Deciding how to market calves following weaning is based on several factors including current prices. The three general management options following weaning are: 1) sell at weaning, 2) background the calf or 3) retain ownership. Presently, prices are good for calves, which would tend to favor selling at weaning. At the same time grain prices and cost of gain are lower this year, which tends to encourage retained ownership making the post weaning management decision more difficult for some producers. Many producers want to know how their calves perform post weaning; however, it is challenging to retain ownership on calves when cattle prices are high. The Calf Value Discovery Program (CVD) provides producers the option of enrolling a small number of calves and receiving feedlot performance and carcass data.

Prior participants in the CVD program have indicated that they use the information gained from this program to: 1) make genetic decisions, 2) negotiate better prices at weaning, 3) understand how to best manage their calf crop (i.e. backgrounding prior to feedlot). The CVD program was started several years ago by Dr. John Wagner to provide producers with valuable information.

Cattle prices, feed costs and weather conditions have all influenced the profitability of calves enrolled in the CVD program. Table 1 shows the averages for the pen performance for the last three years. The spread between the most and least profitable animals was $635.59, $774.60 and $850.97 in years 2011/2012, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014, respectively.

In- and out-weights were higher in 2013/2014 compared to 2011/2012 and 2012/2013. Part of the difference in final weight could be attributed to more days on feed. Average daily gains and carcass characteristics were similar between the three years. Dry matter intake (DMI) and feed efficiencies (F:G) were slightly different between the years; however, caution should be used in interpreting this data since these value are estimated using formulas based on animal weight and gain and not measured directly.

Table 1. Overall performance and carcass characteristics of cattle enrolled in CVD.

Item

2011/2012

2012/2013

2013/2014

Days on Feed

201

201

212

 

Live Weight, lb

D 0

569

590

608

Final

1,245

1,285

1,324

ADG, lb/d

3.37

3.41

3.24

DMI, lb/d

20.2

19.4

19.3

F:G

6.01

5.74

5.97

HCW, lb

795

777

803

Dressing, %

63.8

62.2

63.1

12th rib fat thickness, in

0.46

0.37

0.35

Rib eye area, in2

13.0

13.0

12.9

Marbling Scorea

422

416

424

Yield Grade

2.50

2.18

2.27

 

Feeder Calf Value, $/hd

914.91

949.04

1089.97

Feeding Cost, $/hd

584.05

670.91

528.39

Carcass Value, S/hd

1,547.23

1,546.22

1,901.54

Profit, $/hd

48.20

(73.73)

283.19

 

Quality Grade Distribution

Number %

Number %

Number %

Prime

2 (0.8)

 

3 (1.9)

Choice

159 (66.3)

102 (56.0)

106 (65.8)

Select

76 (31.7)

72 (39.6)

50 (31.1)

No Roll

3 (1.3)

5 (2.7)

1 (0.6)

Other

 

3 (1.6)

1 (0.6)

a Marbling Score: 300-399 = Slight, 400-499 = Small, 500-599 = Modest.

Producers from South Dakota and Minnesota consigned a total of 244, 184 and 164 calves in 2011/2012, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014, respectively. The number of animals consigned by producers ranged from 5 to 74 head. In-dates were November 8 and 9, 2011, October 23 and 24, 2012, and November 6 and 7, 2014. Cattle were fed a finishing diet based on high moisture ground ear corn, modified wet distillers grains, and corn silage as a group in a single pen. Cattle were visually evaluated for degree of finish and sold in semi-load lots when deemed to have approximately 0.4 inches of backfat. Slaughter dates were May 11, June 1 and 15, 2012 (184, 205, and 219 days on feed, respectively), May 3, June 17 and 29, 2013 (190, 204, and 217 days on feed, respectively) and May 13, June 4 and 25, 2014 (187, 209, and 230 days on feed, respectively). Animals were sold on a quality/yield grid at Tyson Fresh Meats, (Dakota City, NE). To estimate what performance and carcass characteristics were associated with profit, the cattle were divided into thirds based on profit at the end of the feeding period. Profit equals carcass value minus initial calf value and feeding costs. Profit group data from 2013/2014 are contained in Table 2. Only high profit groups are shown in Table 3 for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013.

