The best way to dehorn cattle is to breed them off. Thanks to the use of polled bulls, only a few cattle need to be dehorned. However, just like castration it should be done as soon as possible. The best method for very young calves is electric dehorning which kills the cells responsible for horn growth. The horn bud then falls off. There are portable, rechargeable units that can be carried in the pickup or the 4-wheeler. Spoons and Barnes dehorners are effective on older calves but they are generally a lot messier than the electric method.
Implanting will make you $25 or more per calf. Suckling calves should be implanted. Implanted calves will weigh 15 to 20 pounds more at weaning than un-implanted calves. Ralgro, Synovex-C, and Compudose are all approved for use in nursing calves. Ralgro can be used in calves at birth. Calves need to be at least 45 days old before using the other implants. One implant of Ralgro or Synovex-C can be used in potential replacement heifers after they are 45 days old. Replacement heifers should receive only one implant in their lifetime.
All calves should be vaccinated for Blackleg and malignant edema when they are three to four months old. These vaccines are inexpensive and there are some one shot formulations available. Be sure to follow the label directions as to boosters etc... to insure the maximum benefit from these vaccinations.
For young calves, deworming should be delayed until mid-summer. Research has demonstrated a 14 pound increase in weaning weight from mid-summer deworming. We are continuing research in this area, but there seems to be a really good economic benefit for this practice.
Older calves especially fall born calves, will benefit from deworming in the spring and continuing on a strategic deworming program for the remainder of the summer. There are numerous effective dewormers on the market. The exact strategic deworming program varies with each product. Consult you veterinarian about strategic deworming programs.
Mineral supplementation is needed for proper growth of calves and fertility of cows. Usually, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and trace minerals need supplementing. There are many good mineral mixes available; however, some of them contain more ingredients or more expensive minerals than are needed. I'll be glad to work with you or you can work with your nutritionist at your feed company to get a good mineral mix that fits your cattle.
You need a complete loose mineral mix available to your cattle at all times. Salt or a block will not be good enough to get your calves gaining as much as you can and to keep the cows healthy and breeding back quickly.
For more information on these cow-calf management topics, contact me at the Lincoln County Extension Office at 365-2447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.