Inverted tires can make great structures to hold cattle feed and water, but regular maintenance is required. If the tires have wire in the walls, this wire can break off and be consumed by cattle, which can lead to a condition known as hardware disease.

Once wire is swallowed, it goes into the digestive system and often gets trapped in the chamber of the stomach called the reticulum. The reticulum is the chamber that has honeycomb-shaped structures on the walls and functions to trap foreign materials. If the wire punctures the reticulum wall, digesta and other stomach contents can leak through the wall and cause a condition called peritonitis. Peritonitis can lead to general unthriftiness and also may cause systemic infections.

Both of these conditions may be observed, and cattle with a continually declining health status eventually may need to be culled.

Metal, wire and other foreign materials in the reticulum also can lead to sudden death. The diaphragm is the thin muscle that divides the abdominal cavity (which contains the stomach, intestine, liver, etc.) from the thoracic cavity (which contains the heart and lungs). The anatomy of cattle is such that the reticulum and the heart are close to each other, separated only by the diaphragm.

In instances when cattle experience severe abdominal contractions (for example, while delivering a calf), foreign material in the reticulum can be forced through the reticulum wall and into the heart. If this happens, the animal will die shortly thereafter. Alternatively, the metal may pierce only the protective layers around the heart and cause inflammation and/or infection. Neither is a good situation.

To attempt to avoid hardware disease, perform regular maintenance on your tire feeders. Cut or grind off exposed wire and make sure to pick up pieces and remove them from the cattle-feeding area. This also highlights the importance of cleaning any wire, nails or other metal scraps from areas to which cattle have access; for instance, including powerful magnets in feed mixers can help prevent hardware disease in your cattle.


10 Tips For January

Beyond proper maintenance of your tire feeders, here’s a list of Top 10 management ideas to consider for January.

1. If cattle still are grazing, monitor pasture conditions, feed protein supplement when needed and remove the cattle when available feed supply is gone.

2. Consider stage of pregnancy when delivering cow and heifer diets; 90 days before calving, nutrient requirements start to increase.

3. Increase feed deliveries in cold weather and consider feeding in the afternoon; heat produced while cattle digest feed can help during cold nights.

4. Review 2011 calf performance and health, compare with previous years and set herd production targets for 2012.

5. Evaluate price protection strategies for feedlot and backgrounding calves.

6. Pre-calving vaccinations should be given according to label instructions up to two months prior to calving; heifers may need a booster one month prior to calving.

7. Secure seed and fertilizer purchases for planting in spring 2012.

8. Meet with bankers, financial planners, Farm Business Management program instructors, etc., for income tax planning.

9. Schedule date for carcass ultrasound sessions to scan yearling cattle.

10. Review existing bull inventory, reflect on 2011 calf crop and determine needs for 2012 breeding season because bull sales will start soon.