For cow-calf producers, implanting calves is one of the most profitable tools available — returning far more in weight gain and feed efficiency than the cost of the implant itself.
“Implanting works well in practically all stages of beef cattle production and in all sizes of operations,” says Gary Sides, PhD, Pfizer Animal Health. “In a cow-calf operation, we know that, on average, producers can realize 19 lbs more weaning weight than non-implanted calves. That’s one extra calf for every 25 calves implanted. Any producer watching their bottom line can tell you what that means in dollars. Implants are one of the most profitable tools cow/calf producers have available.”
Sides notes that cow-calf producers can benefit from implants, even if decisions on which heifers to keep as replacements have not been determined at the time of implanting. Research has shown that a suckling calf implant administered to heifers between two and three months of age has little effect on reproductive performance as long as nutrition is adequate.
If producers don’t know which heifers they intend to keep, consider implanting all calves at 45 days to 3 months of age to realize improved weaning weights. Sides notes that producers should make sure that the implant they use is approved for calves at this stage of production.
For producers retaining ownership of their calves through the feedlot and focusing on quality grade, implanting can be a beneficial decision. Proper implanting goes hand in hand with other good management practices like adequate nutrition and deworming. In fact, one study showed that combining deworming, implanting and a good fly control program can contribute up to $225 a head.
When deworming, Sides notes that producers should consider broad-spectrum dewormers that are suitable for calves at the age and weight of implanting. In addition, he recommends that cow-calf producers that want to get the most benefit from implanting evaluate their nutritional program and supplement as needed based on pasture conditions and on cow body condition.
“Some producers may think of implants as something that’s only going to benefit cattle in a stocker or feedlot setting,” Sides says. “The truth is, any producer who wants to improve weaning weight can benefit from implanting calves.”