Performance and economic comparison of finishing North Dakota calves in North Dakota or Kansas using corn or barley as major ration ingredients

Final Report

K. F. Hoppe, V. L. Anderson, H. Hughes, K. Froelich, and K. Alderin

Abstract

Spring born North Dakota calves were fed to slaughter at two locations to compare the production and economic performance of three different feeding systems. The fall-weaned calves (n=367, avg wt 600.0 lbs) were consigned by 25 North Dakota cattlemen during the past three years (1994-97). The calves were backgrounded together for an average of 50.6 days prior to the start of a feedlot finishing study. The finishing program compared feedlot performance of steers fed in North Dakota (ND) on a corn based finishing diet (ND-corn) with steers fed in ND on a barley based finishing diet (ND-barley) and steers fed in Kansas on a corn based finishing diet (KS-corn). Steers weight gains and feed/gain averaged 3.50, 3.28 and 3.74 pounds per day and 6.47, 6.41 and 5.80 pounds of dry matter per pound of gain for ND-corn, ND-barley, and KS-corn, respectively. Carcasses from ND-corn and KS-corn fed steers appear to be similar in fat thickness, rib eye area, Yield Grade, marbling score and percent choice. Three-year average feed costs were $.517, .527, and .558 per pound of gain while breakeven price, $/cwt., was 63.40, 63.09, and 64.28 for ND-corn, ND-barley, and KS-corn feeding systems, respectively. The results of these feeding system alternatives suggest that finishing North Dakota born calves in ND from October to May may have an economic advantage in lower feed cost per unit gain.

Key words: Feedlot, Finishing, Climate, Feed costs, Beef Steers.

Introduction

North Dakota (ND) feeders, who produce excellent quality feeder calves, have long wondered if they can practically and economcally finish steer calves raised in the state. Approximately 290,000 steers of the 960,000 steer and heifer calves produced are backgrounded in ND with an estimate of 75,000 of those finished in the state annually (Beard, 1996). Many ranchers sell their calves at weaning and others have retained ownership of their calves during the feeding period. These calves are fed in commercial feedyards usually located outside ND. Most commercial feedyard operate as a custom feedyard where the feedyard is paid to feed and market calves owned by someone other than the feeder.

Farmers and ranchers in ND also produce large quantities of forages and grains. Barley and corn are the predominant feed grains. Processing by-products from corn (distillers grains, corn gluten feed, and screenings), and wheat (middlings or mill run, and screenings), plus sunflower meal, crambe meal, barley malt pellets, bean splits, beet pulp, soybean hulls, and potato waste are also available in substantial quantitiy in ND. Other new crops with potential as feeds include naked oats and field peas. Research is being conducted to asses the potential of many of these feeds. Forages are predominantly native hay, alfalfa-grass hay, annual forages (millet), corn silage, and cereal grain straws. Many of these feedstuffs are useful in cow/calf production and may also produce economical gains for growing and finishing steers. Diets fed in ND may be more varied than in other regions due to the diversity of feeds available and wide price swings.

Cattlemen have little control over climate but can mitigate environmental stress to some degree by management. Windbreaks, shelterbelts and bedding can increase gains up to .3 lb. per day when animals are exposed to conditions below their thermoneutral or comfort zone (Anderson and Bird, 1993). Calves placed on feed in the early fall adapt to feedlot conditions and rations during mild weather producing rapid and efficient post weaning growth. Mud, rain, and wet snow may cause significant reductions in gain during spring thaws. However, the negative effects of mud, rain and wet snow can be overcome with good management in ND.

Heifer calves raised in South Dakota (SD)and fed to market weight in Texas (TX) or SD were used to compare performance and economics of feeding location. Heifers fed in SD consumed 4.0% more feed and were 4.5% less efficient in converting feed to live animal gain than contemporaries fed in TX (Pritchard and Preston, 1992). Although feed conversion was lower in SD, feed costs were also lower and profit potential was higher for the SD fed heifers.

A three year study was initiated in 1994 to compare steer finishing in North Dakotaor Kansas. This report summarizes the three year project comparing biological and economic performance of producer owned, North Dakota born, fall weaned steer calves.

Materials and Methods

Twenty five participating cattlemen in central ND consigned 367 head of spring born steer calves (123 hd Yr 1 &2 and 122 hd Yr 3). Calves were delivered to the Carrington Research Extension Center, Carrington, ND, in mid October for a common preconditioning (backgrounding) period. The backgrounding diets used are listed in Table 1. After the preconditioning period, an equal number of animals from each producer were allotted to one of three feeding system groups: 1) a corn based finishing diet in North Dakota, (ND-corn), 2) a barley based finishing diet in North Dakota (ND-barley), and 3) a corn based finishing diet in Kansas (KS-corn).

