Cattlemen can take part in verified vaccination programs for possible added value |

Cattlemen can take part in verified vaccination programs for possible added value

Getting healthy – it’s all the rage these days.

But as Americans try to lose weight, ranchers and feeders continue to try to put it on – at least on their calves.

Healthy calves mean gaining calves, and ranchers and feeders alike hope to achieve this goal, in many cases, both parties believe administering pre-weaning shots is one step toward success in the feedlot or backgrounding pen.

Visual appraisal alone doesn’t tell a buyer whether or not the calves have been vaccinated, or weaned, or how long they’ve been weaned—all factors that affect the calves’ health. Industry research studies have shown an average net return from preconditioning ranging from $25 – $33 per head.

This makes preconditioning one of the many factors producers can utilize in an effort to capture more value for their calves. Third-party certification programs, such as state-sanctioned green or gold tag preconditioning protocols, or similar private programs, help buyers determine the value of these calves, especially if they trust the integrity of these programs and procedures.

Mark Zehms, who manages Solaris Feeders near Miles City, Montana, said that, as a general rule he prefers to feed calves that have been preconditioned but as far as verification programs – he doesn’t think one is better than another.

Sometimes pre-conditioned calves are worth more to him, but he said that when he buys calves, their is no two sets of clave that is the same, and he determines their value on a case by case basis depending on the genetics of the calves and more, in addition to the ranchers’ vaccination program.

Most of the calves he feeds have at least been vaccinated in the spring, he said.

Often times, pre-conditioned calves will bring a premium on video or internet sales, but at the salebarn, he said it can be hit or miss.

He processes calves when they arrive at his feedyard with a standard procedure, whether they have been given pre-conditioning shots or not.

Zehms said that, because of the drought, he is feeding a lot of young calves this year, and while they have weaned fairly easily, there have been cases where it wasn’t worth the stress on the calves to give them shots before weaning. “Each individual has to make up their own mind on that, and do what works best for their operation,” he said.

Verified preconditioning programs range from regional protocols developed by an individual auction market, to state and national programs through pharmaceutical and verification companies. Producers can also work with their local veterinarian to verify their practices with a signed affidavit from the veterinarian regarding the vaccinations the calves received, and when, and these affidavits are often used as a marketing tool.

If a producer is going to work with a veterinarian for an independent program, the more detailed records the better. Producers are advised to write down every management practice so that it can be verified, to be advertised when selling the calves.

These various preconditioning programs offer producers the potential benefit of higher prices received for the calves, and more assurance that the calves will stay healthy through the weaning process and beyond. These programs do require more time, labor and expense, handling the calves more times (which requires adequate facilities and a management setup that allows for getting the herd in from pasture multiple times), buying the vaccine, etc. Depending on the type of operation (whether the cattle are on large, extended range pastures) some producers have to weigh the benefits and drawbacks to see what works for their own situation, or what they would have to change in order to make it work.

Basically, verification consists of following a structured calf health program and keeping records. For example, the VAC-45 program (vaccinated, and weaned for 45 days) for calves sold through Superior Livestock Auction has a set of protocols that require participants to give their calves two rounds of vaccinations. The first vaccination is administered two to four weeks before weaning, with boosters given at the drug label’s recommendations.

Producers following the VAC-45 program must provide documentation regarding which vaccinations were given, the brand name, dates the vaccines were given and the injection sites. If all of these records are compliant with the program’s specifications, an affidavit is signed and those producers can market their calves with the program’s specialized sales and reputation.

Several state cattle associations have their own certification program, such as Iowa’s Green and Gold tag designations. An official serial-numbered green tag in the left ear means that the calf has been vaccinated with specific vaccines. A gold tag placed above the green tag means that the calf has had two rounds of vaccination. After a calf has been weaned and fed for 45 days, a gold tag preconditioning certificate is signed by both the veterinarian and the producer/owner. Calves are considered preconditioned only if they are accompanied by the Gold certificate. All vaccinations and health procedures must be performed by a veterinarian, for certification.

Other programs, including MFA’s (Missouri Farmers Association) Health Track, require producers to purchase pharmaceuticals from a certain company or from their veterinarian. MFA is a Midwestern regional agricultural cooperative serving more than 45,000 farmer/owners in Missouri and the surrounding states.

