Four trials were conducted to determine the efficacy of using trainer animals to improve the health and performance of newly arrived feedlot calves. For all trials, trainer animals were given 3 wk to adapt to the feedlot before arrival of the feeder calves and initiation of the trials. Trainer animals were present with newly received feedlot calves for 14 d after arrival and then were removed from the pens for the remaining 14 d of the experiments. In Trial 1, trainer animals were six crossbred beef steers and six mature cull beef cows. Newly received calves were allotted to 18 pens with 10 calves/pen. Six pens contained a trainer steer and six pens contained a trainer cow. Similar procedures were used for the subsequent three trials, except 12 trainer cows and 24 pens were used, and in Trial 4 half of the calves were allotted to pasture paddocks for 14 d before placement in their feedlot pens. During wk 1 of Trial 1, calves with trainer cows and steers gained weight more rapidly (P < .10) than those without a trainer animal (1.12 vs .67 kg/d, respectively). During wk 2, this trend was reversed and overall gains did not differ (P > .20) among treatment groups. Morbidity was 16.7 for control calves, 28.3% for calves with trainer steers, and 8.3% for calves with trainer cows. Four of six trainer steers required antibiotic treatment for respiratory disease. On d 1, a greater (P < .05) percentage of calves in the trainer cow group (81.7%) were observed eating during the first 30 min after feeding compared with either the steer trainer group (60%) or the control group containing no trainer animal (48.3%). This trend continued on d 2 but was not evident on d 3 or 7. In Trial 2, overall gains were 10% greater (P < .06) and final BW was higher (P < .01) for calves with trainer cows than for those without trainers. Trainer cows resulted in a substantial reduction (P < .01) in calf morbidity compared with calves housed alone. In Trial 3, trainer cows did not improve performance or health of newly received calves. More (P < .07) calves with trainers than without were eating 5 min after feeding on d 1, 2, 4, and 8. In Trial 4, the presence of trainer cows the first 2 wk did not affect (P > .27) gains. However, calves placed on pasture after arrival had lower (P < .03) gains during wk 1 than those housed in the feedlot. Calves placed in pasture paddocks upon arrival had more than twice (P < .01) the incidence of morbidity of those placed directly in the feedlot. In these trials, trainer cows had a significant effect on eating behavior of newly received calves, but health and performance benefits were variable.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology