Tera Barnhardt, DVM: Liver & Onions

Image courtesy of theclothesmakethegirl.com

Thanks to Dr. Tera Barnhardt for sending in another guest blog. Check out her first blog about Beef Quality Assurance and her introduction here.

We are BIG fans of Tera and think she’s a great advocate for animal agriculture, as well as proof that junior livestock programs have big pay offs for people in their professional lives.

Liver & Onions

I had an older client come in the other day talking about liver and onions. Thankfully, my mom never force fed me liver and onions. For one thing, after everything I’ve learned about the liver and what it’s function and purpose is in the body – it is not an organ I will be consuming! This conversation with a client got me to thinking about an informational blog post on the liver. I know, my mind travels strange roads some days.
The liver is one of the most important organs in an animal’s body. Depending on the diet of an animal, the liver’s size varies. In cattle it’s only about 1.5% of body weight, whereas in dogs it’s almost 4%!  A healthy and functioning liver is essential for life. The liver produces bile, protein, fat and aids in metabolism of carbohydrates. When an animal is in vitro, the liver produces white and red blood cells.

Lets talk about why the liver is so important in your cow herd. With cattle prices at an all-time high and trace minerals being pricey as well, poor performance is not an option for producers like yourself. What are you getting out of the expensive minerals you are providing to your cattle? Hopefully a higher performing and reproductively sound herd, but if you’re not, something you should look into is your trace mineral program.

How much thought do you put into your trace mineral program?
Do you even have a trace mineral program set up for your herd?
Could some of the diseases you’re dealing with in your herd have to do with your trace mineral program or lack thereof?

The answer, my friends, is in the liver! By obtaining liver samples, preferably from live animals in the herd, your veterinarian can analyze the trace mineral program you are using and identify areas where your herd might be deficient. Liver samples are collected by doing a biopsy on live animals. During non-busy times of the year (i.e. right now or in the dead of winter) it is a good chance for you to contact a veterinarian and discuss options you have for diagnosing possible nutritional deficiencies. It doesn’t take long for each animal to be sampled and it’s best to try and sample a good variety of animals (5-10 head per herd).

Image courtesy of Mineral Systems, New Zealand

Another thing I try to have people keep in mind is that any time you can save the liver on an animal, DO IT! If you have a butcher calf, a cow that died calving, etc., get a liver sample and call your veterinarian. They can always run a random sample and it might just be the answer to one of the issues your herd is facing.

If you have questions or a topic that you would like Dr. Tera to address, please comment below. We’re always looking for blog inspiration.