Earn more for your beef calves this fall

The buzz around cattle prices is palpable. Learn more about how a well-executed plan will keep you one step ahead in growing healthier calves and profits this fall.

September 1, 2023

3 Min Read
Earn more for your beef calves this fall
Submitted by Elanco Animal Health

The buzz around cattle prices is palpable.

“We knew we were going to see value in our cattle at the sale barns this season, but watching fall calving cows sell for $3,200 apiece was pretty staggering,” says Brett Terhaar, DVM, beef technical consultant for Elanco Animal Health as he recounts his recent trip to Nebraska.

With a decrease in cow numbers and strong beef demand, beef cattle prices are hitting record-breaking highs. While it may seem like simple napkin math to put less dollars toward preconditioning your calves, Terhaar urges producers to do what’s right by their calves and resist the urge to cut corners.

“The temptation is there to take these calves right off the cow and send them to the sale barn and cash in,” he says. “We know that weaning and preconditioning for around 45 days on the farm or ranch of origin is the most important factor in ensuring a calf’s health as it moves through the production system. During those 45 days, calves tend to gain weight at a rate of up to 2 lbs. per day, leading to more profits for the producer.”1

At minimum, Terhaar says good animal husbandry and management practices, a solid nutrition program and health protocols that include vaccination for key cattle diseases are critical. “Preconditioning is a holistic approach. A vaccination program does not replace good management practices,” he explained.

There is no cookie-cutter approach to a vaccination protocol and every operation will have unique requirements based on disease pressure and individual herd goals. Consulting with your herd veterinarian is important when designing herd health and vaccination protocols. Generally, cattle in a preconditioning program should be vaccinated against the following:

  • Respiratory viruses – Commonly available in modified-live (MLV) 5-way viral vaccine – including Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) Type 1 and 2, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bovine Parainfluenza3 (PI3) and Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV)

  • 7-way clostridial (blackleg)

  • Mannheimia haemolytica (respiratory bacteria)

  • Others: Pasteurella mutlocida and Histophilus somni (respiratory bacteria)

“If you’re having BRD problems in the calves, post-weaning, you may have management issues to address,” he emphasized. “An unfortunate scenario can occur where you’ve followed your vaccination program to a T, applied best management practices, your calves are doing great, you pick your weaning date and a few days later there’s a major change in weather. It’s now 40 degrees and drizzling for three days straight. Guess what? A few of your calves are going to experience some respiratory disease from that weather change. This is where I recommend producers are prepared and have two antibiotics of different classes on their shelves.”

Terhaar also recommends producers spend some time in both the morning and afternoon observing calves for any signs of respiratory disease.

A critical goal of preconditioning is adding pounds. “With a single-dose implant program, we can see an extra two-tenths of a pound per day2 for an investment of only $2. That might not sound like much weight, but say you have your calves for 100 days, that equates to an additional 20 pounds. With calf prices at $3 per pound, that’s an extra $60 in your pocket. It’s a significant return on investment that many producers aren’t always taking advantage of,” Terhaar explains.

There’s no better time than now to invest in growing healthier calves. With a well-executed plan, you can ensure you’re staying you one step ahead and keeping both your animals and your operation healthy. To learn more about how to maximize calf profitability this fall, talk to your Elanco representative today or visit FarmAnimal.Elanco.com/US/OneStepAhead.

1Hilton M. Olynk N. Profitability of preconditioning: Lessons learned from an 11-year case study of an Indiana beef herd. Bov Pract. 2011:45(1):40-50

2McMurphy CP. Sharman ED. Cox DA. Horn GW. Lalman DL. Effects of implant type and protein source on growth of steers grazing summer pasture. Proc. Western Sections ASAS. J. Anim. Sci. 2010:(61)100-121

Elanco and the diagonal bar logo are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates. ©2023 Elanco or its affiliates. PM-US-23-1523.

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