Research »   Preconditioning

Preconditioning

Preconditioning is a management method that prepares calves to enter the feedlot and can really pay off in a retained ownership or direct marketing system. Preconditioning was developed to reduce large economic losses associated with high morbidity and mortality due to acute respiratory disease in highly stressed weaned and transported beef calves (Radostits, 2000). Calves are typically vaccinated at least 3 weeks prior to sale or shipment and are at least 4 months of age prior to being vaccinated. They are also castrated, treated for warbles and dehorned at least 3 weeks prior to sale (Radostits, 2000). A preconditioning program also requires that calves be weaned for a minimum of 45 days and have some experience eating from a feed bunk prior to leaving their place of origin.


Many studies have shown the benefits of preconditioning on feedlot performance. Improved rates of gain and feed efficiency, as well as lower treatment rates and death loss lead to a lower cost of gain at the feedlot. Studies from the Noble Foundation, Oklahoma State University and Kansas State University have demonstrated an increase in net value ranging from $13.71/head to $57.31/head for preconditioned calves, including the cost of the pre-conditioning program.

To develop a preconditioning program that fits your budget and is tailored to your specific operation, consult with your local veterinarian.

Calculator: Value of Preconditioning Calves

This calculator evaluates the economic opportunity from preconditioning by providing a summary of estimated net returns and projected breakeven price premiums of three different precondition programs.

Profitability of preconditioning programs calculator

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Related

Animal Health and Welfare >> Weaning

To learn more on this topic, see the fact sheets posted on the right side of this page. External resources related to this topic are listed below.

Learn More

What is the Value of Preconditioning Calves?
BCRC Blog
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/value-of-preconditioning-calves/

Preconditioning Calves
ForageBeef.ca
http://www1.foragebeef.ca/$foragebeef/frgebeef.nsf/all/ccf58

Want More Money For Your Calves? Study Says Weaning & Preconditioning Pays
Beef Magazine
http://beefmagazine.com/ranch-management/want-more-money-your-calves-study-says-weaning-preconditioning-pays

Economic considerations on preconditioning calves 
Canfax Research Services
http://www.canfax.ca/Samples/Preconditioning%20Sept%202015.pdf 

The lowdown on preconditioning calves 
Canadian Cattlemen The Beef Magazine
http://www.canadiancattlemen.ca/2016/07/25/the-lowdown-on-preconditioning-calves/ 

Beef preconditioning programs: markets
Drovers
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-resources/preconditioning/Beef-calf-preconditioning-programs-118791389.html 

Build a successful preconditioning program 
Drovers
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/advice-and-tips/cowcalf/build-successful-preconditioning-program 

Capturing value when preconditioning calves
Drovers
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/advice-and-tips/cowcalf-producer/capturing-value-when-preconditioning-calves 

What is preconditioning really worth 
Drovers
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/news/industry/what-preconditioning-really-worth 

Visible and invisible benefits of preconditioning cattle
Grain News
http://www.grainews.ca/2015/12/08/visible-and-invisible-benefits-of-preconditioning/ 

Feeder calf preconditioning and backgrounding guide 
fédération des Producteurs de Bovins du Québec
http://bovin.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Feeder-Calf-Preconditioning-and-Backgrounding-Guide.pdf 

Preconditioning programs for beef cattle 
University of Arkansa
https://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-3074.pdf 

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist at Alberta Beef Producers for contributing her time and expertise during the development of this page.

This topic was last revised on January 12, 2017 at 08:01 AM.

Fact Sheets

Canadian Cattlemen's Association Verified Beef Production Canada Beef
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