Problems with respiratory disease can turn a group of feeder calves from profitable to a disaster if animal health is not properly addressed. Almost all calves will undergo some degree of stress before they arrive at your feedyard. It is also important that you do not add to their stress load once they arrive. Ideally, calves should be received in clean dry pens. If pens are wet, muddy, snowy or it is extremely cold then bed the pens with ample corn stalks to allow all the calves to lie down.
Calves will not have had much opportunity to drink or eat since leaving their home farm. Water tanks should be cleaned out before new cattle are placed in the pen so there is a good supply of fresh clean water. Provide long stem grass hay to calves when they arrive in their home pen.
Once calves have had 12 to 24 hours to recover from being shipped to the feedyard, they can be processed. Discuss specific programs such as vaccines, antibiotics and dewormers with your veterinarian. One product that should be addressed this year is vitamins A & E. The long dry summer preceded by last year’s drought has resulted in vitamin A & E deficiencies. Because these vitamins are critical to the immune system it may be advantageous to include an injectable A & E product into your receiving processing.
Finally, make sure that you observe your newly arrived cattle at least once a day. If calves are at a higher risk for respiratory disease because of a less than ideal vaccine program, being unweaned prior to arrival, commingling, long transportation etc. then it may be beneficial to observe these cattle twice a day for the first 3-4 weeks. Pull and closely evaluate any calf that is depressed, off feed or is showing respiratory symptoms. Calves with respiratory disease need to be treated immediately with the appropriate antibiotics to minimize lung damage that can either kill the calf or decrease performance.
Source: Grant Dewell, ISU Extension beef veterinarian