Cattlemen discuss options; Whittier announces exit

AFP Correspondent

DUBLIN, Va. (April 19, 2016) — Cattle producers in the New River Valley gathered at the Pulaski County Farm Bureau office April 12 to learn about possible ways to change their management methods and learned of a big change coming to the state’s cattle industry.
The meeting was held to discuss the pros and cons of spring and fall calving and included presentations by Extension agents Jeannie Dudding who serves Bland and Giles counties, and Morgan Paulette of Pulaski County and a producer panel as well as Whittier’s presentation.
Dudding and Paulette said Whittier had worked closely with them in developing the program which had been requested by a producer who wanted to know more about the different calving seasons.
The agents had put together presentations based on lots of research at several universities and talks with producers themselves. They reached the conclusion that there are pros and cos to both seasons. They said many aspects point towards fall but nutrition and management needs can offset the positive factors.
They cautioned producers not to make a decision based solely on profit but to consider lifestyle as a big factor.
They concluded individual producers need to find what best fits their individual needs. This means considering quality of life, land and resources, time and marketing.
Dudding outlined options producers who want to make a change might consider. These include changing all at once; backing them up over a few years; selling out and buying a fall herd.
She said there is no ideal way, but noted that doing it all at once seems best if the producer can afford to do this. She noted not many can because it means 18 months when the cows are not producing income.
Whittier shared his expertise in health matters involving beef cows and their reproductive abilities. He called for getting more cows to calf and wean. Early calving is important, he indicated.
He noted that more calves die in the first two weeks after birth but maintained that the biggest losses to a cattle operation occur because cows don’t get pregnant.
The program concluded with a panel of four local producers with very different management styles and herd sizes telling of their experiences. They answered questions from the audience during a lively discussion period.
Dee Whittier, DVM, a 35-year veteran of the Virginia Tech community, told his friends at the end of his presentation of his plans to retire this summer. His announcement brought the audience to its feet in an extended round of applause and a few tears from those he had helped over the years.
Whitter came to VT to help create the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. He came to Tech in 1980 and has served as an Extension Veterinarian since 1985 as well as a faculty member of the veterinary college. He is currently professor of Production Management Medicine/Bovine Specialist in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.