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Beef nutritionist Gary Sides shares what feedlots want at Montana Livestock Forum

Bill Brewster

A beef nutritionist with Pfizer Animal Health offered suggestions about what feedlot operators want from ranchers during the Montana Livestock Forum and Nutrition Conference held in Bozeman, MT.

Speaking during the program on April 12, Gary Sides, Ph.D., gave participants an overview of the operating environment that feedlot operators face today with high corn and cattle prices, along with soaring energy costs, providing them with on-going economic challenges.

Sides said today’s feedlot picture with $7 corn and $4 diesel make it essential that receiving cattle be purchased from producers that managed without taking shortcuts.

“Pounds and feed efficiency is the driving force,” Sides noted. The target feedlot performance for northern cattle is to gain 3.5-4 pounds per day.

“[Feedlot operators] want you guys to be profitable; they want you to raise more cows and send more cows; and to have your cattle be predictable and have perfect health. The industry today is seeing record-high feeder cattle, but with fewer feeder cattle to fill the hotel, so it’s a changing ball game with a lot of risk,” he noted.

As an example, Sides said it’s important for producers not to take management shortcuts with their cattle, such as using half doses.

The experienced feedlot nutritionist also suggested producers consider crossbreeding to take advantage of hybrid vigor, as well as synchronizing their brood cows to calve within the first 21 days of the calving season.

By looking at selection based on feedlot performance, Sides said one South Dakota ranch increased their cattle’s carcass weight from 734 pounds to 827 pounds in five years, resulting in $93 per head increased profit.

Age- and source-verification is another important tool that can provide an advantage for producers sending cattle to feedlots, Sides said.

Perfect health is another key factor that feedlots strive to attain in order to be profitable, he added. One feedlot pull for a health issue costs $80. If it is a respiratory pull at the ranch, the calf is three times more likely to be pulled at the feedlot.

Sides said factors that affect the health of cattle in the feedlot include pre-calving nutrition, fetal programming, heifer/cow vaccination programs, colostrum quality, calf vaccination programs, weaning management and parasite control.

A beef nutritionist with Pfizer Animal Health offered suggestions about what feedlot operators want from ranchers during the Montana Livestock Forum and Nutrition Conference held in Bozeman, MT.

Speaking during the program on April 12, Gary Sides, Ph.D., gave participants an overview of the operating environment that feedlot operators face today with high corn and cattle prices, along with soaring energy costs, providing them with on-going economic challenges.

Sides said today’s feedlot picture with $7 corn and $4 diesel make it essential that receiving cattle be purchased from producers that managed without taking shortcuts.

“Pounds and feed efficiency is the driving force,” Sides noted. The target feedlot performance for northern cattle is to gain 3.5-4 pounds per day.

“[Feedlot operators] want you guys to be profitable; they want you to raise more cows and send more cows; and to have your cattle be predictable and have perfect health. The industry today is seeing record-high feeder cattle, but with fewer feeder cattle to fill the hotel, so it’s a changing ball game with a lot of risk,” he noted.

As an example, Sides said it’s important for producers not to take management shortcuts with their cattle, such as using half doses.

The experienced feedlot nutritionist also suggested producers consider crossbreeding to take advantage of hybrid vigor, as well as synchronizing their brood cows to calve within the first 21 days of the calving season.

By looking at selection based on feedlot performance, Sides said one South Dakota ranch increased their cattle’s carcass weight from 734 pounds to 827 pounds in five years, resulting in $93 per head increased profit.

Age- and source-verification is another important tool that can provide an advantage for producers sending cattle to feedlots, Sides said.

Perfect health is another key factor that feedlots strive to attain in order to be profitable, he added. One feedlot pull for a health issue costs $80. If it is a respiratory pull at the ranch, the calf is three times more likely to be pulled at the feedlot.

Sides said factors that affect the health of cattle in the feedlot include pre-calving nutrition, fetal programming, heifer/cow vaccination programs, colostrum quality, calf vaccination programs, weaning management and parasite control.


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