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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Beef Management Tips

Livestock Update, June 2000

John Hall and Bill McKinnon, Animal Scientists, Beef, Virginia Tech

June Beef Management Calendar

Spring Calving Herds

Fall Calving Herds

(John Hall)

Young Cows Need Extra Nutrition During Breeding Season
First and second calf heifers are still growing as well as lactating during the breeding season. These heifers will need about the same total amount of energy as a mature cow, but they eat about 15-20% less feed. So these young cows need 4 to 5 lbs of corn, corn gluten or barley daily to meet their extra energy needs and breed back quickly. (John Hall)

Stocker Cattle Benefit from Reimplanting and Ionophores
Stocker cattle will gain an extra 20 to 25 lbs if reimplanted in mid summer. Producers should use the same implant as previously given or an another implant for that weight and sex of cattle. Ionophores can also benefit grazing stockers. Products like GainPro" or Rumensin" are approved for grazing cattle and can result in increased gain of 10 to 15%. Remember that response to implants and especially ionophores require abundant good quality pasture. Results with these products after July may be disappointing if you are grazing overmature grasses or have limited grazing available. (John Hall)

The Value of Feeder Cattle Growth
Cattle breeders and cow calf operators are faced with an increasingly difficult task in deciding upon which genetic traits to place emphasis. Birth weight, growth, milking ability, muscle, and frame size are some of the commonly important traits. As the industry moves more rapidly toward carcass value pricing, the need for attention to carcass traits has increased. As long as the industry sells cattle or carcasses by the pound, growth will continue to be of primary importance.

The real importance of growth is its relationship to feed conversion and cost per pound of gain. The true economic measure of efficiency is feed conversion. Feed conversion is difficult and expensive to measure on an individual head basis because it requires individual feeding, measurement, etc. Since the industry has been unable to develop widespread genetic measures of feed efficiency, growth rate has been used as a proxy. The logic makes sense since the traits are correlated. The faster growing cattle use a smaller portion of feed consumed for maintenance and a higher percentage of their feed is directed to growth.

Of course, growth by itself can be carried to extremes. Pure growth or feed conversion in a genetic package outside of the industry acceptable frame size can be disastrous. We just have to note the problems of the extremely large framed cattle that have excellent growth rates but produce carcasses outside of the mainstream window. Large framed cattle also have higher maintenance costs when maintained as a cowherd.

Using data from the approximately 200 steers that were fed during 1999 as part of the Virginia Retained Ownership Program at Decatur County Feed Yard, the importance of growth is underlined. The fastest growing third of the steers made nearly $64 per head more than the slowest growing third. The faster growing cattle were also worth of $9 per cwt. more as feeder cattle.

Impact of ADG Performance on Profitability
and Other Economic Measures
ADG 1/3
ADG 1/3
Average Daily Gain4.232.98
Projected Feed Conversion4.907.55
Feedlot Cost of Gain per Pound$.324$.470
Return per Head$63.13-$ .52
Increased Value/Cwt. as 679lb. Feeder Steers$9.37

Whether feeder cattle are sold to feedlots and retained by the cow/calf operator, growth and feed conversion will continue to be economically important traits. (Bill McKinnon)

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