Preconditioning pays

Che Trejo
DVM, Zoetis Beef Technical Services

Parsippany, NJ

Che Trejo
DVM, Zoetis Beef Technical Services

— 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?

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. 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. 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, like SelectVAC, 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.

Producers who choose to precondition their calves know the decision isn’t always driven by economics. It’s the best decision for the health of their calves, as well as the cattle industry at large.

About the author

Che Trejo is a veterinarian with Zoetis Technical Services. Prior to joining Zoetis, Dr. Trejo completed a master’s in beef production medicine and 14 years in bovine practice. His focus during this time included cow/calf, stocker and feedlot medicine. He resides in southern Idaho with his wife, Laura, and four children.

About Zoetis

Zoetis (zô-EH-tis) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products and genetic tests and supported by a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2015, the company generated annual revenue of $4.8 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit