Among any gathering of beef producers these days you will hear conversations about working calves. It's that time of year for most. Late winter-early spring calves are about 3-4 months old now. Vaccinations for blackleg need to be given after calves are 3 months old. Some cattle are already having a problem with flies and tags, dusts, sprays and some mineral supplements can be used to bring this under control.
Producers often ask, "When is the best time to castrate and dehorn?" The best time is as young as possible. Castration and dehorning causes less stress on younger calves. In a study done in Iowa, calves were castrated and dehorned four weeks prior to weaning and at least 10 weeks prior to weaning. The stress of castration four weeks prior to weaning caused a reduction of 28 lbs. in weight gain in the treated calves compared to untreated calves. Calves that were castrated and dehorned at least 10 weeks prior to weaning had similar weights to those that were not castrated or dehorned.
Some producers will castrate and dehorn at birth. This probably causes the least stress on the calf. Calves need to be vaccinated at 3-4 months of age. Castration and dehorning at this time is also acceptable. Waiting any later will hurt gains.
Fall calves will be weaned in a couple of months. These calves will go into stocker operations or feedlots. Respiratory diseases cause major problems when cattle are shipped and mixed. The majority of death losses in stockers and feedlot cattle are due to the respiratory disease complex. This usually starts out with a viral infection of the respiratory tract that progresses to pneumonia.
Vaccination of calves for respiratory diseases 45 days prior to weaning can decrease problems post-weaning. Producers who plan to retain ownership on cattle need to get this done. In special sales or direct sales where the buyer knows calves have been vaccinated, it can help increase price.
Vaccination for brucellosis should be done when heifers are four to eight months of age. Fall heifers are just right this month.