Preconditioning Impacts Feedlot Performance

Calves enrolled in SelectVAC® add value and sustainability for feedyards.

Before calves arrive at the feedlot, they can make a number of stops along the way — from the ranch of origin, to the stocker or backgrounder operation and then to the finishing facility. A proven way for feeding operations to reduce illness and increase sustainability is by choosing calves with an immune system capable of handling infectious challenges they could encounter along the way.

“We care for these animals, and in the spirit of being true stewards and good stockmen, we naturally look for information that can help us improve overall herd health and operational outcomes,” said Elizabeth Fraser, DVM, Beef Technical Services at Zoetis. “Selecting well-managed calves that have been well fed and received vaccines at the ranch consistently result in better health and productivity in the feedyard.”

Buying calves that were preconditioned ahead of stressors like shipment and commingling helps ward off potential health risks, such as bovine respiratory disease (BRD). BRD accounts for annual feedlot losses of $1 billion due to loss of production, increased labor expenses, pharmaceutical costs and death.1,2

Purchasing cattle enrolled in a third-party verified preconditioning program like SelectVAC® from Zoetis provides additional insight into the cattle being purchased and improves transparency. SelectVAC details how the cattle were managed, products administered and the timing of product administration.

“Each feedyard has its own arrival protocols,” said Dr. Fraser. “Having verified information detailing previous vaccination and herd management information can help feedlots make important initial processing decisions.”

Preconditioning results in better health and feedlot performance by reducing feedlot morbidity and mortality, and lowering treatment costs. Calves enrolled in SelectVAC demonstrated better performance than other preconditioning programs in a commercial feedlot study and were more than four times less likely to get sick or die than calves with an unverified health history.3

Performance improvements seen in preconditioned cattle included higher average daily gains, improved feed conversion and lower cost of gain. These differences increased the value of preconditioned calves for feedlot managers by $5.25/cwt.4

“If you have animals facing the challenges of shipment and commingling, their potential for success is enhanced by being armed with a properly stimulated immune system,” said Dr. Fraser. “Actively sourcing preconditioned cattle will increase their potential to remain healthy and productive, which is definitely an added value for buyers.”

To learn more about the SelectVAC program, please visit For more information about preconditioning, visit with your animal health adviser or Zoetis representative.

About Zoetis
Zoetis (zô-EH-tis) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products and genetic tests and supported by a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2015, the company generated annual revenue of $4.8 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit

For more information, contact:
Leona Ling Ferguson

Aimee Robinson
Bader Rutter

1 Brodersen BW. Bovine respiratory syncytial virus. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 2010;26(2):323-333.
2 Griffin D, Chengappa MM, Kuszak J, McVey DS. Bacterial pathogens of the bovine respiratory disease complex. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 2010;26 (2):381-394.
3 Seeger JT, Grotelueschen DM, Stokka GL, et al. Comparison of the feedlot health, nutritional performance, carcass characteristics, and economic value of unweaned beef calves with an unknown health history and of weaned beef calves receiving various herd-of-origin health protocols. Bov Pract. 2008;42(1):1-13.
4 Lalman D, Smith R. Effects of Preconditioning on Health, Performance, and Prices of Weaned Calves. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Fact Sheet ANSI-3529, April 2001.



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