Wanted: Verified precondition status on calves

Want to get the highest bid for your weaned calves on sale day? Start with verifying their vaccination and precondition status with your veterinarian.

Amanda Radke

September 25, 2018

3 Min Read
Wanted: Verified precondition status on calves
Amanda Radke

Weaning day is right around the corner, and soon your calves with be vaccinated, dehorned, castrated, bunk broke and acclimated to their new environment in a lot. If all goes well, the calves will be healthy and on an upward plane of nutrition by sale day.

It’s time to get that annual paycheck. You hire a trucker and haul your calf crop to town. This might be your best load of calves yet. They’re a uniform group with lots of potential. You hope the cattle buyers appreciate your stock, and you anxiously sit in the stands at the auction barn waiting for your calves to come through the ring.

As the cowboys bring your group in for appraisal, the auctioneer reads a description of your calves including their ranch of origin, health and preconditioned status and breed composition. Your heart beats a little faster as the auctioneer begins his chant, and when the gavel strikes the auction block with the final bid, your shoulders slump a bit.

You think to yourself, shouldn’t my calves have brought a little bit more? What is the buyer really looking for?

READ: How to receive full value for your calves

Turns out, feedyard owners looking to fill their lots may be asking for a little extra assurance these days on calves.

I recently visited with a cattle feeder who mentioned that he’s been burned a few too many times on calves that come with guarantees that don’t quite hold up. He said ranchers have told him in the past that calves have received all of their shots and have been preconditioned before sale day, but after purchase and arrival to the feedyard, calves have gotten sick or have been slow to take to the feed bunk.

This feeder says he’s getting closer to requiring an affidavit on preconditioned status before procuring calves for his program. Lamenting that cow-calf producers gripe about not being paid for giving shots after weaning, he says he’s been burned a few times by these white lies, and as a result, he’s started asking questions before he purchases calves.

How was your calving season? Did you have a tough spring? These simple questions offer clues about the calves’ health status for the buyer.

READ: Marketing options for your calf crop

So what is a cow-calf producer to do? The last thing you want is to add one more input cost to those calves. Yet a simple voucher from your veterinarian or a documented list of types of vaccinations given and on which dates could give buyers the reassurance and confidence they need to bid just a little higher on sale day.

In this data-driven age, it’s not just the seedstock producer, but also the commercial cowboy who is being held to a higher standard. We have so many selection tools at our disposal that help us select the best females, purchase the highest quality herd sires, develop the most nutritious and cost-efficient rations and administer the right dose of vaccines or antibiotics for specific scenarios.

So why not use this data and the information you know about your cattle to get the top dollar on sale day? This year, when bringing your calves to the sale barn, bring as much information as possible with you to help guarantee the precondition status of your calves.

READ: Want more money for your calves? Study says weaning and preconditioning pays

Not only will buyers have more confidence in your calves, but they’ll have more confidence in you and relationships may blossom as a result. And ultimately, the extra step to verify your calves with your veterinarian may just earn you an extra buck or two per pound. What’s not to love about that?

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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