Last weekend we weaned our calves , so, of course, Mother Nature had to reward us with 3 in. of rain on Monday and Tuesday. The resulting muddy lots make for a less than a picture-perfect start to the process of preconditioning those calves. However, our ranch was fortunate in not being in the path of early October's Atlas blizzard a few weeks ago, so we’ll take the rain and just be grateful.
It’s common knowledge that preconditioning calves adds to their value at marketing time . Feedlots will pay more for calves that have been vaccinated, know how to eat, and are already on a ration that will help them perform in the feedlot. Feedlots know that such calves have recovered from the stress of weaning and are ready to put on the pounds.
I recently ran across a great list from Francis L. Fluharty, Ohio State University Extension research scientist, that summarizes several nutritional strategies for receiving and feeding early-weaned calves. The list looks at everything from providing clean water and grass-legume hay, to having mineral blocks available to the calves, to what percentage of nutrients need to be included in the feed ration.
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One of the main take-home messages of the article for me is contained in the three objectives for feed bunk management and feed intake control. Fluharty lists the following objectives as the most important for early-weaned calves:
1. Maximize animal performance.
2. Minimize digestive disorders.
3. Keep animals consuming a consistent amount of feed.
“Good bunk management increases feed efficiency and lowers cost of gain,” writes Fluharty.
No matter what your current management protocols, there’s always room for improvement in one way or another. Check out the list and review the requirements to best precondition your calves in order to receive the most value  on your calf crop.
What are the most important things you do for your early-weaned calves? List your best advice in the comments section below.
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