As a full-time rancher, and one who works closely with my veterinarian and vaccine representative, I take issue with the comments by veterinarian John Peirce in “Are You Vaccinating Calves Or Shooting Blanks?” (September 2007) about vaccine protocol on the ranch.
It isn't the people who read your magazine he should be speaking to; it's those who don't read it. He did the cow-calf producer no favor with his article. In fact, he puts a black cloud over our heads when it comes time to market our calves.
I sell on Superior Livestock Auction; I guarantee the message that is given to the prospective buyers. I don't need someone undermining what I do.
To lump all cow-calf producers wasn't right. I think Peirce needs to be a little more careful in using general terms about the cattle industry as a whole.
I save replacement heifers; they are vaccinated at pre-weaning the same as those I sell. I certainly don't sort the replacements away, and use a different protocol. They're all treated the same. I have integrity and credibility, as do many cattle producers. Peirce has judged us unfairly.
Long Creek, OR
Dr. Peirce responds:
I'm sure most producers do believe they are doing a fine job of handling and administering modified-live viral vaccines. But the 80% figure of cow-calf producers who do a poor job of preparing their calves immunologically for the feedyard is based on data accumulated over several years, and would include in excess of a half-million head of cattle received at the feedyard.
Health issues are largely preventable if one will take the time to “do the basics perfectly.” It's not magic. Just use clean equipment (never use disinfectants) and sharp needles, and deliver a fully viable, cool vaccine product to every individual calf.
I often tell producers that the challenging times ahead of us will require us to be open-minded, flexible and sensitive toward our consumer's wishes. These consumers are basing more of their buying decisions on perception rather than fact. If they perceive that no antibiotics (for example) is safer, healthier or even simply preferred, their buying habits will reflect that.
At some point in the near future, calves that haven't received antibiotics will have marketing opportunities that treated calves won't. I want domestic producers to fulfill the wishes of our consumers, not someone offshore.
We do live in a one-world marketplace, like it or not. We absolutely must become consumer sensitive right down to the way we handle cattle. We may not agree with some of our consumer's choices, but we had better be the ones putting that beef on their plate.
When calves move through the feedyard with little to no medicine costs, we all want to know where these cattle came from. We obviously want them again and again. This added value doesn't cost you anything except elbow grease.
But an open mind and a willingness to change is essential. So if you are among the 20%, I congratulate you. Job well done.
John Peirce, DVM
AzTx Cattle Co.