Project Snapshot

Treatment Optimization Pillar

Health Impacts of Optimized Pre-conditioning in Beef Cattle

Project Key Words: Antimicrobial Use, Beef Cattle, Pre-conditioning

Principal Investigator: Karin Orsel, DVM, PhD

Co-Investigator(s): Ed Pajor, PhD; Frank van der Meer, DVM, PhD; Sean Thompson, MSc, PAg, Henry An, PhD

Collaborator: Kathy Larson, M.Sc.; Trevor Alexander, PhD

Trainees: Morgan Louden, Abby Lodder

Project Theme: Education and Societal Impact

The Aim

The focus of this project is to evaluate the impact of pre-conditioning on performance, health, and welfare of calves in the feedlot. We aim to add to the body of evidence regarding the costs and benefits of pre-conditioning as it relates to disease prevention and reduced antimicrobial use.

Why is This Important?

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is a common disorder, and it requires the use of  antimicrobials. Evidence in support of BRD risk reduction can promote pre-conditioning which is currently not a well-adopted practice.


We will be able to collect data on the morbidity, mortality , and performance of pre-conditioned calves when co-mingled with conventionally raised calves. We will gain an understanding of microbiome development under different circumstances.

Research Questions

1. What is the impact of optimized pre-conditioning on calf health outcomes in conventional feedlot environments?

2. Does the economic benefits from pre-conditioning erode when commingling occurs?

3. What is the impact of pre-conditioning on microbiome development?

Our Approach

Pre-conditioned calves (optimized vaccination, timing of interventions, and weaning strategy), will be placed in feedlot pens in different ratios with conventionally raised calves.

Data will be collected on:

1. Morbidity and mortality

2. Respiratory microbiome

3. Economic parameters, such as cost-benefit

Leveraged Sources of Support  

  • Anderson-Chisholm chair for animal care and welfare
  • Simpson chair for beef cattle health and wellness
  • NSERC grant Olds College
  • UofC Vet Med in kind
  • Olds College in kind

Knowledge & Technology Exchange and Exploitation  

  • Change in beef practices
  • Increased animal welfare
  • Alternatives to antimicrobial use

Highly Qualified Personnel  

  • 2 PhD Students
  • 1 Masters Student
  • Many undergraduate students that will gain research experience