STOCKTON, Mo. – “Should cattle producers retain fall calves as stockers?” This is a question asked by University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Patrick Davis and cattle producers as they think about weaning their fall calves.

 Davis will discuss considerations for cattle producers as they weigh the options to retain their fall calves as stockers.

“Consider feed resources as you plan to retain stockers” says Davis. Feed resources are one of the major costs associated with putting weight on stockers. The cheapest way to feed stockers is with high quality pasture and minimal to no supplementation. However, stockers should have feed resources available to support 2 to 2.5 lbs. ADG. Davis suggests that cattle producers consider pasture and feedstuff availability as well as cost when deciding to retain fall calves as stockers. Furthermore, contact your local MU Extension livestock field specialist for help in developing a successful feeding program.

“Consult your veterinarian and develop a proper health program if you plan to retain stockers,” says Davis. This health program should reduce sickness and other stress activities which will promote optimum performance post weaning. Consider giving two rounds of vaccinations for IBR, BVD, BRSV and blackleg as well as providing internal and external parasite control pre-weaning. For more information on vaccination/parasite control protocols for calves pre-weaning look at MU Extension guide G2044. Castrate and dehorn calves as young as possible. When weaning calves within your operation on multiple days or if buying calves on multiple days, do this within a seven-day period to reduce sickness spread and reinfection of animals. Also, if buying calves, make sure they test negative for persistent infected bovine viral diarrhea. Finally, get calves drinking and eating as soon as possible post-weaning or upon arrival after purchase. Supplementation may be needed in the short term to provide antibiotics to help prevent and deal with sickness. Davis urges these management strategies along with watching and treating signs of sickness to help maintain optimum performance in the calves.

“As mentioned above supplementation may be needed for optimum performance,” says Davis. Rule of thumb has been to supplement at 1% of body weight on a dry matter basis. Eric Bailey, MU Extension state beef cattle nutrition specialist discussed in a stocker cattle presentation the need for cattle producers to look for undervalued feeds when developing a supplementation program. Typically, high energy and or high protein feeds, which include corn and other commodity byproduct blends, are considered undervalued feeds compared to hay at least on cost per calorie basis. When deciding on feedstuffs for supplementation, Davis urges cattle producers to make sure and value these feedstuffs on an energy and protein basis to pick the most cost-effective mixture for supplementation.

“Implants and ionophores are cheap products that help improve stocker calf gain,” says Davis. When considering implants work with a veterinarian and implant company to find the implant to give the best gain response based on length of retaining calves, calf gender and management environment. Ionophores (Rumensin or Bovatec) are a rumen modifier that help the rumen be more energy efficient leading to improved gain and feed efficiency. Davis urges cattle producers to use an ionophore based on label instructions and provide a daily consistent intake of 200 mg/hd/day.

“Risk protection on calves and feedstuffs is helpful in making your stocker cattle enterprise profitable,” says Davis. Forward contracting on stocker calves that you are feeding or feedstuffs that you are supplementing are ways to help control income and cost. Also, cattle producers can sign up for federal government insurance programs like livestock risk protection (LRP), livestock gross margin (LGM), and pasture/rangeland/forage (PRF), which pay out when markets don’t perform like expect or pastures rainfall is less than normal. These programs help better understand value and cost of gain which should be considered when retaining stocker calves. Davis urges cattle producers to calculate value and cost of gain and use that information to decide when to retain stocker calves and when to market them.

As cattle producers consider retaining fall calves as stockers, Davis urges them to make sure the operation and management is such that it is a profitable endeavor. Make sure feed, health and marketing programs are such that the steer cost of gain is low and value gain is high, which will lead to optimal operation profitability. For questions or more information on strategies to help your operation be successful in retaining fall calves as stockers, contact your local MU Extension livestock field specialist.

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