As we "fall" into this next season football games and pumpkin spice lattes fill the air. Although these two things are very important (I totally have to have a shot of pumpkin spice in my hot chocolate, and my husband has football on all weekend) it is also time to start thinking about your calves on pasture. Preconditioning is a management method to decrease disease susceptibility in calves while reducing stress in order to prepare them for weaning and sale. You should aim to start your program 2-4 weeks prior to weaning therefore the calf has the best chance possible to mount a strong immune response to those incoming threats, and weaning should be done at least 45 days prior to sale. Its like hitting the field with one minute left for the final play in the game with all your best players at 110% strength. Awesome, right!
The major components to a good preconditioning program include: implantation, clostridium booster, respiratory disease vaccination (IBR/BVD/PI3/BRSV/Mannheimia/Pasturella), deworming, and pouring. Castrating bull calves and dehorning are also players in this game because cattle buyers don't like to feed bulls or have accidental pregnancies and can discount for horns. Plus, stress increases tremendously the older the animal is for these procedures. Weaning and feed bunk/water trough training should be focused on reducing the most stress to the animal and allowing plenty of time to acclimate before the sale (45+ days prior to sale as previously noted).
According to the University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture, an effective nutritional program provides a desirable level of growth performance during the preconditioning period. Feedstuff availability and cost should be considered in developing feed supplementation programs. Growth will also be maintained with a good dewormer (to decrease parasite load possibly acquired during the summer) and reimplantation (if they have already been implanted).
The largest benefit to preconditioning animals is the immune response to the respiratory vaccine. If these animals are vaccinated during a stressful time (ex: weaning, sale, transportation, ect) they will not mount as effective of a response; decreasing the protective levels in their bodies which will allow them to be more susceptible to insults. Vaccinating while on the cow eliminates the element of stress so higher titers for protection are achieved. Boostering blackleg and the other clostridium organisms is always cheap insurance against a catastrophe
If you have any questions please give us a call, our veterinarians would love to talk about a preconditioning program with you. You can also look at this link for more detailed information about preconditioning. https://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-3074.pdf