If you travel by air these days, you know the feeling. After waiting in long lines, you shed your shoes and belt, empty your pockets and take your laptop out of its case. You display your 1-quart plastic bag full of liquids and gels in containers of 2 ounces or less. Then, after being herded through security, x-rayed, patted down and scolded for leaving a paper receipt in your shirt pocket, you gather your belongings and try to restore some sense of order.
If you travel through Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, the place to do that is called the “Recombobulation Area.”
As cattle arrive in the feedyard, possibly after multiple trailer rides, commingling and all the stresses of transport, that’s just what they need — recombobulation.
The receiving period always offers challenges for feedyard veterinarians, nutritionists and crews, and this year raises the stakes with more cattle arriving light, undernourished and susceptible to disease due to the drought, says Kansas State University beef veterinarian Bob Larson.
Larson says feedyards will need to manage more pens as “high risk,” providing extra care to protect calf health as they acclimate to the new environment. He stresses attention to detail, noting the importance of protecting the investment in high-priced calves, high-priced transportation and even higher-priced feeds, by taking all possible steps to keep these stressed cattle alive and get them up on feed. Coordinate animal husbandry, nutrition, vaccines and other health protocols toward those goals, he says.
Larson emphasizes the importance of the receiving ration, saying veterinarians and nutritionists need to work together to develop rations that encourage intake for newly arrived cattle, improve their nutritional status and avoid health problems as they step up to higher-energy rations.
Mass treatment upon arrival might be necessary and beneficial for some loads of cattle, depending on their condition and level of risk. Larson encourages feeders to work closely with their veterinarians to determine whether mass treatment is justified for disease control.
Feedyard nutritionist Dave McClellan operates McClellan Consulting Service, Inc. in Fremont, Neb. He describes most of his clients as “feeder-farmers,” as they operate sizable farming operations but are passionate and professional in running their small to mid-sized feedyards. With corn prices as high as they are, he is somewhat surprised these feeders, who typically own most of the cattle they feed, are filling pens this fall rather than selling their corn. But, he says, they’re cattle feeders; that’s what they do, so he’s working closely with them to reduce risk and control cost of gain.