• By Adam Probst, Extension Agent

Agriculture & Natural Resources

KY CPH-45 – It’s still the one!

Sources: Dr. Roy Burris; UK Beef Extension Specialist

As we wind down the summer months, many of us will be considering how to market spring calves. Preconditioning calves before selling hasn’t always been popular, but is making lots of headway at putting some additional dollars in producer’s pockets. Kentucky’s Certified Preconditioned for Health (CPH-45) feeder calf program is still the premier management program for weaned calves in the country. That’s a bold statement, but I believe it to be true. Preconditioning (preweaning and vaccinating calves prior to marketing) has not always been an accepted practice.

Certified Preconditioning programs have evolved over time with Kentucky’s program starting in 1979, when nine other states also started programs. Southeastern calves, which were generally unweaned, unvaccinated, not dehorned, not dewormed and not castrated, were severely discounted but both producers and buyers were reluctant to change. It would require effort on the cow-calf producer’s part and require more money from the feedlots. Cattle feeders, until they could be proven wrong, preferred to buy high-risk calves at cheap prices and process them with their own crews.

We tried several sales over the years and the Pennyrile area was a good example of a continuous running sale and an example of what could be done if all parties worked together. The farmer-feeders of the Midwest were our best customers at that time, but the larger lots, especially in the southwest, continued to reject the program. About that time, one Texan explained to me why they didn’t buy Kentucky feeder calves – “they all get sick, they’re all straight breeds, the males aren’t castrated and the heifers must be born pregnant.” We had some work to do…and we did it.

Texas researchers were slow to adopt the concept but came to agree that preweaning was a good practice and prevaccinating was also good. So why wouldn’t they be even better together? They would be. Soon, Dr. John McNeill of Texas A & M started their program called VAC-45 and had good results, and the move was underway to get this concept accepted nationally once Texas got on board.

Some folks still don’t believe that weaned calves will make rapid and efficient gains. They will. Try it. If you can get efficient gains, extend ownership and receive a better price for your calves, that should work for you. If the feeder can buy a load of “low risk” calves with increased immunity that will walk off the truck knowing how to eat and drink, and that have already been dehorned and castrated, that will work for them. It’s a win-win situation that we need to keep going.

For more information on CPH-45 sales, contact the Woodford County Extension Service at 873-4601.

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