Green grass and rolling hills set the perfect scene for a stocker operation near Smiths Grove, Ky.

Mike Buttram of Buttram Farms has spent a lifetime there developing sound, healthy calves. Over the years, the family-owned operation has made distinct improvements in their daily activities — keeping the operation increasingly profitable and efficient.

One aspect of the operation Buttram has worked to improve while managing the farm is developing a solid on-arrival strategy. Because the first 21 days after arrival are critical, Buttram has tweaked his protocol to get calves off to a great start.

“Especially with the kind of cattle we buy — high-risk heifer calves that arrive unweaned, without vaccinations — we have to stay ahead of the eight ball and keep them from getting sick,” Buttram says. “They always say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the cattle business, the truth to that is 10-fold.”

For Buttram, his experience with heifer calves is much different than his previous work dealing with bull calves. Whether it is the added stressors associated with castration or just a different mentality, the success and profitability of his operation has improved since moving to all heifers.

 “Off the truck, our heifers generally weigh between 300 to 500 pounds and will gain 250 to 300 pounds in approximately four months before being sold,” Buttram says. “With calves that come in not always being fed as well as they could have been, our experience has been that heifers have required less attention than steers.”

With a steady flow of calves arriving weekly, Buttram noticed crowding made it difficult to keep health and death loss under control, which is typical for operations like his in dealing with bovine respiratory disease (BRD).

Death, reduced feed efficiency and treatment costs associated with BRD cost the cattle industry an estimated $1 billion each year.In an effortto reduce losses associated with BRD, Buttram has implemented the Blackjack BRD Management Strategy.

By using Draxxin (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution on-arrival for these high-risk calves followed by Excede (ceftiofur crystalline free acid) Sterile Suspension on any sick calves needing a follow-up treatment, Buttram ensures his cattle receive up to 21 days of therapy for BRD resulting in fewer total treatments and deaths, improved feed efficiency and improved return on investment.

“The commingling of calves from different herds and unknown vaccination history creates the perfect storm for BRD,” says Robin Falkner, DVM, Pfizer Animal Health Cattle Technical Services. “We are unable to use vaccinations alone to stop the disease, so convenient BRD control strategies like the Blackjack BRD Management Strategy help us to better manage the health of the animals.”