Vet’s Voice by Dr. Dave Barz: Implanting adds pounds
The cattle business here in South Dakota sure exhibits infinite variety. Last weekend we had below zero temps and a blizzard and this weekend it’s a balmy 50° with some rain. The market has also been very humbling. We have gone from record high prices to which calves are similar to a year ago. If you did not get your calves sold early, you are probably questioning what to do.
Many producers in our area are considering finishing their calves, or at least holding them until later hoping for a spike in the market. Most producers are feeling negative about the market and expecting the worst. Most market prognosticators feel the fed cattle market will average in the high $1.50s for 2015. We are starting at the level so if we are going to average that amount we will need some rallies to maintain these levels.
Feed is still relatively inexpensive compared to last year. Many of you still have good hay supplies and large silage piles. In our area the basis for grain really affects the cost of finishing. Statistics show our region has the lowest cost of feed for finishing, but we have to pay extra for shipping our cattle to slaughter.
Many of you may need to empty your backgrounding lots to prepare for calving. There are many commercial lots with space available. This will allow you to empty your lots and hopefully keep them free of mud. Larger lots are generally better drained and have mounds to help keep your calves dry. Many times conversions will be better and cost of grain less than when fed at home.
During the last several years we have seen an increase in slaughter weights. In the past we marketed our fats at 1,250-1,400 pounds. Now that we have a decreased number of animals in the national herd, we have raised slaughter weights to 1,500 pounds plus. When cattle come to the market at 1,250 pounds, they go back to the yards for more feed. The USDA says the carcass weights have increased about 30 pounds for the last three years. That implies 100 pounds nationwide, but I believe it is much higher in the northern plains.
To efficiently capture this gain we must utilize implants. Many of you implanted at weaning time and those implants are nearing the end of their efficiency. Implants on the calf usually increase weight gains by at least 20 pounds. Most feedlots believe a single implant produces an additional 65-90 pounds with very little effect on quality grades. A simple rule of thumb is that feedlot implanting increased the animal by one frame score our about 100 pounds. When cattle go back to the feedlot (steers, heifers, hieferettes and cows) they receive an implant. If properly administered, we have seen little problems with bullers.
Beta agonists are also a means of adding an additional 30 to 40 pounds of carcass weight. These are fed near the end of the feeding phase. Several of these products are still on the market although one was removed about 18 months ago. Both implants are beta agonists can be used together to increase weight gains.
If you missed the 2014 market and decide to finish your calves, you need a plan. Consult with your veterinarian, nutritionalist, or extension specialist and develop a timeline for your calves. Predict an end date to choose the appropriate implant and feeding strategy. This will assure you reap the benefits of all the added efficiencies you utilize while maximizing the total pounds you market. This will allow you to harvest the most dollars per head.
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