Management during calving season for healthier, more productive calves and cows: Webinar on Dec. 18

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page:

With calf prices as high as they are, cow-calf producers are motivated as ever to know what more they can do to get through calving season with as many live, healthy calves as possible, and healthy cows that rebreed early. Research offers evidence-based clues and tips for best practices during calving season. A survey of Alberta cow-calf producers in 2013 discovered how management during calving season relates to death loss and illness rates of calves. Join this webinar for advice that can help producers across the country make more informed choices during Continue reading

Calculator: What is the Value of Preconditioning Calves?

Preconditioning is a management method that prepares calves to enter the feedlot, reducing stress and disease susceptibility. Preconditioned calves are weaned at least 30-45 days prior to sale, put on a vaccination program, and introduced to processed feedstuffs, feedbunks and waterbowls. The intent is to spread out the stressors that calves experience: weaning, vaccination, transportation, unfamiliar animals and environment, dietary changes, etc., so that the immune system is not overwhelmed.

Many studies have shown that preconditioned calves have a lower cost of gain at the feedlot with improved rates of gain and feed efficiency, as well as lower treatment rates and death loss. These attributes contribute to higher profits in later phases of beef production and allows cattle buyers to pay a premium for preconditioned calves. Additional weight gain during the preconditioning phase as well as reduced shrinkage associated with stress during transportation and the marketing process also contributes to higher returns from preconditioned calves.

While there are clear benefits to the feedlot for purchasing preconditioned calves, is it worthwhile to the cow-calf producer to retain ownership? Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress Part 2 – Improving Profits

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.

In the previous post, we talked about methods to reduce weaning stress in calves.  In this article, we’ll highlight the economic benefits of doing so.

Making weaning a low stress event should always be the goal, whether the calves will stay at home for breeding or feeding, go through internet, satellite or auction mart sales, or head directly to a backgrounding or finishing feedlot. Minimizing stress makes for happy calves, spouses and neighbors, and likely has economic benefits as well, especially for those who sell ’reputation’ cattle or retain ownership. High levels of stress or sickness can negatively impact the profits of producers who retain an ownership stake in their calves past weaning. Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers.

It’s approaching quickly, that time of year when you start to think about weaning your calves. Calves are weaned to make sure that cows can recover their body condition after raising a calf all summer, and to allow for specialized feeding of those calves. All producers do it, but not everyone approaches weaning in the same way.

The most common method of weaning is the abrupt separation of calves from their dams. This method is arguably the most stressful event of a young calf’s life. Not only are the calves abruptly deprived of a ready source of milk, but also social contact with their dams. Then add vaccinations, dietary changes, and transportation to a different environment, with unfamiliar animals, and it’s easy to see why weaning is stressful on calves. Stress depresses the immune system, which makes freshly weaned calves the most susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) infections.

Alternative weaning methods exist, if you are willing to spend a little more time on the process. Continue reading