Cattle feeders strongly believe in the effectiveness of pre-arrival management practices such as weaning vaccines, parasite control and weaning four weeks prior to shipment, but they often do not have access to management history on cattle they feed. That’s one example of opportunities for improvements in information sharing and education revealed in a new feedlot report from the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), a division of APHIS Veterinary Services.

The authors note that information flow between cattle feeders and their suppliers can foster improvement in health and management practices across the production chain. However, the study shows that flow of information often is lacking.

Around 80 percent of larger feedlots indicated pre-arrival practices such as weaning vaccinations are very effective to extremely effective, and operators on 69 percent of feedlots believed that pre-arrival processing information was very important. Only 34.7 percent of feedlots always had access to pre-arrival processing information, however, and 58.2 percent sometimes had access to the information.

When pre-arrival processing information was available, 51 percent of feedlots always used the information to determine management or processing practices.

Another 35.7 percent sometimes made use of the information. As for information flowing the other direction, only 25 percent of feedlots always or most of the time provided cattle suppliers with information about the cattle placed.

Between 80 and 90 percent of larger feedlots report pre-arrival practices were performed on some or all of the steers and heifers they received weighing less than 700 pounds. Practices listed included weaned for four weeks, introduction to feed bunk, respiratory vaccinations before and at weaning, calves castrated and dehorned at least four weeks prior to shipping and calves treated for external or internal parasites.

GAP IN BQA AWARENESS

Familiarity with the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was high among feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 or more head, with 93.8 percent indicating they are somewhat or very familiar with the program.

Nearly two of three feedlots — 65.5 percent — had someone representing their feedlot attend a BQA meeting in the previous five years. In contrast, a significant percentage of operators of small feedlots are not familiar with the BQA program. Survey results from feedlots with capacity for fewer than 1,000 head show just over half of these smaller feedlot operators have some familiarity with the BQA program beyond having heard the name only. Operators on 29 percent of small feedlots are not familiar with the BQA program, and another 19 percent are familiar only with the program’s name.

Among feedlots with capacity for fewer than 500 head, 20 percent had sent a representative to a BQA training session within the previous five years, compared with 44 percent of feedlots with 500- to 999-head capacity.

The researchers asked cattle feeders to rate the importance of several practices related to BQA, and compared the responses of operators familiar or unfamiliar with the program. Among those familiar with the program, 89 percent rated injection location as important or very important, 88 percent provided the same rating for route of injections, 58 percent for implant strategy, 77 percent for antibiotic selection and 81 percent for residue avoidance.

Among feed yard operators who are unfamiliar with the BQA program, the percentages rating those same practices as important or very important dropped to 63 percent, 58 percent, 24 percent, 59 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

The discrepancy suggests raising BQA awareness among small cattle feeders could increase adoption of important management practices.