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not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
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site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
and Stocker Operations
Look for in Calves
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
John T. Woeste, Dean
E.J. Richey is an Extension Veterinarian, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, IFAS, Gainesville, FL 32611.
Feeder or stocker operators want calves for which
they can confidently predict the cost of gain, cost of
health, and the cost of management to achieve a de-
sired weight and grade. When the feeder or stocker
operators can make confident predictions as to the
costs, they will know exactly what to pay for a par-
ticular group of calves. Without some degree of con-
fidence, these operators are forced to offer, and usu-
ally obtain, the lowest price possible.
To obtain the highest possible price, the cow/calf
operator must produce calves that will be PREDICT-
ABLE in performance at the feeding and stocker op-
erations; the group of calves must be UNIFORM,
HEALTHY, and REMAIN HEALTHY.
The smallest unit of calves or yearlings that the
feeder and stocker operator will purchase is a "truck
load," 45-50 thousand lbs at a time; 110-125 head of
400 weight calves or 88-100 head of 500 weight
calves make a "load." The calves that make up the
load need to be similar in weight, frame size, body
condition, age, and breeding and identical in sex;
they need to be UNIFORM.
Weight gains of cattle on feed
CATTLE ON FEED
100 AYS 200 DAY
DAYS FEED -----------
UNIFORM calves are able to perform as a
group; they can start on a feeding or grazing pro-
gram and finish at a predicted time with a similar
grade and similar feeding efficiency.
Weight gains of cattle on feed are affected by
lack of uniformity
Without uniformity, the group of calves will not
"feed-out" as a group; some cattle will finish much
earlier than the average animal, while others finish
much later. The result is a pen of cattle that are
sold at a discounted price because there are too
many "over finished" and "under finished" cattle in
Even in stocker operations, lack of uniformity,
results in too great a spread in the weights when
100 AYS 200 DAYus
DAYS oH FEE) ------
sold "off-grass." For the stocker operator to achieve
some sort of uniformity in loads of cattle, the cattle
must be sorted for weight, frame size, body condi-
tion, age, and breeding; this requires a lot of cattle.
If the stocker operator is not capable of this type of
sorting, then the cattle will be sold at a discounted
price to a feedyard or to a buyer that will mix cattle
from several sources and sort as required. Regard-
less of the place of the final sort, "lack of unifor-
mity" results in discounted sale prices. Ultimately,
"discounted sale prices" are absorbed by the pro-
ducer of the calves, the cow/calf operator.
When the cow/calf producer CAN NOT meet the
"criteria of uniformity," the feeder and stocker op-
erators must rely upon a cattle dealer to make
them uniform; this automatically adds a middle-
man into the market. The middleman must be
paid. The cow/calf producer will loose all identity
associated with raising the calves. The cattle may
move though several markets; they receive addi-
tional stresses; they will be exposed to more dis-
eases; and, eventually, more cattle will become sick.
Weight gains of cattle on feed are affected by
sickness and stress
ICKoSS & STrESSES
"SEr FAMa e. ATmLE
-DNMT FIhI ON T
DON T IWKE THE GRA
100 DAYS 200 DAYS
DAYS o FEED -------
In addition to wanting the UNIFORM loads of
calves, the feeder and stocker operators want cattle
that are HEALTHY ON ARRIVAL and WILL RE-
MAIN HEALTHY. Cattle that are sick or become
sick will not perform; they will not finish on time.
Sick calves get behind, and usually stay behind, the
rest of the pen.
A healthy animal
To understand how to produce healthy calves
that will remain healthy; we first must understand
what a healthy animal is. A healthy animal or herd
of animals exists when the RESISTANCE level of
the animals) remains above the DISEASE
A sick animal
If the resistance level and the disease challenge
level intercept, for any reason, sickness occurs. If
the resistance level drops to below the disease chal-
lenge level, sickness occurs.
If the disease challenge level rises to above the
resistance level, sickness occurs.
The worst scenario occurs when the resistance
level is dropping at the same time the disease chal-
lenge is on the rise; cattle get severely sick, very fast.
Keeping cattle healthy
RmSE m RESISTANCE
To keep cattle healthy ....... all you have to do is:
1) recognize disease challenges
2) know when they occur
3) then raise the resistance and/or
reduce the challenge
The disease challenges to which feeder or stocker
calves are exposed to have been recognized for
many years. Basically they can be grouped into
disease types as follows: Respiratory Diseases, Gut
Diseases, Muscle Diseases, Internal Parasites, and
External Parasites. The problem is usually under-
standing when the disease challenges occur.
