Since 2005, the VQA program has sought to position our local beef producers to receive more money for calves that they have properly backgrounded. During that time, we have had pretty much the same criteria.

All VQA calves of the past had to be weaned 45 days, be vaccinated with a 7-way Clostridial (Blackleg) and boostered, have one round of modified live virus (MLV) respiratory vaccines containing IBR, PI3, BRSV, and BVD types I and II. They also need a modified live vaccination for Mannheimia haemolytica, commonly known as Pasteurella. These shots had to be completed 14 days prior to the calves’ take-up date.

Finally, the calves needed to be dewormed, feed bunk and water trough broke, and the owners had to have a current Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification. These four pieces are really the only unaltered facets of the new VQA program. The calves will still have to be dewormed, trough broke and you will need a current BQA certificate.

Here are the things that have changed. First, all animals must have been vaccinated no fewer than 21 days prior to take up. Earlier is better, but the extra week gives the calves longer to develop their immunity and increase their ability to resist disease.

Next, all calves must receive two rounds of vaccines. While they are still on the cow, the calves should receive a blackleg shot and a respiratory vaccine (either killed or MLV) once and be castrated or banded as early as possible. Waiting to castrate will increase the chance of dropping and ‘bull-like’ characteristics. AFCA’s policy is that all animals displaying these will be deemed a ‘stag” and will be rejected.

For the “On the Cow” program, if the cows are not vaccinated or killed products were used on them, use a killed product on the calves. Only use a modified Live product if the cows have been vaccinated annually with the same product line.

When should you give the “on the cow” protocol? You can choose to give the shots at spring turn out, mid-summer, or two weeks prior to weaning.

Once the calves are weaned, administer a MLV respiratory shot, booster their blackleg shot, and give them a MLV Pasteurella shot unless it is included in the respiratory vaccine. Deworm or repeat deworming the calves as well.

If you are marketing purchased animals, first you need to establish the farm of origin and have the animals inspected as close to your receiving of them as possible. Purchased calves must be owned for at least 120 days and all purchased calves must be black or black white faced. No red, red cross or Charolais cross calves with be accepted. 

Each purchased calf must receive two rounds of MLV respiratory vaccines. Administer the first round when the calves are “straightened out” and the second within 60 days of the sale and at least 21 days prior to the take up. Work with a vet or animal health professional to determine the program best for you that meets the protocol.

Finally, all calves must be weaned a minimum of 60 days. Buyers are requesting a longer weaning period, and this will also help us reinforce the value of the calves coming from our area.

Please see the accompanying table as a reminder of the sale days and important deadlines.

Upcoming Events

March 16--Farm Management Meeting, Farm Bureau Building, Marion. Phil Blevins will share the grass test data.

March 25--VQA Calf Sale, Tri State Market, Abingdon, 7 p.m.

March 28--VA BCIA Bull Sale, Wytheville.

March 30--VQA Steer Take-Up, Tri State Livestock Market.

April 1--VQA Heifer Take-Up, Tri State Livestock Market.

April 24--Watershed Field Day for 6th Graders, Chilhowie High School.

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Dr. Andy Overbay is Smyth County’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent.

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