Table 2. Feedlot performance and carcass characteristics of steers enrolled in the 2013/2014 SD CVD program according to profit groups.

 

Profit Groups

 

High

Middle

Low

In Weight, lb

674

586

491

Out Weight, lb

1,353

1,277

1,183

HCW, lb

869

806

733

Dressing, %

64.2

63.2

62.0

Weight Gained, lb

721

669

639

ADG, lb

3.33

3.23

3.17

% Choice or Higher

85.2

71.7

46.3

% Higher 2/3 Choice

16.7

15.1

11.1

% Prime

5.6

0.0

0.0

% YG 1 & 2

50.0

60.4

72.3

% YG 4 & 5

5.5

1.9

1.9

Ave Rib Eye, in2

13.4

13

12.3

Ave Marbling Scorea

456

416

400

Ave Backfat, in

0.38

0.37

0.30

% Treated

7.41

5.66

16.67

Treatment Cost, $/hd

1.53

3.13

6.05

Feed Cost, $/hd

412.90

401.06

381.49

Feeding Cost, $/hd

537.17

531.33

516.72

Feeder Calf Value, $/hd

1188.48

1097.23

984.34

Carcass Value, $/hd

2090.36

1910.16

1704.28

Profit, $/hd

364.71

281.60

203.21

 

 

N=54

N=53

N=54

a Marbling Score: 300-399 = Slight, 400-499 = Small, 500-599 = Modest.

The average performance of the pen in the feedlot was not greatly different between years (Table 1). However, what are the differences between profit groups? The high profit group gained faster, had heavier finished and hot carcass weights, and more carcasses grading Choice or higher. The low profit group had lighter hot carcass weights and graded greater than 50% Select.

Table 3 compared the High Profit groups over these three years. Some factors that impacted the bottom-line were 1) weather conditions, 2) feed costs and 3) value of feeder calves. Weather conditions varied from a nice winter (2011/2012) to a harsh spring (2012/2013) to cold temperature all winter long (2013/2014). Feed costs also varied by year with 2013/2014 having the lowest feed costs, 2011/2012 being intermediate, and 2012/2013 being the highest. Initial calf value has also increased over time with values of $914.91, $1,008.03, and $1188.48 for 2011/2012, 2012/2013, and 2013/2014, respectively. Differences in profitability reflect differences in selling price, feed costs, and initial calf value.

Table 3. Feedlot performance and carcass characteristics of steers enrolled in the 2011/2012 SD CVD program according to profit groups.

 

Profit Group

 

High (2011/2012)

High (2012/2013)

High (2013/2014)

In Weight, lb

641

622

674

Out Weight, lb

1343

1305

1,353

HCW, lb

868

826

869

Dressing, %

64.6

63.3

64.2

ADG, lb

3.57

3.58

3.33

% Choice or Higher

83.9

80.3

85.2

% Higher 2/3 Choice

18.8

21.3

16.7

% Prime

0.1

0.0

5.6

% YG 1 & 2

55.0

55.7

50.0

% YG 4 & 5

0.0

1.6

5.5

Ave Rib Eye, in2

14.1

13.6

13.4

Ave Marbling Scorea

449

462

456

Ave Backfat, in

0.47

0.42

0.38

% Treated

6.3

10.5

7.41

Treatment Cost, $/hd

3.55

1.87

1.53

Feed Cost, $/hd

467.67

485.19

412.90

Total Feedlot Cost, $/hd

603.09

616.31

537.17

Feeder Calf Value, $/hd

982.91

1008.03

1188.48

Carcass Value, $/hd

1,714.08

1,710.85

2,090.36

Profit, $/hd

128.09

86.51

364.71

 

 

N=80

N=57

N=54

a Marbling Score: 300-399 = Slight, 400-499 = Small, 500-599 = Modest.

No matter when you sell your calves, it’s important to understand how your calves perform post-weaning. It affects your bottom-line. Cattle buyers bid according to how they believe the cattle will perform. The CVD program allows producers to enroll 5 head or more into the program with an enrollment fee of $20/hd. You will be provided feedlot performance and carcass characteristic at harvest. You can find more information about the program at the Calf Value Discovery Program website or by contacting Julie Walker (605.688.5458) or Reid McDaniel (605-688-5452).