The occurrence of disease challenges vary with
the marketing system the calves enter. Marketed
calves are classified as "COMMINGLE" calves or
"DIRECT SALE" calves. If a cow/calf operator can
provide a load of calves that are uniform in size,
sex, body condition, and breeding they are capable
of a "DIRECT" sale to a feedyard or stocker opera-
tion. If the cow/calf producer is not capable of pro-
viding a LOAD of UNIFORM calves then they are
forced to sell their calves through a "COM-
MINGLED" calf market such as an order buying op-
eration or a livestock auction market. Both "COM-
MINGLED" and "DIRECT SALE" calves end up at
the same place; the difference is the route each trav-
els and the HEALTH PROBLEMS associated with
the different routes.
Disease challenges start up rapidly when
"commingled" calves leave the farm
For the "COMMINGLED" calves, the DISEASE
CHALLENGE goes up rapidly, beginning on the
day they leave the farm and go to market.
The mixing process of "commingled" calves
after leaving the farm
Needless to say, the disease agents are transmitted
to the susceptible calves at the "commingle" m r-
kets; hence, the disease challenge is on the rise.
Commingled calves originate from small cattle pro-
ducers, part-time producers, or producers which do
not have the quality or quantity of calves to make
"direct" sales. The calves are usually delivered to
the local livestock auction, tagged, commingled
with calves from many different farms, sold one-at-
a-time to order buyers, and shipped to the order
buyer's assembly/distribution operation. At the or-
der buyer's operation the calves are again com-
mingled with calves purchased from many different
livestock auctions, sorted into "loads" of uniform
calves, and shipped to the feeder or stocker opera-
tions. This process of selling, sorting, and shipping
usually takes 5-10 days to complete. Theoretically,
a load of 100 animals could be composed of calves
from 100 different farms. The disease exposure,
the presence of resistant disease strains, increased
stresses, and diet restrictions applied to the calves
begin immediately after leaving the farm of origin.
A "wreck" on arrival
If not properly prepared before marketing,
"COMMINGLED" calves will "WRECK-OUT" on
Proper preparation keeps calves healthy
FEED LOT / STOQCER OPERATIONS: DY 7+
CALVES ARE COWMfNGL Wrm CALVES
FROM MvNY DIFFERENT UD BUYERS.
The rapid rise in disease challenges occur be-
cause of the "commingling" of calves from many dif-
ferent sources. Disease susceptible calves,
unvaccinated against certain diseases, are mixed
with healthy calves that are "carriers" of diseases.
To insure that calves are healthy and will remain
healthy, all calves must be properly prepared before
shipment. Proper preparation prevents the resis-
tance level from dropping drastically, raises the
level of resistance against certain diseases, and re-
duces certain disease challenges. In essence, with
proper preparation, we keep the RESISTANCE
LEVEL and DISEASE CHALLENGE LEVELS from
"Direct sale" calves are shipped without
commingling of calves from other sources
LARGE BEEF OPERATION:
Calves are sorted according
to sex & weight Into
"loads" of 45 50,000 Ibs.
Trucked < 24 hours
FEED LOT / STOCKERS OPERATIONS:
Calves may or may not be commingled.
"DIRECT SALE" calves will be exposed to the
same diseases challenge levels as commingled
calves; however, the RATE of APPLICATION is
much less. For "DIRECT SALE" calves, the dis-
ease challenges start later and go up much slower.
"Direct sale" calves that are not properly
In contrast to commingled calves, a load of "DI-
RECT SALE" calves usually originate from one
ranch. They are from beef operations of sufficient
size to raise and sort "loads" of UNIFORM calves
that are shipped directly to the feeder or stocker
operations without commingling. The shipping
time is considerably less; usually only 24-72 hours
lapse between the time the calves are removed from
their mothers and are being processed on arrival at
the feedyard or stocker operation. In a lot of cases,
these calves will remain together as a "closed"
group until they are slaughtered; they are never
commingled with calves from different sources.
Disease challenges for "direct sale" calves
are applied later and slower
S CHALLENGE LEVELS
S DIRECT SALE CALVES
This slower rate of disease challenge usually al-
lows the "DIRECT SALE" calves adequate time to
respond to the on-arrival processing. As long as the
rate in the rise of the disease challenge remains slow,
the resistance level of the calves stays above the dis-
ease challenge level and the calves remain healthy.
