Information is power. In today’s world, more information is available than ever before on about any topic you have an interest in. For cattle buyers looking to fill their feedlots and backgrounding yards, three pieces of information are essential when it comes time to buy calves: vaccination history, genetic makeup and the nutrition program history.
Wayne Cockrell, manager of the Carter Ranch in Oakwood, Texas, says the combination of good health, genetics and nutrition helps prevent calves from getting sick and needing treatment, helping them meet their goals of raising natural beef.
“Being an all-natural NHTC program, anytime we have a calf that gets stressed and gets sick and we have to pull that calf out the program, that is a financial hit to us,” said Cockrell on an episode of RFD-TV’s “The American Rancher.” “Our main focus is prevention and these three all tie together. If you have a quality vaccination program, good genetics and a good nutrition program, many of your health problems will be prevented.”
As more feeders respond to consumers’ demands of “natural beef” keeping these calves healthy from an early age is a must, and that starts with proper nutrition.
Superior Livestock Auction pioneered the marketing of value-added programs in the mid-1990s to gather important background on the calves sold. In addition to providing buyers that valuable information, sellers receive a premium for taking time and effort to track that information.
“The value-added programs helped standardized vaccination practices, making overall healthier cattle,” said Jason Barber, Purebred Division Manager at Superior Livestock. “The value-added programs also identified producers doing extra work to make these cattle better, and when they do that, somebody needs to reward them for their effort that is put into it. These producers are rewarded on sale day through established premiums.”
Barber said since the inception of these value-added programs, they have seen an increase in the number of cattle sold that have been vaccinated. Nearly 1.4 million cattle will be sold through Superior this year. However, in the last five years, less than 1-percent of those calves have not been vaccinated each year.
“It’s been common practice that cattle that are not on a vaccination program prior to sale, actually take a loss,” he said. Their 2017 sales data indicates that calves without a viral vaccine took a 98 cent/cwt loss. And while that loss might not seem significant, the premiums paid for cattle in the value-added programs are significant.
That same 2017 data indicated that home-raised calves on the VAC 45 program received an average of $5.96/cwt in premiums. In a smaller group, those calves on the VAC PreCon program earned an average of $5.83/cwt in premiums.
“When we add another value-added program, it must make sense for the industry, for the buyers and the sellers. We don’t introduce one that just affects one part of the beef industry. It has got to positively affect all segments. Nutrition was the next logical step in all of this since nutrition has so much to do with the animals’ health,” Barber said.
With the need for a nutrition-based value-added program, Superior added BioZyme® Inc., as its exclusive nutrition partner for 2017 and continued that exclusive partnership into 2018, recognizing calves on VitaFerm® Raised and Gain Smart® programs. These programs assure cattle minimize the effects of stressors like transportation, shrink, commingling, processing/handling and new diet acclimation.
“Our partnership with BioZyme is to bring that part of the health equation to the table and at the same time recognize those producers who are investing a little more into their nutrition program and reward them on sale day,” Barber said. “A lot of the really good cattle that have sold this summer have been on either the VitaFerm Raised or Gain Smart programs. It adds value from a buyer’s perspective as they always want more information on the cattle they are bidding on and purchasing.”
Information is power. If a buyer can get added information on a load of calves’ that includes vaccination history, genetics and nutrition, that buyer will have the power to feed the group with fewer problems and challenges. Information early on helps all segments of the industry meet their goals and put more profit in their pocket.