Working with your clients on a successful preconditioning program

As fall approaches, it’s time to help your clients prepare for successful preconditioning to improve animal health and well-being.

6 Min Read
Working with your clients on a successful preconditioning program

Importance of preconditioning
Now is the time to help your clients prepare for successful preconditioning this fall. Preconditioning calves prior to entering the feedlot improves their health and well-being while enhancing the profitability for the cow/calf and feedlot owners.

“When we go from the cow/calf operation to the feedlot, animals are experiencing a new and different environment,” said W. Mark Hilton, D.V.M., DABVP and Elanco technical consultant. “It benefits everyone to have a healthy animal, so it’s important we do everything we can to start the animal off right.”

Hilton suggests that you help cow/calf producers focus on a successful transition for their calves to the feedlot and try to reduce disease to nearly non-existent. “Minimizing disease is beneficial for all parties — cow/calf and feedlot producers — and helps us provide a healthy protein source for consumers,” said Hilton.

The basics of building a preconditioning program
A successful transition is impacted by several factors, including vaccination, nutrition, environment and genetics. 

“One small issue won’t cause a disaster, but several small issues can add up quickly and become problematic for producers,” said Hilton. “So, it’s critical we do everything we can to be successful."

When preparing for the transition process, Hilton recommends helping your clients manage cattle nutrition. The industry continues to learn more about the importance of nutrition in overall health. For instance, starting off with proper nutrition may lead to a better vaccine response.

“From a health perspective, you need to help the immune system be ready to fight diseases it’s likely to encounter,” said Hilton. “Help your clients decide what those important vaccines are, starting with a product that covers infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and making sure you cover any other diseases that typically impact your region.”

Developing successful protocols
“Setting up a health protocol — including vaccines — is essential because we should not be giving all vaccines at weaning time, as that puts more stress on the animals,” said Hilton. “We know that weaning and preconditioning for at least 45 days on the farm or ranch of origin is the most important factor in ensuring health at the feedlot.”

Typical timing for vaccine protocols often include:

  • Branding (2 to 3 months old) — administer first respiratory vaccine and return the animals to the environment they came from

  • Two to three weeks before weaning — consider other vaccines to cover regional diseases and, potentially, the second respiratory vaccine

  • Weaning — implement the second respiratory vaccine (if not completed at pre-weaning) and parasite control

In addition to timely vaccinations, protecting against bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is critical to maintaining cattle health, especially as they move to a stocker/backgrounder environment.

“BRD is the costliest disease in the industry,” said Hilton. “Using Micotil® (tilmicosin injection) for metaphylaxis is often necessary on arrival for stocker cattle that weren’t preconditioned.”

Adding pounds is another goal of preconditioning, and one of the most reliable technologies in the industry is Component® with Tylan® implants. Implants increase value by an average $15.45 to $41.20 per head when used in calves and stocker cattle, respectively.†

Profitability of preconditioning
Though nearly every study shows that feedlot producers are financially rewarded for purchasing healthier calves, some cow/calf producers ask if they receive the same financial benefits.4 In an 11-year study, as average daily gain increased, profits continued to grow.5 The net return per calf from preconditioning was approximately $80 for cow/calf producers in a study from 1999-2009.5

“In all 11 years, cattle earned a profit when good preconditioning practices were followed.5 It’s not guaranteed your client will make money, but the odds of making money with a good preconditioning program are more likely than not,” said Hilton. “With tight margins for a cow/calf producer, they can ‘own’ the calf a few weeks to improve its health and improve their bottom-line, while helping feedlot owners receive a healthier calf. Preconditioning is a win-win-win situation.”


Elanco offers a full line of health management products — including Titanium®, Vira Shield® and Scour Bos® - to help your clients have a successful preconditioning program. Reach out to your Elanco sales representative or visit to learn more.

For all products: The labels contain complete use information, including cautions and warnings. Always read, understand and follow the label and use directions.

Elanco supports the use of shared class antibiotics for therapeutic uses while under the oversight of a veterinarian. More details on Elanco’s Antibiotic, Welfare and Sustainability Policies can be found on

Micotil (tilmicosin injection)
Micotil is indicated for the treatment of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) associated with Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida and Histophilus somni, and for the control of respiratory disease in cattle at high risk of developing BRD associated with Mannheimia haemolytica.

Important Safety Information
Before using this product, it is important to read the entire product insert, including the boxed human warning. Caution: Federal (USA) law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. Not for human use. Injection of this drug in humans has been associated with fatalities. Keep out of reach of children. Do not use in automatically powered syringes. Exercise extreme caution to avoid accidental self-injection. In case of human injection, consult a physician immediately and apply ice or cold pack to injection site while avoiding direct contact with the skin. Avoid contact with eyes. Always use proper drug handling procedures to avoid accidental self-injection. Consult your veterinarian on the safe handling and use of all injectable products prior to administration. For use in cattle or sheep only. Inject subcutaneously. Injection of this antibiotic has been shown to be fatal in swine and non-human primates, and may be fatal in horses and goats. Do not use in lambs less than 15 kg body weight. Do not use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Use in lactating dairy cattle or sheep may cause milk residues. The following adverse reactions have been reported: in cattle: injection site swelling and inflammation, lameness, collapse, anaphylaxis/anaphylactoid reactions, decreased food and water consumption, and death; in sheep: dyspnea and death. Micotil has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 42 days.

Implants are indicated for increased rate of weight gain; see product labels for full indication. Administer one dose in the ear subcutaneously according to label directions. 

Based on grazing implant data presented by Kuhl1 and the calculated value of gain described by Peel2 using current economic data means.3
1Kuhl, G. L. 1997. “Abstract: stocker cattle responses to Implants.” Oklahoma State University Symposium: Impact of Implants on Performance and Carcass Value of Beef Cattle, 51-62.
2Peel, D. Plains Nutrition Council 2012.
3”Stocker Values Versus Feeder Cattle Prices – Derrell Peel sees lots of variables in current market.” Oklahoma Farm Report. 18 Aug 2014. Accessed 7 Jul 2017.
4Hilton, M. and Olynk, N. 2011. “Managing Your Beef Herd: Highlighting Key Determinants of Success in Preconditioning.” Purdue Extension.
5Hilton, M. and Olynk, N. 2011. “Profitability of Preconditioning: Lessons Learned from an 11-Year Case Study of an Indiana Beef Herd.” The Bovine Practitioner. 45:1.

Component, Micotil, Scour Bos, Titanium, Tylan, Vira Shield, Elanco, and the diagonal bar logo are trademarks of Eli Lilly and Company or its affiliates.
© 2017 Eli Lilly and Company or its affiliates.
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