Precondition for healthier, higher-value calves

Producers are looking for more ways to positively differentiate their calf crop on sale day. One of the most effective strategies to demonstrate advanced calf health and performance is by implementing preconditioning programs.

Superior Livestock calf sales data from 2021 and 2022 comprised of 15,287 lots of calves with an average weight of 559 pounds sold at an average price of $181 per hundredweight.

Preconditioning calves

Nationwide, compared to VAC24 (baseline), the preconditioning programs below resulted in the following premiums:

  • VAC34 +$4.56/cwt.
  • VAC45 +$8.64/cwt.
  • VAC60 +$7.15/cwt.

Within the Upper Plains region, calves without a VAC program suffered a $4 to $8/cwt. discount, which is forfeiting $22 to $45 per head on a 559-pound calf compared to a baseline VAC24 no program calf at the same weight. Conversely, if a producer opted for the VAC60 program, the premium per head ($8/cwt premium) over a VAC24 calf was $46/per head, and this includes subtracting veterinary and feed costs if fed 60 days gaining 2 pounds per day. That is nearly a $65 per head difference!

This scenario will vary depending on how cattle are fed post weaning, but the bottom-line message is preconditioning calves pays back a premium.

PRIMEVAC™ by Merck Animal Health is an example of a value-added program that focuses on respiratory and clostridial vaccinations as well as protection against internal parasites. It also includes optional implant protocols. It gives producers a clear guide of the steps needed to give calves the best start.

For more information about PRIMEVAC, contact your veterinarian or visit

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