Given the current state of affairs, Hollis says feedyards and stocker operators may want to change their starting rations by bumping up the protein 1-2%, amping the energy a bit and adding more vitamin A. “You have to be careful,” he cautions, “because if you try to bump it up too much, you can get into bigger problems, especially on the energy side. If you try to compensate all at once, you’ll get acidosis problems.”

To that, Bonner adds that trace minerals are important. “Trace minerals affect the immune system’s ability to function properly and respond to vaccine.” He says the benefits of pre-immunization and a trace mineral package in the range mineral are well documented. “If we’re going to buy backgrounded calves and have a choice, we’ll buy one that’s been on trace minerals before we buy one that has not, even if both are pre-immunized. It makes that much difference.”

Therefore, Hollis says, if you have the ability to customize rations, work with your nutritionist to develop different starting rations for different sets of cattle.

“If you’ve got a set of good calves coming in, looking good from a good background, you feed them one way. And if you’ve got a set of hard-luck calves coming in, that were early weaned, their moms were out of groceries and they’re looking pretty tough, you feed them another way – a little bit more energy and for sure a little bit more protein and maybe you bump the vitamin A,” he says.

If you don’t have the ability to customize your rations, he suggests erring on the high side. You’ll over-feed some calves as you try to make sure that the hard-luck arrivals get enough to eat. That’s more expensive, he says, but the tradeoff is giving the calves a better shot at vaccine and therapy response, which leads to faster, more efficient gain.

“We need to do the things we’d normally do,” Hollis says, “but sometimes we may have to go the extra mile, either nutritionally or with our vaccination program, to make up some of the deficiencies that the calves brought with them when they arrived.”