Southwest Feeders Project: 2002 Calf Backgrounding Test

 

Leif Anderson1, Dan Nudell1, Chip Poland2, Tim Faller1, and Don Stecher1

1Hettinger Research Extension Center, Hettinger, ND

2Dickinson Research Extension Center, Dickinson, ND

 

 

Summary

Producers in southwest North Dakota are continually looking for opportunities to increase income and sustainability of their farm and ranch enterprises.  The Southwest Feeders Project was developed to address these questions by creating a program that combined both the educational and research components into a hands-on producer driven initiative. The first year’s goal was to provide producers the resource to evaluate the performance and economics of their steer calves in a custom backgrounding environment, while minimizing individual risk by feeding a smaller number of cattle.  Cooperating producers participated by consigning multiples of eight head of calves which averaged 583 pounds.  After a 56-day feeding trial, calves averaged 2.76 lbs/d for an off-test weight of 737 lbs.  Feed cost per pound of gain was $0.28 with a total cost of gain of $0.42.  Based on an independent valuation of calves on and off test of $83.50 and $82.98, respectively, net return per head was $54.30.  In addition, there was a $33 net return per acre for the raised barley-pea haylage.  With a goal of adding value through locally available livestock and feed, this backgrounding test provided cooperating producers a base with which to measure livestock and crop production opportunities.

 

Introduction

Southwest Feeders is a multi-faceted project designed to enhance value-added economic development in southwestern North Dakota through education and research programs involving production systems that utilize locally-produced feedstuffs, calves and lambs.  A new calf background feeding facility (24 pens, 192 head capacity) has been constructed at the Hettinger Research Extension Center to directly support the educational and research components of this project. This facility will also be used in the summer to augment current lamb finishing research at the center.  Lamb finishing work will begin in the research lot during the spring of 2003.

 

In addition to cattle backgrounding and lamb finishing at the Hettinger Research Extension Center, producers will have additional educational opportunities and resources available.  Throughout the year, Southwest Feeders will host a Feeder’s Field Day for producers and offer additional county meetings and one-on-one farm/ranch visits. 

 

There is in excess of $20 million in economic activity available to the agricultural community of southwestern North Dakota associated with beef backgrounding.  Statewide the potential level of economic activity exceeds $55 million.  Lamb finishing would increase the statewide level by $2.1 million.  Southwest Feeders is designed to actively engage the agricultural community of southwestern North Dakota in value-added livestock production through a coordinated and targeted research and education program in calf backgrounding and lamb finishing.

 

The 2002 Calf Backgrounding Test was structured as a research and education demonstration project allowing producers to evaluate cattle performance in a controlled backgrounding environment. 

 

Procedure

The test began on November 8, 2002 with weighing all animals on-test.  Represented in the test were 192 calves (8 head pen x 24 pens) from 12 different producers from six different counties throughout southwest North Dakota.  This weight was used as the baseline for all performance and economic analyses of the 56-day test.  One weigh period at 28 days was used to aid in tracking economic and animal performance while providing report information back to cooperating producers.  The test period ended January 3, 2003.

 


All pens of cattle were independently and anonymously valued by two qualified individuals based on weight on-test and the market as of November 8, 2002, previous management prior to receiving in the yard (weaning, vaccinations, etc.), cattle were representative of larger saleable group, and weight off-test and the market as of January 3, 2003.

 

The backgrounding ration consisted of a barley-pea haylage and whole corn base with a locally produced mineral/protein supplement (Table 1).  Pen feed adjustments were based on individual bunk calls prior to cattle being fed once daily (9:00 am).  Upon receiving into the backgrounding lot, cattle were provided a seven-to-ten day feed acclimation period before starting the backgrounding test.  Custom feeding fees were charged back to the cooperating producers according to a signed custom feeding agreement. 

 

Table 1.  Southwest Feeders 2002 Backgrounding Diet.

 

Total Diet

(calculated)

Barley-Pea Haylage

Corn

Supplement

% of diet, DM basis

100.00

73.50

21.50

5.50

% DM

45.90

38.90

88.60

91.70

Protein, %

13.60

13.80

11.40

20.00

NEm, Mcal/lb

0.83

0.68

0.99

0.62

NEg, Mcal/lb

0.47

0.41

0.68

0.35

Ca, %

0.72

0.56

0.02

5.50

P, %

0.36

0.33

0.34

0.84

Cu, ppm

21.00

5.00

3.00

308.00

Zn, ppm

82.00

27.00

29.00

1007.00

Mn, ppm

75.00

33.00

11.00

880.00

Deccoxa

125 mg

 

 

125 mg

Rumensinb

200 mg

 

 

200 mg

aDeccox fed from 11/1/02 to 12/2/02; bRumensin fed from 12/3/02 to 1/9/03

 

Animals were individually weighed prior to the morning feeding for on-test, 28-day interim and off-test weights.  A health protocol was established through a local veterinary clinic including a monthly pen walk through by the attending veterinarian.

