“We buy pretty much all mismanaged cattle or something at a discount,” says Jimmy Parnell of Parnell Farm (Parnell, Inc.) in Maplesville, AL. “We like to buy a calf that weighs 400 lbs., approximately a year old, that didn’t get castrated or dehorned, but has some decent genetics.”
That means time for managing risk comes at a premium.

Geography helps Parnell since most stocker calves in Alabama hail from the Carolinas to Florida. Metaphylaxis helps, too.

“I look at how many calves I have to pull and doctor and I look at how many die or turn into chronics,” Parnell says. “I’ve dramatically reduced both by using Micotil® (tilmicosin injection) for metaphylaxis.” With it, he achieves a typical pull rate of 10% or so on high-risk calves, up to as high as 20% depending on the set of calves. Mortality runs less than 1%.

“I learned that the added gain, as a result of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) control for the group, pays for the Micotil when you administer Micotil metaphylaxis properly,” Parnell says. Typically, calves receive metaphylaxis 2-3 days after arrival. If calves appear weaker on arrival, or arrive when it’s wet and muddy, Parnell administers the maximum dose of Micotil (approved for 1.5-3.0 ml/cwt.).

On arrival, calves go into triangular grass traps. Being able to walk calves into the processing facility reduces cattle stress. They’re dewormed, receive a four-way vaccination and a brand. After 10-14 days, cattle are castrated, dehorned and vaccinated for blackleg.

Cattle are maintained in buy-groups through the straightening out process of 30-45 days. Then they move to pastures that are mostly double-cropped – summer bermudagrass, crabgrass and dallasgrass overseeded for fall ryegrass.

But, Parnell points out, “The grass is more for cattle comfort than it is for gain.” For pounds, he supplements a ration built around soybean hulls. “Free-choice mineral with Rumensin® pretty much eliminates any issues with coccidiosis,” Parnell says.

Ultimately, he ships the cattle to feedyards in Kansas where he retains ownership.

“If we can get the cattle past the first week or two, we don’t have many health problems,” Parnell says.