By Jeff Sarchet, DVM, senior veterinarian, Zoetis Beef Technical Services
Growing up on a feedyard of 5,000 head in the Oklahoma Panhandle, I observed firsthand the benefits of well-managed cattle coming in from the stocker level.
I work with a number of stocker operations across the country, and no matter the region, they share the same priority at this level of beef production — improving gain.
Before sharing strategies for improving gain, I want to take a step back and share my definition of “stockers.” Commonly between the cow/calf and feedlot stages, stockers buy calves and put them out on native grass for an extended period of time to increase gain. Depending on weather and grass growth, cattle may receive supplemental grain. Stockers then sell the cattle as larger lot loads to feedyards for finishing.
There are several strategies for improving stocker gain. Here are my top three suggestions to put to work on your operation.
1. Eliminate parasites and a depressed immune system.
Parasites drain the immune system. With the younger age of stocker cattle and the potential for higher risk of bovine respiratory disease (BRD), any boost to the immune system is beneficial. Parasites not only affect the immune system, they also suppress appetite and limit optimum gain.
I suggest incorporating DECCOX® into the supplemental feed or as a top dress on feed to prevent coccidiosis, caused by a common protozoan parasite that is a drain on both production and the calves’ immune systems, as well as using a broad-spectrum dewormer like DECTOMAX® or VALBAZEN® to control internal parasites.
Controlling parasites in cattle is not just beneficial for an animal’s immune system — there are performance advantages, as well. It’s estimated that internal parasites cost the cattle industry about $3 billion each year in lost weight gains, poor feed conversion and increased disease.1
2. Prevent and control BRD.
BRD can significantly reduce gain in cattle and is a devastating disease for both cattle and producers, costing the industry up to $1 billion annually from loss of production, increased labor expenses, treatment costs and death.2,3
To help reduce losses from BRD, it is important for producers to control BRD before it hits their operation. Used concurrently, INFORCE™ 3 and ONE SHOT® BVD work quickly to provide protection from harmful BRD pathogens and give cattle a healthy start. When cattle are at increased risk of BRD, I also recommend using a broad-spectrum antimicrobial on arrival, like DRAXXIN® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution, as part of an effective BRD control program.
3. Implant for increased gain and operational flexibility.
Using implants will increase metabolic efficiency, which results in higher gain. The amount of gain is dependent upon the level of nutrition and implant used. When implanting with SYNOVEX®, ranchers can produce more pounds of beef.
In research studies, steers receiving SYNOVEX ONE GRASS implants had a 17.2% improvement in gain over nonimplanted steers, and heifers receiving SYNOVEX ONE GRASS achieved an 11.3% increase in average daily gain.4 There are a number of implant options to select from to increase gain at the stocker level.
Combining the above management strategies can present effective opportunities to put weight on stocker cattle and improve the health of the animals. If you have questions about increasing gain in your stocker cattle, I encourage you to talk with your Zoetis representative or your nutritionist, or visit zoetisUS.com.