Vet’s Voice by Dr. Dave Barz: Still selling ‘em by the pound
September 15, 2015
This fall weather is great. The nights are cooler and I am getting better rest. The crops are maturing and the leaves are falling. Harvest appears to be just around the corner. We cattlemen will soon have our harvest, weaning. A whole year of preparation and planning from breeding, calving and grazing. The calf market has softened, but prices are still good considering the cost of feed.
We all must consider ways to add value to our calves allowing us to generate more total dollars. In the past no premium was gained from adding weight to calves, but for the past several years this trend has changed. The cheaper feed prices allow us to put on a pound of gain for less than $1. That pound is worth over $2 at market. With the improvements in genetics and feeding strategies, it is no problem to add 50 pounds per animal. That equates to more than $50 per head over feed costs. It appears that this year pounds will still be king.
Preweaning and weaning vaccinations (preconditioning) have always been an important procedure to add value. It is not uncommon for preconditioned and weaned animals to be worth $5 – $7 per hundred more than naive animals. We have also learned that animals which are in good health and gaining weight will mount a better immune response. Couple that with the added pounds you are making and you have a win-win situation. Even if you sell right off the cow, bunk feeding the cows and calves for thirty days will add pounds and minimize stress.
Implanting has been used for many years to add pounds. We have been told that a single implant to a suckling calf late in the grazing period adds 30 pounds in weight. I believe most calves, which don't enter non-hormone programs, are implanted after arrival at the feedlot. We now better understand that implanting increases the finished animal by one frame score or approximately 100 pounds. There is no reason not to implant our steers especially when the market still needs beef. If you don't take that 30 pounds on your calves, the feedlot will. If you don't implant your 600 pound steer, you are giving up $67.50 per head ($2.25 X 30#). The buyer needs to reward you with an additional $10 per hundred pounds. If you are weaning and feeding these steers, your feed costs will be reduced by 10 percent and your gains will add to the total dollars. We have cattle that are bred to gain. You need to maximize the genetic potential of your calves allowing you to generate the additional dollars you invested in your herds genetics.
Parasite control and vitamin/mineral supplementation will help fine tune your program. We all understand that calves are very susceptible to internal parasites and our cow herd are probable carriers. The parasite populations build throughout the summer on grass, and the calves are heavily infested by weaning. Several long duration wormers have demonstrated a 35# increase in weaning weight. We speculate that a timely early fall deworming would gain similar response due to compensatory gain. Multimin has also shown increasing in reproductive rates and weight gains in calves. Incorporating it into a preconditioning program should not only gain pounds, but also improve the immune response in the calves.
Prices are down, but pound are still 'king'. Fine tune your fall programs to maximize pounds and thereby increase your dollars per calf. Consult with your nutritionalist, extension specialist, veterinarian and marketing consultant to determine which programs fit best in your operation. Careful planning and precise management will assure you receive financial reward for the dollars you have invested in your operation while not leaving 'anything on the table."