other tools like environmental management, herd health techniques, scheduled immunizations and nutrition,” Stephen said. “When you use all these things together, you can build a strong foundation for your cattle that will last their entire life.” 

For more information on livestock feeds, minerals and tubs with Shield Technology, visit your MFA Agri Services or AGChoice locations or online at mfa-inc.com/Products/Feed/Shield.

Related Content: MFA was interviewed about the use of tubs on RFD-TV's American Farmer episode featuring Vitalix. It is scheduled for Nov. 29th at 7 pm. So set your DVR's or watch online at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiG2nEVyKRw

 

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