Support for Livestock Producers: The Government of Alberta has recently announced that drought-stricken livestock producers will be eligible for millions of dollars in financial relief and will benefit from new rangeland initiatives that will improve access to water and grazing. For more information, please see www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=7966722273381-D712-69FD-A5A64F8C463D0F2D.
A Free Virtual Cattlemen’s Day will be held October 28 at 1:00 pm. Included are presentations by Anne Wasko with a beef market update, Barry Yaremcio on winter feed options and Clearwater Vet Clinic on nutritional problems that can arise when feeding. Please register by calling 403-846-4040.
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Environmental Farm Plan Workshops and Webinars. Need help with your Environmental Farm Plan? Why should you have one for your farm? Join one of the upcoming workshops or webinars to learn more. EFP workshops: Oct 19 from 9 - 11am, Nov 24 from 9 - 11am, Dec 14 from 1 - 3pm. EFP webinars: Oct 7 from 10 - 10:30am, Nov 16 from 9 – 9:30am, Dec 7 from 1 – 1:30pm. Registration is required. Email info@albertaEFP.com or call 587-200-2552.
AG NEWS - RECENT ARTICLE
October 19, 2021 - Preconditioning Calves Helps to Reduce Microbial Resistance
Low stress weaned calves benefit the industry, the producer and improve public perception.
Aside from the many financial and health related benefits, preconditioning calves contributes to improved public perception of the industry while also value adding to beef products down the line.
Purebred breeders precondition all the time and realize the benefits of reduced morbidity, mortality and treatment costs while improving weight gains and producing healthier calves.
Preconditioning is also good for sustainability due to a reduced chance of antimicrobial resistance when less antimicrobials are used. It is good also for a calf’s health and welfare to minimize the risk of respiratory disease while reducing stress and aiding the transition onto different feed.
Low stress fence line weaning, or the use of nose flaps helps motivate calves to find feed and water while free of other stressors such as comingling, transportation, bad weather and handling.
Principles to keep in mind when preconditioning, are maximum protection from disease and minimum stress at weaning. Implementing a preconditioning program at least 45 days prior to shipping calves will help to achieve some compensatory weight gains. Shorter programs do not generally do as well.
To be clear, a preconditioning program should include immunization, low stress-weaning, castration, dehorning, deworming and introduction to bunk feeding.
The problem is that producers are not usually paid for the added effort and costs incurred.
Many ranchers already partially pre-immunize their calves and creep feed. On farm weaning is often avoided because producers have been getting top dollar for calves right off the cow. Feedlots have been able to counteract the ill effects of not weaning with long-acting macrolide antibiotics.
Auction markets have traditionally accepted the quick weaning process, making it easy for producers to simply drop off their calves the night before the sale, while the auction pencils in the shrink for cattle buyers.
As long as they don’t get sick traditionally weaned calves usually catch up to their preconditioned relatives if given enough time. The problem is that a percentage usually die along the way from some form of respiratory disease.
Reports indicate that more lung lesions have been turning up in slaughter cattle than have been treated, indicating that many untreated calves deal with low grade pneumonia and adhesions, that lead to poorer performance.
Not only is it hard on the calves, but traditional weaning does not address public concern about overuse of antibiotics and animal welfare. Moreover, cattlemen may be missing out on some added potential weight gains that can be achieved through preconditioning.
When examined from a budget perspective, the cost effectiveness of preconditioning for the cow/calf producer, is generally quite favorable. The bonus is that calves can gain 2-3 pounds a day at a very low cost while not getting fat while putting extra dollars in the producer’s pocket.
In a recent 11-year study, an Indiana producer found that as he learned to adjust the calves’ diet, the more days he preconditioned, the more money he made. His profit was directly tied to average daily gains.
He found that newly weaned cattle are very efficient at putting on pounds of gain. He also found that as the weights went up, so did the costs per pound of gain. Over the 11 years he found that preconditioning for 60-70 days was ideal.
By the end of the study the calves were putting on 200 pounds average, with a net profit of $80.70 per head, at a cost of $93.63 per head. On average a 30-day program costs about $50 a head including feed, veterinary care, yardage and interest.
A preconditioning program may not be ideal for every operation. To start with, producers need to know their break-even costs and what their preconditioning expenses are.
Because feed yards have a tendency to discount the value of calves in small groups, smaller operators may find advantages in combining with other small producers when selling.
If they can fit a preconditioning program into their operation, then those cow/calf producers who do, will have an opportunity to start promoting the benefits of their product.
Having established a track record of preconditioned calves that perform better, with less sickness and mortality in the feedlot, reputable cattlemen can expect a premium whether on-line or at the auction.
Fewer sick cattle and less death loss in feed yards translates into more productive operations that are less reliant on metaphylactic administration of antibiotics.
Given the increasing public focus on antimicrobial resistance, environmental issues and animal welfare, pressure to precondition calves prior to marketing will likely increase over time.