Fall Calving Dakota Finishers: An alternative system for targeting beef production to different market seasons

K. F. Hoppe, V. L. Anderson, P. Nyren, and H. Hughes
North Dakota State Univesity
Carrington, Streeter, and Fargo

Abstract
A retained ownership demonstration project was conducted to determine the feeding performance of fall born calves. Three North Dakota producers consigned 40 head (572.2 lb wt ave) of fall born, spring weaned steer calves on May 13, 1997. The calves were weighed, assigned value, and placed on feed at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center Livestock Unit. After a 20 day conditioning period, one-half of the calves were placed on a finishing diet for 189 days and were harvested in December 1997. The remaining calves were pastured at the Central Grasslands Research Center for 106 days prior to placing on a finishing diet at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center Livestock Unit for 140 days and were harvested in February, 1998. Overall average daily gain for the nonpastured calves was 3.386 lb. per day while the pastured group averaged 2.739 lb. Although the nonpastured calves had a better average daily gain and 57 less total days on feed before harvest, their overall cost of gain, $.351 per lb. gain, (interest expenses not included) was higher than the pastured calves, $.301 per lb. gain. Break-even price at harvest was $2.293 per cwt. lower for calves that were pastured before placing in the feedlot as compared to calves that were placed directly into the feedlot. However, due to fluctuations in the fed cattle market, actual market price was $1.90 per cwt. (shrunk live weight) lower for the pastured calves as compared to the non-pastured calves.

Key words: Fall Calving, Feedlot, Finishing, Pasture, Feed Costs, Beef Steers.

Introduction
Cattle producers in North Dakota are considering alternative calving dates. Rather than calving during January through May, cow calf producers are managing their herds to calve during the summer and fall. A small proportion of North Dakota cattle producers have changed their calving dates to reduce the incidence of disease, reduce calving difficulties, reduce calving labor, and reduce open cow sales.

The management change to fall calving leads to different cow herd nutrition, breeding and weaning programs. For example, since calves are born in the fall, the winter feeding program needs to be developed for lactating cows. The cows are weaned during late spring, March through May, and are placed on a maintenance diet until pasture is available.

After weaning, the cow calf producer has several management options for the weaned fall born calf. These include: 1) selling the newly weaned calf, 2) pasturing the weaned calf, 3) feeding the weaned calf in the feedlot and 4) any combination of pasturing and feedlot feeding.

This producer involved demonstration study evaluated the production and economic performance of feeding and finishing fall born calves with two management systems.

Materials and Methods
Cow calf producers from central North Dakota submitted 40 head of fall born steer calves to evaluate two systems for managing calves to the finished cattle market. The fall born, spring weaned calves (ave 572.2 lb) of were received on May 13, 1997. The calves were weighed, assigned value, and placed on feed at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center Livestock Unit. After a 20 day conditioning period, one-half of the calves were assigned to the feedlot management system and were placed on a finishing diet for 189 days before harvesting in December 1997. The remaining calves placed in the pasture -feedlot management system and were pastured at the Central Grasslands Research Center for 106 days prior to placing on a finishing diet at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center Livestock Unit for 140 days. These calves were harvested in February, 1998 (Figure 1).

All calves were vaccinated upon arrival for IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV, Pasturella, and clostridials and were deparasitized with Ivomec Pour-on. All calves were implanted with Synovex S upon arrival to the study. The feedlot finishing group was reimplanted with Synovex Plus 103 days before slaughter. The pasture-feedlot group was reimplanted with Magnum 140 days before slaughter and Synovex Plus 101 days before slaughter.

The finishing diet consisted of 66.2% dry rolled corn, 16.5% durum wheat midds, 7.1 % ground alfalfa brome mix hay, 6.8% corn silage and 3.4% ionophore/mineral/protein supplement on a dry matter basis and was delivered as a totally mixed ration once daily. The pasture was a mixture of native prairie and crested wheat grass.

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

Calves were weighed individually on arrival, prior to placing on feed or pasture, and at harvest. Feed intake were tabulated daily in the feedlot . Cattle weights, average daily gain and carcass information were evaluated on an individual basis. However, feed efficiencies and economic evaluations were calculated on a pen basis.

Results and Discussion
Feedlot performance, economics, and carcass characteristics are presented in Table 1. Overall average daily gain for the nonpastured, feedlot fed calves was 3.386 lb. per day while the pasture-fedlot group averaged 2.739 lb.

Although the nonpastured, feedlot fed calves had a better average daily gain and 57 less total days on feed before harvest, their overall cost of gain, $.351 per lb. gain, (interest expenses not included) was higher than the pastured calves, $.301 per lb. gain (Group 2). Break-even price at harvest was $2.293 per cwt. lower for calves that were pastured before placing in the feedlot as compared to calves that were placed directly into the feedlot. However, due to fluctuations in the fed cattle market, actual market price was $1.90 per cwt. (shrunk live weight) lower for the pastured calves as compared to the non-pastured calves.

Implications
This information can be used for developing management plans for post-weaning feeding of fall born calves. Pasturing fall born calves after weaning appears to provide for the lowest cost of gain. In addition, pasturing fall born calves provides for an additional market decision opportunity, i.e. marketing calves after the grazing period. However, if pasture availability is limited, placing fall born calves onto a finishing diet is an alternative.

Figure 1. Chronology of management systems.

 

System

Date Feedlot only Pasture-Feedlot
May 13, 1997 Conditioning Conditioning
June 2, 1997 Feedlot Pasture
September 16, 1998 Feedlot Feedlot
December 8, 1998 Harvest Feedlot
February 3, 1998 -- Harvest

 

Table 1. Post weaning Performance of Fall Born Calves, 1997-1998

  Conditioning Feedlot only

Pasture-Feedlot

Feedlot Pasture Feedlot
Number of Steers 40 20 20 20
Death loss 0    0 0 0
Average in weight, lb. 572.23 630.20 623.0 768.25
Average out weight, lb. 628.13 1270.10 768.25 1297.00
Days on Feed 20 189 106 140
Average Daily Gain, lb. 2.795 3.386 1.370 3.777
Dry matter per lb. gain 4.904 6.884 -- 7.089
Gain/feed 0.204 0.145 -- 0.141
Feed cost per lb. gain 0.215 0.315 0.234 0.351
Total cost per lb. gain 0.436 0.471 0.270 0.480
Break-even, $/cwt. live 84.244 65.535 73.764 63.242

 

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