Cattle Backgrounding in Central North Dakota

K.F. Hoppe and K. Jordre<

Backgrounding cattle refers to a feeding period for calves after weaning and before finishing. Usually, backgrounding diets consist of equal proportions of roughage and grains that produce a moderate gain of 2-2.5 pounds per day. These forage based diets include grains to increase the energy density of the diet. The goal of backgrounding is to increase the weight of the calf and enhance immunity to diseases.

A cooperative was developed in central North Dakota to provide financing and management for backgrounding calves. During an 18 month period, the production and economic performance of 16 pens of backgrounded calves (n=1069) were measured.

Incoming calf weights averaged 593.5 pounds (Standard error, SE 27.09), days on feed averaged 101.2 days (SE 8.15), and final weights averaged 836.1 pounds (SE 29.00). Average daily gain was 2.18 pounds (SE .104), feed conversion was 10.89 pounds (SE .798), and dry matter conversion was 8.96 pounds (SE .568). Death loss was 0.93% (SE .275).

Incoming price of calves averaged $60.63 per cwt (SE .884), and out going price averaged $55.06 per cwt (SE 3.926). Cost of gain for feed only averaged $.295 per pound (SE .019) veterinary cost averaged $9.99 per head (SE .245), and total cost of gain averaged $.493 per pound (SE .026). Interest costs averaged $8.99 per head (SE 1.41) and profit averaged $22.83 per head (SE 14.56). Profitability ranged from $49.04 to $194.70 per head.

Overall, backgrounding cattle in central North Dakota was profitable during the tabulation period. Measuring cattle production and economic performance has enabled the cooperative to increase rancher participation and increase number of cattle backgrounded.

Affiliation of co-authors and non-CREC staff: K. Jordre, former NDSU-CREC Livestock Associate.

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