ENID, Okla. —
As the days get shorter and the weather is starting to cool off from the blistering days of summer, it is time to start thinking about starting stocker calves for wheat pasture.
Wheat pasture grazing has been reduced the past couple of years due to dry fall and winter growing conditions.
Everyone has a favorite vaccination program, but remember vaccines don’t eliminate infections; they help the body’s immune system to deal with them. It is probably not as important which vaccine products you use as it is how well the calves are able to respond.
Several things can decrease the animal’s ability to respond to the vaccines you invest in. Animals must be on a good nutritional program. Protein and trace minerals are especially important. When buying calves, the light calves may look good from a pay weight standpoint, but if they are not immunologically competent you may be buying trouble.
Young calves may not have their immune system developed well enough to respond to vaccines. These calves will need to be revaccinated to obtain a higher level of protection. Cattle coming off a long haul will need to rest and recover from the stress before they are processed. Provide good feed and water to allow them to replace the shrink and dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to allow them to rest one hour for each hour they were on the road from the time they left their previous home until they are in your care.
Once you get the calves home and into your starting lots, remember a thermometer is the best friend you can have. Calves developing respiratory disease will show elevated temperatures 24 to 48 hours before they show obvious outward signs. Since early detection and treatment is the biggest factor in quick recoveries and decreased numbers of chronics, this time difference can be crucial.
Pull and temp calves as soon as you suspect a decrease in appetite or activity. Remember: “if in doubt, check it out.” If you are pulling a few calves that prove to have normal temperatures, you probably are getting all or most of the ones that should be treated. If you don’t pull a few normal ones, you probably are missing some problem calves.
Consider buying calves that are weaned or pre-conditioned. Calves right off the cow can’t respond well to vaccines because of the stress of weaning. Always remember anything that causes stress depresses the immune response. In addition, calves not accustomed to eating supplemental feed will not be able to maintain a good nutritional status during the conditioning period.
Many calves don’t know how to eat anything but grass if they are weaned straight off the cow on the way to the livestock auction. It typically takes at least 10 to 14 days for the calf to develop protection from the vaccines you administer. If the calf is exposed to pathogens at the sale barn, he may have serious health problems before this protection can develop. Calves given vaccines before they are weaned, shipped and exposed should have a degree of protection in place when they need it.
Pre-conditioned calves can look higher priced when you are buying, but a lot cheaper after you have had a substantial antibiotic bill or heavy death loss. Oklahoma Quality Beef Network (OQBN) has several sales each fall where pre-conditioned calves may be purchased. For information on the OQBN preconditioned stocker cattle sales, contact your local county Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service office or check the following website: http://www.oqbn.okstate.edu.
Nelson is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ag educator for Garfield County.