Table 1. Backgrounding diets for weaned steer calves in North Dakota (% DM Basis)


Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Average

Corn, dry rolled

38.44

43.79

41.66

41.30

Protein/Decox/Ionophore supplement

4.90

4.43

4.20

4.51

Soybean meal

1.83

-. -

-.-

-.-

Canola meal

-.-

2.25

2.36

2.15

Yeast (Altech)

0.14

0.14

0.16

0.15

Alfalfa/Grass hay

30.69

26.94

27.39

28.34

24.00

22.45

24.23

23.56

Dry Matter, %

65.9

66.6

63.6

65.3

Crude Protein, % (DM Basis)

13.8

13.7

13.9

13.8

The KS-corn calves were shipped to Black Diamond Feeders in Harrington, KS the first year and Brookover Feedyard in Garden City, KS the second and third years. The ND-corn and ND-barley steers were placed on feed in adjacent pens at the Carrington Research Extension Center. Table 2 lists ingredients in the finishing diets for the three treatment groups by year. The averaged components of the finishing diet, averaged over the three years, are listed in Table 3 . Step up diets were used in the transition from backgrounding to finishing diets over approximately one month.

Table 2. Diets for steer calves finished on corn or barley in ND vs corn in KS (% DM Basis).

ND Corn

ND Barley

KS Corn

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2&3

Corn, dry rolled

83.63

81.46

82.94

28.66

27.39

28.22

80.00

86.0

Barley, dry rolled

-

-

-

57.32

54.79

56.45

-

-

Prot/Ionophore suppl

3.31

3.09

3.58

3.36

3.41

3.67

2.90

3.00

Canola meal

3.14

1.66

1.93

-

-

-

-

-

Alfalfa/Grass hay

6.34

6.94

5.81

7.13

7.25

5.63

-

4.00

Corn Silage

3.58

6.85

5.74

3.52

7.16

6.03

-

-

Molasses

-

-

-

-

-

-

2.80

-

Cotton seed hulls-

-

-

-

-

-

-

4.50

4.00

Sorghum silage

-

-

-

-

-

-

7.00

-

Soybean meal

-

-

-

-

-

-

2.80

-

Fat

-

-

-

-

-

-

3.00

-

DRY MATTER, %

76.90

77.23

74.8

78.30

77.90

78.9

79.20

79.98

CRUDE PROT %

12.4

13.4

12.2

15.7

13.1

12.6

12.1

14.38

(DM basis)

*Estimates of ration ingredients due to proprietary ration formulations by commercial feedyards. Corn was steam flaked in Yr. 2 and 3 in Kansas.

Table 3. Finishing Diet Components - 3 Year Average (% DM Basis).

ND

Corn

ND

Barley

KS

Corn

Corn, dry rolled

82.68

28.09

84.59

Barley, dry rolled

-

56.19

-

Prot/Ionophore suppl

3.32

3.48

3.30

Canola meal

2.24

-

-

Soybean meal

-

-

1.00

Alfalfa/Grass hay

6.36

6.67

2.55

Corn Silage

5.39

5.57

-

Sorghum Silage

-

-

1.04

Molasses

-

-

.88

Cotton seed hulls

-

-

4.35

Fat

-

2.28

DRY MATTER, %

76.31

78.37

79.72

CRUDE PROT % (DM basis)

12.67

13.8

13.62

Calves were weighed upon delivery at the Carrington Research Extension Center, at the end of the backgrounding period, periodically during finishing and prior to shipment to slaughter. All calves were fed a totally mixed ration in fenceline bunks. ND calves were fed once per day and KS calves were fed twice per day each year. Feed samples were taken periodically throughout the trial and analysis conducted for dry matter and major nutrients. Feed intake was monitored on each group and feed efficiency calculated for the entire period.

All calves were implanted at the start of the feeding period with Synovex S. Calves were reimplanted with Synovex S in North Dakota while calves in Kansas were reimplanted with Synovex S in Yr 1. In Year 2 and 3, Kansas fed calves were reimplanted with Ralgro Magnum followed by Revelor two months later.

Data presented in this paper are adjusted to an equal death loss, calf price, (in and out), and days on feed. Linear assumptions were made for adjusting the difference in days on feed for feed intake and gain. The actual days on feed and fed intake as well as price received for the finished ND steers and KS steers differed slightly due to market pressure and other factors. Both ND treatments were on the finishing diet in Yr 1 and 3 for 149 days and 126 days for Yr 2. The unadjusted days on feed in Kansas were 163, 133 and 129 days for Yr 1, Yr 2 and Yr 3, respectively.

Feed, yardage and veterinary costs are based on actual prices paid from invoices. Other expenses included trucking, brand inspection, beef commission, weighing fees, etc. Interest costs on feed or cattle were not included in the economic evaluations.

