Change in management practices equals value for Montana ranch

Apr 9, 2010
by WLJ

Trying something new rarely comes without hesitation. However, when the payoff is obvious, the satisfaction is even greater. Kurt McPherson, Saint Ignatius, MT, wanted to make some changes in his family’s cow/ calf operation—all of which paid off in a hurry.

“We wanted to try a few new things, so we evaluated our current practices and looked for places where we thought we could gain some efficiencies,” McPherson says. “We started buying some different bulls, switched feed sources, and began using IVOMEC Plus (ivermectin/clorsulon) instead of a generic ivermectin product.”

The new parasite control regimen at Lazy JM Ranch started with a fall treatment of the cow herd with IVO- MEC Plus. Then, after the improvement he witnessed in the cows, McPherson treated both cows and calves again in the spring.

“After we began using IVOMEC Plus, cows came through the winter in unbelievable shape, and we really saw a huge boost in their performance,” McPherson says. “Since using IVO- MEC Plus made such a difference in the cows, we felt it probably would help the calves also, and we believe it did.”

The results McPherson observed that year were not only visible, but measurable.

“Our calves jumped about 40 pounds each in weaning weight that year,” he says. “I know that all of the different factors had a part in this improvement, but I do believe that using IVOMEC had a lot to do with this increase in our weaning weights.”

Research confirms McPherson’s instincts. Studies going back 25 years have shown a statistically significant increase in weaning weights when cows and calves were treated for parasites in the spring with an IVOMEC Brand Product.

Dr. Frank Hurtig says a spring parasite treatment helps clean the parasite loads in the cattle and, in turn, on the pastures.

“Treating with an IVO- MEC Brand Product at spring turnout helps to kill parasites in cows and continues to protect against new infections for the length of time the product is effective against each parasite,” he says. “This is especially important when we consider that relatively few—only 5 percent to 10 percent—of the parasites present on a farm are actually in cattle at any given time. The remaining 90 percent to 95 percent are on pastures.”

Drench-type or white dewormers are only effective the day of treatment. Conventional endectocides, such as IVOMEC Brand Products, are effective for 14 to 28 days, depending on the parasite and product used, which means they control parasites in the animal at the time of treatment and those picked up from spring pasture.

Hurtig adds that in areas such as Montana, where liver flukes are endemic, it is important producers are using products that are effective against this parasite.

“Not all products control liver flukes, and this costly parasite can eat away at producers’ profits in the way of decreased weight gain and reproductive performance,” he says. “It is important producers work with their veterinarian to develop a year-long parasite control program that is targeted at the parasites present on their operation.”

Hurtig says that even without the presence of liver flukes, a spring parasite treatment can help boost

reproductive performance. In fact, a study has shown that parasite control with an IVOMEC Brand Product prior to breeding can increase conception rates up to 5 percent.

“When we consider the cost of an open cow is almost $400 per year and a calf conceived on the first day of a 60-day breeding season will be worth $108 more than one conceived on the last day, a 5 percent improvement in conception rate can mean a sizable shift in a producer’s bottom line,” Hurtig says.

Merial stands behind the importance of a spring treatment with the IVOMEC Challenge.

“Spring parasite treatments with IVOMEC Brand Products increase efficiency, production and profitability—producers can prove it to themselves risk-free by taking the IVOMEC Challenge this spring,” Hurtig says.

To participate, cattle producers simply use any IVO- MEC Brand Product on both their cows and spring-born calves in the spring and then weigh the calves at weaning in the fall. If the increase in 205-day adjusted weaning weight versus the previous year does not cover the purchase price of the IVOMEC Brand Product used, Merial will provide to the producer an equivalent number of doses of any IVO- MEC Brand Product.

McPherson says he appreciates that Merial stands behind IVOMEC Brand Products with programs such as this and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

“The satisfaction guarantee from Merial is worth a lot to me,” he says. “It is much harder to make money than spend it. So if you buy something and it doesn’t work, then it is just a waste. If you’ve got something the company is going to stand behind, then at least there is someone else to back up your purchase.”

McPherson says it also is important to him to support a company that invests in research and development.

“I believe in buying products from the company that invested in researching the original products, and not one that follows suit as soon as something new comes out,” he says. “Without companies investing in research, there wouldn’t ever be any new or better products.”

Using products from a trusted manufacturer is just part of the strategic management approach McPherson and his family take with the operation. At the Lazy JM Ranch, all opportunities are evaluated to help gain efficiencies. However, when it comes to parasite control, using IVOMEC Brand Products both in the spring and the fall is one practice that is likely to stick around based on its now-proven track record of results. — WLJ