Additional gain can be saved if parasite control products are administered prior to vaccination, which can help reduce stress from parasite burdens and improve vaccination response, Dr. Sibbel says.

“There are some animals in every herd that are more susceptible to parasites internally,” he says. “We need to take fecal samples on a regular basis on a percentage of the animals in the herd to determine what’s going on. Calves coming off cows were worth $400, and now they’re worth two and half times more than what they used to be worth. It makes sense to do the extra work and understand the individual need.”

Timing parasite control based on the season is another tactic that veterinarians and producers can use to make the most use of their animal health investment, Sides says.

“It’s been really cold this year, so I would imagine parasite season may be delayed,” he says. “If I treat too early, then my product is off before the parasites even emerge. If I can delay, then I actually have a good chance of killing parasites when they do emerge.”

Even with strong cattle prices, each ranch must decide how much additional labor and facilities are needed to extract the value of a more customized parasite control or preconditioning program.

Gary Sides, Ph.D., beef cattle nutritionist with Zoetis“Some ranches are just not set up to do a 45-day preweaning feeding program,” Sides notes. “There are still things they can do with parasite control and vaccinations. For instance, if they collect the data on cattle performance, they can make huge strides in culling cows that produce bad calves.”

Andrew Conley, ranch manager for Blackwater Cattle Company in Lake Park, GA, is planning to deworm a few weeks later than he typically would due to the cold weather through early spring.

“We know there’s a cost to it,” Conley says. “Any time you handle the cattle, it causes stress, but it’s one thing that will absolutely pay for itself in the end.”

Investing in animal health practices—like timing parasite control—translates into higher weaning weights and directly affects his bottom line. In addition to heavier weights, the reputation of the ranch’s Brangus purebred cattle is important to securing a steady stream of buyers. This is especially critical as he grows the cow herd to help meet demand.

“We are trying to enhance our position from a genetics standpoint and trying to raise cattle that will hit a target earlier, have early maturing cattle and cattle that will be genetically superior to their counterparts,” he says. “Everything has to go hand-in-hand: the genetics, management, nutrition, animal health products—the whole nine yards.”

Producers cut back on mineral in previous years, but strong market conditions are helping convince them to reinvest in that nutritional component, among other services, says Clint Hilt, DVM, owner of Hilt Veterinary Service in Power, MT.

“They are more comfortable being able to put more into their cattle at this point,” Dr. Hilt says. “We’ve had some issues with coronavirus in the past, and we know that a good mineral program will help cattle deal with the challenge better.”

Clients also are more willing to invest in diagnostics to help identify a problem accurately when one does occur, he notes. It’s a service his practice offered for years, but producers are now taking advantage of.

To help convince clients to invest in additional services, Dr. Hilt held a few producer meetings this year and had many one-on-one conversations by the chute or after a midnight emergency phone call.

“If we know what’s going on in the herd, we know what vaccines to recommend,” he says. “If there’s not a vaccine, we can boost their immune system with minerals. We haven’t eliminated death loss, but we like to think that we’ve helped the producer fine tune what they’ve done in the past.”