Results and Discussion

Performance and cost of gain during the backgrounding period in ND are given in Table 4. Please note that all cattle were backgrounded in North Dakota. Since cattle were consigned by individual producers, a transitional period was required before placing on the three finishing systems. This transitional period served as a preconditioning period to insure calves had comparable health and feeding before the finishing component. Optimum ration balancing can lead to efficient and profitable gains even during the short feeding perids used in this study.

Performance data for the finishing systems by year and three year average are reported in Table 5. Adjusted final weights averaged 1240.0, 1223.3 and 1289.6 pounds for ND-corn, ND-barley and KS-corn finishing systerms. Three year average steer gains appear to be greater for the KS-corn group, followed by ND-corn and ND-barley at 3.74, 3.50 and 3.28 pounds per day respectively. Feed (dry matter basis) per pound gain was better for KS-corn at 5.80 as compared to 6.47 ND-corn and 6.41 for ND-barley.

Actual, unadjusted carcass data is listed in Table 6. The ND-corn, ND-barley and KS-corn feeding systems appeared to have acceptable carcass characteristics for fat thickness, rib eye ares, Yield Grade, marbling score and percent choice.

Table 4. Performance, cost of gain, and profit for backgrounding steer calves in North Dakota.

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Average

Number of head

122

123

122

122.3

Start wei

562

614

624

600.0

Days on feed

48

56

48

50.6

709

797

773

759.7

3.07

3.27

3.10

3.14

5.77

5.86

6.17

5.93

Feed cost per hd per day, $

.930

1.140

1.140

1.070

Feed cost per lb. gain, $

.303

.348

.367

.339

Yardage and bedding per lb. gain, $

.082

.097

.088

.089

Vet expenses per lb. gain, $

.050

.020

.017

.029

Total cost per lb. gain, $

.435

.465

.473

.457

Profit per lb. gain, $

.319

.067

.125

.170

Table 5. Performance of steer calves finished in North Dakota on corn or barley based diets vs in Kansas on a corn based diet.

ND

Corn

ND

Barley

KS

Corn*

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Initial wt., lb

712

795

776

706

797

772

709

800

772

Days on feed

149

126

149

149

126

149

149

126

149

Final wt., lb

1249

1221

1250

1230

1200

1240

1260

1283

1326

Avg. Daily Gain, lb

3.604

3.383

3.182

3.514

3.199

3.142

3.701

3.834

3.713

DM/gain

5.854

6.556

7.013

5.790

6.754

6.693

5.939

5.640

5.850

Adjusted Averages

ND

Corn

ND

Barley

KS

Corn*

Initila wt., lb

761.0

758.3

760.3

Days on feed

141.3

141.3

141.3

Final wt., lb

1240.0

1223.3

1289.6

Avg. Daily Gain, lb

3.500

3.285

3.749

DM/gain

6.474

6.41

5.809

*Adjusted for equal days on feed and equal death loss

The ecomonic comparisons for steer calves finished in North Dakota with corn or barley based diets or Kansas with corn based diets are presented in Table 7. Total cost per pound gain, profit per pound gain and breakeven price varies by drastically by year. Averaged over the project three years, total cost per pound gain was $0.517 , $0.527 and $0.558 for ND-corn, ND-barley and KS-corn, respectively. Breakeven price was was $63.40, $63.09 and $64.28 for ND-corn, ND-barley and KS-corn, respectively.

Fiscal comparisons are a snapshot in time of conditions as they existed. The biological data from this study will be used in a decision making model with risk assesment based on variability in the animal performance and feed costs over the long term.

Year to year variation in feeding performance can include weather, feed source, animal source, animal health and other unknown factors. Comparisons made with data from several years should be more valid as the basis for decision making than single year observations.

Generally, all calves performed very well during the finishing period. A relatively mild winter in North Dakota may have contributed to excellent performance the first year. During the second and third years, longer periods of cold, mixed with snow and wind, were experienced. Pehaps, the calves were heavier and had more condition (fat) during the cold stresses that provided for a more desirable lower critical temperature threshold. Catle may have been able to tolerate the extreme conditions, or incur less stress, due to increased fat for insulation. Also, the heat of fermentation incurred from feeding high grain diets may provide additional cold tolerance.

Actual ND feed prices were used based on current market prices plus transportation and a charge for processing and storage of grain at the feedyard. Feed costs may vary depending on demand in the region. KS corn feed costs were based on billed costs.

Implications

Winters are very different as indicated by feed costs and animal performance. Lower feed costs appear to be the major advantage for finishing cattle in North Dakota. Although cattle performance as measured by total weight gain, average daily weight gain, and feed conversion were better in Kansas, the cost o fgain was also higher. From the observations reported in this three year feeding systems trial, feeding North Dakota born calves to finish in North Dakota appears to be as profitable or more profitable than feeding North Dakota born calves in Kansas if current feed price relationships continueEconomic data is presented in Table 6. Fiscal comparisons are a snapshot in time of conditions as they existed. The biological data from this study will be used in a decision making model with risk assessment based on variability in the animal performance and feed costs over the long term.

