Get Started Now, Add Value on Sale Day

Producers need to plan ahead to implement a preconditioning program

DULUTH, Ga. — May 27, 2008 — Times are tough everywhere, and the beef industry — in every segment — is feeling the squeeze. However, now is not the time for producers to cut down on sound animal health practices such as vaccination programs and parasite control. Instead, as feedyards become increasingly cautious with their purchases, it is more important than ever that cow/calf producers do everything possible to add value and marketability to their calves.

One of the quickest — and most thoroughly researched and documented — ways to add value is to register calves in a preconditioning program that is nationally recognized and veterinarian-certified. And it is important that producers plan ahead to receive the full benefits of using a preconditioning program.

“Preconditioning helps calves manage the stress of weaning and transport to stay healthy,” says Dr. Van Ricketts, Director of Corporate Accounts, Merial. “But it is essential that producers start planning now, before it is time to wean spring calves.”

Many producers find they are already following most of the best management practices that preconditioning requires, so making the transition is easy. The steps required to enroll calves in a preconditioning program include:

  • Talk to your veterinarian or animal health supplier to help you put a plan in place.
  • Two to four weeks prior to weaning, treat calves for parasites and vaccinate against viral respiratory infection and clostridial infection.
  • At weaning, revaccinate for viral respiratory infection and clostridial infection, and vaccinate for bacterial respiratory infection.
  • Castrate calves.
  • Dehorn or tip horn buds.
  • Wean calves for 45 days.
  • Make sure calves are adjusted to feedbunks and water tanks.
  • Have your local veterinarian certify that the protocols were followed as outlined by the program.

    It is this third-party certification of the practices that helps producers get rewarded for following proven preconditioning protocols. Recently, an Iowa State University study found that preconditioned calves without third-party certification showed a $3.40 per hundredweight advantage over calves without preconditioning. But when third-party certification was part of the package, that advantage shot up to $6.15 per hundredweight.1 That means the producer selling those 50 calves weighing 500 pounds could make an additional $1,537.50 over base.

    Market research confirms that nine out of 10 feedyard managers prefer preconditioning with verification,2 so calves that have it consistently create the greatest demand at auction. Dr. Ricketts says even though many cow/calf producers already follow most of the preconditioning steps, verifying it with a third party is the only way to prove it to buyers and help make certain to get paid for those practices.

    There is just one preconditioning program that is both veterinarian-certified and nationwide — the MERIAL® SUREHEALTH® Calf Preconditioning Program — and the program’s protocols are simple. By following the steps outlined above, choosing an IVOMEC® (ivermectin) Brand Product for parasites and using RESPISHIELD® HM for bacterial respiratory protection, producers can make their calves eligible.

    Once calves are ready for market, Dr. Ricketts says it is important to make sure buyers know that the SUREHEALTH protocols were followed.

    “That’s when the name recognition of using a nationwide program really pays off,” he says. “Using a program that is well-known helps producers take the next step from saying the calves have had all their shots to really add marketability and value to their program.”

    Producers work all year long to make this one sale. When the day comes, they can help make sure they get paid for their efforts by offering calves that are healthy and guaranteed to stay that way. However, they have to get started in the summer months by planning ahead.

    “Third-party-verified preconditioning offers cow/calf producers a great opportunity to develop a reputation for their calves in a business where reputation matters,” Dr. Ricketts says. “That’s what brings top dollar and repeat buyers year after year. And the protocols are simple to follow and, in most cases, involve only a minor adjustment from the best management practices producers are already using. So get started today by talking to your local veterinarian or Merial Sales Representative.”

    For more information, contact your local Merial Sales Representative or visit

    Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs more than 5,000 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2007 sales were nearly $2.5 billion. Merial Limited is a joint venture between Merck & Co., Inc. and sanofi-aventis. For more information, please see


    IVOMEC Plus (ivermectin/clorsulon): Do not treat cattle within 49 days of slaughter. Do not use in dairy cattle of breeding age or in veal calves. IVOMEC (ivermectin) Pour-On: Do not treat cattle within 48 days of slaughter. Do not use in dairy cattle of breeding age or in veal calves. IVOMEC 1% Injection for Cattle and Swine: Do not treat cattle within 35 days of slaughter. Do not use in dairy cattle of breeding age or in veal calves. Do not treat swine within 18 days of slaughter. IVOMEC EPRINEX® (eprinomectin) Pour-On for Beef and Dairy: No meat or milk withdrawal is required when used according to label. All IVOMEC Brand Products: Do not use in other animal species not on the label as severe adverse reactions, including fatalities in dogs, may result.

    1Bulut H, Lawrence JD, Martin RE. The value of third-party certification claims at Iowa’s feeder cattle auctions. Iowa State University Extension. September 2006.

    2SUREHEALTH Commercial Assessment. Merial Animal Health LAGE. September 2006.

    ®MERIAL, EPRINEX, IVOMEC, RESPISHIELD and SUREHEALTH are registered trademarks of Merial.

    ©2008 Merial Limited. Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. LAGELSH812


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