The U.S. Drought Monitor continues to show the spread of severe and extreme drought into larger areas of cow-calf country. Producers are seeing the effects of more heat, reduced forage quality and dwindling water supplies in the cows and calves.

Three Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. Professional Services Veterinarians share regional insights and recommendations to help producers work through the fall preconditioning challenges.

Northern High Plains

Dr. Travis Van Anne, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Senior Professional Services Veterinarian based in western Nebraska, says at this point calves have experienced severe heat stress and in many cases producers will wean earlier than usual.

“With the lack of feed resources, it may not be possible to do a 45-day wean on calves before they are sold,” says Dr. Van Anne. “However, we can help that calf handle the stress of weaning and immediate transport by making sure the calf is vaccinated and ready for disease challenges.”

Assuming that calves received a clostridial vaccine, like Alpha-7® at birth, and a modified-live virus vaccine such as Pyramid® 5 + Presponse® SQ, at pasture turn-out, Dr. Van Anne recommends the following preconditioning program this fall:

  • Mineral: Five weeks before calves leave the ranch make sure to offer a chelated or amino acid complex mineral free choice. Poor forage quality leads to lack of micronutrients; the mineral mix helps boost calves immune system.
  • Vaccination: Two to three weeks before calves are sold, give them another round of modified-live virus respiratory vaccine that protects against viral and bacterial causes of bovine respiratory disease. He also recommends a booster to the clostridial vaccine.
  • Parasite control: While calves are in the chute for vaccinations, don’t forget to use a pour-on deworming product to control internal and external parasites. Dr. Van Anne explains that by reducing the parasite load, calves can have a better immune response to vaccinations.

Dr. Van Anne says while it is tempting to skip vaccinations this fall due to high input costs, he cautions against that management practice.

“Cattle buyers have good memories,” says Dr. Van Anne. “Northern High Plains producers have a reputation of producing high quality, healthy calves that go on to perform in the feedlot. Preconditioning calves with the right animal health products is good for the producer’s image, as well as the industry’s image. We don’t want to risk our reputation for a small cost savings.”

Watch a video interview with Dr. Travis Van Anne here.