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Your preconditioned calves will pay off

Mayzie Purviance for Progressive Cattleman Published on 28 August 2018
vaccinating calf

Joe Don Pogue of Sulphur Springs, Texas, started his career as an auctioneer in 1975, two years prior to his high school graduation. He is part owner of Sulphur Springs Livestock & Dairy Auction and has been in the cattle business for over 40 years.

Every Monday, Pogue and the Sulphur Springs Livestock crew work together to produce a livestock sale that includes a range of cattle from dairy calves to seedstock cows. Twenty years ago, Sulphur Springs Livestock added a feature to its traditional livestock sale repertoire: their preconditioned-calves-only sale.

Preconditioning is a technique used to add value to a calf once they are weaned from their mother. This technique calls for weaning, vaccination of the calf, castration and setting up a stable feed and health program for the calf.

“We try to emphasize the concept of weaning and preconditioning your calves yourself,” Pogue says. “It’s all about presenting your calves to a different group of buyers who are wanting to buy calves that are ready to go directly to the feedyard or pasture without any health issues. And buyers are willing to pay for premium preconditioned calves.”

Preconditioning adds numerous benefits to any cattle operation, but Pogue says profitability is the main concept.

“The bottom line benefit is to add profitability for your operation,” Pogue says. He adds that although preconditioning may cost you some extra time and expenses, the result pays off well.

“Being in the cattle business myself and knowing what these calves are up against when they go into these feedyards, these feedyards are truly ready to pay more for a good quality, preconditioned animal. Preconditioning really broadens your ability to get more value for your calf,” Pogue says.

Pogue could be considered an expert on preconditioning, since he deals in the auctioning of 5,000 to 7,000 head of preconditioned calves per sale. This year, Sulphur Springs Livestock has hosted seven preconditioned auctions and is planning to host another in September. In 2018 alone, Sulphur Springs Livestock is set to sell over 50,000 head of preconditioned cattle.

When asked about tips to cattle producers looking to precondition, Pogue says, “Don’t skimp on feed and care of your calf during this time. I hear, ‘I can’t afford to feed a calf that long,’ a lot. But my response to that is, ‘You can’t afford not to.’ It is worth it to put in the extra care and feed into your calves, and it’ll pay off in the end.”

“Another thing I would be mindful of is your facilities,” Pogue says. “Before you get engaged with preconditioning your calves, make sure you have a facility that enables you to do so in a low-stress fashion.”

Pogue says that not only a low-stress facility, but a low-stress overall environment, is a key factor in successful preconditioning.

“A calm set of calves always seems to do better,” Pogue says. “Try and provide a low-stress environment even when you work them, feed them, load them on the truck ... calm calves are good calves.”

Pogue also emphasizes the importance of developing a steady health program.

“Don’t skip out on the quality of products that you use,” Pogue says. “Remember to give your calves their booster shots; provide them the best immune system that you can.”

“My biggest tip I can give to anyone wanting to break into the preconditioning business, and in my opinion this is the most important step: marketing,” Pogue says. “Make sure that you present your calves as preconditioned calves. That’s where our special sales come in.”

“Don’t spend all that time and money preconditioning your calves and then haul them to a traditional livestock auction,” Pogue says. “You’ve got to market your calves in a fashion so that potential buyers know they’re bidding on preconditioned calves. Don’t just wean them and just decide to take them to a traditional sale and expect to get more money.”

The big factor to remember is that preconditioning pays off for not only the buyers, but the producer and the calf as well. With the right techniques and a little bit of work, you could precondition your next crop of calves.

“It really doesn’t matter what kind of cattle you’ve got,” says Pogue. “A preconditioned calf is going to bring more than one that’s not.”  end mark

Mayzie Purviance is a freelance writer in College Station, Texas.

PHOTO: Vaccinations, along with castration, weaning and stable feed nutrition, all play into the preconditioning process. Staff photo.

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