Cattle feeders know management back on the ranch affects the health and performance of cattle during the feeding period, and they use pre-arrival information in their management decisions. Those were some of the key points USDA veterinarian Dave Dargatz presented during the Academy of Veterinary Consultants meeting last week in Denver.

Dargatz works on the National Animal Health Monitoring System, a division of Veterinary Services at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

NAHMS conducted an extensive survey of health and management practices on U.S. feedlots, both large and small, during 2011. The full results will not be available until early 2013, but Dargatz provided AVC members with some highlights from the study.

Operators on 69.3 percent of all feedlots believed that pre-arrival processing information was very

Important, while an additional 23.8 percent rate the information as somewhat important. Asked about specific pre-arrival management practices, a large majority of cattle feeders rated these practices as extremely or very effective:

  • Introduction to feed bunk – 81.2 percent
  • Respiratory vaccinations given two weeks prior to weaning – 85.4 percent
  • Respiratory vaccinations given at weaning – 80.4 percent
  • Calves weaned four weeks prior to shipping – 79.1 percent
  • Calves castrated/dehorned four weeks prior to shipping – 91.6 percent
  • Calves treated for parasites prior to shipping – 71 percent.

Among feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 head or more, 26 percent say they always receive pre-arrival information on cattle and 70 percent say they sometimes receive the information. Among feedlots with capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head, 38 percent say they always receive the information while 53 percent receive it sometimes.

About half of feedlots with 1,000 head or more and 20 percent of smaller feedlots say they modify their antibiotic or vaccination procedures during processing new arrivals based on criteria such as the

current state of the animals or the animals’ management history.

As for procedures used upon arrival at fdeedlots with 8,000 head or more, 95 percent vaccinate against respiratory disease, 72 percent vaccinate against clostridial disease, 71 percent use an injectable antibiotic, 85.6 percent administer an implant and 91 percent treat for parasites.

Operators on 52.4 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head were very familiar with the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, compared with operators on 69.4 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more head. Overall, only 4.6 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head and 0.3 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more head had operators who were not familiar with the BQA program. Among the larger feedlots, 96.1 had engaged in at least some formal BQA training for employees, while 70.1 percent of the smaller feedlots had some of that training.

Almost all feedlots with 1,000 head or more indicated they follow BQA guidelines on practices such as injection sites, implant strategies, antibiotic selection and residue avoidance.

Several information sheets on the 2011 feedlot study are available on the NAHMS website.