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NDSU Extension Offers Answers to Backgrounding Questions

Many cow-calf producers are waiting until the end of this year to wean their calves. (NDSU photo) Many cow-calf producers are waiting until the end of this year to wean their calves. (NDSU photo)
NDSU Extension specialists have created videos to answer some backgrounding questions.

A rough, wet, snowy, cold fall has many cow-calf producers delaying weaning until the end of this year.

Typically, calf weaning is completed in October or November for April- or May-born calves.

“Depressed market prices haven’t offered enough incentive to sell calves earlier,” says Karl Hoppe, Extension livestock systems specialist at North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center. “Now producers are considering the options for this year’s calf crop. Questions are: Should we wean and sell off the cow? Or should we background the calves?”

NDSU Extension has a series of video presentations on backgounding calves that may help producers answer those questions. The videos are available at

The video topics and presenters are:

  • Current cattle price situation and outlook for backgrounding calves - Tim Petry, NDSU livestock economist
  • Calf health update and how to prevent cattle from getting sick - Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist
  • Feed costs and rations, including information on multiple feeds that, when combined, can make low-cost rations with good cattle weight gain - Hoppe
  • Backgrounding cattle budget analysis, including several budgeting scenarios with steers and heifers at low or moderate average daily gains - Bryon Parman, NDSU Extension agricultural finance specialist.

“With relatively low-priced feeds, feeding calves via a backgrounding program may provide positive returns when future market prices remain somewhat constant,” Hoppe says.

For more information about backgrounding calves, contact Hoppe at 701-652-2951 or

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Dec. 19, 2019

Source:Karl Hoppe, 701-652-2951,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391,
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