Cattlemen receiving long-hauled calves should strive to not add more stress to already-stressed cattle. For example, it's important to do everything possible to get calves to eat, but producers do not want to create problems in addition to the ones the cattle may already have.

Frank Brazle, Kansas State University livestock specialist, cautions stocker operators not to put too much starch in front of cattle early on. Noting that intake from one calf to the next is highly variable for the first week, calves consuming too much starch can have problems with acidosis.

General receiving ration recommendations for 450- to 600-pound calves include:


  • Dry matter: 70 percent to 85 percent
  • Crude protein: 12 percent to 16 percent, with 14 percent preferred. Fresher calves fit in on the low side of the recommended range while more highly stressed and lighter cattle should be on the high side of that range.
  • Crude fiber: 15 percent to 30 percent; 20 percent to 25 percent preferred.
  • Potassium: 1.2 percent to 1.4 percent. Potassium is important because it is the primary electrolyte that replenishes fluid in tissues.
  • Copper and zinc are also important to the immune system. Copper at 20 parts per million (ppm) and zinc at 80 to 100 ppm is recommended.



In addition to the starter ration, calves should receive two or more pounds of high quality hay. Brome is particularly desirable, says Mr. Brazle, while bermudagrass and native grass hays are also good for starting calves. Fescue is less desirable when mature.

The environment in which cattle are received upon arrival also has an important impact on the health of calves. There are measurable health advantages to using a grass trap pasture rather than a dry lot. A 30 percent to 40 percent reduction in sickness may be seen in grass calves compared to those in a lot.