Grandpa's Pride & Joy
Training them Early!!!
Improving Feeder Calf Value
Health is without a doubt the upper most concern in moving cattle and we are in the riskiest time of year for doing so. Co-mingling from several sources combining with day/night temperature swings creates a very unhealthy environment. Toss in some dust or a few days of wet weather and keep your vet’s number on speed dial. Coming colder weather always eases the problem, but we are not there yet. It seems every year we broach this subject and the problem won’t go away. Yet, progress is being made ever so slowly.
Producers of course want all they can get for their calves. That’s why they raise them. With most it’s not a hobby. It’s a business and quite important to the yearly bottom line. In order to realize top dollars producers must realize the position of the buyers. Minimizing possible health risks for him by having a good health program in place can make a huge value difference. Building a reputation for selling top quality low risk calves will create repeat buyers and put dollars in a producers pocket. After all, buyers determine value. It is not the sale barn. The sale barn can only sell what it gets.
And---the first things asked by buyers are (a) are they weaned and for how long? (b) are they vaccinated and how many rounds? (c) are the males steers or still bulls? And, why do you suppose they ask those questions? Answer---they are trying to minimize health risks. And why wouldn’t they when investing the big dollars to own an animal.
Weaning, a complete vaccination program, and neutering the males are vital management practices. Failing to do any or all of the above increases health risks for buyers. If calves get sick, they very likely will under perform healthy ones. And, if something does get sick or dies, count on the buyer trying to find out who owned it. Many of our buyers are repeat buyers. They may have given big bucks for a set of calves last year only to have them get sick. This year they will avoid the those same calves like the plague.
The sole purpose of this cheap advice is to point out ways to improve the bottom line. First and foremost, after selecting a good bull, sign on with a reputable large animal veterinarian and use him. You simply cannot ignore the value of professional guidance along with doing such things as vaccination, dehorning, and neutering---unless your aim is to eliminate the most aggressive buyers.
Don’t expect to get by with only a cheap 7-way shot as that shot does nothing for the next guy in combating respiratory afflictions that kill calves. If your calves come into the sale ring with any part of (a)-(b)-(c) above answering in the negative, unless it’s a fluke, they will sell for less than their managed counter parts. The number of cattle buyers has shrunk everywhere and those that are left are pretty damned astute or they wouldn’t still be around. You, the producer, have to put forth the product they or their customers want.
Fancy bull and cow pedigrees along with other flowery descriptions do very little for buyers unless (a)-(b)-(c) are positive. Then these things come into play. Quality is very, very important and can’t be minimized. But if one goes to the trouble and expense to have it, why not go the extra step by doing (a) (b) (c) and deliver the complete package to the buyer and get the ultimate financial reward?
Recap to minimize health risks for buyers and for a bigger feeder calf payday.
(a) If at all possible wean your calves. A couple of weeks before selling them is not long enough to get the 'bawl' out and remove the weaning risk. Buyers look for 30 days or longer. If calves are not weaned, the number of possible buyers in attendance in any given sale is greatly reduced. Some producers do not have adequate weaning facilities and that’s understandable, but must understand that fewer buyers will be interested. Those that are will likely consider them to be less valuable than their weaned counterparts.
(b) Vaccinate. This can be done regardless of weaning facilities. It just takes time and a little effort. You can’t afford not to call your vet. 7-way, pasteurella, and virals vaccinations are crucial with a second round valuable where applicable, but optional. Parasite control and implanting do a lot to increase value while the producer owns his calves making it well worth the expense but are not usually as big a deal with most buyers, but the shots are. You may think these things are not cost efficient, but you are wrong and you will be get paid handsomely for doing them.
(c) Neutering. Order buyers and most one-time yearly buyers won't buy bulls. They don't want them. Therefore, you have reduced the number of buyers in the audience. These are the buyers who will pay the most and they are eliminated. We continually see bulls bring over $100 per head less than steers of equal quality and weights. Anyone who has handled thousands of calves like I have will tell you---if one buys a load of calves, the first ones treated are the recently neutered bulls. They are a health risk due to weakened defenses against some diseases.