Calf Crop

Take steps to add value to this year's calf crop.

The most profitable cow-calf operations are highly managed and implement strategies to be more profitable. Since the margin for profit in a cow-calf operation can be slim, these strategies can make a substantial difference in the gross yearly profit. Not all strategies will work on every operation, so accessing the capabilities and restraints of each operation will be important.



The most common way to add value to the calf crop is through pre-conditioning. Some pre-conditioning tactics are necessary to avoid deductions, such as dehorning and castration. Others will make you stand out as a superior supplier.

  • A strong vaccination program, developed in conjunction with a veterinarian, will ensure confidence in the health status of the cattle.
  • De-worming will have a similar affect as calves that have been dewormed show greater weight gains post-weaning.
  • Calves that are assimilated to feed, bunks, and waterers prior to selling will also offer a premium. Bunk broke calves experience less stress after entering the feedlot stage due to the familiarity of the system. They also have a period of time before being marketed, generally 45 days, to recover from the weaning stress and gain weight, which will also add value. This 45-day period will also push producers away from the main influx of cattle entering the market, which is generally when prices are lowest.

Selling your calves at a higher base price may offer added premiums; however, it is important to budget and plan for this system. The upfront cost of added feed, vaccinations, and de-wormer can be daunting if the calves do not market as well as hoped.

Lot size and uniformity

It shouldn’t be a shock that buyers like to buy calves in bulk. Less trucking costs, easier group management, and less time spent at sale barns are all reasons why a buyer would choose to buy in larger lots. As a producer, establishing a calving season and developing a singular calf crop per year will help match buyer desires. This will also play into uniformity. Buyers tend to buy calves at similar weights, frame sizes, and color to manage and market easier. As a cow-calf producer, this should also be a goal, achievable through genetic selection and management.

Try these added measures

There are a variety of other ways to add value

  • Superior genetics
  • Branded programs
  • High-quality nutrition
  • Niche markets and local marketing opportunities

These strategies need to be financially feasible for your operation. Every operation is different and utilizing the tactics best fit for the current situation will be beneficial.

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