Cow-Calf production represents a long-term investment in land and cattle. Accordingly, there is considerable economic value in correctly managing the genetics, calving seasons, weaning and marketing program. Historically, the commercial cow-calf sector of beef production has marketed calves as a commodity.
Yet in a rapidly evolving beef industry, the needs of the market have become more specific over the past 20 years which has greatly increased the opportunity for cow-calf producers to market through value added programs most of which require specific genetics, production focus and management commitment.
This week we focus on preconditioning and marketing practices which can be used by commercial cow-calf producers to add value to weaned calves.
Preconditioning typically bundles the management practices of castration, dehorning, deworming, feed bunk training with a nutritional program to accommodate a 45-day on ranch weaning period, and two rounds of vaccinations (e.g. respiratory, blackleg) which can be documented and used as a marketing tool. Preconditioning programs with varying names and management requirements are sponsored by cattle organizations, livestock markets and pharmaceutical companies. One such program is the Oklahoma Quality Beef Network (OQBN), which provides producers the opportunity to certify calves and participate in special sales. Information about the OQBN, which is sponsored by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, is available at http://www.oqbn.okstate.edu. The value of preconditioning management practices implemented on the ranch is well documented and leads to potential price premiums. After preconditioning, calves are marketed with added weight and a stronger immune system which enables them to better cope with the stress of transportation, handling, commingling, new diet and new surroundings. Research shows preconditioned calves perform better as stockers, through finishing and in carcass form. Through preconditioning, cow-calf operators can influence the market value of their calves by following industry accepted management practices.
Preconditioning calves does come with additional expense of time, vaccines, feed, facilities, etc. and should be weighed against the potential added benefits. A budgeting tool is available at http://www.agecon.okstate.edu/faculty/publications/3943.xlsx. In regard to capturing the added value of preconditioned calves, producers should also consider the possibility of retained ownership and marketing them later as yearlings or fed cattle.
A producer’s final decision regarding adopting preconditioning practices and marketing strategies is based on many things, including time, tradition, labor availability, accessibility to marketing options and upfront cost like facilities versus the potential premiums. That being said, research at OSU and other universities has shown preconditioning is not only beneficial to animal health and performance, but also returns more dollars when sold at market.
Source: Oklahoma State University Extension, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.