TLC= ROI & HHC.

No, that is not a secret code. Nor is it written in government-speak, where acronyms run rampant. As such, perhaps interpretation is in order:

  • TLC is tender loving care, but you probably figured that out.
  • ROI is return on investment. Same deal.
  • HHC is happy, healthy calves. Which is every feedyard’s overriding goal with every load of calves that clatter off the truck.

For many feedyard or stocker-bound calves this year, however, widespread drought has changed the game. Which is why adding a little octane to the TLC in your receiving and starting protocols for drought-stressed calves might be the best audible to call.

“We’re doing things a little bit differently in our processing program,” says Wes Bonner, a veterinarian and manager of Nolan County Feeders, a starting and backgrounding feedyard in Roscoe, TX. “The cattle are coming in under different circumstances, certainly a lower state of nutrition and their immune systems could be compromised even more than before.”

As such, Bonner is adding injectible vitamin A, D and E to the receiving process. And he’s running some trials on injectible minerals to see if that helps the calves better respond to vaccinations and therapy.

It takes 30 days to correct nutritional deficiencies when vitamins and minerals are consumed orally, Bonner says. If he can get an immediate effect with injectibles, he can get incoming calves to better, and more quickly, respond to vaccines.

Nolan County Feeders specializes in high-risk calves, “So we expect to have trouble with them. And I’m not sure we’re having that much more trouble from a morbidity standpoint than in the past. However, how these cattle respond to therapy is very different,” Bonner says.

He thinks that’s partly a function of the higher-than-usual daytime temperatures this summer. They take a temperature on every animal that goes to the hospital and they’re usually running from 103.5°-107° F.

“After studying a lot of animals and wondering why we can’t affect treatment outcomes more effectively, if we have ambient temperatures of 103°-105° F, the animal has no way to get body temperature down to normal levels, even if you’re effective at treating the disease challenge,” he says.

If this is a long-term weather cycle, Southern and Central Plains feedyards may need to look at shading the pens like those in South Texas and the Southwest do, he says.