Anecdotally, it seems you hear talk here and there about the increased morbidity and mortality in today's calves. But a survey of 500 veterinarians who are BEEF readers finds that most think the state of today's calf health is actually unchanged or improved over the past 10 years.

Of the 50 practitioners who responded to the survey conducted in December, most were far from fresh-faced entrants into the profession. In fact, almost 60% had 20+ years of experience as practitioners. And another 22% had 11-20 years of experience. Just short of 80% of respondents were engaged in primarily the cow-calf sector.

The survey asked if, based on their experience, had pre-weaning and post-weaning calf mortality and calf morbidity either increased, remained the same, or decreased in the past 10-year period?

In apparent testament to a combination of factors that include better cowherd health programs, management expertise, improved calf and dam vaccination programs, improved cowherd nutrition, and better genetics:

  • More than 50% of respondents felt pre-weaning calf morbidity had remained the same in the past 10 years, and another 33% felt it had decreased.

  • More than 50% also felt that pre-weaning calf mortality had remained the same over the past 10 years, while another 40% said it had decreased.

  • Meanwhile, 48% indicated post-weaning morbidity had remained about the same over the past 10 years, and another 33% thought it had decreased.

  • Carlson's big catch

    And about 45% indicated post-weaning death loss was about the same over the past 10-year period; another 41% said they thought it had decreased. Respondents attributed the decrease to improved pre-weaning vaccination, improved post-weaning management/management expertise, and improved pre-weaning calf nutrition.

Also interesting is that the results were largely the same across all seven geographic sectors of the study. The Central and Northern Plains, the South and Southwest, and the Corn Belt made up about 80% of respondents' locations, however.

You can see much more on this survey and this topic in the special issue on calf health that BEEF editors will publish in mid-February. With the singular focus on “Fixing Calf Health,” the issue will take a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)-style look at calf health. Included will be in-depth examinations of passive immunity, calving issues, the first 12 hours, the first two weeks, and on through weaning and preconditioning.

Watch for it in your mailbox in latter February.

Just before deadline for this issue, BEEF regional sales manager Jay Carlson e-mailed me to say that if we hadn't yet decided on an issue cover, he had a top candidate. Attached was this photo of the 67-lb. catfish he had landed the day before in Warsaw, MO. Now that's a catch. And for those interested, it still plies the waters of Truman Lake.