It is important to prepare calves for backgrounding or feeding for their success.
By: Grant Dewell, ISU Extension beef veterinarian
Whether you are backgrounding your calves after weaning or a feedlot bringing in new calves, acclimating those calves into the feedlot can be beneficial. Acclimating cattle into a confined feeding environment can decrease stress because calves adapt to the new environment faster.
Whether the calf is newly weaned, coming off pasture or in a group of put-together calves, there is an adjustment phase when they arrive at a feedlot. Newly weaned calves have lost the social structure of the cow herd and put-together calves may be in utter chaos. Over time these calves will develop a pecking order and oer social structures, but for a social herd animal the intervening time can be stressful.
Acclimating does two things for these calves. First, as the calves are introduced to feedlot, they will be walked around the pen systematically so they visit all four corners, the feedbunk and water trough. Typically they will be walked through the processing facility without being restrained and processed and then returned to the home pen where there is fresh feed for them.
The second benefit of this acclimation process is that the cattle caregiver takes over the director role in the social hierarchy. Although calves may still need to determine their place in the pecking order, the director role has been established by the caregiver in walking the calves around the pen and to the processing facility, and finally by having them walk slowly in single file past the caregiver. This process will develop trust between the caregiver and calf and will make future handling of calves easier. There is beginning to be evidence that acclimated calves perform better and have less disease than un-acclimated calves.