A popular prayer asks for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Wade Taylor, DVM, Oakley Veterinary Services, Oakley, Kan., tries to apply this concept with feedyard crews who must adapt to a variety of situations which they have no control over.

“As we look at new cattle and scenarios, I try to encourage the yard and the crew to remember the things they can control and try to not worry about the things they can’t,” Taylor explains. “We can’t control weather and many times the type of cattle that come in, or sometimes the ration that is available. As a cowboy crew or veterinarian, there are some things that are established that won’t change. So I try to focus on the things that can be changed.”

Taylor puts controllable or changeable factors into four categories: processing procedures; pen management and pen riding; evaluation and treatment of sick animals; and sick-cattle hospital-pen or home-pen management. “If we do these things well in the health department, then we are managing areas we have some  control over.”

1. Processing procedures

The ability to handle arriving cattle, acclimate them to accept new surroundings and nutrition is important to the success of vaccination and treatment programs. “We need to evaluate what the pen conditions are, whether we need to bed them down or scrape the pen to give them a dry place to lie down,” Taylor says.

For new calves, Taylor’s strategy is to have cowboys drive them away from food and water and then drive them back toward the bunk or waterer until it’s their idea. “When they are not looking back at you questioning what you’re doing, you can move them up to the bunk, park them there and allow them to eat. We may have to change the ration a bit if some cattle need hay. Others like ration better than hay.”

He adds that tanks may be needed for calves rather than waterers, or he suggests letting waterers run over or spray to attract attention and enable calves to drink. Taylor also likes loose mineral near the water. “I believe that it stimulates water intake which can influence increased feed intake.”

Taylor focuses on having feedlot crews do these arrival tasks well:

  • Process in a timely fashion.
  • Use products correctly.
  • Use the products that are best-suited for the operation and cattle.
  • Handle cattle correctly prior to vaccination so they can respond the best to the products.
  • Handle cattle well and acclimate them to the home pen.
  • Note if they are eating rations and fed what they are supposed to and in the right amount.
  • Provide a dry, warm or cool place to lie down and manage pen surfaces.

2. Pen observation and pen riding

Once processing has occurred, pen observation, pen riding and pen caregivers become important, Taylor says. “It’s the basics of pen care and the ability to pull sick cattle in a timely fashion.”

Taylor says feedlots need to have pen riders who can go through the cattle in acceptable manner so the cattle do not perceive them as predators. “This is very important so they will allow the pen caregiver to observe the true signs of the animal,” he says. “Some of the younger pen riders have a tendency to sit the saddles more direct and make more direct eye contact and sometimes this will cause concerns with good detection of early illness.”

Questions he asks at this time are:

  • Do we know if and when we should exercise cattle?
  • Are we having nutritional stress?
  • When should we ride, when should we pull sick cattle?

3. Evaluation and treatment

“The ability to train crews to observe cattle and make diagnosis of those cattle is an ongoing challenge and one we are continuingly looking for answers on,” Taylor says. “When we get cattle to the chute, we need to have a case definition of what respiratory disease is. I’m concerned about whether we make a correct diagnosis.” One example Taylor gives is of treating a calf for a high fever or non-differentiated fever. “Is that correct use of an antibiotic and correct protocol we need to have for these cattle?”

Once pulled for evaluation/treatment, Taylor looks at these criteria:

  • If we give them therapy, do we handle them well into the hospital?
  • Do we evaluate and treat for the right things with the right dosages?
  • Do we have cattle that are non-eaters and drinkers we are using antibiotics on?
  • Do we have cattle with viral infections that may respond to less expensive antibiotics with the same results?
  • Do we take care of them in the manner we describe for that yard as far as water, feed intake, population density, etc.?

4. Long-term sick-pen/home-pen management

The ability to handle the cattle whether they are treated and taken home or put in a sick pen is critical. “We need to encourage the cattle to get to the bunk to eat, the waterer to drink and not just forget them after they are home,” Taylor notes. “Whether they are home or in sick pen areas we need to exercise and evaluate them and make sure we don’t overpopulate a pen and have cross-contamination of disease.”

Taylor bases using a hospital pen versus a home pen on the logistics of the hospital, the amount of help available, the population of the hospital and the pen riders’ ability in the home pen to stimulate cattle to feed and water. “If our caregivers can do that, often we take them home,” he says. “If we have concerns about that we’ll keep them and rotate through different types of sick-pen management areas.”

Sometimes that’s a three-day rotation going home every third day. Some go home the next morning if the evaluation looks good. It can vary depending on cattle type, personnel and pen populations. “We do not like to see overpop-ulated sick pens. If we can get them home and encourage intakes, we prefer that.”

Taylor says questions to be asked about these cattle include:

  • Do cattle that aren’t responding have a pen they can make progress in with less competition?
  • Should cattle that are responding be sent to the home pen?
  • How do we evaluate which ones need more therapy and which don’t?

Individualize arrival programs

In each feedlot Taylor looks at what type of cattle are coming in, what type of personnel are available, the facility, time of year and the nutrition program. “We use a combination of those factors to establish the program,” he says. “We used to have fairly set programs that we started cattle on, but today I look more at a pen as being the individual treatment unit that we are evaluating just as I would an initial animal coming through the chute. We try to adjust timing and procedures to fit a particular pen if possible rather than having the cattle try to adjust to what we’re doing to them.”

For example, Taylor says if certain pens of cattle are to be considered for revaccination, timing of that program is very important for success. “There are studies that talk about revaccination and whether it is beneficial. I still use revaccination on individual pens of cattle that I think need it, but we don’t do it on a routine basis.” Taylor also uses metaphylactic therapy on incoming cattle depending on the scenarios from the four control points previously listed.