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Adding Pounds = Higher Paycheck

Record high calf prices provide incentive for cattle producers to deploy management strategies to increase pounds at weaning. A couple common strategies to add pounds would be implants, creep feeding, early weaning, and backgrounding.

Implanting calves is a good option for producers that are selling commodity cattle. Those that are selling calves under "Natural" or "implant free" verified programs obviously would not install this strategy. Implants are safe for calves that are 45 days or older. The calf implants offer great return on investment. Generally, cattlemen can see a ROI of $10 for every dollar invested. I suggest only cull progeny be implanted and that potential replacement heifers stay implant free.

Creep feeding is an option to put additional weight on calves at weaning. Because the cow's milk meets the calf's nutrient requirements for roughly 90 days, there is a nutritional gap after that time. If grass and pasture resources are unable to meet that nutritional gap, then creep feed is a good option. Creep feed will not have as good of ROI as implants, but the two together can add several pounds. If calves are implanted, but nutritionally restricted, the implant will be of less value.

Early weaning will allow for total control of the nutritional plain of young calves. If pastures dry up and need de-stocking early weaning is the way to go. Be aware that vaccinations and health should be a big focus if you plan to early wean. Stressors this early in an animal's life can make them more vulnerable to illness. Early weaning will add pounds to calves and allow for more forage availability for the cow. Keep in mind not only health protocols, but also facilities and labor involved with this management strategy.

If extra forage is available or feed resources are abundant, backgrounding calves can allow a producer to sell more pounds. Backgrounding cattle is beneficial if cheap gain can be accomplished. It is important to weight the cost of feed, the price slide for heavier calves, and the increased risk of keeping calves through weaning before deploying this management strategy.

High calf prices make a lot of things seem lucrative. Make sure you put the pencil to the paper. It is important to evaluate what will work on your farm. Labor, facilities, feed availability, and risk management all will play a role in how you chose to add pounds to your calf crop.