Cattle Healthline

September 1, 2008 07:00 PM

In today's ever-changing beef industry, producers can feel overwhelmed by new technology and information. It is more important than ever to position resources to help make management decisions that will influence the profitability of an operation.

Your veterinarian is often one of the more educated and knowledgeable members of the community on industry trends, as well as animal health issues. There are numerous ways to use this unique resource.

1. Traditional services. Veterinarians should be utilized for routine procedures (pregnancy checks, castrations, semen checking bulls and vaccinations). These tasks can affect the bottom line and should not be taken lightly.

For example, selecting the proper vaccine and administering it correctly and at the right time needs to be coordinated with your veterinarian. Vaccines may not only become ineffective but also harmful if not handled correctly. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to optimize vaccine efficacy, and evaluate health records to see if there's a vaccine or biosecurity issue.

Ask for input on bull selection and use pregnancy data for management decisions. Nothing is more devastating for a cow–calf producer than to go into calving only to find inadequate pregnancy rates.

2. Data management. Some veterinarians offer data management for cow–calf and stocker clients. This information can help you gain insight into the data collected, enabling you to use pregnancy diagnoses to determine calving intervals, days to breed back, etc. With cow maintenance cost escalating to more than $450 per head, managing reproduction and tracking health results and other data are useful tools for minimizing input costs on poorly producing animals.

3. Marketing. Ask your veterinarian if he or she participates in or knows of a marketing alliance to collect data and gain economy-of-scale advantages. Preconditioning programs, for example, are a good way to add value to your animals. The spread in value between preconditioned and nonpreconditioned animals has considerably widened in recent years.

Our clinic has participated in the Missouri Verified Beef program for the past several years. The program allows producers to commingle cattle and market them as a group. Producers gain the benefit of direct marketing and access to detailed information on animal performance.

4. Custom animal care. Certain specialized practices can aid development of heifers, bulls, etc. Your veterinarian will be able to help with synchronization, embryo transfer and tract scoring of heifers, just to name a few. Some clinics have the ability to provide housing for animals that can be developed off-site, away from the ranch.

5. Customized herd health plans. Veterinarians have intimate knowledge of disease processes and testing protocols. Bovine Viral Diarrhea and Johne's disease have a complicated pathogenesis. Structure of cattle flow and vaccinations can vary depending on your area and the prevalence of disease. Your veterinarian can customize a health plan unique to your situation.

6. Total herd management. To compete in the future of the beef industry, you need to be involved in all aspects of the operation, including purchasing inputs, marketing cattle, genetic selection and nutrient management. It's not easy to do that on your own. Your veterinarian can help you meet these needs.

DAN GOEHL, DVM, and his wife own Canton Veterinary Clinic in Canton, Mo., working with stocker and cow–calf beef operations. He is also a partner in Professional Beef Services, offering herd consultation and help in data management and marketing of beef cattle. He can be reached at

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