Cattle feeder Mike Drinnin has seen the results of preconditioning programs on the health and performance of his customers’ cattle over the years. Now he’s helping them take the concept a step further, by incorporating targeted mineral supplements to help support vaccines through the weaning and receiving periods.
Drinnin owns and operates Drinnin Feedlots Inc., near Columbus, Neb. In monitoring the health and performance of retained-ownership cattle from the same ranches over the years, he has seen improvements as his customers adopt weaning vaccination programs, and as the ranchers and feedlot work together to coordinate health and vaccination programs. He’s also seen that if the vaccination program is not supported by an appropriate nutrition program at the ranch, particularly mineral supplementation, the vaccines simply do not work as well. The two go hand in hand, he says.
Some customers have retained ownership through the feedlot for years and, in the past, had higher pull rates than they would like to see, Drinnin says. Initially, he worked with them to coordinate their vaccination programs with those in the feedlot and over the past few years has, in several cases, supplied customers with mineral tubs formulated to the mineral needs at the ranch. Through the process, they have experienced a dramatic reduction in pulls and re-pulls and improved performance.
This year, as the drought has wilted pastures across cattle country, the effects of nutritional deficiencies on calf health are becoming more apparent than ever.
Veterinarian Dee Griffin, at the University of Nebraska’s Great Plains Veterinary Education Center, has monitored the health and condition of cattle coming into feedyards for 37 years and says he has never seen as many problems as he has in the past two. Cattle shipped into Nebraska from drought-stressed areas in the South last year often did not respond well to vaccines and experienced higher-than-usual sickness and death loss. “I’ve necropsied dozens of animals that succumbed to disease without a fight,” he says. In many cases, animals have died of milder cases of pneumonia than normally would be lethal. The same issue has developed this year, with an even larger slice of cattle country affected by severe drought. Poor nutrition is a primary cause of these breakdowns in health, he says.
If a calf’s nutritional status is compromised, Griffin says, its chance of staying healthy through weaning, marketing and the transition into backgrounding or finishing is diminished, regardless of vaccination programs.