Jason Duggin, Extension Animal Scientist, UGA
First, on the revenue side, we have discussed the importance of pre-conditioning and health protocols numerous times. Although there are many vaccine protocols and weaning management strategies that exist, it is prudent to look at those successful marketing options in your area and ask for their pre-sale protocol well in advance of weaning day. These protocols may include particular tags, having a premise ID, knowing the age of the first born, sire information, vaccines used, weaning period (45 or 60 days), particular rations, BQA Certification, implant strategies, pregnancy management in heifers, etc. Along with the weaning and health protocol, calves sold in groups, loads or partial loads need to be fairly uniform. Take note of those calves that look like they’ve been knocked in the head with the cream can/ the runt. Those and any particularly light or heavy calves will need to be marketed elsewhere or become part of your freezer beef revenue.
Now, on the “food” side of the equation. Let’s focus on how these guidelines should be carried out. A weaned calf or calf crop is FOOD. Those 70 calves that weigh 38,000 lbs. now, could weigh 95,000 lbs. coming out of the feedlot. At 63% dress you have 60,000 lbs. of carcass that will be fabricated into retail cuts or go on into further processing. Let’s not forgot all the offal items such as tongues, oxtail, liver and tripe to name a few. When calves leave the farm, they are going to feed people in our local communities and around the world.
It is often assumed that pre-conditioning protocols are followed a particular way. For example, when administering vaccines, they should be given according to the label and BQA standards. Most likely everyone knows that most vaccines are intended to be given in the triangular mass of the neck, but it never hurts to repeat it. Does the label stipulate subcutaneously or intramuscular? These are important details we often glaze over anymore. When we don’t follow these guidelines there is risk of abscessed muscle tissue. Of course, this won’t be food and will be thrown out as inedible. Not only does this cost the industry, but also producers through reduced gains of an improper injection or ineffective vaccines. Marketing calves means both revenue and food. They can’t be separated.
February Southeast Update, Progressive Cattlemen Magazine