Year to year variation is caused by "year effect" which can include weather, feed source, animal source, animal health and other unknown factors. However, comparisons made with data from several years may be more valid as the basis for decision making.

All calves generally performed very well during the finishing period. A relatively mild winter in North Dakota may have contributed to excellent performance the first year. During the second year, longer periods of cold were experience, mixed with snow and wind. Calves were heavier and had more condition which provides for a reduced lower critical temperature. Essentially, cattle were able to tolerate the extreme conditions with less stress due to increased fat for insulation. One more year of the study will give us a better sampling of northern plains winters.

Actual ND feed prices were used based on current market prices plus transportation and a charge for processing and storage of grain at the feedyard. Feed costs may vary depending on demand in the region. KS corn feed costs were based on billed costs.

Table 6. Carcass quality of steer calves finished in North Dakota on corn or barley based diets vs in Kansas on a corn based diet

ND

Corn

ND

Barley

KS

Corn

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Carcass weight, lb

755.2

725.6

750.4

738.1

707.8

737.8

794.8

801.9

747.5

Dressing percent

60.43

61.54

62.48

60.01

61.06

61.91

60.42

63.40

62.21

Rib eye area, sq. in.

13.46

13.19

12.85

13.75

13.00

13.07

12.78

13.42

13.66

Backfat, in.

.35

.35

.31

.31

.33

.32

.50

.31

.32

KPH, %

2.00

2.07

1.89

1.67

1.90

1.75

3.12

1.67

2.05

Marbling Score

376

376

379

349

366

394

407

339

288

Yield Grade

2.34

2.33

2.39

2.02

2.22

2.26

3.29

2.35

2.18

Percent USDA Choice

35.0

41.5

37.5

19.5

31.7

45.0

57.9

17.1

0.0

Averages

ND

Corn

ND

Barley

KS

Corn

Carcass weight, lb

743.7

727.9

781.4

Dressing percent

61.48

60.99

62.01

Rib eye area, sq. in.

13.16

13.27

13.28

Backfat, in.

.34

.32

.38

KPH, %

1.98

1.77

2.28

Marbling Score

377

370

345

Yield Grade

2.35

2.16

2.60

Percent USDA Choice

37.9

32.0

25.0

Table 7. Economics of steer calves finished in North Dakota on corn or barley based diets vs in Kansas on a corn based diet.

ND

Corn

ND

Barley

KS

Corn*

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Feed cost/hd/day, $

1.038

1.440

1.290

.959

1.470

1.220

1.225

2.040

1.710

Feed cost/lb. gain, $

.288

.426

.406

.273

.461

.390

.339

.532

.461

Yardage and bedding/lb. gain, $

.086

.104

.093

.088

.110

.095

.083

.013

.013

Vet expense/lb. gain, $

.007

.006

.003

.024

.005

.002

.022

.024

.041

Other expenses (truck, br. insp, etc.), $

.038

.052

.045

.039

.005

.045

.041

.058

.048

Total cost/lb. gain, $

.419

.587

.547

.424

.626

.531

.485

.627

.563

Profit per lb. gain, $

.0753

(.078)

.1289

.066

(.139)

.144

.002

(.123)

.107

Break even price, $/cwt

63.48

64.40

62.34

61.65

65.90

61.73

63.90

66.20

62.74

Averages

ND

Corn

ND

Barley

KS

Corn*

Feed cost/hd/day, $

1.256

1.216

1.668

Feed cost/lb. gain, $

.373

.375

.444

Yardage and bedding/lb. gain, $

.094

.097

.036

Vet expense/lb. gain, $

.005

.010

.029

Other exp (truck, br. insp.,etc.), $

.045

.046

.049

Total cost/lb. gain, $

.517

.527

.558

Profit per lb. gain, $

.042

.024

(.004)

Breakeven price, $/cwt

63.40

63.09

64.28

*Adjusted for equal days on feed and equal death loss

 

Literature Cited

Anderson, V. L. and Jackson Bird. 1993. Effect of shelterbelt protection on performance of feedlot steers during a North Dakota winter. Carrington Research Extension Center-NDSU Beef Production Field Day Proceedings. Vol 17:19.

Pritchard, R. H. and R. L. Preston. 1992. Comparison of production efficiencies when calves are fed in South Dakota or Texas. South Dakota Beef Report 92-16, p 62.

Beard, Larry. 1996. North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service. Issue 03-96

THIS PROJECT WAS SUPPORTED IN PART BY A GRANT
FROM THE NORTH DAKOTA
AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS UTILIZATION COMMISSION.

 


1997 Beef and Bison Contents