Terry Engleken, DVM,
Bovine Veterinarian: You’ve been on “field trips” with veterinarians in the past – how valuable to do you think these types of trips are for both students and veterinarians to actually visit different types of operations than they are accustomed to?
Terry Engelken: When dealing with all the different types of production systems that affect cattle prior to their arrival at the feedyard, I think it is extremely helpful to actually view these operations. You begin to get a feel for some of the obstacles that producers face prior to having their calves get off the truck at the feedyard. It may be management issues, forage availability such as fescue or ryegrass, or the genetic makeup of the cattle.
Some feedyards may not particularly like Brahman influenced cattle coming off of fescue pastures, but there are some very good reasons why those types of production systems exist at the cow-calf and stocker levels. Trips like this just give students a better feel for the industry as a whole and what they will be facing once they graduate.
BV: What do you think the two to three biggest takeaways from the stocker trip were for the students?
TE: I think the most important thing that the students learned is why the stocker industry exists. Those light weight calves coming out of small cow-calf operations don’t arrive at the feedyard in bunches of three to five head. There is a highly efficient part of the industry that takes these calves, straightens them out into uniform groups, and then utilizes forage to put weight on them. They really transition the calves to be ready for the feedyard by getting them healthy and heavy enough to thrive.
Another important thing they learned is that there is incredible diversity in these operations. There is no such thing as a “cookie cutter” approach to stocker production. Differences in cattle genetics combined with differences in environmental conditions, forage base, cattle procurement, and supplemental feeding systems mean that you see something different on every operation. We visited a number of operations on the trip and no two were exactly alike.