In all of cattle management there are few things as easy to administer, consistent in response or as well documented as the use of growth-promotant implants, says Virginia Cooperative Extension veterinarian Dee Whittier. Good studies on implants are easy to do, he says, since treated animals and controls can be left together and treated the same. Whittier cites a University of Nebraska study as just one example.
This trial compared calves implanted with Synovex-S, Ralgro or Revalor-G with non-implanted, 490-pound steers over a 123-day grazing period on native pasture. In this trial, Synovex-S steers gained 49.2 pounds more than controls, while Ralgro and Revalor-G steers gained 50.4 and 52.9 pounds more than controls, respectively. Whittier notes the gains did not differ much among implanted calves, which all out-gained control calves by about 50 pounds.
But in spite of the added value, Whittier says, producers seem to be implanting fewer calves today than in previous years. He suggests reasons might include negative publicity regarding hormones and producers hearing about premiums for natural, non-implanted cattle. He notes, though, that natural and organic beef account for just 5 percent of the total, suggesting that most non-implanted calves end up in conventional marketing chains. If you have a way to market calves to a natural program and can get an adequate premium to pay for foregone gains, you should take advantage of that opportunity, he says. In the absence of having a way to sell calves designated as “natural,” the market assumes they are implanted and pays a price commensurate with that. “If you are in the beef business to make money,” he asks, “how can you afford to pass up a $2 investment that can return $15 to $50?”