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Prevent disease to boost bottom line

00:00AM Sep 10, 2008

Whether starting lightweight calves or growing and finishing cattle, a sound receiving program starts with disease prevention – which ultimately translates to a better bottom line.

"Unless producers are buying known origin cattle or animals verified with a preconditioning program, they don't know what they're getting,” says Mitch Blanding, Pfizer Animal Health veterinarian in Lenexa, Kan. "If you've got calves with a respiratory disease or parasites, they're not going to gain appropriately or perform very well.”

In fact, the health status of cattle has a major impact on performance and profit. According to a Texas A&M Ranch to Rail study, sick cattle not only incur additional medicine costs, but also generally gain less, are less efficient and grade lower.

Blanding says the least expensive and most efficient means of disease intervention is prevention with an effective vaccination and deworming program to help boost animals' immune systems.

Deworming also has been proven to be the technology that most affects the average daily gain in stocker operations. In one study from Iowa State University, eliminating dewormers affected the break-even price by 2.7 percent, which represented a cost of $20.77 per head produced.

"The more animals you keep from getting sick, the better off you are, so we start by vaccinating those animals that have a competent immune system and are capable of responding to the vaccine,” Blanding says.

Blanding also points out an industry accepted general rule of thumb: for every hour animals spend in transport, give them at least that much time after they arrive before vaccinating. This allows the animals a chance to rest before the additional stress of processing. To help ensure all calves are protected, use booster vaccines as labels indicate.

For questions or comments, e-mail the editors at Beef Today