Date of this Version
This NebGuide gives guidelines to help feedlot operators prepare and establish a plan for starting new cattle on feed that minimizes stress, reduces morbidity (sickness) and improves performance.
An animal's first few weeks in a feedlot can influence performance throughout the entire feeding period. The cattle are adapting to a new environment and may be exposed to disease, some for the first time. It is vitally important to prevent and deal with health problems at this time to prevent loss of performance.
Cattle entering the feedlot encounter a range of problems that arise from several sources, including health and nutritional background, varying origins, transition stress into the feedlot, experience of the management and crew and season of the year.
Calves acquire immunity at birth but this is lost as the animal matures. Newly weaned cattle (five to seven months of age, 450-650 pounds) have lost this immunity and are most susceptible to common feedlot diseases. These animals usually enter feedlots in the fall, when temperature fluctuations and dust are especially troublesome. If the cattle have a poor nutritional background, have heavy parasite infestations, or have not been exposed to common feedlot diseases (either naturally or through vaccines) they are more likely to suffer severe disease problems during the first few weeks in the feedlot.
Flawless management and care of newly weaned cattle in the feedlot are the key to avoiding most problems.