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David Sparks Ph.d Keeping Calves Healthy
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: September 21, 2018

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The Zoetis animal health company is very involved in keeping your calves healthy and a part of that, according to Zoetis Veterinarian Dr. Trejo, is preconditioning your calves.

Producers make mindful decisions to precondition their calves to help ward off sickness and prepare calves for weaning, commingling and travel to feedlots. However, if they don’t take the step to enroll in a third-party-verified preconditioning program, are they reaping their much-deserved rewards? Zoetis Veterinarian Dr. Trejo


Recent auction market sales data demonstrates the value producers can gain through preconditioning calves — as much as $72 more per head if enrolled in SelectVAC® compared with similarly preconditioned cattle not enrolled in SelectVAC.1 As good stewards of the animals in our care, we understand there is much more behind the choice and investment in preconditioning cattle than dollar signs alone.


From cow/calf to feedlot sectors, preconditioning is the most conscientious choice producers can make for the betterment of their animals’ health. Preconditioning programs promote calf growth, enhance immune function and minimize stress as calves move from their ranch of origin to the stocker or backgrounder operation and then to the feedlot. A study demonstrated that calves enrolled in SelectVAC were four times less likely to get sick or die in a feedlot setting than calves with an unverified health history.2 Preconditioning calves well ahead of stressors like shipment and commingling allows time for calves to respond to vaccinations and help avoid potential health risks, such as bovine respiratory disease (BRD).


Combine preconditioning with sound weaning practices to best protect your calves from infectious challenges they could encounter during their most delicate periods of early life.


Additional ways to promote Calf Wellness:

• When working cows, handle calves with care to avoid unnecessary stress.

• Practice controlled separation strategies at pre-weaning to avoid abrupt weaning patterns for young calves.

• Better-orchestrated practices centered around branding and pre-weaning can decrease stressors at weaning. 


Selling cattle with a history in a verified preconditioning program provides transparency to buyers because the program documents which products were administered and when. With lower chances of sickness and death, feedyard operators purchasing calves preconditioned with SelectVAC may no longer feel the need to administer antibiotics on arrival. Among growing consumer concerns over antibiotic usage, this benefit becomes increasingly important.


“Horses like clean water,” she said. “They also prefer it not to be freezing cold. That’s why heated, automatic waterers work so well. However, if you don’t have heated waterers, you have to make sure to keep the ice broken off the top of the water tub. Livestock need access to water at all times”

“We have heaters to keep regular tanks thawed,” Geisler said. “We’re getting a lot of people in right now to buy some type of livestock waterer. We have whatever they want.”

All animals need a shelter or windbreak to help them keep themselves warm, Jacobsen said. “Having a calf wet and cold trying to warm up in a wind is not healthy, she said.

Extra food also is called for in very cold times. “The act of digestion is what keeps animals producing heat,” Jacobsen said. “Cattle can digest straw but horses cannot. They will colic if fed straw. Grass hay can be fed to help horses keep warm. And, they need a place to get out of the wind. We’re happy to answer anyone’s questions about winterizing for animals. There are a few basic things that everyone with stock needs to do to keep their animals healthy and happy in the winter.”

Dr. Sarah Jacobsen of Blackfoot Animal Clinic in Blackfoot says all animals need a shelter or windbreak to help keep themselves warm.


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