Both veterinarians and producers know that with every lost pound of  gain, open cow or calf death there is missed opportunity for profit. With today’s strong cattle market, a few missed opportunities can quickly add up to an expensive mistake.

Now is the time to convince producers to add animal health practices and products that provide return on investment. These practices add value even in weaker market conditions but can be worth more as U.S. cattle supply remains low—meaning prices are likely to remain high.

“Cow-calf producers are challenged to produce calves that are acceptable and desirable in the industry,” says Lee Schulz, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics at Iowa State University. “There are a variety of value-added practices that can create a value proposition for both buyers and sellers of cattle.”

Relationship Perks

Realizing value from improved animal health is key for all producers, Schulz says. Widespread industry recognition of practices like preconditioning helped develop a premium for those cattle over time. The credibility of preconditioning programs built up as both buyers and sellers relied on healthy calves that performed well after sale day.

Adding additional value today takes alignment between buyers and sellers, he notes.

“That’s what has developed a lot of the direct trade relationships,” Schulz says. “When I, as a buyer, build a relationship, it’s in part because of production practices you, as a seller, are using that have shown to be successful on my operation. It helps eliminate search costs for both of us.”

Investments in animal health happen every day at Ouzts Cattle Co. in Cairo, GA, says owner Caylor Ouzts. Attention to vaccination and parasite control programs keep death losses very low, improve overall health and build up strong relationships with buyers.

“The same people who buy your cattle this year will buy them another year,” Ouzts says. “They will find the cattle do well, and the representatives will call and remind them ‘those cattle from Ouzts are coming up.’”

Direct trade relationships can also benefit from information transfer that will improve both parties over the long run, Schulz advises. Buyers benefit from receiving cattle at the right time and from a consistent program. The seller can benefit by seeing how cattle are performing and adjust production practices accordingly.

Schulz notes that veterinarians and producers can develop a plan that meets a particular buyer’s needs through genetic selection, vaccination programs and implants, among other proven practices that reduce loss and improve gain.

“Distinguish between the longer run investments versus shorter investments,” he recommends. “With genetics, it takes considerable time to change those within the operation. However, with a preconditioning program that value really pays off more quickly.”