A disease that causes early fetal death in cattle, weaning calves early, dealing with the drought and livestock issue battles in D.C. were the topics of discussion at the Ranch Management Field Day in eastern Pratt County Wednesday.

Dean and Jerree Fitzsimmons and Gary and Mary Fitzsimmons hosted the event on the family farm that drew 50 area producers.

Leading the presentations was Justin Smith, representing the animal health division of the Kansas Department of Health, who gave an update on trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease that causes early embryonic death and infertility among females.

Generally, infected bulls pass the disease to cows or heifers but infected females can transmit the disease to uninfected males, Smith said.

Some cases have been reported in Kansas so producers need to be alert for the disease.

Once a bull is infected they are always infected and the only way to get rid of it is to cull the bull from the heard. Positive bulls can be sold for slaughter only.

Cows do develop a short-term immunity to the disease that lasts two to six months. A vaccination is available that helps prevent reproductive loses but it does not prevent disease transmission.

A polymerase chain reaction test for the disease is the only test recognized test in Kansas and all known cases must be reported, Smith said.

Keeping with the cattle theme, Larry Hollis, Kansas State Extension animal sciences and industry veterinarian, presented research on early weaning.

The results for early weaning research revealed performance of early-weaned calves is as good as conventional-weaned. All had similar health risks and newly weaned calves, regardless of age at weaning, required good management, Hollis said.

"Have a management plan and follow it," Hollis said.

Part of that management plan should include: Early weaning requires dense nutrition and staying away from silage; clean out old feed every day or the calf will quit; adjust feed bunks and water supplies so calves can reach them; reduce the size of the pen at first so the calves can get to water and feed more efficiently; use fly and dust control.

Shade is essential especially for the smaller calves. Make sure all cattle can get under shade and have ample room to move around, Hollis said.

Weather wise, the best time to wean is when the weather is consistent and temperature doesn't fluctuate much. When the temperature varies too much, it is harder for the calf to survive, Hollis said.

Whether dealing with cattle, or pastures or fields, everyone is affected by drought. Dusty Tacha, National Resource Conservation Services multi-county rangeland management specialist, reviewed the drought situation in the Pratt area.

First, Tacha said he didn't know if the drought was over. The effects of the drought are certainly not over and much more rain is needed to recharge the soil water levels.

The recent rains have caused the area to green up but not a lot of growth in pastures. Plants need to replace from 20 to 50 percent of their root mass every year and the moisture necessary to do that has not happened. Bluestem grass was hit hard and recovery is long term for this grass.

While the rains have been very beneficial, the fact is the area is still way in the hole from the last two years. The drought has lasted about two and a half years and it will take about the same amount of time to make up the lost moisture, Tacha said.

For farmers considering burning pastures, Tacha said don't. Without subsoil moisture, there won't be enough for plant growth to cover the land.

Producers need a drought plan and follow it. Farmers need to be honest with themselves about drought situations and don't talk themselves out of doing what needs to be done whether its weaning early, shifting calving dates, selling cattle or not burning fields.

A lot of important decisions on farms take place in Washington, D.C. Kristina Butts, National Cattlemen's Beef Association executive director of executive affairs, is a lobbyist and advocate for farmers in D.C. Her basic message was clear.

"Today, you need to worry about the federal government," Butts said.

The NCBA continues to work towards getting a farm bill. They supported the Senate version but the House failed to pass a farm bill. With the current bill set to expire on Sept. 30 and Congress only in session 10 days in September Congress may not get a bill passed and have to issue a continuance resolution. Butts is optimistic but said it might be the end of the year before a bill was passed.

Part of the NCBA effort is Beef 101 Series that educates Washington about agriculture. It includes a staffers trip through a meat packing plant that really opens eyes about the meat industry.

Other issues NCBA continues to work on include: EPA dust regulation; spill prevention on the farm; getting the ethanol industry and corn growers together; county of origin labeling; bio security threats; boarder security and immigration; antibiotics in feed and other issues.