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We’ve all seen them. Many of us have fed them, and a few of us have had one in the deep freeze. Dairy steers make up nearly 20% of all fed cattle.

The sale of newborn bull calves may make up only one to two percent of gross sales from dairies. Until recently, there has been little incentive to give them the same care as their heifer mates. High labor costs and time restrictions on large dairies generally have a negative impact on the initial care of dairy bull calves. This is directly translated into inadequate or untimely administration of colostrum after birth. It sets up the calves for a lifetime of greater disease risk, lower growth rates and unthriftiness.

Given today’s price of cattle, the shortage of numbers and increased feedlot space, dairy bull calves are gaining importance in the beef industry. This fact alone should prompt dairies to administer first class care to their bull calves. Calves that, in the past, may have only brought $5 per head may now be worth up to $500 off the farm. Compared to beef calves, dairy bull calves are more at higher risk of illness due to how they are managed and raised.

Where does it start?

A dairy heifer calf is the princess of the barn. She is administered measured amounts of high quality colostrum (tested with a colostrometer) two to three times prior to being moved out of the calving area. A general recommendation for administering colostrum is, four quarts of high-quality product at birth, two quarts at 10 to 12 hours. Some dairies may even feed three times. Bull calves, however, are treated a bit differently. Being a by-product, many may get only one feeding, some may get none. Many large dairies have calves picked up by “calf jockeys” on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and they often spend a week on the road. They are trailered to calf ranches where they are raised in large groups until they weigh 300 to 350 pounds. At that point, back-grounding lots purchase the calves and they are moved out.

On a seasonal basis, morbidity on these young calves can reach 15 to 30 percent and mortality 5 to 15 percent without our health program. Early pulls and death loss due to compromised immune systems are more measurable than events happening later in the lives of calves. A common problem, susceptibility to Mycoplasma pneumonia, can lead to other diseases. Eventually, the value of the drop at harvest from Holsteins is reduced by abscesses on the liver, lungs and kidneys. Mycoplasma almost guarantees an abscessed liver resulting in lowered grade percentages. Inadequate immunity affects every factor determining profitability.

What to do?

For folks feeding Holsteins, good intervention lies in using Transfer Factors & probiotics found in the Ramaekers Immune Primer Formulas. Joe Ramaekers, DVM, is a veterinarian from Santa Cruz, California. He is a lifelong student of immunology and is frequently called to consult with livestock producers of all species regarding communicable disease. Ramaekers is conducting real-world tests and has developed Immune Primer Formulas which can be administered to large groups of cattle, fed to just a few or even drenched in young stock. It is used to boost immune systems performance in healthy and compromised animals. He has long believed in effective preventative medicine using his patented Immune Primer for at risk or stressed patients.

Stressed calves arriving from long trips to calf ranches may be dosed with the Immune Primer Formulas on days one, two and twelve, and spot treated with penicillin G as needed. Cheaper antibiotics appear to have enhanced effectiveness when used in combination with his Immune Primer Formulas. At one ranch, cull rates on calves under Dr. Ramaekers’ care have been cut to less than 1% and groups of calves “even up” as they stay on the ranch.

For older preconditioned dairy calves there is the Stocker/Adult Pre-Conditioned Pre-Mix. This formula is indicated for use during stress windows such as transition, weaning and transport.

Finished dairy steers when managed with Dr. Ramaekers' immune conditioning program consistently attain improved carcass quality and reduced carcass discounts resulting in higher profitability for the producer.

Ramaekers’ hope is that the Adult Immune Primer Formula and Adult Pre-Conditioned Premix can be used in all-natural pens of cattle, replacing implants, hormone therapy or other regulatory feed additives that may cause side effects such as lowering grade or potential toxicity. His goal is to return at least ten dollars for every dollar invested in his product. His historical data collected on almost 1 million head of cattle over 13 years shows an average return of $10 for every dollar invested.

With new antibiotic regulations coming down the pike, Ramaekers sees an increasing need to turn to a “prophylactic program". A program that affords 24 hour protection and Primes the animal’s immune system for life. The current political climate is demanding the minimization of antibiotics. It is inconvenient and, to many of us in the livestock industry, unnecessary because we use our medications judiciously according the label guidelines. The future may demand us to rely more heavily on the use of immune science to raise our production levels. Immune system priming will also help raise effectiveness of all health products including vaccines & wormers and extend the life of western medicine therapeutics. The use of non-prescription feed additives will end in 2016. Ramaekers Nutrition is being proactive in a market that is demanding an antibiotic and hormone free product.





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In October of 2009, 45 steers from Zanesville, Ohio were delivered to Willow Creek Farms in Tiffin, Ohio owned
by Dr. Robert McClung.

The steers were gate cut into 3 groups. Twenty head were tagged with ODD numbers to receive the STOCKER/ADULT IMMUNE PRIMER, twenty head tagged with EVEN numbers to receive the STOCKER/ADULT PHASED-RELEASE IMMUNE PRIMER and five tagged controls to receive placebos.
The IMMUNE PRIMER group got product on days 1, 2 & 12. The PHASED-RELEASE group got product on days 1 &12. The controls were given placebos on days 1, 2 & 12.

On day 1, all cattle received the same worming and vaccine protocols. In addition, all cattle received a porcine, slow release parvo virus and 5-way leptospirosis vaccine by Solid Tech Bacterin.

All cattle were bled on day 0 for baseline titers for porcine parvo virus and leptospirosis.

On day 12, all cattle received standard vaccine boosters and the study groups their second dose of STOCKER/ADULT IMMUNE PRIMER.

On day 21 and 42, all cattle were bled and weighed.

Observations by Dr. McClung:
By the second day ALL of the Treated calves suddenly stopped bawling and were feeding. On Days 3 & 4, Compared to the controls, all the treated cattle had full bellies and appeared much more active.

On day 10, it was observed that some of all of the groups were visibly depressed and starting to show some respiratory signs. By day 12, 8 of the IMMUNE PRIMER group and 3 of the PHASED-RELEASE group had respiratory signs.

On day 16, Dr. McClung decided to mass treat the IMMUNE PRIMER group with antibiotics and 2 of the PHASED-RELEASE group.

On day 21, Dr. McClung repeated the PHASED-RELEASE group's antibiotics and re-bled all cattle in the study. After suspecting a vaccine failure and consulting with the manufacturer, Dr. McClung sent in titers for IBR PI3 BVD BRSV. The manufacturer also suspected a vaccine failure or virus mutations. This was the first time in 5 years that Dr. McClung had problems with immune supplementation and vaccine response.

On day 42, all cattle were re-bled and weighed.


  • Essentially all cattle in study had zero starting titers to the swine vaccines
  • Both viral and bacterial components of the vaccines responded very strongly to Natural Immune Supplementation ranging from a 320% to 500% increase in titers
  • Also discovered was a delayed loss of vaccine immunity or in other words a Prolonged Duration of Immunity.