We are used to visiting feedlots where, simply by taking a look at the animals, their ear tags or the list of origin of the same, we realize the enormous diversity of their origins. We are not only referring to animals from different farms within the Spanish geography, but it is common for Asturian or Extremaduran calves to coexist with French, Romanian or any other country calves.
But not only do we observe this variability at the level of one country or another, but when we go around and visit the lots of any feedlot, we see that, in some cases, individuals from different provinces or departments of said country coexist , where at their Once, probably, animals collected from many more or less distant farms have been grouped together. But it is not an aspect of geography or tastes in reference to the characteristics of the animals with which we work.
LET’S TALK FROM A HEALTH POINT OF VIEW
Beyond the greater or lesser economic cost of acquiring the animals, regardless of their origin … What can this variability mean to us, beef producers, from a health point of view? There is the most important aspect. And we have to be aware that it can mean a lot to us. Mainly, it can cause large economic losses and generate clinical situations that are difficult to recover in some batches, which become a real headache.
Why? Because the greater the diversity in reference to the origin of the animals that we acquire, the more likely we are to be facing a set of animals that, although they make up the same batch, are really very different from each other from a health point of view . We are going to list some important factors to consider:
- We group animals that have been born in different places, that have been encased in one way or another, that have followed a suitable vaccination protocol or in other cases have not received any vaccine, of different ages and breeds.
- They are individuals whose immune system has been in contact with different infectious agents, some of which may still remain in the animal when they arrive at the feedlot, therefore, their defenses against the same “problem” are not the same , but depend on your “previous experience”.
It is important to indicate that, even having lived with pathogens that may be the same (in name and surname, for example, Staphylococcus aureus ), the existing variability in the bacteria that circulate today in our farms, so fashionable now with the antimicrobial resistance can make two bacteria with the same name actually different in many ways. This motivates that the treatments are more or less effective or that more or less clinical problems appear depending on the affected flock. In fact, it must be considered that the animals may have contracted different diseases in their herd of origin (no matter how little time they have spent there), which in turn are different from those of their companions. And so, a long etcetera.
All of this means that, the greater the variability of the individuals, the greater the risk of suffering serious health problems , especially after the first weeks of their arrival at the feedlot.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HOMOGENEITY
All this means that, although we handle the animals in the same way upon arrival at the fattening sites, the response to the treatments or the appearance of chronic and sometimes irreversible respiratory problems, are inevitable regardless of what we do , with important differences between batches.
It is important to bear in mind that, if we have the possibility to choose the origin of the animals that we are going to fatten – which is sometimes not easy-, the more homogeneous the lots we handle in terms of their geographical origin or even the same farm, it is likely that we have fewer health problems associated with the mixing of animals and the interaction of different infectious agents (viruses or bacteria). The animals will be more “homogeneous” sanitary.
It is also obvious that the better the conditions of the animals before arriving (well rested, vaccinated, etc.), the better their immune status will be and they will be stronger when facing the test of sharing their “viruses and bacteria” with other strangers.