When it comes to sourcing and receiving cattle from the southeast, where one third of calves come from, following management protocols can reduce risk, both for the calves and those managing them. Using proactive management protocols, when receiving freshly weaned calves at stocker or feedlot facilities, can make a positive difference in calves' future health and performance. Those who take the time to manage high risk calves have figured out that through management, it's possible to bring out each calf's full potential.
So, what management techniques work best when receiving calves? Here's five steps to take when the trucks roll in.
1. Consider the source
When possible, evaluate where the calves came from and the source of their stress. Was it a long haul? Is it a mixed group of calves from different farm sources? During transport, did the calves move through wet or cold weather? How were the calves handled before they got on the truck and when were they weaned? If you can build a relationship with order buyers to get this information from suppliers, it will help determine the level of stress calves may be experiencing and how much attention they need at receiving.
Recognize that if calves originated on smaller-sized farms, which is typical in teh Southeast, they likely had to be mixed together to fill a potload, and possibly came from an operation that may not have had the facilities or manpower to do pre-weaning mangement. These calves still have potential but are going to need extra management.
2. Take immediate action
While it's nice to hope for the best, it's more practical to expect the worst. If calves have an unknown history, you should presume that worms and coccidia are robbing nutrients from the calf's gut and prohibiting its immune system from fully responding. To effectively deworm animals for both internal and external parasites, immediately upon arrival, consider a two-pronged approach using both an ivermectin injectable and a soluble drench. Also consider administering a coccidiostat in the water or feed for the first 30 to 45 days to help control coccidian parasitics. Then, transition to a monensin product for continued coccidiosis prevention.
3. Get calves comfortable
Water, feed and bedding are essential ingredients to help calves stop bawling and start settling in. Many calves will have never seen a bunk or even a water trough before, so anticipate that it may take a couple of days for them to learn how to eat and drink.
4. Vaccinate when the time is right
There is no magic number of hours or days after arrival when vaccines should be administered. It's going to depend on the group of calves. It could be 12 hours or several days. Calves need to be rested and filled up with feed and water in order to maximise the number of successful responses to the vaccination. Watch for calves to be up eating and drinking and no longer bawling. Then, consider administering a 3-way or 5-way vaccine that protects against the major viral pathogens including Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) Type 1a and 2, Parainfluenza (PI3), Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV), Mannehimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida.
5. Work together
Throughout this receiving process, take a team approach to achieve the best outcome. There is no one size fits all strategy. Work with your veterinarian to assess what the calves need. Communicate with others in the industry to learn from each other and better understand the management needs of calves from certain regions of the country. When we build these relationships and trust each other, the sharing and feedback allows the entire cattle industry to survive and thrive for the future.
Those who figure out how to manage high risk calves are the ones who realize the rewards those calves can produce.