The receiving period is a labor-intensive time for stocker operators, and management during those first couple of weeks can help determine overall cattle performance and profitability. University of Arkansas Extension veterinarian Jeremy Powell, and Extension beef cattle specialist Tom Troxel note that research in Arkansas has shown that cost of gain in stocker cattle can range from 32 cents to as high as 88 cents per pound, with animal health being a major contributor to the variability.

The specialists outline the key steps for protecting animal health and performance in a paper titled Stocker Cattle Management: Receiving Health Program. Key points include:

  • Animal health products are beneficial if used appropriately, and cost should not be the only determining factor. Cutting corners can cost you in the long run.
  • Co-mingled calves of unknown health history coming though traditional marketing systems likely have been exposed to respiratory disease. Plan to spend a lot of time with these ani­mals for the first two weeks after arrival.
  • Purchasing pre-vaccinated cattle may cost more up front, but the savings in treatments, labor and efficient production should make up for the difference in price.
  • Process within 12 to 24 hours. If animals have traveled a great distance and arrive late in the after­noon, let them settle down and relax before process­ing. Delaying processing longer than 24 hours, however, can hasten the development of bovine respiratory disease and reduce the effectiveness of a processing program.
  • Implement a processing plan and record what is done to each animal. Include the names of vaccines and dewormers, serial numbers and expiration dates of the products. Record the location of each vaccination and how it was administered.
  • Adhere to BQA guidelines for all vaccines and treatments. All injections should be in front of the shoulder and never in the areas that produce the more valuable cuts of meat.
  • The use of an effective dewormer should be an essential part of the processing program. Random fecal evaluations of the calves received at the University of Arkansas indicated that all calves are carrying a parasite load ranging from slight numbers of parasite eggs to a heavy infestation.
  • Work with your veterinarian to develop a plan for treating sick animals before the cattle arrive. Set criteria for which animals will be treated for illness, what animal health products will be used, and how long and how many products will be tried before the animal is considered a “chronic.”

For the full paper, click here.