Role of cattle health and treatment in feedlot profitability

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 2, 2008
Role of cattle health and treatment in feedlot profitability

Traditionally, when feedlots evaluated animal health performance, they concentrated on death loss and treatment costs. These are two measures that are directly tied to health performance and they are relatively easy to track. This emphasis has now expanded to include additional measures that will enable the feedlot operator and their veterinarian to fine-tune animal health protocols.

The timing of morbidity, percent treated, first treatment response, and case fatality rate, is all important in determining the success of the animal health program. Necropsy results on dead calves should also be incorporated into the decision making process.

Recently, there has been more information produced looking at the effects of animal health on feeding performance and carcass characteristics.

Data from both Oklahoma and Iowa have shown a direct relationship between the number of times a calf is treated and the detrimental effects on performance and profitability. This data clearly shows that the costs associated with this decrease in performance spiral upward the more times a calf is treated.

The included table (Table 1) was generated from feedlot cattle in southwestern Iowa. It compares performance between calves that were not treated (NT), those that received a single treatment (ST), and those that were treated at least twice (2T). If you consider the performance of the untreated cattle as feeding performance, decreased carcass quality, and lower profitability, this places the emphasis on purchasing cattle with a known health history whenever possible.

Your receiving program for newly arrived cattle needs to give the calf a chance to rest, rehydrate, and recover from the stress of transport. Proper vaccination protocols go hand in hand with good animal husbandry.

Being able to consistently identify sick cattle early in the disease process will ensure that treatment protocols will work effectively and decrease the need for retreatment. The end result will be calves that require fewer treatments and perform at a higher level. — Terry Engelken and Shaun Sweiger, Iowa State