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A better path for calves

Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and United Producers, Inc. launch Vacc-60 Program
Story by Cara Moore Photos by Dale Bryson 1/21/2022


Calves enrolled in the Vacc-60 Program, a preconditioning initiative created by Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and United Producers, Inc., will not only create more value for their producer, but also add value to the state’s livestock industry.
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Tennessee Farmers Cooperative (TFC) is proud to announce the launch of the Vacc-60 Program, a cooperative effort between TFC and United Producers, Inc. (UPI). The program is designed to prepare calves for the next phase of production by getting them accustomed to eating out of a bunk and by giving them vaccinations. Preconditioning practices drastically decrease the likelihood of sickness and disease, thereby increasing the value of the calves.

UPI, the Midwest’s largest livestock marketing cooperative, was a valuable partner in the development of the program and has recently assumed the business activities of Tennessee Livestock Producers, Inc. (TLP), which was a Farm Bureau service company. Since UPI’s expansion to Tennessee in 2020, they have heightened their collaboration with TFC to broaden the cooperative’s resources and reach. 

“We’re looking forward to what the future holds as we see TFC as a trusted resource in this state,” says Darrell Ailshie, who served as project manager for UPI until early 2022. “Although the concept of preconditioning programs has been around for several years, the Vacc-60 Program seeks to popularize and expand the use of such practices.”

As the demand for lower-risk, vaccinated, weaned cattle grow, Ailshie predicts this type of cattle will set the market. The Vacc-60 Program will allow local producers to stay ahead of this curve, he says. The program is designed to benefit local beef producers, as well as member Co-ops and affiliated dealers, with TFC and UPI playing a support role. 

The Vacc-60 Program is the initial phase of the new value-added production program for weaned calves. Protocol for this program includes management, animal health, and nutrition, as well as options for marketing, credit, and sale-price management.

“What we’ve put together is a top-shelf program with options that are not available elsewhere in the marketplace,” says TFC Livestock Program Manager Dale Bryson. “Vacc-60 has a lot of flexibility where each producer will have control of their program to ensure they get the most benefit.”

Detailed certifications and verifications are clearly defined by Vacc-60 and include a 60-day minimum weaning for home-raised calves or 60-day minimum ownership for purchased calves. Similar to other programs, male calves must be castrated and female calves must be guaranteed open. 

Two forms of identity — including an 840 Electronic ID Reader (EID) tag and certificate of authenticity — accompany the calf to verify that it’s part of the Vacc-60 Program. The 840 EID tag is an official United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) permanent identification tag, which gives the cattle credentials to be shipped anywhere in the United States. Calves will also be certified through the producer’s verification of animal health practices.

As outlined in the Vacc-60 animal health protocol, all animal-health inputs must be purchased through an approved affiliate, which includes local Co-ops, and the specific vaccination program must be selected from one of eight programs to ensure cattle perform as expected. All programs are approved and supported by three major health suppliers — Zoetis, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Merck. Once cattle are enrolled, animal-health supplies can then be ordered from the distributor Alliance Animal Care by calling 1-844-4COW-VAX, and next-day shipment is available to most producers. 

Because nutrition is the foundation of animal health, the Vacc-60 nutrition protocol places great importance on the nutritional criteria for feed and minerals that must be met for those participating in the program. The requirements, which were consolidated through thorough testing from prominent feed manufacturers such as the Cooperative Research Farms and Purina Feeds, will result in the vaccinations being overall more effective. The producer will have flexibility in meeting the requirements, but local Co-ops and their representatives will be available to offer suggestions on products that will qualify. The parameters are set in place to produce high-quality cattle with a Body Condition Score (BCS) between 5 and 6. 

Upon enrollment, producers will gain access to UPI’s expertise in customized marketing solutions, and UPI will serve as the primary marketing resource for producers participating in the Vacc-60 marketing protocol. Data will be collected and shared among the cooperative system to discover marketing preferences, suggest alternatives, and assist in every possible way to ensure that cattle sell for their true value. 

Credit opportunities will also be offered through UPI for those who choose to finance the initial purchase of feeder cattle, and consumables (feed and animal health products) can be financed through Cooperative Financial Solutions (CFS). 

Bryson says that these tools benefit farmers tremendously by allowing them to estimate the production cost, the sale cost, and the sale price, and then put an overall budget together to eliminate remaining unknowns. 

The last piece of the Vacc-60 Program is the option for sale-price risk management. UPI offers tools that can utilize contracts and/or options to produce a variety of sale-price optimization models for producers who are comfortable with those risk management options, including the option for forward contracting.

“As the pieces of the puzzle come

together, we think that we are set for

success with our partnership with

TFC,” says Ailshie. “And ultimately, we hope to support the local county Co-ops and members who choose to participate. Beyond the benefit that local producers and Co-ops receive, the Vacc-60 Program ultimately boosts the reputation of our state’s cattle. “

For a complete list of Vacc-60 protocol guidelines and more information about the program, reach out to your livestock specialist at your local Co-op. 

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