Do You Know Cattle?

May is Beef Month across the nation so Dr. Jim Pottebaum is the guest blogger this month with information about Cattle. At Winterset Veterinary Center he sees both hobby farm and beef producer’s cattle. We hope you enjoy this article and support our local beef producers by eating Beef.

That hamburger or steak that you’re enjoying came from a commercial cattle farm or ranch near you. But there’s more to the story. Cattle originally were three separate species: Bos Taurus (cattle), Bos Indicus (Zebu) and extinct Bos primigenius (Aurochs). Now there are nearly 200 breeds registered around the world. Cattle tend to interbreed—yaks, gaurs, bison-beefalo, are examples. The largest bull recorded weighed 3840# in 1955, a steer was 4720# in 1910. Cattle in India are revered and respected and processing them is forbidden.

Iowa ranks 7th in the US for cattle numbers—3.65 million head (Texas and Nebraska lead), and adds $6.8 billion to Iowa’s economy and provides 28,590 jobs in the industry. The most popular dairy cattle are Holstein, producing 75 to 100# of milk per day. The most popular beef breed is an Angus cross which is very well suited to pasture grazing in Iowa.

The Madison County Cattlemen is a strong group of producers here that promote beef, volunteer at many events, help provide free entrance to the County Fair, and give out many many scholarships to youth in the county.

When the entire DNA genome was mapped in 2009, the industry could focus on improving traits for best practices—more milk, more tender beef, more efficiency, etc. Very specific traits can be improved through AI (artificial insemination) and embryo transfer.

With the increases in acreage properties, the Low Line and somewhat exotic breeds have become favorable. These animals have become more of “production pets” than ever before. Australia developed this breed, and has been adopted in the US since 1997. Average commercial beef calves weigh 75 to 80# at birth, the lowline breed average 42-50#. Mature cows are 39 inches tall and weigh 800#. They have a quiet temperament, easy to raise, extremely efficient, and produce high quality meat. They average 30% larger ribeye area per hundredweight than any other breed with excellent marbelling.

The appeal to people in the country with a few acres is that they are an affordable project for kids while grazing extra acres and ties families to farming as their grandparents or parents did. Cattle production has advanced in huge amounts over the years, and the best is yet to come.

When you enjoy a tasty steak or grill burgers, thank an Iowa farmer!

Happy Holidays from Winterset Veterinary Center

To all of our valued customers, the staff at the Winterset Veterinary Center wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year. Customers like you are the reason that we have a business, and we strive to work hard to earn your trust, keep your trust, and provide the best medical care for your animals. From our families to yours, wishing you all the best!

History of Veterinary Medicine and the Winterset Vet Center

Often I am invited to schools to talk at Career Day about Veterinary Medicine. I enjoy the history and stories of the past before I launch into modern day medicine. I love to tell that the first veterinary school in the USA was Iowa State University, founded in 1878. It was a two year curriculum and was FREE. Now there are 29 vet schools, and a degree takes three to four years of undergrad, four years of grad school, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I present an old leather doctor’s bag that holds glass syringes and books from the 1800’s that only contain 30 pages of all known diseases and treatments, like “sprain or cough or spavin”. The treatments or remedies (germ killer or tonics) include turpentine, belladonna, sassafras, Cayenne pepper, alcohol (liberal amounts), cocaine, and opium. How times have changed! Remember that aspirin was invented in the 1920’s, and sulfa — the first antibiotic — in 1932, and penicillin in 1943. The first four “girls” graduated as veterinarians in 1915 in Chicago. Now, female veterinarians outnumber men since 2009.

Curiously, a company called Scarless Gall Remedy Products Co. of Winterset, Iowa, produced and sold a salve that reportedly healed saddle or collar galls without any scar on horses in the first years of the 1900’s. It gained notoriety as the first class action lawsuit of false claims ever tried in Iowa courts. They never payed out any claims, instead closed down and re-opened as “Starless” Gall Salve Co.

Human research — tried on animals — has yielded breakthrough protocols for human medicine, and then have been easily adapted back into vet medicine. Now, modern veterinary medicine has a huge list of vaccines, antibiotics, and chemotherapies.

Serum chemistry to analyze blood is done in-house. Digital radiology, ultrasound, EKG, endoscopy, acupuncture, laser therapy, and chiropractic are tools that veterinarians use. Board certified specialists are nearly as common as general practitioners.

My favorite invention was the cell phone. No longer was I stuck at home to take emergency calls. I actually could have a life and sit in the bleachers at my kids’ school events, or go to a friend’s house. Now the cell phone instantly tells me directions to the farm, accesses records and all internet formulas, shares pictures of cases, etc. I also really appreciate the RFID pet microchip. Its national database reunites scores of lost pets with their owners.

Winterset Veterinary Center was started in 1983 by Dr. Ken Henrichsen, who retired in 2007. I joined him in 1988, almost 30 years ago! Dr. Lonna joined me ten years ago. Time flies!!

The future will hold even more inventions—sometimes hard to keep up with changing technology. I tell students on career day to study classes in STEM, reading comprehension, and computer ed. But the biggest asset for being a good or great veterinarian is the ability to listen and care. Can’t teach that, but it leads to a very satisfying career!