Beef Market Advisor

Friday, January 13, 2006

Research Shows Two-Phase Weaning Reduces Stress

A cooperative trial between Montana State University and the University of Saskatchewan found weaning beef calves in two stages stressed calves less than weaning by the traditional method of abrupt separation. But, overall, there was no difference in average daily gain of the calves between the two methods.

In the two-stage treatment, plastic anti-sucking devices were placed in the noses of calves to prevent nursing but allowing them to graze and drink. One trial evaluated the effect of different lengths of nursing prevention by leaving the devices in for 3-14 days. The control calves nursed their dams until separation. Calf weights and behavior were recorded before and after the separation of cows and calves.

Following separation, calves weaned in two stages vocalized 96.6% less and spent 78.9% less time walking, 23.0% more time eating, and 24.1% more time resting than control calves.

The calves prevented from nursing for 14 days gained less weight during the nursing prevention period than the control calves and those prevented from nursing for 3 days.

Calves weaned in two stages gained less than control calves during the nursing prevention stage, but gained more than control calves after separation from their dams. The authors say providing a higher plane of nutrition in phase one may have allowed the calves to compensate for the loss of milk from their diet.

The authors suggest the anti-weaning devices be used to reduce stress, but only be applied for 4-5 days, and provide a higher plane of nutrition during the period when the anti-sucking devices are applied.

To learn more about this topic, see "The Weaning Two-Step," November 2001 BEEF (; and "More On Two-Step Weaning," October 2003 BEEF (
-- Haley, et al., 2005. Journal of Animal Science 83:2205-2214.

posted by Dr. Harlan Hughes 4:01 PM [edit]

Some Marketing Advice On Backgrounded Calves

The Jan. 10 issue of "In The Cattle Markets" contained advice by University of Nebraska economist Dillon Feuz on marketing backgrounded calves.

Feuz says many cow-calf producers and farmer-feeders feed 5-weight calves for 100 days and then market them this time of year. But, he asks, how profitable has that been this year and should ownership be maintained until slaughter?

In mid October, 550-lb. steers sold for $136/cwt. in Nebraska auctions, a $748/head value. If those calves were fed for 100 days at a 2.5-lb. daily gain, their current weight would be 800 lbs. he says. Last week in Nebraska, 800-lb. steers brought $116/cwt., or $928/head.

Thus, the feeding margin is $180/head. Valuing all feed sources at market price, and accounting for death loss, interest, yardage and other costs, Feuz assumes a $52/cwt. total cost of gain (COG), or $130/head. This results in a $50/head return for each backgrounded steer.

Now, if those steers were held until harvest at 1,300 lbs. in mid June, the futures market suggests a sale price at that time of $88/cwt., or $1,144/head. Assuming the total COG for those additional 500 lbs. is $240/head, or $48/cwt. of gain, the return from feeding the steer to harvest would be -$24/head ($1,144-$928-$240).

By continuing to feed the steer, half the current return would be lost, Feuz points out. Unless you're optimistic the fed-cattle sale price in June will be $90/cwt. or higher, Feuz recommends you sell those backgrounded steers now.

-- Dillon Feuz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Source: BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly 13 Jan 2005

posted by Dr. Harlan Hughes 9:15 AM [edit]

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