Introducing New Cows

Don’t bring a Trojan horse into the herd.

The story of the Trojan horse is well known. The big, beautiful statue concealed Greek soldiers that attacked and took the city of Troy in the dead of night. The statue was willingly brought into the heavily guarded and fortified city, yet it led to the fall of the Trojans. Unfortunately, a similar story can be told by several cattle producers that have purchased cattle that were carrying disease.

Drought, input costs, outside pressures can create challenges, and breeders may be selling off cows. Consider herd health implications when purchasing cattle from any source.

Quarantine new cattle to the farm.

Cows from any location need to be monitored closely for diseases. Quarantine periods need to be at least two weeks. If there are signs of health risk or pending test results for disease, quarantine should remain until otherwise specified by your veterinarian.

Some diseases that should be managed against or tested for include

  • Trichomoniasis, Anaplasmosis
  • Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD)
  • Johnes
  • Leptospirosis
  • Vibriosis/Campylobacterosis

Abortion storms, repertory disease, and sub-clinical symptoms associated with these diseases could erase herd profit potential.


Use these management practices with new cattle.

  • Vaccinations and testing for these diseases are good practice to minimize herd health risk.
  • Buy cattle from a reputable source that has a well-executed herd health program.
  • Always consult with your local veterinarian when bringing in new cattle.

Cattle coming from drought areas need additional help.

Due to limited forage availability in a drought, cows tend to drop below ideal Body Condition Score (BCS) and thus problems and added feed costs can follow. Dystocia/retained placenta is one concern. Calving problems arise as cows are weaker and less equipped to meet calving demands. Adjust cows to the new environment and correct nutritional deficiencies. Undernourished cows are more susceptible to becoming ill or contracting diseases. Calves that are in-utero or born into stressors can have lower performance and less immunity. These are hidden costs when buying thin cows.

Cows from drought areas can potentially be deficient in some minerals and vitamins. Obviously, with these deficiencies cattle may be poorer performing, immunosuppressed, and in severe cases they can be compromised. It is crucial that vitamins and minerals levels be corrected with proper supplementation.

An overview of bringing new cattle into your herd

Risk is always involved with purchasing cattle from another source. Level of risk depends partly on the source and previous environment, but also on the level of management applied to them upon receiving.

  • Biosecurity and herd health protocols should be designed and followed closely before bringing in cattle.
  • Many cattle are very adaptable, but naïve cattle may need special attention as they transition to new grass and a new environment.
  • Develop a good working relationship with your veterinarian, nutritionist, and Extension specialist.  Good relationships, good management, and well vetted plans make the cattle business a fun and profitable place to be.

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