Quality nutrition and health protocols combined with progressive management is an equation to help deliver low-risk, high-value calves.
Value-added programs, like Purina®
Plus, help prepare cattle for the feedlot by giving calves a strong start with nutrition and health.,
A complete nutritional foundation, comprehensive vaccines and quality dewormers prime Purina®
Plus calves to meet their genetic potential from weaning to the rail. This value-added program also provides the opportunity to capture more value for calves throughout the production cycle – from cow/calf producers to cattle buyers.
Plus feeder calf program is backed by Purina’s expert nutritionists and dealers, along with support from industry leading animal health companies. Here is what industry allies are saying about Purina®
Plus and the benefits of optimizing calf health
Why are high-risk calves such an issue in the beef cattle market?
“High-risk calves are more likely to succumb to disease and environmental challenges, leading to a higher prevalence of morbidity and mortality outcomes,” says Nathan Pyatt, Ph.D., beef technical consultant, Elanco Animal Health. “High-risk calves require different management strategies, including nutrition, prevention, therapy, and labor time and cost. Ultimately, they are less likely to perform at their genetic potential until this risk period is mitigated.”
Mitch Blanding, DVM, associate director of beef technical services, Zoetis, shares that high-risk calves come with a cost.
“Because of their previous management, these calves are more likely to develop Bovine Respiratory Disease
(BRD),” Blanding says. “Bovine Respiratory Disease is one of the most common and costly diseases affecting the U.S. cattle industry. In fact, the U.S. feedlot industry estimates an annual loss as high as $1 billion due to loss of production, increased labor expenses, pharmaceutical costs and death from Bovine Respiratory Disease.”
And, it’s time for the industry to change, according to John Hutcheson, Ph.D., director of cattle technical services and ruminant nutritionist, Merck Animal Health.
“As an industry, we must continually improve,” says Hutcheson. “Calves need to be better prepared for transitions from the home place through the auction system and on to a backgrounder or a feed yard, ultimately to the beef processor.”
How important is weaning nutrition when it comes to enhancing health protocols like vaccination and deworming?
“Nutrition is the foundation for immune health,” says John M. Davidson, DVM, DABVP, senior associate director of beef cattle professional services, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. “Quality nutrition helps support a strong immune system and remain resilient through the challenges and stress calves endure like weaning, transportation and co-mingling. Inadequate nutrition from limited protein and energy or low trace mineral status can negatively impact a calf’s ability to respond properly to vaccines. Weaning nutrition is vital to help ensure the efficacy of the health protocols we administer.”
Chris Reinhardt, Ph.D., technical beef feedlot nutritionist, Zinpro Corporation, agrees – nutrients matter.
“Immune response is dependent on nutrients,” Reinhardt shares. “Minerals like zinc, copper and manganese can help calves mount a more robust response. If a calf’s mineral status is good, the immune system can do what it’s supposed to do. When calves are shorted on minerals, health protocols may not work the way you expect.”
“Putting an emphasis on pre- and post-stress nutrition helps enable cattle to defend against pathogenic challenges and optimize effectiveness of intervention strategies such as vaccination protocols,” adds Pyatt. “Healthy, high-performing feeder cattle command a premium in today’s beef business. Input and labor costs are on the rise, and proven technologies and strategies — like those outlined in Purina®
Plus — help maintain calf health
and enable cattle to perform at their genetic potential and improve profit potential in each segment of the industry.”
What value does Purina® Plus provide to cow/calf producers and cattle buyers?
Plus allows cow/calf producers to tie into something greater than themselves,” says Reinhardt. “It is a way to truly document you’ve done the right things. It benefits everyone from the small producer to the larger commercial herds. Buyers benefit by having a program that includes nutrition to support vaccine and deworming protocols
. It’s a complete package.”
Blanding agrees that the program offers a win-win for everyone involved.
“Selling cattle with a history in a verified preconditioning program, like Purina®
Plus, provides transparency to buyers because the program documents which products were administered and when,” says Blanding. “Buyers appreciate the benefits of healthy cattle as auction market sales data demonstrates an increased value of a recognized and reputable preconditioning program.”
For Davidson, the program offers a playbook on raising calves for the next production stage.
“The fundamentals of any value-added program help producers and their veterinarians understand which products are best placed to help a calf address the challenges of moving through market channels,” says Davidson. “It’s a playbook on using time-tested products to support cattle immune responses. Health translates into better performance, and that is what we’re all targeting.”
Confidence is a top-selling point, adds Hutcheson. “It is the confidence cattle are on a great nutrition program, are immunized and their immune system is functional. Those are the type of calves that can go onto the next phase of production with very few problems. Buyers are willing to bid higher for those cattle.”
What advice do you have for producers who want to add more value to their calves?
“If cattle are unhealthy when they reach the feedlot, it has a devastating impact on performance and profitability,” says Reinhardt. “Ensuring optimum nutrition at weaning
and before feedlot arrival helps optimize animal performance and profit potential. Value-added nutrition programs can be a huge bonus to the cattle owner and feedlot producer.”
“When you participate in value-added programs, make sure you’re committed,” advises Hutcheson. “Calves should be in good condition, immunized, be dehorned and castrated and healed from those procedures. Share information on your genetics and take part in the Beef Quality Assurance program. Taking a few extra steps can mean there is more revenue at the end.”
Davidson recommends working closely with your veterinarian to implement a program suited to your operation’s goals.
“When you have a close working relationship with a veterinarian to consult and seek feedback on health programs, it can have a profound impact on health. The result is a high-quality calf,” says Davidson. “This is the right direction for our industry.”
Give your calves an edge. Contact your local Purina dealer to sign up for the Purina® Plus program
 USDA APHIS. 1999. Health Management and Biosecurity in U.S. Feedlots.
 USDA APHIS. 2011. Health and Health Management on U.S. Feedlots with a Capacity of 1,000 or More Head.
 Fulton RW, Cook BJ, Step DL, et al. Evaluation of health status of calves and impact on feedlot performance: assessment of retained ownership program for postweaning calves. Can J Vet Res. 2002;66(3):173-180.
 The effects of special management programs and preconditioning programs on the sale price of beef calves marketed through Western Video Market January 2014-December 2015. Final Report 2016, Zoetis LLC.
 Seeger JT, King ME, Grotelueschen DM, Rogers GM, Stokka GS. Effect of management, marketing, and certified health programs on the sale price of beef calves sold through a livestock video auction service from 1995 through 2009. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2011;239:451–466