I had to read Clint Peck's article, “From Niche To Norm,” in the August issue of BEEF (page A2) several times. He seemed to be saying preconditioned calves no longer bring a “premium” because everyone is doing it.

In 1994, Superior Livestock started its VAC program. At that time, about 33% of the calves we sold had some sort of preconditioning shots in them prior to shipping. In 2004, about 80% of the calves had some sort of vaccination program, so this confirms his thoughts.

What I do disagree with, however, is that the price differentiation has been “competed away.”

Each year, we send all our auction data to Colorado State University for a statistical analysis of the difference in price between calves sold in one of our VAC programs and those sold with no preconditioning shots. That data shows that in each year since 1994, the price difference has widened (see page 22).

In 2004, when compared to an unvaccinated calf coming off the cow, our VAC 45 calves brought a premium of $7.91/cwt., while our VAC 34 calves brought $3.47/cwt. more. This is based on data from 3,431 lots or approximately 384,000 head of calves sold between May and September of that year.

In 1995, the VAC 45 difference was $2.47/cwt. and the VAC 34 was $1.35.

You may be right that the premium has been “competed away,” but the discount on calves with no preconditioning shots hasn't.

I hope your readers don't believe it's no longer economically rewarding to precondition their calves because there's no price difference. We see that price difference every auction.
Paul Branch
Business Manager
Superior Livestock Auction

Tragedy brings compassion

As our family reaches the five-year milestone following our daughter's burn injuries, we reflect on what a roller coaster journey it has been. We are still humbled by the compassion and support from BEEF readers who learned about our tragedy through my “Rancher's Journal” column.

Thank you to all who helped carry us through with prayers, letters of encouragement and donations to Andrea's medical fund. There is no way to pay back all the help we received; we can only try to pay it forward by helping other people.

To that purpose, I wrote the book “Beyond the Flames; A Family Touched by Fire,” in hopes our story might inspire other people going through life-changing crises.

The book was published by Oak Tree Press late last year, and if you are interested in our story you can order it from the publisher www.oaktreebooks.com, from BarnesandNoble.com or from me at 208/756-2841. There is also some information about the book on my Web site: www.heathersmiththomas.com.

I want to thank your readers who have helped my family. Andrea still has impairments from her injury, but she doesn't let those stop her from leading a full life. She wears her burn scars beautifully, with no self cosciousness. Her goal, like ours, is to help others and she is able to do that most effectively because she can relate to tragedy and suffering. She is an inspiration to us all.
Heather Thomas
Salmon, ID