After reading this post on Kit Pharo’s list I received permission from Doug Ferguson to post it to our website.
I buy several thousand a year. Typically buying a load or two every couple weeks. Most of these calves are weaned on the truck and have a 6 to 16 hour ride to get here.
Years ago I used to only buy them locally and had a death loss around 3% and a pull rate near 35%. Today on the long haul cattle I have a death loss near 1.5% and pull rate under 10%.
For me the biggest thing was attending a Bud Williams stockmanship school. It really changed my results
I talk to many large feedlot operators and pharma reps. They tell me that death rates are rising and pull rates are too. They tell me that some are experiencing 3.5% to 5% death loss. Pull rates can be near 80%! So sad.
The feedlot boys blame these problems on the cow calf guy.
I think we have wonderful drugs today. If a calf is pulled and treated in a timely manner they bounce back very quickly. One thing I always do if I have to pull one is to give it a Probios bolus. If it is not running a temp I may skip giving it a dose of antibiotic and just give it the Probios and that does the trick. Sweet deal when you can treat one for 50 cents instead of $30.
I am wondering about vaccines right now. I have noticed that when I use some of these combos available today that is seems to drag the calves down a bit, and they back off feed a couple days and that’s when my problems start. I am currently experimenting with dropping the pasturella from my protocol. I have noticed so far on 300 head that they didn’t back off feed, despite being dehorned, castrated, vaccinated, and branded, and I have only pulled seven.
Some time back in this discussion group there was a topic of buying wild cows in sale barns. If I recall correctly someone talked to the sale barn vet and asked him if cattle were getting wilder. I recall that the vet thought it was because people don’t spend time with their animals like they used to. After attending the stockmanship school years ago I think he nailed it. One of the reasons I think the results are getting worse in the feedlot phase is because they don’t have the man power, the time, or the skill/knowledge to deal with “high risk” cattle. I have had truck drivers unload here. They tell me before any of the calves walk off “Watchout! These things are nuts” That same driver will be back in a couple months and load out the same calves. They are always amazed at how much the calves have settled down.
I remember very well the first time I met Bud. He asked me why I was there, and what I wanted to learn from him. I told him I wanted to learn all about this low stress handling thing. What he said next was key, “Stress!? Why do you want to stress them? Low stress is still stress” At that moment I had a paradigm shift. I used to be like everyone else and thought the answer to the health problems was in the science and technology, we needed better drugs. Now I think the answer is how do you greet those calves when they walk off the truck, and how welcome do they feel the first few days. That sounds silly to people, but it is so much easier to make money when you keep them healthy and there is nothing silly about making money (except to the mainstream guys).
Doug Ferguson – SE Nebraska