USDA’s out with a latest update from its ongoing series of health and management surveys, this time drawing on results from the 2011 survey of large and small feedlots. One interesting section shows that the long hoped-for “vertically coordinated” beef chain might stand a little more of the coordination part when it comes to health of incoming calves, based on what cattle feeders say they need and what they get (and give back) to the guys who grow the calves. Some highlights:

Even though eight out of 10 feedlot operators tell USDA the processing calves get before they arrive on feed affects their health and deathloss, the chain still hasn’t found a good way to make sure that information follows most calves to the feeder, where it can be used. Only about one in three feedlots said they always had access to that kind of health history; about half had access to it “sometimes.”

How often do feeders get health histories?

When they did get that health history, 51 percent of feedlots said they always used the information to determine how to adjust arrival processing and calf management in the feedlot; another 36 percent said they sometimes do.

But in further testament to the old adage that actions speak louder than words, you might question their trust in that information, when 90 percent of feedlots told USDA that calves they buy had been vaccinated for respiratory disease "some of all of the time," yet 96 percent of feeders turn around and give more than nine in 10 of of those calves another course of insurance vaccines upon arrival.

Pre-conditioning feeders think they're getting

Health practices feeders perform at arrival

On the flip side, the calf procurement chain still apparently doesn’t do much on average to turn that information back to calf producers so they can adjust their practices. Only a quarter of surveyed feedlots always or most of the time provided cattle suppliers with information about the cattle placed.

How often do feeders return health information to calf sellers?