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October Feed Team Tip of the Month

Oct 01, 2020

Feeder cattle in barn happily hanging out

 Getting Cattle Off to a Great Start

How calves are received at the feedlot can affect their performance throughout the rest of the feeding period. The goal of a receiving program is to get cattle eating quickly and to keep them healthy to efficiently gain weightduring the rest of their time on feed.
Here are five tips to help cattle make a seamless transition into your feedlot.

  1. Be Prepared for Cattle Arrival

Have a plan in place for feeding programs, health protocols, and vaccinations before cattle arrive. The more knowledge you have of the calves you are receiving, the better prepared you will be. Know what vaccinations they have had, if they have been dewormed or castrated, and what kind of feed they are used to. This sort of information will help you design a processing program that will fit the needs of the incoming cattle.

  1. Reduce Stress Upon Arrival

Transitioning cattle from their previous home into the feedlot can be an extremely stressful event, so it is a good idea to set aside some downtime before processing to help make the transition more manageable for them. A good rule of thumb is to allow one hour of rest for every one hour of transport. Also having a clean, dry environment on arrival can help reduce stress and make calves feel at home.

  1. Manage Bunks

Monitoring feed intake and bunks is crucial to avoid digestive disturbances in cattle. As newly received cattle pick up intake after arrival, managers may want to increase the feed delivered too quickly causing digestive upset and cattle going off feed. This up and down trend of intake can follow cattle through the rest of the feeding period causing a crash in performance. It is important to be consistent and methodical in feed deliveries to prevent this problem. A nice rule of thumb is to increase the amount of dry matter delivered by one pound every two to three days. This can take seven to ten days for yearlings and 21 to 30 days for fresh weaned calves.

  1. Focus on Feed Type and Keep it Fresh

The type of feed delivered is important, so look for a starter supplement that has the correct protein makeup, proper trace mineral fortification, and appropriate feed additives that can help cattle stay healthy. Starter feeds should be palatable and consistent. Make sure supplements are mixed properly in the ration to ensure nutrition is uniform in every mouthful. If feedstuffs are inadequate in palatability or unavailable to make a starter diet, another option is to use a complete feed that can provide a consistent and palatable nutrition.

  1. Keep Cattle Hydrated

Water is the most important nutrient, so it’s one aspect that cannot be overlooked. Newly received cattle may not be used to automatic waters, so we need to give them some guidance on figuring it out. Cattle in a new pen will typically walk the fence line, so placing extra water troughs perpendicular to the fence will help maximize their exposure to water. Letting the water run over for a day or two will help cattle find the water more quickly, however this can also lead to poor pen conditions, so it’s important to know where the water flows and to keep a clean, dry environment.
Contact your Purina Livestock Production Specialist for more tips on receiving and starting cattle.

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