In some cases, even inadequately prepared "direct
sale" calves will still have sufficient time to respond
to the on-arrival processing and vaccination pro-
grams before the disease challenges reach a signifi-
cant level. In such cases, give the credit where it is
due. The person receiving the calves gets the credit;
they have the "knack" of keeping the disease chal-
lenge from meeting the resistance level.
Disease challenges can overwhelm the resis-
tance in inadequately prepared "direct sale"
SIGNS OF DISEASE
Inadequately prepared "direct sale" calves could
easily "wreck-out" if the disease challenges were to
suddenly increase at a rapid rate rather than rise
slowly. The same thing could happen if calves des-
tined for "direct sale" were diverted to a "com-
mingled" calf marketing system.
Properly prepared "direct sale" calves
If "direct sale" calves are properly prepared be-
fore shipment, they will respond rapidly to the on-
arrival processing at the feedyard or stocker opera-
tion; the spread between the resistance and disease
challenge levels becomes very comfortable.
To adequately prepare calves that are healthy
and will remain healthy we must use the "tools of
the trade" available to us. To keep the calves' resis-
tance from drastically dropping, calves should be
dehorned, castrated, branded and exposed to com-
mercial feeds while they are nursing their mamas !
Calves can handle these stresses much easier if
they are still with their mothers; you have control
of these stresses. Stresses associated with weaning
and shipping are built into the marketing system;
since you do not have physical control of the calves
once they leave your operation, trying to control
these stresses will be fruitless.
Reducing the challenge
We can reduce certain disease challenges by us-
ing certain products and management techniques.
Worms can be removed by De-worming; grubs, lice
and flies can be controlled by external parasite con-
trol agents; certain bacterial diseases can be con-
trolled by using antibiotics and/or sulfa drugs; and
coccidiosis can be controlled by the use of
Rise in resistance due to vaccination
We can raise the resistance level to certain dis-
eases by using vaccines.
Animal response to vaccination
The trick to successfully raising the resistance
by use of vaccines is not only selecting the proper
vaccine, but knowing how vaccines work and timing
the vaccination so that the resistance level is raised
before the disease challenge occurs. For example,
let's assume that we will be using the killed form of
vaccine; these forms require 2 doses of vaccine at
least 21 days apart before the resistance begins to
rise and at least 30 days after the second dose be-
fore the resistance reaches a maximum level. The
1st dose just "triggers" the memory system in the
animal; the 2nd dose stimulates a significant rise in
Shipping time for "commingled" calves in
relation to vaccination and disease challenge
In the case of the "commingled" calves, where
the disease challenge level starts up rapidly on the
day the calves leave the farm, marketing should
not occur until at least 30 days after the 2nd dose of
vaccines are administered.
Shipping time for "direct sale" calves in
relation to vaccination and disease challenge
In the case of "direct sale" calves, where the
disease challenge starts on arrival at the feeder or
stocker operation and goes up at a much slower
rate; calves may be shipped after 21 days following
the 1st dose of vaccine provided the "direct sale"
calves receive the 2nd dose going on or coming off
the truck. The resistance level will have adequate
time to rise, following arrival, and outrun the in-
crease in disease challenges.
Regardless of the vaccination history of the
calves, the feeding and stocker operations will re-
vaccinate on arrival, as well as de-worm and de-
grub. They hope they are boostering the vaccina-
tions rather than just starting a vaccination pro-
gram in a load of inadequately prepared calves.
Before leaving the farm or ranch of origin, bull
calves should be NEUTERED and all calves
-HAVE HORNS REMOVED
-BE DEWORMED, DELICED &
-BE EXPOSED TO A COMMERCIAL
OR MILLED FEED
-BE PROPERLY VACCINATED AGAINST:
PARAINFLUENZA 3 VIRUS
BOVINE VIRUS DIARRHEA
RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUS
8-WAY CLOSTRIDIAL DISEASE
5-WAY LEPTO (OPTIONAL)
When calves are uniform, healthy, and re-
main healthy; they exhibit predictable perfor-
mance. Since the calves have developed a reputa-
tion, a good reputation, the feeder and stocker
operations will usually ask 3 questions:
Where did those calves originate from ?
Who raised them ?
Can we buy them again next year ?
Predictable performing cattle are in de-
mand! This is what the Feeder and Stocker Opera-
tors are looking for in Calves. Healthy calves
that remain healthy assist in making perfor-
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, John T. Woeste,
Director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose of the May 8 and June
30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that
function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin. Single copies of extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth
publications) are available free to Florida residents from county extension offices. Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers
is availablefrom C.M. Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing
this publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability. Printed 2/92.