 

Data collection and reporting to cooperating producers included individual calf weights for the three weigh periods, ADG, pen feed consumption and feed conversions, cost of gain, breakeven projections and pen close-outs based on independent valuation of calves.

 

Results and Discussion

Cattle averaged 583 lbs. at the start of the backgrounding test (192 hd).  After a 56-day feeding period, average daily gain was 2.76 lbs/d for an off-test weight of 737 lbs.  Average daily intake per head was 16.55 lbs. (dry matter basis) for a feed conversion of 6.14 lbs. per pound of gain (dry matter basis) (Table 2).

 

Table 2. Feeding performance of all pens combined.

 

0-28 d

28-56 d

0-56 d

DMI, lbs

16.03

17.07

16.55

DMI, %BW

2.56

2.42

2.50

F:G, (feed: gain)

5.08

7.66

6.14

Feed cost of gain, $/lb

0.23

0.34

0.28

ADG, lb/d

3.16

2.37

2.76

 

Overall feed cost per pound of gain was $0.28.  Total cost of gain including yardage, processing, death loss and interest was $0.42.  Yardage cost was $0.25 per head per day and processing expenses averaged $4.50 per head.  Death loss for the whole yard was 0.5 percent.  While death loss had minimal impact across all pens, it had a negative impact (-$39.24/hd) on the return of the particular pen (Figure 1). The average value of all cattle on-test was $83.50/cwt and an off-test value of $82.98/cwt.  Calculated net return per head for the overall trial was $54.30 (Table 3). 

 

Figure 1. Net return per head by pen for 56-day backgrounding test.

*Pen 13 negative returns due to death loss of 1 head in a pen of 8 head

 

 

Figure 2. Average daily gain by pen for total 56-day backgrounding test.

*Max Pen ADG = 3.15 lb/d, Min Pen ADG = 2.35 lb/d, Overall ADG = 2.76 lb/d

 


Table 3.  Feeding close-out on all pens for 56-day test.

Southwest Feeders Close-Out

ALL PENS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weighted Average Purchase Price of Cattle  ($/CWT):

 $        83.50

 

Value/Head

 

Weighted Average Purchase Weight of Cattle (LBS):

583

 

$486.81

 

Number of Head:

 

192

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number of Days on Feed:

 

 

56

 

 

Average Daily Gain (LBS/Head):

 

 

2.76

 

 

Interest Rate on Borrowed Money (%):

 

 

8.00

 

 

Veterinary and Medical Expense ($/Head):

 

 

 $        4.50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Custom Charges ($/Head/Day):

 

 

 $        0.25

 

 

Feed Cost per Pound of Gain:

 

 

 $        0.28

 

 

Death Loss (%):

 

 

0.50

 

 

Selling Price ($/CWT):

 

 

 $      82.98

 

 

RESULTS

Sale weight

 

 

737.6

 

 

Interest charge or opportunity cost per head

 

 

$6.09

 

 

Total cost of gain/head (excl. purchase cost)

 

 

$70.93

 

 

Total Cost/Head (Including Purchase Cost)

 

 

$557.73

 

 

Total cost per head per day of wintering

 

 

$1.27

 

 

Cost per pound of gain (including interest)

 

 

$0.46

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakeven selling price at given purchase price

 

 

$75.62

 

 

Breakeven purchase price at given selling price

 

 

$92.81

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revenue per Head

 

 

$612.03

 

 

Net Return per Head

 

 

$54.30

 

 

Total Net Return

 

 

$10,424.98

 

 

 

In addition to the $54.30 per head net return to the overall livestock enterprise, net return per acre of crop ground is important in the analysis of the locally produced barley-pea haylage.  Forage production of the barley-pea haylage occurred in 2000 and was stored in haylage bags.  Based on a production of 5.9 ton/acre (38.9% DM) and a feed value of $26/ton (as-fed), the barley-pea haylage had a gross return of $153/acre.  With production and harvesting costs of $120/acre (based on custom charges), net return per acre for the barley-pea haylage was $33/acre.

 

Implications

Results of the 2002 Calf Backgrounding Test provided favorable information to cooperating producers and a positive first year for Southwest Feeders.  Opportunities exist for producers interested in backgrounding calves in southwest North Dakota as shown by the overall positive net return.  The weather through the feeding test provided above normal temperatures and the cattle market provided for higher than anticipated returns.  In addition to returns to the livestock operation, added value to forage crops through livestock feeding adds to the income potential in diversified operations.  The coming year will provide the opportunity to present these findings to additional producers through group and farm/ranch visits.