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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
cattle eating

Preconditioning calves pays

Fall is the season of harvest in any farming community. The same holds true for the cattle farmer, weaning time in its simplest description is a harvest of calves from the cowherd. Weaning brings about many discussion topics, but the topic of pre-conditioning is most popular.

Preconditioning is the process of weaning and preparing calves for the next phase of production (stocker/backgrounder, grow-yard, feedlot). The process includes weaning, vaccinations, de-worming, supplemental nutrition, and acclimating cattle to feeders and waterers. In most cases, some type of co-mingling occurs at this time as well. The current standard for most pre-conditioning programs is 45 days.

Much research has been conducted on preconditioning calves. Increased animal health and performance have been well documented. As a result of this, a premium is seen when cattle are marketed through pre-conditioned sales. Simply put, there is less risk in a set of cattle that have already been weaned, vaccinated, and on feed for more than 45 days so buyers will pay more.

There are some costs to the producer for preconditioning. Those costs would include feed costs, vaccination and drug costs, labor, and the need for facilities to keep calves for a month or two. Researchers at Oklahoma State and the Noble Foundation have looked at the profitability of preconditioning. They conclude preconditioning cattle has 3 big benefits: Marketing heavier cattle, more seasonal benefits to market, and a price premium for healthier, higher performing cattle.

Preconditioning has pros and cons, but the benefits far out-weigh the negatives. Successful preconditioning programs require good management of costs and a working relationship with your veterinarian. The cattle feeding industry is hungry for healthy, good performing cattle to feed cheaper corn to... as a cow/calf producer you need to be willing to provide that product.

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