From Merck Animal Health's BRD Report: From the Fence Post. In this post, we look at the value of a vaccination program in helping calves achieve optimum performance in a feedyard setting. Larry Corah, Ph.D., M.S., vice president of Certified Angus Beef LLC, is a guest blogger.

This data set, which is taken from information collected by the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity Cooperative (TCSCF), shows the importance of having a sound vaccination and treatment program in place for calves.

TCSCF feeds calves from the Midwest and Southeastern regions of the United States. The program is designed to provide producers with information on feedlot performance, average daily gain and carcass data. Producers are encouraged to follow a suggested preconditioning program, which includes a 30-day weaning minimum and two doses of modified-live viral vaccine during preweaning and at weaning.

The data set shows how a group of calves performed against certain parameters based on three variables: treatment received zero times (NT), one time (1T), or two or more times (2T) due to health issues experienced in the feedyards.

The NT group outgained 1T and 2T cattle by 26-50 pounds, in turn requiring one to two fewer weeks on feed, respectively. The group with no treatments also had superior quality grades. This reinforces the idea that preconditioning with vaccination against diseases like bovine respiratory disease (BRD), or applying correct, timely treatment, can be the key to helping animals achieve their natural growth potential. This also results in higher-quality grading and ultimately a better eating experience for consumers.

Also notable was the difference in profitability. Calves that remained healthy throughout the finishing phase were more profitable ($52.45/head versus -$15.16/head and -$137.30). While health issues can still arise even with an established preconditioning program, if producers can get on top of a problem when it occurs and get the animals restored to normal health and performance, the negative impact won’t be as severe.

The bottom line is that it’s now more important than ever to be diligent in doing the right thing when it comes to the health of the animals. That starts with preventing health problems through vaccination and being prepared to quickly rein in health issues when they emerge.

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