Competitive Graduate Student Assistantship Program

Use of Drinking Water as a Carrier to Provide Critical Nutrients for Immune System Support: Impacts on Health and Performance of Weaned Calves

Project Leaders: : Clint Löest: Professor (Department of Animal and Range Sciences,; Vinícius Gouvêa: Assistant Professor (Clayton Livestock Research Center,

Student: Rebecca Swanson: Current M.S. student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has applied to the Ph.D. program in Animal Science at NMSU. (

Summary: There were 1.48-million cattle in New Mexico in 2019 (NASS, 2020). While the majority of the beef cattle are initially in stocker and cow/calf scenarios, the ultimate goal of most beef cattle producers is to generate a consumable beef product, a task accomplished primarily through fattening cattle in feedlots. Weaned calves from New Mexico cow-calf ranches are notorious for being “high-risk” calves in a feedlot. These calves are less appealing to feedlots because of their inherent unpredictable health and performance in the feedlot. This project will evaluate nutrition and management strategies to improve the health of calves, thus potentially making New Mexico calves more appealing to feedlot operations. Additionally, there is potential for the nutrition strategies evaluated in this feedlot project to be of use in cow-calf operations (ranches) to improve the immune-competence of weaned calves before transport to feedlots. Furthermore, vertical integration among sectors of the beef industry and retained ownership of cattle in feedlots has been increasing, and therefore it is likely that many of New Mexico ranchers will continue to own their cattle in feedlots. The outcome of this research will highly benefit New Mexico cattle producers that send their calves to the feedlot by providing alternative strategies to improve the health and performance of their cattle in the feedlot. These practices have the potential to better prepare calves for the stress and disease challenges associated with the cattle-feeding sector. Increasing calf health and well-being will most certainly result in a more profitable beef industry in New Mexico.