Any way you cut it, cattle feeding hasn’t gotten any easier over the years. The days of “If they can walk to the bunk, they’re good to go on feed” are over. Feedyards are paying closer attention to how feeder cattle and calves are managed prior to arriving at a feedyard.

That’s because properly managed calves can walk to the bunk and go on feed with fewer health complications and greater daily gain than their mismanaged pen mates. For cattle feeders, that’s money in the bank.

The changes in perception about pre-arrival management by feedyard operators have been documented in the third release of data collected in the Feedlot 2011 survey conducted by the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), part of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. In 2011, as high as 90% of feedlots surveyed believed that pre-arrival management is either extremely or very important in reducing cattle sickness and death loss. In comparison, only about 50% of operators held that opinion in 1999.

Here’s how the numbers fell out:

  • Introduction to a feed bunk – 25.7% of respondents rated this as extremely important and 55.4% very important in 2011; 22.6% and 42.2% respectively, in 1999.
  • Respiratory vaccine at least two weeks prior to weaning – 29.2% extremely important and 56.2% very important in 2011; 27% and 32.5% in 1999.
  • Respiratory vaccine at weaning – 25.6% extremely and 54.8% very important in 2011; 18.7% and 32.5% in 1999.
  • Calves weaned at least four weeks prior to shipping – 32.4% extremely and 46.6% very important in 2011; 32.4% and 34.8% in 1999.
  • Calves castrated and dehorned prior to shipping – 33.8% extremely and 57.9% very important in 2011; 31.7% and 33.5% in 1999.
  • Calves treated for external and internal parasites prior to shipping – 22.6% extremely and 48.3% very important in 2011; 8% and 28.6% in 1999.
     

For feedyards that receive calves weighing less than 700 lbs., pre-arrival management practices take on even more importance:

  • Introduction to a feed bunk – 81.1% of feedyards felt this was either extremely important or very important in 2011; 64.8% in 1999.
  • Respiratory vaccine at least two weeks prior to shipping – 85.4% in 2011; 65.8% in 1999.
  • Respiratory vaccine at weaning80.4% in 2011; 51.2% in 1999.
  • Calves weaned at least four weeks prior to shipping – 79% in 2011; 67.2% in 1999.
  • Calves castrated and dehorned prior to shipping91.7% in 2011; 65.2% in 1999.
  • Calves treated for external and internal parasites prior to shipping – 70.9% in 2011; 36.6% in 1999.

See the entire report, plus the first and second data sets.

 

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