From rancher to stocker to feeder, every cattle owner wants the same outcome.
“We all want those calves to be as successful as they possibly can be,” Robby Kirkland, owner of Kirkland Feeders in Vega says. “We want to minimize risk, and we want to do the right thing.”
With that in mind, the April edition of The Cattleman magazine will feature thoughts from three cattle feeders who share five things they wish every rancher or stocker knew about their side of caring for those animals.
Understanding these ideas could make a night and day different in your profitability and for the well-being of your animals. Kirkland shared one example of the impact implementing a VAC-45 weaning program could have on your animals.
In 2018, a Florida rancher shipped four loads, totaling about 360 head, of un-weaned, bawling calves to Kirkland’s feedyard. During the feeding period, approximately 35% (126) of the calves had to be pulled from their pens for medical treatment. Medical costs associated with morbidity (treatments) averaged $15 per head, in addition to the standard cost of vaccination on arrival, totaling an estimated of $5,400 in additional treatment costs. The group had a 5% (18 head) death loss.
“This producer was understandably upset about this,” Kirkland said. “I was, too. We spent quite a bit of time talking about what we could do, what changes he could make.”
After consulting with his veterinarian and implementing a weaning and vaccination program on the ranch, the rancher sent his 2019 calves to Kirkland last fall. The same number of cattle, delivered at the same time of year at similar weights, are currently on feed.
One year later, at 75- to 100- days on feed, the 2019 calves have averaged just a 10% treatment rate (36 head), and just a 0.25% (one head) death loss. Average medical costs for the group is at $4 per head in addition to arrival processing.
Further, Kirkland says, “Their performance will mirror these health statistics,” he says. “If they’re healthy, they’re in the pen eating and gaining like they’re supposed to be.”
What’s best for the animals is always what’s best for the feeder and the rancher alike.
“What I know from working with producers is that they really care about their cattle. It’s not just about the dollars and cents,” Kirkland says. “They truly care for the well-being of their cattle, and we do, too.”
Laura Nelson is a freelance writer from Big Timber, Montana.
Photos for this post were provided by the Kirkland family and were taken by Erin Ehnle Brown.