With fall here everyone is looking at weaning calves and getting them to the barn or selling them. Marketing calves is becoming different than in past years. We now have video sales, Internet sales, direct sales, pre-con (pre-conditioned) sales, along with the traditional sale barns. It is all about marketing our calves where we get the most out of what we have worked for this last year.
Pre-con sales are where the calves have all been weaned for at least 45 days and vaccinated appropriately. Different sales and establishments require different protocols. The main vaccines that are required are 7-way Blackleg and a viral respiratory vaccine (IBR, BVD, PI3, & BRSV). Most of these vaccines will have to be given twice, 2-6 weeks apart to confer full immunity.
This is where most of the pre-con sales have fallen down in the past. These vaccines were only given once and the calves were still allowed into the sales. Upon arrival at the stocker’s facility or feedlot these calves were treated like they had already had their vaccinations, and were ready to go to eating and gaining. And when they did not, and they were breaking with respiratory infections, the new owners were upset, to say the least. Now these stockers and feedlot owners are spending money to treat all of these calves just like naive calves brought in straight from the cow. I can imagine you would be upset also, if you paid extra money for calves that were supposed to be healthier, and they weren’t.
Most of these vaccines will only yield some immunity for about 4-6 weeks from one dose. This means we will have to put them back through the chute and booster them. Now, there are some vaccine brands that will only need one dose. And there are some vaccines that will make your calves sick for 3-7 days post injection. This will get very deep into immunology and physiology very quickly. To really understand the in’s and out’s of what is best for your situation and your herd, please, call your veterinarian. He or she should know what vaccines will work the best in your herd and situation.
When a sale barn is having a special pre-con sale, it is amazing to walk through the pens and see those calves. The barn is quiet; hardly a calf is bawling. When you put feed into the bunk, they all run up and go to eating. They are not dehydrated because they already have found the water trough and drank. Normal sales at sale barns are very loud, due to the calves having just come off the cow. If you ever have the chance, you need to walk through a sale barn at both times; you will see exactly what I mean.
Dr. Tim O’Neill owns Country Veterinary Clinic in Farmington, Ark.


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