How do we keep from leaving money on the table?
Two easy ways for the cow-calf producers are early vaccinations for calves and utilizing growth implants.
If it often appears that cattle these days are earning the same price per pound if their vaccinated or completely untouched by hand and needle. So many producers are beginning to assimilate the idea why spend extra money if there is no return? There is always a positive return for preventative medicine like vaccinations, but we obviously need to maximize our benefit.
Many of the calf-calf producers in this area do not retain ownership of their calves as they go to the feedyards. So, why do you spend money vaccinating calves providing the next guy with better profit? My answer is: you shouldn’t.
I’ll always recommend vaccinating calves on farm. As with most things in life it’s all about the timing. We need to capitalize on our return of investments in the cow-calf sector. Stop vaccinating only to sell calves 30 to 45 days later. Remember the first vaccine the immune system experiences provides a short-lived response. The booster round(s) provides a longer lasting, higher stimulating response.
Consider this example, a calf is raised on a farm for nine months before market. Waiting until 6 months of age to vaccinate is providing benefit for merely the last one-third of production within that system.  
Transitioning to vaccinating our calf crop sooner in life, as early as 3 months, protects them for a longer duration cow-side putting the added benefits in your pocket.
While we are discussing larger profits from added gains, growth implants should also be considered as another tool for cow-calf operations. I am shocked at the number of operators in southwest Missouri that ignore or refuse to utilize implants. Leaving your bull calves intact does provide for increased weight gains compared to non-implanted steers of the same age. It also increases the potential for traumatic injuries, rectal prolapses and heifer siblings getting bred too early.
Some groups actually go backwards if they are dehorned, castrated and vaccinated for the first time when they are weaned. So, at a time when we should be experiencing large gains before marketing, the opposite is occurring.
Consider castration and dehorning at a much younger age, along with initial vaccinations. Calves will heal faster and experience shortened negative impact from these procedures while at the cow’s side. Growth implants exist for calves this young, but producers can always wait until the booster vaccinations are given for growth implants to be placed. By doing this your allowing each calf to maximize its potential while removing the problems associated with a field full of testicles.
The take away message is, it has been proven through research that growth implants can help producers achieve between $10 to $40 increased profit per calf compared to non-implanted calves. The rule of thumb I use is five times the cost of the implant should be expected in increased profit. Don’t forget in order to realize the benefit of implant technology you must keep these calves for the entire length of activity per label claim, no matter what brand is used.


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