Tips on receiving cattle offered

Tips on receiving cattle offered

MINIMIZING the stress of weaning, marketing and shipping can have a large impact on the producer's bottom line.

"Taking the proper steps to get calves off to the right start is paramount to the success of a cattle feeding operation," said Reid McDaniel, South Dakota State University extension beef feedlot specialist. "One of the most important decisions feedlots face is how to properly receive new cattle."

McDaniel said giving new cattle everything they need to remain healthy during the feeding period is the right thing to do from an animal well-being perspective, but it's also a decision with economic incentives, given the current record costs of feeder cattle.

McDaniel and South Dakota State extension veterinarian Russ Daly recently discussed several important topics related to getting calves off to the right start.

"An effective receiving program minimizes incidence of disease and gets cattle on feed. The impact of nutrition on immunity is greatest during the first few days after arrival," McDaniel explained.

He said the efficacy of a vaccination program is dependent upon the ability of a calf's immune system to respond accordingly. Feed and water intake rehydrates cattle, improves immune function and promotes healthy rumen activity.

"Cattle are likely to be tired, thirsty and hungry off the truck. For these reasons, calves should be rested for at least 24 hours in dry pens (bedded, if necessary) before initial processing, with free-choice access to high-quality grass hay and fresh water," he said.

Processing/vaccination programs. Calves that have been properly preconditioned with vaccination against viral respiratory pathogens (i.e., infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bovine respiratory syncytial virus and bovine viral diarrhea virus) exhibit, in general, better health than non-preconditioned calves, regardless of the arrival vaccination program, Daly said.

However, in many cases, this is out of the control of the feedlot operator, he added, so the main questions then become: What vaccines should be used to help boost the immune response, and when should those be administered?

Most studies show positive results from using viral vaccines in the arrival program, according to Daly. Such vaccines for infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bovine respiratory syncytial virus, bovine viral diarrhea virus and parainfluenza-3 are available as modified-live or killed versions.

Evidence for including bacterial pathogens such as mannheimia, histophilus or mycoplasma in vaccine programs is not as solid.

"While bacterial pathogens are the most important causes of bovine respiratory disease, they typically occur following an infection with a virus," Daly explained, which is why most current recommendations for vaccination upon arrival include viral vaccines (typically modified-live or intranasal) but not bacterial vaccines.

"When considering timing, feedlot operators should remember that calves undergoing stress do not respond well to vaccines," Daly noted.

He recommended that feedlot operators let newly received cattle rest overnight, or at least one hour for every hour transported, to allow stress levels to decrease before processing.

"Research suggests that delaying vaccination for even as long as 14 days following arrival resulted in better immune stimulation and lower levels of illness in groups of stressed cattle. When cattle are well fed, they are better able to respond appropriately to vaccination," Daly said.

Receiving calf nutrition. Providing calves with the required nutrients helps reduce stress-related weight loss, immune system suppression, pulls and death loss, but getting newly received calves to eat is a common challenge in feedlots, according to McDaniel.

Depending on their history, some calves will eat and drink more quickly than others. This is particularly true of preconditioned or creep-fed cattle, McDaniel explained.

"A common method that attracts cattle to the bunk and encourages feed intake includes delivery of the receiving ration after good-quality grass hay has been distributed evenly in the bunk," he said.

Following this protocol for a few days after receiving gives cattle access to hay and introduces them to the new ration (such as shown in the Table). Depending on the cattle, the time required to establish intake of the receiving ration may vary. As ration intake increases, the hay can be decreased until only the ration is being fed.

According to McDaniel, the basic components of a well-managed receiving nutrition program include access to good-quality grass hay that is free of dust, mold and weeds, unlimited access to fresh water, palatable ration ingredients, adequate mixing to reduce sorting and proper intake management (bunk calling).

"Because intake is usually low, it is imperative that each bite of feed contains the adequate nutrients which meet the requirements of the cattle," McDaniel said.


Nutrient recommendations for stressed calf receiving rations (dry matter basis)


Recommended range

Dry matter, %


Concentrate, %


Crude protein, %


Net energy for maintenance, Mcal/100 lb.


Net energy for gain, Mcal/100 lb.


Calcium, %


Phosphorus, %


Potassium, %


Magnesium, %


Sodium, %


Copper, ppm


Iron, ppm


Manganese, ppm


Zinc, ppm


Chromium, ppm


Cobalt, ppm


Selenium, ppm


Iodine, ppm


Vitamin A, IU/lb.


Vitamin E, IU/lb.


Adapted from National Research Council (2000), Wagner (1988) and Hutcheson (1987).


Forage testing

Forage testing can help producers identify deficiencies in supplies so they can determine which nutrient supplements will counter what could be another harsh winter, according to Purdue University Extension beef cattle specialist Ron Lemenager.

Lemenager said nutrient profiles in some hay samples are low this year because of harvest delays and excessive rain during this past growing season, which may have resulted in mature plants, nutrient leaching and some mold development in the forage supply.

Cows can be affected by windchill temperatures below 30 degrees F and may require nutrient and energy supplements even if the forage is of fair quality. Insufficient forage nutrition this winter could lead to poor body condition of cows, calving challenges, reduced calf health, longer postpartum intervals, lower conception rates, increased age at puberty and reduced fertility in bulls.

"Since forages are the foundation of most beef cow diets and heifer development diets, their nutrient profile should be used to develop cost-effective supplementation strategies to optimize animal performance and profitability," Lemenager said.

He suggested the following techniques to obtain samples for forage analysis through a commercial lab:

* Collect one composite sample from each lot in which all forage is of the same type, was harvested on the same date and is stored in a similar manner.

* Collect at least 20 hay core samples per lot in random locations throughout a stack, and mix them together into one composite sample.

* Place approximately 1 lb. of mixed sample into a clean, sealed plastic bag, and store it in a cool, dry place before mailing it to a lab.

Silage may also be tested following these guidelines:

* Collect fresh silage grab samples across the face of the silo over several days.

* Grab samples should be mixed, and 1 lb. should be placed in a clean plastic bag from each day and refrigerated to prevent heating and mold.

* Mix daily samples together into one composite sample, place about 2 lb. of it into a sealed plastic bag and send it to be tested in a sealed box with an ice pack.

To find a testing laboratory, visit the National Forage Testing Assn. website at Testing usually costs $15-20 for a basic forage test, and results may be provided in a couple of days.

Basic supplement suggestions based on forage testing results include energy supplements such as corn, soybean hulls and corn silage; protein and energy supplements such as corn gluten feed, distillers grains and soybean meal, and mineral supplements, which may require a change in mineral sources and composition.

Lemenager said producers who need help developing a supplementation strategy for their herd should contact their local extension educator or a beef extension specialist.


Kentucky checkoff

In a statewide referendum held in November, Kentucky beef cattle producers voted to assess themselves an additional $1 per head on cattle marketed in Kentucky.

The final voting tally was 1,816 to 1,423. The assessment will take effect April 1, 2015.

Producers who pay the assessment may request a refund from the Kentucky Cattlemen's Assn. (KCA) in writing within 30 days of the date that the assessment is collected.

The Kentucky State Board of Agriculture called for the referendum in August at the request of KCA. State law requires the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to carry out a referendum at the direction of the board.

In a letter to the board requesting the referendum, Dave Maples, KCA executive vice president, said the assessment would be used "to promote (and) stimulate — by research, market development and education — the use and sale, domestic and foreign, of bovine animal products."

The entire $1 state checkoff will be used for programs in Kentucky, whereas the $1 national checkoff is divided between the state and national Cattlemen's Beef Promotion & Research Board.

Volume:86 Issue:51

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