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Can you hedge against sickness in weaned calves?

I heard an interesting statement at a meeting I attended last week, on the subject of animal health with incoming calves in a feedlot.  That being “sickness is the only variable you cannot hedge with weaned calves”.  This is very true, for a number of reasons.  You do not always know the previous nutritional and health programs of newly arrived calves.  Add to that, you do not always know which days of the week would be best to receive calves, as the weather is unpredictable.  Many feedlots would not schedule shipments or arrivals based on weather forecasts anyway.  The health of weaned calves will always be a bit of a gamble when you buy unknown calves.  Many feedlots prefer to buy calves from past customers for this reason – they know how they performed the year(s) before, and would likely expect similar performance this year.  A small percentage of the cows may have been replaced and the same can be said for the bulls, but the majority of the genetics are the same, and you could expect the same from their nutrition and health programs. 

While the person who purchases your calves may not be able to completely hedge against sickness, there are steps you can take to tilt the table in your favor.  Obviously, these steps would pay back more if you retain ownership of your calves.  Still, if you send calves to a certain feedlot every year, you can add value to those calves by preconditioning them and/or perhaps by utilizing some form of fence-line weaning.  Both of these programs have many forms, but they are intended to minimize stress, and prepare the calves for the rough road ahead.

Depending on your operation, there are a couple additional steps you should consider.  Most veterinarians will tell you the best health program starts with good nutrition.  If you provide a good trace mineral and vitamin supplement (include protein later in the summer/fall) to your cow-calf pairs a couple months ahead of weaning, your weaned calves will be better equipped to respond to vaccinations.  If some do happen to get sick, they will respond better to any treatments for shipping fever.  Don’t skimp on your summer mineral program ahead of weaning.

If you fence-line wean, or if you wean in a dry lot, one CRYSTALYX® product that should be in your weaning pens is Brigade®.  We have run numerous tests with Brigade® and weaned calves.  The general responses to Brigade® are, lower morbidity, reduced mortality, increased feed intake and improved feed efficiency.  The results you see form using Brigade® will be greater, if the level of sickness is more severe.  This is because the responses listed above, are all from having healthier calves.

Most of you are probably not thinking about your  weaning program in July, but you should be thinking about making sure your calves will be ready (nutritionally) a couple months ahead of when you plan to wean them, and that may be today.  Take care of those calves before they are weaned, and after they are weaned, with CRYSTALYX®

CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements are an easy way to affordably provide protein, trace minerals, vitamins and phosphorus in a highly palatable supplement that’s available 24/7, while minimizing your investment in time, labor and equipment.