Selling calves at the heaviest weight is the goal of every cattle producer, and preconditioning calves is one of the best ways to achieve healthier and heavier calves; thus higher prices at the auction. Industry leaders maintain in an article that more producers need to start preconditioning calves. Essentially, it is a win-win for consumers and the industry as those in the industry see profit and consumers get better quality beef.

Preconditioning and Price

For those needing incentive to start a preconditioning program with their herds, figures taken by Superior Livestock Auctions in 2013 showed that preconditioned calves were bringing $6 per cwt over their non-conditioned counterparts. Since then, cattle prices have skyrocketed, and preconditioned calves bring much higher premiums. The piece cites Tom Brink, CEO of the American Red Angus Association, in saying that current numbers suggest that unweaned feeder calves should be discounted approximately $191 per head at auction.

Preconditioning Criteria

Preconditioned calves meet the following criteria— they are:

  • vaccinated
  • castrated
  • dehorned
  • weaned for at least 45 days on the ranch before being taken to market

Some argue that deworming should be added to the preconditioning criteria as well.

Advantages of Preconditioning

Beyond better calf weight at auction time and thus a higher sale price, preconditioning offers additional benefits. First, preconditioning is beneficial for the health of the calf. Vaccinations means a stronger immune system and significantly reduced risks of illnesses like respiratory disease. Similarly, early castration, dehorning and 45 days of weaning on the ranch creates less stress on the animal and makes it more attractive to buyers.

Additionally, that healthy calf then produces significantly better in the next stages of its life; it will produce better calves and produces better beef. Lastly, fewer sick animals means less use of antibiotics, resulting in fewer resources consumed.

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