A proven way for feeding operations to reduce illness and increase sustainability is by choosing calves with an immune system capable of handling infectious challenges they could encounter along the way.
“We care for these animals, and in the spirit of being true stewards and good stockmen, we naturally look for information that can help us improve overall herd health and operational outcomes,” said Elizabeth Fraser, DVM, Beef Technical Services at Zoetis. “Selecting well-managed calves that have been well fed and received vaccines at the ranch consistently result in better health and productivity in the feedyard.”
Buying calves that were preconditioned ahead of stressors like shipment and commingling helps ward off potential health risks, such as bovine respiratory disease (BRD). BRD accounts for annual feedlot losses of $1 billion due to loss of production, increased labor expenses, pharmaceutical costs and death.
Purchasing cattle enrolled in a third-party verified preconditioning program like SelectVAC from Zoetis provides additional insight into the cattle being purchased and improves transparency. SelectVAC details how the cattle were managed, products administered and the timing of product administration.
“Each feedyard has its own arrival protocols,” said Dr. Fraser. “Having verified information detailing previous vaccination and herd management information can help feedlots make important initial processing decisions.”
Preconditioning results in better health and feedlot performance by reducing feedlot morbidity and mortality, and lowering treatment costs. Calves enrolled in SelectVAC demonstrated better performance than other preconditioning programs in a commercial feedlot study and were more than four times less likely to get sick or die than calves with an unverified health history.
Performance improvements seen in preconditioned cattle included higher average daily gains, improved feed conversion and lower cost of gain. These differences increased the value of preconditioned calves for feedlot managers by $5.25/cwt.
“If you have animals facing the challenges of shipment and commingling, their potential for success is enhanced by being armed with a properly stimulated immune system,” said Dr. Fraser. “Actively sourcing preconditioned cattle will increase their potential to remain healthy and productive, which is definitely an added value for buyers.”