Preconditioning has been utilized since the 1960s. It’s commonly defined as having calves weaned for three weeks, bunk broke, and on a comprehensive health program. But what else is encompassed under the ideal definition of preconditioning, and what impacts and expectations will face the cow-calf producer who chooses to utilize this management tool in the future?

Darr Feedlot Inc., in Cozad, NE, feeds about 100,000 head of cattle annually. Partner Craig Uden says successful preconditioning is a by-product of overall herd management. He adds that while the industry has made rapid advances in the last 30 years, the science of preconditioning demands additional progress, particularly in the areas of health, accountability and transparency.

“Independence is cattlemen’s greatest asset, but it’s often also their greatest challenge. We have to communicate and acknowledge that we aren’t only cow-calf, feedlot or seedstock producers, but food producers. That has never been more important than right now,” Uden says.

The push for improved communication is driven both by the need to maximize returns and the fact that today’s consumers want to not only know where their food comes from, but how it was managed from birth to plate. The ability to provide that information will increase marketability, but also efficiency and profitability for the cow-calf sector.