August is Herd Health Month
Preconditioning is a strategic program designed to decrease stress and increase immune system health for calves when they transition from nursing to feedlots. This is a very challenging time in a calf’s life. The calf goes from being with their dam, all day every day, to a long trailer ride, eating a foreign substance, figuring out how to drink from automatic waters and being in an unfamiliar place.
The point of preconditioning is to make the calves healthier, which in turn makes the producer more profit and is better for the whole production system. Preconditioned calves spend less time in the sick pens, have decreased death loss, and have increased average daily gains at the feedlot. In order to have the proper preconditioning program, the producer needs to focus on the buyers’ needs. There are many different programs out there and many needs among buyers. Preconditioning focuses on:
- Weaning- Calves weaned 45 days prior to the shipment have one less stressor they have to deal with on shipping day. They can see their dams across the fence and get used to not nursing, which is less change they have to deal with later. Overall, this maximizes average daily gain and minimizes sickness in the feedlot.
- Bunk and water training- The average calf has only been exposed to pasture and water from a stream, this makes the feedlot transition difficult as they don’t know where to find their feed and water. Having producers prep calves with feed bunks and automatic waterers prevents that stress for the calves in the feedlot.
- Castration- Calves castrated prior to feedlot entrance have already encountered that stressful event and have healed. Feedlots don’t want pregnancies and are willing to pay more for castrated animals. We recommend castrating calves as young as possible.
- Dehorning- Horned cattle create more injuries to the carcass both while traveling and in the feedlot; this is undesirable. Buyers will pay higher premiums for polled or dehorned cattle.
- Vaccines- Respiratory vaccines are crucial in preventing bovine respiratory disease in the feedlot. These include: Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD), Parainfluenza Virus (PI3), Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV), Mannhemia hemolytica, Hemophilus somni, and Pasturella multocida. The other recommended vaccine is the clostridial combination (7 or 8-way). The clostridials are extremely deadly and easily prevented. All these vaccines should all be boostered after the first administration. There are many vaccine manufacturers and products to consider. If you have questions, we would love to discuss your program with you.
- It is also important to remember to abide by Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines when you administer vaccines. Give vaccines in the neck area to avoid damage to the important cuts of meat. Read manufacturer labels for withdrawal times and proper dosages.
- Growth Promotants/Implants- These put an average of 30 lbs per head on your calves that would otherwise not be there. This means the producer increases their bottom line.
- Deworming- Calves that are dewormed by pour on, injectable or drench dewormers have more weight gain, as they don’t have as many parasites. This helps their average daily gain and the producers’ bottom line.
In summary, each producer’s preconditioning program depends on the buyer’s and feedlot’s needs. The producer should work with their buyers and their veterinarians to achieve premiums while growing the healthiest meats as efficiently as possible.