By James Groethe
A good receiving plan for Holstein steers can pay big dividends of $5 to $30 or more profit per steer. This approach involves a number of practices that can greatly reduce problems while improving the bottom-line with overall better feedlot performance and health. Our transportation network for moving cattle today doesn’t think twice about moving cattle 20 plus hours on trucks to feed yards. With that length of time on the truck, cattle are exposed to a lot of stress. One of the biggest stresses can be the one we can’t control – the weather. As a result, we need to have the feed yard ready. One factor in preparation is getting some of the history of the cattle, such as how the ration was fed, what was in the ration, and what vaccinations were administered. After this information is gathered, prepare for the unexpected and start a fresh feeding and vaccination program:
- Accessible water is the first thing to consider after unloading the truck. Cattle will have better feed intakes with good fresh water. Finding the water in a feedlot can be a challenge for newly arrived Holsteins, so make sure the waterer height is proper for the size and weight of the cattle. As an example, steers less than 300 pounds can’t reach waterers that are over 24” tall. Also, to help the cattle find water, set the float to allow the water to run over, thus creating a “running water” sound. The cattle will be attracted to the sound, smell, and wet ground. Adding extra water tanks can be beneficial to ensure proper water intake.
- Proper nutrition is critical to the health and performance of new cattle. The use of a Kent ARRIVALmax™ product is very important as it aids in providing the necessary nutrition. Most cattle go through a major ration change following transportation. ARRIVALmax Complete is an excellent product that transitions steers onto self feeders; one of the most common ways to feed Holsteins. Utilizing an ARRIVALmax product provides the correct protein type, BoVantage™ technology, crude fiber, and other ingredients to ensure optimal nutrition and health. Receiving diets should be fed in bunks for 7-14 days to reach maximum intakes. The use of feed grade antibiotics may help the calves initially; consult your veterinarian. Another product or practice may include the use of EnergiLass® Rumen Booster, a high-quality, nutrient-dense, low-moisture molasses tub, especially on 200#-400# steers as they have lower intakes initially and the tubs can stimulate dietary intakes.
- Steer comfort is very critical in these small Holsteins. When they get wet and chilled, illness usually occurs, so adequate shelter and an abundance of dry bedding are important. Small grain bedding provides more heat-holding power than sawdust. Shelter should be large enough for all of the cattle to use comfortably or they will crowd. Crowding is worse than providing no shelter. The shelter should provide 15-25 square feet per head for 200#-500# steers, with equal amounts of square footage outside. Providing shelter is equally important in hot months as winter since overheating is also a detriment.Incoming calves need to rest comfortably for 24-48 hours after arrival to limit morbidity. However, get the steers up every 2-4 hours and move them around in order to look for any sick cattle. This will also encourage movement to the feed bunks and waterers. Research data have shown that keeping the lights on during the evening for the first 5-7 days post-arrival will also stimulate intake.
- The vaccination schedule should be ready prior to arrival. Holstein calves should be vaccinated 24-48 hours after arrival and this should include a viral 5-way and 7-way Clostridal. A preventative broad spectrum antibiotic can also be administered at this time. Most vaccines must be boostered within the next 3-4 weeks and implants can be done at this time rather than earlier as calves have been through the disease incubation period and intakes are on the rise.
This is just a start of the things that need to be done to ensure a good transition of new, lightweight Holstein feeder steers. Ask a lot of questions and think through all the scenarios that can happen. Prepare a plan to prevent or treat sickness. Also, consult with vets and Kent Feeds representatives. Remember, a good start means a good finish on Holstein steers. Start them right and feed them the best – Kent Beef Feed!