What implants in nursing calves can mean for prices for producers
As ranchers deal with lower cattle prices and higher input costs, they have the potential to add an additional $10 to $20 a head at weaning by implanting their calves.
According to University of Nebraska Extension cow/calf specialist, Karla Jenkins, recent research concluded, of all the factors that affect a weaned calf’s value, implanting isn’t one of them.
This research, published in “The Professional Animal Scientist,” in 2015, compared the outcomes of implanted and non-implanted calved sold through video auction.
The study showed no correlation between price and whether or not the calf was implanted, Jenkins said. There were only minor differences in price between the control and non-control groups.
What did stand out in the study was the difference in lot size of implanted versus non-implanted calves. The number of implanted calves was significantly less, suggesting only 20 percent of ranchers implant their calves before weaning.
Producers are leaving money laying on the table, Jenkins said. Research indicates implanted calves will have a 4-6 percent increase in weight gain from birth to weaning.
“Realistically, this could translate to 15-30 more pounds to sell at weaning, or an extra $10-$20 a head,” she said.
The growth implants approved and available for nursing calves are Ralgro and Synovex C.
If producers choose to implant their calves, Jenkins urges them to do it responsibly.
“Proper implanting strategies should not negatively impact the next segment of the industry,” she said.
Many times, producers tell Jenkins if they sell their calves to a private stocker-feeder, the feeder doesn’t want implanted calves because they won’t get any good out of the implants put in. But Jenkins refuted that sentiment.
“If the proper implant strategy is used, and the proper implant for nursing calves is used, the stocker and finishing businesses should benefit from it,” she said.
Calves should be at least 30 days old before implanted. Jenkins said the payout for the nursing calf implant is 70-100 days. But implants for calves that might be used for breeding is something Jenkins cautioned against.
“There are no negative impacts on heifers, if they are implanted between two months and weaning only one time,” she said. “It is probably a good idea not to implant those heifers or bulls that will be selected for breeding.”
Responsible implanting starts with using the weakest implants first. Stronger, more aggressive implants can be given during later segments of the business.
“Pharmaceutical companies have changed a lot in recent years, and new implants have been developed,” Jenkins said. “There is not much new in nursing calves, as far as implants, but there are some new options for stocker and finishing cattle.”
With only 20-30 percent of nursing calves receiving implants, Jenkins said producers are missing one of the best return on investment strategies available.
“If calves are not implanted, then a marketing strategy needs to be implemented to get a premium for leaving weight on the table,” she said. ❖
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