The MFA Health Track program requires producers to report the birthdate of the first calf born for that year, the date the calves were weaned, the vaccinations given and dates administered. Source and age requirements specify that the producer owned all the cows at the time they gave birth to the calves enrolled in MFA Health Track. If individual calf birth dates are available, they should be supplied. Producer premise IDs are also required.

Nutrition requirements for calves enrolled in MFA’s Health Track include specified feeding programs for the 45-day preconditioning period after weaning. The vaccinations required include 7-way blackleg (2 doses), Haemophilus somnus (2 doses), IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV (2 doses), and Pasteurella (1 dose). The calves must also be dewormed and treated for external parasites, castrated and dehorned. Implants are optional.

Other verification programs are sponsored by some of the pharmaceutical companies, and generally specify that producers utilize their particular vaccine products. For instance, Boehringer Ingelheim’s KCH (Keeping Calves Healthy) 34 PLUS program requires producers to administer viral and bacterin vaccines to branding-age calves, along with a clostridial vaccine and parasite control. Then two to six weeks prior to shipping, the calves must receive boosters and another round of parasite control.

Their Market Ready Preconditioning Program incorporates BIVI (Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.) vaccines like Pyramid,® Presponse,® Alpha™ and Caliber® into their three protocols, along with Cydectin® and Synanthic® for parasite control.

BIVI says that their Market Ready® Quality Feeder Calf Preconditioning Program for beef producers, formerly known as Range Ready®, reflects what buyers are looking for. The goal of their program is to help beef producers deliver healthy, high-performing calves, while allowing management flexibility.

The BIVI program includes three flexible protocol options:

1. KCH 34 PLUS: Calves vaccinated at branding age and vaccinated two to six weeks prior to shipping.

2. KCH 45: Calves must be vaccinated twice. Producers can choose vaccination at pre-weaning or weaning, and at weaning or post-weaning. Calves must be weaned 45 days.

3. KCH 45 PREMIUM: Calves must be vaccinated three times, including branding age, pre-weaning or weaning age, and again at weaning or post weaning. Calves must be weaned 45 days.

Producers can receive a sale barn certificate from a BIVI representative for verification, stating which products were used, when and where. When buyers receive a signed Market Ready sale barn certificate, they can be confident that the animals received a high-quality health program that they can believe in, and that BIVI stands behind.

Similarly, Zoetis’ SelectVAC™ program has several levels for a preconditioning program, depending on the producer’s ability to handle calves before weaning (whether just once or multiple times) and the target market’s requirements for preconditioned calves. These levels include PreVAC™, PreVAC+™, WeanVAC™ and StockerVAC™ and producers can choose which program they want to utilize for the market they are aiming for.

PreVAC™ is a designation for vaccination and management status of calves offered for sale by producers who vaccinate just once at the ranch of origin, with the vaccination administered at least 2 and not greater than 6 weeks prior to shipment of those calves.

The vaccines required for this program include a 7- or 8-way clostridial/blackleg vaccine and this could be ULTRABAC®, ULTRACHOICE® or ONE SHOT ULTRA. An IBR-BVD-PI3-BRSV viral vaccine is also required and this could be BOVI-SHIELD GOLD ONE SHOT®, INFORCE™ 3 and ONE SHOT BVD®, BOVI-SHIELD GOLD® 5, CATTLEMASTER® GOLD or RESVAC® 4/SOMUBAC. The calves should also receive a Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica bacterin/leukotoxoid, which would be included in BOVI-SHIELD GOLD ONE SHOT®, ONE SHOT BVD®, ONE SHOT ® or ONE SHOT ULTRA®

Other recommended practices for the PreVAC™ designation (but not required) include parasite control (DECTOMAX® or VALBAZEN®) and an implant (SYNOVEX® C).

The PreVAC+™ program designates vaccination and cattle management status for calves processed twice at the herd of origin, with the last processing including all products 2 to 6 weeks prior to shipment. The calves must have two doses of the 7 or 8-way vaccine and the IBR-BVD-PI#-BRSV viral vaccine. The optional practice of implanting could include SYNOVEX® S, or SYNOVEX® H.

The WeanVAC™ program is the same as the PreVAC+™ (vaccination and cattle management program for calves processed twice at the herd of origin, with the last processing including all products at or near weaning) but the calves must be held at the herd of origin for at least 45 days post-weaning.

The StockerVAC™ program is the same, but designates the vaccination and management status of purchased calves to be held for 60 days or more from date of purchase and vaccinated twice, 2 to 6 weeks apart, with the last vaccination administered at least 14 days prior to shipment.

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