Backgrounding may seem simple: Buy calves right, feed them well, keep them healthy and sell them for more.
But all the details behind that list prove how difficult the job can be, as noted during the recent "Backgrounding for Quality" field day at White Brothers Cattle Co., near Chickasha, Okla.
At the seminar, co-sponsored by Oklahoma State University (OSU), Pfizer Animal Health and Certified Angus Beef LLC, local veterinarian Bruss Horn emphasized that good management starts with the buy.
"You can purchase your cattle at a salebarn, you can purchase them on a video but you have to know what you’re getting," he said, noting that he considers most salebarn cattle "high risk."
Previous history and management give a producer clues as to how to handle them upon arrival—a step that requires advanced planning.
"Be ready to go," he suggested, citing equipment, labor and planned operating procedures.
"Are you going to process them right off the truck or are you going to let them rest?" Horn asked. Local calves are less likely to benefit from a break than long-distance arrivals, where the plan might be, "I am going to give them some good clean hay and water and they are going to lie down and rest before we process them the next day."
He said using preventative antibiotics on high-risk cattle—co-mingled groups, those with no history or known problems—helps maintain health. That’s in tandem with a good vaccination program on all cattle. At Horn’s practice, it’s common to give shots for blackleg, BVD (bovine viral diarrhea) and IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis).
"I am a big proponent of modified-live vaccines. I just think you’ll get a whole lot better response with them," he said.
They also "double deworm" cattle at receiving, using an injectable and an oral dose at the same time.
Horn brought up other best management practices, like dehorning, castrating any bull calves and testing for persistently infected (PI) BVD cattle.
"So, it’s time to turn them out—the herd health does not stop there," he said. "You know there is a difference between vaccination and immunization. Vaccination is getting a shot and immunization is if it worked."