Vet’s Voice: Beef cattle implant considerations | TSLN.com
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Vet’s Voice: Beef cattle implant considerations

Dave Barz, DVM
For the May 21, 2011 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

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Things are really late this spring! Some of the corn is planted, but other areas have very little field work completed. We have had plenty of moisture, but the lack of heat has really slowed the growth of alfalfa and grass. Hopefully a few warm days will jump-start pastures and help the forage. As we work our calves before turnout, the ago old question arises, “Should we implant?”

In the past, university researchers touted implanting as one of the most profitable management practices for cow-calf producers. Implants have been around for many years. When I was in college, the new ag building had a plaque stating it was built from monies generated from the stilbestrol (DES) patent. It’s true we don’t have DES anymore, but this was more than forty years ago.

Through the years implanting techniques and implanting guns have improved greatly. Some of the old ones needed to be reloaded between every animal, but now reels and clips allow users to treat 10-20 head without reloading. One of the problems with the early guns was crushing of the implant pellet. This caused the implant to be absorbed very rapidly. This surge of hormone was thought to increase bulling and riding. I still have a few producers (old-timers like me) who refuse to use implants because of a heifer wreck. The new guns are designed with a retracting needle to avoid crushing. Now careful placement and new equipment have nearly eliminated this problem.

Initially we were told never to use implants on breeding animals. If young bulls were implanted early in life and not castrated, it was a real job to find and remove those testicles in the fall. If heifers are implanted very early in life, the ovaries may be affected as the testicles were. Synovex was introduced and it was cleared for use in heifers at branding time. It had no effect on the subsequent reproduction of the implanted females. The implant even caused the heifer’s pelvic area to increase over non-implanted herd mates. Now I have some clients who implant breeding heifers about 100 days before breeding. They believe it helps their feed efficiency and gains in their prebreeding programs and appears to not affect the fertility of the heifers.

Some specialty meats require no implant. This is a requirement of meats shipped to the European Union (EU). They have legislated against implants to avoid the population ingesting excess hormones. In reality, unless you eat the ear containing the implant, most naturally-occurring vegetables contain more hormones then a serving of meat. Others prefer natural meats free from implants and other products (antibiotics, etc.). This market pays a premium for cattle raised according to their standards.

How much does it cost to not implant? An implanted animal, maintained on implants until harvest, will be a frame score larger than its non-implanted counterpart. This equates to a little over 100 pounds. This means implanted animals will be at least 100 pounds heavier at harvest, increasing your lot’s efficiency for feeding space. This increase in feed efficiency was thought to be worth about $10 per hundredweight in the days of $4 corn. With increased feed costs, I believe you need at least a $10 premium to even consider not implanting. Natural programs eliminating feed additives (rumensin, etc.) also increase feed costs lowering efficiency. Careful scrutiny is needed to project costs versus returns.

In the short-term, implanting pasture cattle at turnout should add 25-30 pounds at weaning. At today’s prices 30 pounds multiplied by $1.50 equals $45 per head. The investment of one dollar will return about $50. Recent research highlights a second gain increase if the calves are reimplanted in late summer when with primary vaccinations. If you sell at weaning, the more pounds you have, the more your calves will be worth.

Implanting has been an important management tool for many years. As calf prices increase, the extra pounds produced will generate extra dollars for the operation. If you choose not to implant, make sure you receive premiums which offset increased gains. Your veterinarian, nutritionist or extension specialist can help design a program to meet your goals.

Things are really late this spring! Some of the corn is planted, but other areas have very little field work completed. We have had plenty of moisture, but the lack of heat has really slowed the growth of alfalfa and grass. Hopefully a few warm days will jump-start pastures and help the forage. As we work our calves before turnout, the ago old question arises, “Should we implant?”

In the past, university researchers touted implanting as one of the most profitable management practices for cow-calf producers. Implants have been around for many years. When I was in college, the new ag building had a plaque stating it was built from monies generated from the stilbestrol (DES) patent. It’s true we don’t have DES anymore, but this was more than forty years ago.

Through the years implanting techniques and implanting guns have improved greatly. Some of the old ones needed to be reloaded between every animal, but now reels and clips allow users to treat 10-20 head without reloading. One of the problems with the early guns was crushing of the implant pellet. This caused the implant to be absorbed very rapidly. This surge of hormone was thought to increase bulling and riding. I still have a few producers (old-timers like me) who refuse to use implants because of a heifer wreck. The new guns are designed with a retracting needle to avoid crushing. Now careful placement and new equipment have nearly eliminated this problem.

Initially we were told never to use implants on breeding animals. If young bulls were implanted early in life and not castrated, it was a real job to find and remove those testicles in the fall. If heifers are implanted very early in life, the ovaries may be affected as the testicles were. Synovex was introduced and it was cleared for use in heifers at branding time. It had no effect on the subsequent reproduction of the implanted females. The implant even caused the heifer’s pelvic area to increase over non-implanted herd mates. Now I have some clients who implant breeding heifers about 100 days before breeding. They believe it helps their feed efficiency and gains in their prebreeding programs and appears to not affect the fertility of the heifers.

Some specialty meats require no implant. This is a requirement of meats shipped to the European Union (EU). They have legislated against implants to avoid the population ingesting excess hormones. In reality, unless you eat the ear containing the implant, most naturally-occurring vegetables contain more hormones then a serving of meat. Others prefer natural meats free from implants and other products (antibiotics, etc.). This market pays a premium for cattle raised according to their standards.

How much does it cost to not implant? An implanted animal, maintained on implants until harvest, will be a frame score larger than its non-implanted counterpart. This equates to a little over 100 pounds. This means implanted animals will be at least 100 pounds heavier at harvest, increasing your lot’s efficiency for feeding space. This increase in feed efficiency was thought to be worth about $10 per hundredweight in the days of $4 corn. With increased feed costs, I believe you need at least a $10 premium to even consider not implanting. Natural programs eliminating feed additives (rumensin, etc.) also increase feed costs lowering efficiency. Careful scrutiny is needed to project costs versus returns.

In the short-term, implanting pasture cattle at turnout should add 25-30 pounds at weaning. At today’s prices 30 pounds multiplied by $1.50 equals $45 per head. The investment of one dollar will return about $50. Recent research highlights a second gain increase if the calves are reimplanted in late summer when with primary vaccinations. If you sell at weaning, the more pounds you have, the more your calves will be worth.

Implanting has been an important management tool for many years. As calf prices increase, the extra pounds produced will generate extra dollars for the operation. If you choose not to implant, make sure you receive premiums which offset increased gains. Your veterinarian, nutritionist or extension specialist can help design a program to meet your goals.


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