Two practices that provide the biggest return on investment

Ted Dahlstrom, D.V.M., of Monett, Missouri, has served as the senior veterinarian for Joplin Regional Stockyards since 1995. With over 35 years of experience, he has seen firsthand the impact of various management practices and health protocols on the health and productivity of cattle.

“Today’s producers know that healthier calves bring a premium, so a good vaccination program is essential,” says Dr. Dahlstrom. “With cattle prices today, using the tools we have to improve health and performance is well worth the return on investment.”

To truly maximize the value of calves, Dr. Dahlstrom stresses the importance of two key practices: deworming and implanting.

Two calves stand near a cow.

“The two most important things producers can do is implement a good parasite control program and use growth-promoting implants,” Dr. Dahlstrom says. “The value of these efforts shows up in the sale barn and the benefits far outweigh the input costs.”

Parasite control program

Strategic deworming helps in maintaining the overall health and well-being of calves, ensuring optimal growth and performance. By controlling internal parasites, producers can help calves reach their genetic potential, resulting in higher-quality animals at sale time.

“We want to decrease the parasite load both in the animal and on the pasture to lower the risk of re-infestation,” he says. “I recommend deworming 30-60 days after soil temperatures reach 50 degrees because that’s when parasites become active in the pasture.”

When it comes to deworming, product choice matters. Successful deworming should result in a 90% or greater reduction in parasite eggs in feces1 — but certain classes of dewormers are not working as well as they have in the past.

Dr. Dahlstrom says he consistently conducts random fecal samples in the spring, summer and fall. A fecal egg count reduction test (FECRT) is the standardized diagnostic tool to test manure for the presence of internal parasite eggs.

Merck Animal Health maintains the world’s largest database of FECRT results to monitor the field efficacy of dewormers. The database demonstrates that through 2023, pour-on and injectable parasite products have fallen below the 90% threshold for successful deworming.

SAFE-GUARD® (fenbendazole) formulations — all of which are in the benzimidazoles class — provide a median efficacy above 99.7%.2 SAFE-GUARD features broad-spectrum activity against internal parasites and quickly reduces egg shedding and pasture contamination.

“I have used SAFE-GUARD for over 30 years in parasite control programs and I see no reason to change that because it continues to be effective,” Dr. Dahlstrom says. “Ninety percent of the cattle we work, which can be a few hundred or over a thousand head at a time, get drenched with SAFE-GUARD.”

Read label directions carefully and give the proper dosing amount. Under-dosing can contribute to reduced efficacy.

“Many producers have historically under-dosed both the cow and her calf with dewormers,” Dr. Dahlstrom adds. “If you don’t give them the adequate dose, it simply won’t work.”

Work with your veterinarian and nutritionist to develop a strategic parasite control program — that addresses both internal and external parasites — for your herd.

Growth-promoting implants

The use of implants can significantly raise the value of calves by enhancing natural growth processes, promoting muscle development, and increasing feed conversion efficiency. For an investment of a couple of dollars per head, implants result in $30-$40 increase in calf value in today’s market.3,4

“We’re in the business of producing beef, and growth implants provide a tremendous payback, so most of the cattle we process are implanted,” he says. “With current cattle prices, just one pound of growth pays for the cost of an implant. Where else can you get a return on investment like that?”

A 23-trial summary of more than 2,358 suckling calves showed an average weaning weight advantage of 23 pounds in cattle administered an implant.3 By accelerating growth and achieving higher slaughter weights in a shorter time frame, producers maximize the efficiency of their production systems and boost their bottom line.

Dr. Dahlstrom underscores the importance of working with your veterinarian to evaluate and implement a comprehensive health management program: “Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together — vaccination, parasite control and implanting — results in a healthier animal and a higher quality product.”

SAFE-GUARD IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION:

CATTLE: Do not use in beef calves less than 2 months old, dairy calves and veal calves. A withdrawal period has not been established for this product in pre-ruminating calves. Additionally, the following meat withdrawal and milk discard times apply:

Safe-Guard/Panacur Suspension: Cattle must not be slaughtered within 8 days following last treatment. For dairy cattle, the milk discard time is 48 hours. Do not use in beef calves less than 2 months old, dairy calves and veal calves. A withdrawal period has not been established for this product in pre-ruminating calves. Do not use in dairy cattle at 10 mg/kg.

Safe-Guard Paste: Cattle must not be slaughtered for 8 days. For dairy cattle, the milk discard time is 96 hours.

Safe-Guard Suspension: Cattle must not be slaughtered for 8 days. For dairy cattle, the milk discard time is 48 hours.

Safe-Guard ENPROAL Type C Medicated Block: Cattle must not be slaughtered for 11 days. For use in beef cattle only.

Safe-Guard 20% Protein Type C Medicated Block: Cattle must not be slaughtered for 16 days. For use in beef cattle only.

Safe-Guard Type A and other medicated feed products (pellets, cubes, free-choice mineral, or free-choice liquid): Cattle must not be slaughtered for 13 days. For dairy cattle, the milk discard time is 60 hours.

References

  1. Dobson R, Jackson F, Levecke B, Besier B, et al. Guidelines for fecal egg count reduction tests (FECRT). World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) Proceedings: 23rd International Conference of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology. 2011.
  2. Merck Animal Health National FECRT Database.
  3. Selk, G. Implants for Suckling Steer and Heifer Calves and Potential Replacement Heifers. Proceedings: Impact of Implants on Performance and Carcass Value of Beef Cattle. Oklahoma State University. 1997. P-957. Pg 40.
  4. Superior Livestock Sale data report 2018.
  5. Data on file, Merck Animal Health.

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