Page 7 - MWC 10-26-2023s
P. 7

The Midwest Cattleman · October 26, 2023 · P7
          Preconditioning Calves: Is It the Right Choice?

                         By Madison Kovarna - SDSU Extension
         Fall weather is here, and it  can  be  utilized  within  these
      brings the start of weaning for  diets. Have a conversation with
      many producers. Weaning is a  a local livestock nutritionist
      stressful time, not only for the  or your area’s extension agent
      producers, but also for calves.  about developing the proper
      Many changes occur in these  diets for preconditioning calves
      young animals’ lives. They are  that  best  fit  your  operation’s
      separated  from  mom  and  the  needs.
      supply of milk they have grown
      accustomed to, and they are
      often moved to an unfamil-                      continued on page 14
      iar location. There are ways to
      make weaning a less stressful
      time for all involved. There are
      low stress weaning methods,
      such as fence line and two-step
         Preconditioning       involves
      weaning calves at least 45 days
      in preparation to enter the
      stocker phase or directly into
      the feedlot. During this time,
      calves are started on dry feed
      or “bunk  broke.” Additional-
      ly, this time allows a producer
      to build the health status of
      calves through vaccinations,
      deworming and getting them
      over the stressful time of wean-
      ing without adding additional
      stressors, such as co-mingling
      or transport. Preconditioning is
      an option for producers looking
      to retain ownership or to sell
      their calves.

      Nutrition During
         A target average daily gain
      of 2 to 2.5 pounds per day
      should be the focus to prepare
      these calves for the feed yard.
      To achieve this goal, a variety
      of feeds can be fed to calves at
      the beginning of the precondi-
      tioning phase.
         The combination will vary
      greatly depending on the ranch
      feeding these calves. It is im-
      portant to provide good-qual-
      ity feed that is palatable and
      nutrient dense. Calves will
      have reduced intakes following
      weaning;  thus,  the  diet  needs
      to provide enough energy and
      protein, even when consumed
      at lower amounts. High palat-
      ability will encourage calves
      to eat. Intake will begin to in-
      crease as calves adjust to the
      new environment.
         A balance between rough-
      age, such as grass hay, and eas-
      ily fermented feeds, like corn,
      needs to be achieved to prevent
      incidences of acidosis and other
      digestive issues that can impact
      calf  performance.  Ionophores
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