Q&A: Avoiding Performance Losses With Feedlot Manager Tanner Stucky

Tanner Stucky, yard manager at Tiffany Cattle Company in Herington, Kansas, shares what he has learned about managing bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and using that to prevent costly challenges down the road.

Hilbig: As the yard manager at Tiffany Cattle Company, what do you do to avoid the big losses from diseases like BRD?

Stucky: This industry is intense right now, so every pound lost, that’s money right out of your pocket. When you are fighting sickness, your performance has already gone downhill. Cattle aren’t eating as many pounds of feed per day. So, you have to stay on top of these things daily. As soon as cattle come into the feedlot, we treat them like babies. They need every vaccination, and you have to make sure your pen riders are really paying attention. You hate to see someone miss an animal to treat. It can be heartbreaking when someone works hard but can’t get a sick animal to turn around.

Hilbig: Managing people is a big part of managing against BRD losses. What else do you have to manage?

Stucky: You have to learn how to handle everything. It’s about making sure you’ve got a good feed ration and nutrients for your animals. It’s about having protocols, such as if there is a certain class to BVD-PI [bovine viral diarrhea virus persistent infection] test for that could potentially cause you problems later. It’s about having good vaccination programs in place. And yes, a big part is making sure your employees know how important their job is. If you let people know the big picture, they take an interest in the operation and will want to see everything get executed. We’re always big on cattle-handling skills, too. All of our guys go through training to learn how to handle animals, and that — if you always treat the animals right — plays a big role in preventing sickness.

Hilbig: What other tools have you learned that you need?

Stucky: I’ve been involved in the cattle industry since I was a little boy, and there’s always more to learn. Everyone you meet can usually teach you something different.
I’m pretty lucky to work with owners, Shane and Shawn Tiffany. They’re good leaders and mentors. And my dad, who manages a feedlot in Nebraska, is just a phone call away. Our veterinarian on staff is close by, and we can walk through things together if we have any challenges. Our nutritionist is another great guy I look to. He takes care of numerous yards and has a great background. All of us communicate so much. Our veterinarian will hear something new, and we’ll talk about it, or our nutritionist will share something he’s read.

This industry is all about the relationships.

Hilbig: What have these relationships done for you?   

Stucky: I am sometimes of the mindset that “I know what I’m doing. I’ve got this down.” Other people in the industry have just showed me a whole different way of looking at things. They’ve helped me set our protocols. They’ve taught me how to handle high-stress situations and how to handle people, too.

It’s hard work and a lot of hours, but everyone is doing this because they love it. In the end, we’re all working together, and it’s important to continue to be open to advice from others no matter how much you know.

Hilbig: You mentioned setting protocols. What differences have the protocols you’ve set made for Tiffany Cattle Company?
Stucky: It has helped us avoid some big wrecks and problems we kept seeing again and again. It’s a successful day when you go home and you haven’t had any big wrecks and everyone is still happy with each other.

It’s not to say that we don’t have our problems here or there — when you’re dealing with that many animals at once, you’re going to have a problem at some point in time — but the biggest difference I have to say that has helped us improve has been sticking to our protocols.

Hilbig: Why have you found sticking to protocols so important?  

Stucky: In my experience, you’ve got to stick to protocols you’ve set for at least six months, and then you need to review them. That will tell you if your protocols are doing what they are supposed to do.

For instance, we are very strict with our treatment protocols. There are different times of the year that BRD can be harder to manage, so one thing that’s been successful for us recently is if we use EXCEDE [EXCEDE® (ceftiofur crystalline free acid) Sterile Suspension] for our first-choice treatment from January to May. Haemophilus [Histophilus somni/Haemophilus somnus] has been more present earlier in the year, and we’ve seen that EXCEDE helps target this effectively. In May through the end of the year, we’ve found success with DRAXXIN [DRAXXIN® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution] as our first-treatment choice, and if we need any re-treatments, we follow with EXCEDE.

Hilbig: What else has made a big difference for Tiffany Cattle Company in managing against BRD risks?

Stucky: One of our biggest tools is to post animals you lose and figure out why you are losing them. If you don’t figure out why you’re losing them, then you won’t know how to attack the problem and fix it. Sometimes it’s something you could have never fixed, but it could at least provide insights to help avoid a pen problem or losing more cattle in the future.

Also, another thing that has helped us is working with our customers at home before they bring their cattle to us. So, they will get all their shots a couple of weeks before animals even come to us. Again, it all comes back to relationships. If everyone is communicating what they are doing on both sides, this can be huge. I hope as an industry we can all inform those who raise cattle how important vaccinations are from the start. It all starts at home when that calf hits the ground and how good you’ve been taking care of that cow. Also, I hope more people start BVD-PI-testing calves and eliminating some of those factors and problems.

These are the things that help make our jobs a little easier on the feedlot.

Hilbig: That’s great. I know everyone is striving for anything to help make their jobs a little easier. Any other advice about BRD management you’d like to share?

Stucky: Every day there’s going to be a new challenge. You must be steady, but every once in a while, you have to change something in your program in order to make a difference for the future.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION FOR DRAXXIN: DRAXXIN has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 18 days in cattle. Do not use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Do not use in animals known to be hypersensitive to the product. See full Prescribing Information.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION FOR EXCEDE: People with known hypersensitivity to penicillin or cephalosporins should avoid exposure to EXCEDE. EXCEDE is contraindicated in animals with known allergy to ceftiofur or to the ß-lactam group (penicillins and cephalosporins) of antimicrobials. Inadvertent intra-arterial injection is possible and fatal. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal. Pre-slaughter withdrawal time is 13 days following the last dose. See full Prescribing Information.

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