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Update on preconditioning (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2011

Objectives

     • Cow-calf operations can impact post-weaned calf wellness by creating a program to both enhance animal immune function and decrease disease challenges.
     • Preconditioning programs are varied and selection of techniques for an individual farm is related to management and marketing constraints.
     • Vaccination programs should be implemented in a time frame to allow generation of active immunity prior to disease exposure.
     • Methods to decrease stress associated with weaning (such as fenceline weaning) reduce the incidence of disease and improve calf performance.

Beef production is shifting toward a consumer focus and new areas are achieving more attention including: individual animal identification, value-based marketing, food safety, as well as source, process, and age verification. These recent developments in the beef industry are compatible with concepts of preconditioning and should benefit the producer who adequately prepares their animals for the next production phase.

Individual farm production goals must be identified prior to implementation of any new health or management scheme. The selected method for increasing economic returns for the farm influences health program targets and value of veterinary services to the specific operation. The goal of a calf wellness program for the cow-calf farm is to maintain health from birth until sale of the animals. Prevention of disease in the post-weaning phase is based on implementation of management practices to reduce the negative impacts of disease and facilitate transition to new management and nutritional situations.

Managing for a single disease causing agent or risk factor will not eliminate disease from the population. The production of healthy cattle must include proper management, prevention and treatment procedures aimed at reducing disease risk factors. New and improved molecules to eliminate or prevent infection from pathogens will not abolish disease from cattle. Management of the traditional epidemiological triad of pathogen, host, and environmental factors must be incorporated into generating a wellness program. Many producers request a "Health" program from their veterinarian expecting a list of vaccines and times to process cattle, but what they are really asking for is a system to reduce the negative impact of diseases and enhance herd production.