You've reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive. These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website (through April/May 2009), and are provided for historical purposes only. As such, they may contain out-of-date references and broken links.

To see our latest newsletters and current information, visit our website at

Newsletter Archive index:

Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

The Cattle Business - Grain Supplementation and Industry Changes

Livestock Update, October 2001

Bill R. McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, VA Tech

Stocker Cattle Supplementation
Soon many newly weaned calves will be turned out on pastures, meadow residues, and stockpiled fescue. Some of the calves will go through a short term backgrounding to be marketed later this year or in early 2002. Other calves will be essentially warehoused through the winter to be available to turn out on pasture next spring.

Questions often arise about supplementing these calves with grain during the fall and winter. Certainly grain supplementation can offer several advantages including:

Improved average daily gains
More uniform cattle gains
Easier management of cattle
Quieter cattle
Improved implant response
Serve as a carrier for an ionophore or other additive

Cost effective grain supplementation should compliment the forage and not substitute for it or impair animal forage utilization. Intake and digestion of lower quality forages may be depressed when feeding supplements high in starch such as corn and cereal grains. Research at the University of Kentucky demonstrated feeding corn at .25% of body weight to 5-weight steers on stockpiled fescue added .4 pound to daily gains and was more cost effective than higher levels of supplementation. Unpublished work conducted at the Shenandoah Valley AREC at Steeles Tavern demonstrated no weight gain advantage to feeding 1% of body weight of a 15% CP supplement over the .5% body weight level to newly weaned calves. The .5% body weight rate of grain supplementation added an additional 1.1 pound of gain per day during a 42 day backgrounding period.

Energy supplements that have relatively low levels of starch have less of a negative effect upon forage intake and digestibility. Feeds that provide a higher portion of their energy from readily digestible fiber and less from starch and sugars include soybean hulls, corn gluten feed, wheat midds, distillers grains and brewers grains. Studies have indicated that feeds such as corn gluten feed, soyhulls, and wheat midds give superior gains and feed conversion compared to corn based supplements when fed to cattle on pasture.

Smithfield in the Beef Business
The pork industry giant, Smithfield Foods bought into the beef industry this summer with its purchase of Moyer Packing Company and Packerland Holdings Inc. In June, Smithfield purchased MOPAC, the country's ninth largest beef processor located at Souderton, Pennsylvania. The Moyer plant has an estimated daily capacity of 2,400 head.

On September 7 Smithfield announced that it had reached an agreement to purchase Packerland, the nation's fifth largest beef processor. Packerland is headquartered in Wisconsin, operates four plants and has an estimated total daily capacity of 6150 head. Packerland currently own packing plants in Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, and Arizona.

Smithfield now holds a 20% share of the country's pork processing market and 7% of beef processing capacity. Smithfield had made a bid to buy IBP in the fall of 2000. Ultimately, Tyson Foods won the rights to merge with IBP.

Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension