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Sound Herd Health ImpactsThe Bottom Line

Cattle producers are no strangers to price volatility. Between drought and disease concerns cow/calf producers have run the gamut. But analysts say that with the effects of drought lingering, sharply reduced cow numbers and a strong demand outlook, 2013 is lining up to be one of the best years ever for cow/calf producers.

The first thing any cattle producer should do to maximize profits is make sure every calf is as healthy as possible at weaning. Dr. David Schafer, director of the University of Arizona’s V Bar V Ranch near Rimrock, AZ, echoes that statement.

“It doesn’t take much more than the loss of one or two of your calves, and you’ve paid for a preventive health program,” says Dr. Schafer. “So, whether you retain ownership or sell your calves, you will see the benefit when you go to market.”

Dr. Travis Van Anne, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. Professional Services Veterinarian agrees. “Cattle producers should want to produce quality calves that perform well in the feed yard and beyond, giving the cattle industry a positive image and producers a marketing advantage.”

Dr. Schafer has seen the benefits of implementing a sound herd health program firsthand. “It’s important for us to have a good vaccination program. And, the thing I have seen make the most difference for us is bringing those calves in 30 days prior to weaning and giving them that extra [respiratory] shot.”

He adds, “We were having a lot of issues in terms of cattle not performing and getting a lot of pulls at the feedlot. We added that vaccination program, disease dropped dramatically, and it made a big difference.”

A sound health program should protect your herd against both diseases and pests. Dr. Van Anne recommends administering a clostridial product at birth or turnout (1-3 months of age), followed by a second dose three weeks before weaning. A five-way modified-live viral vaccine with pasteurella should also be given at turnout and a revaccination preweaning. It is also important to control parasites with a good deworming product so cattle have the best opportunity to mount an effective immune response.

Charles Embry from Cave City, KY, knows the devastation disease can wreak on a calf crop and the difference a preventive approach can make. “We had a huge outbreak a few years ago, and it cost us. By the time we started treating, it cost up to 50 to 60 dollars per calf to treat,” he explains. Since then, he’s implemented a sound herd health program to safeguard his herd. Embry markets his calves as part of the Barren County Beef Group, and a strong health program is key to the group’s success.

Embry now vaccinates both cows and calves prior to turnout in the spring, and follows up with a second round of vaccines in the calves before weaning. “By vaccinating the calves in the spring, I feel comfortable that everything is good. I can go about my business and not worry about the cattle as much.”

Dr. Van Anne recommends that cattle producers work with their local veterinarian to formulate a sound herd health plan that fits their operation, environmental conditions and management needs.

For more information on Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. and its approach to cattle health, Prevention Works, visit

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (St. Joseph, MO) is a subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation, based in Ridgefield, CT, and a member of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies.