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Why Is Death Loss Increasing In Heavier Beef Cattle?

heavier cattle weights

The industry has done a tremendous job of improving nutritional programs and pre-conditioning programs, so much so that the death loss number of cattle under 700 lbs. has been dramatically falling in feedyards around the country. The converse of that is that, despite all of the improvement, overall death loss hasn’t decreased. In many cases, it’s inching upwards.

I’m sure the statisticians will tell us it’s because we’re spending more time at weights above 700 lbs., placing heavier cattle, and taking cattle to ever-heavier weights. All these factors will shift the curve to the right, of course.


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There’s nothing more frustrating than losing an animal, and it’s even more financially devastating when it occurs at heavier weights. Lots of good cattlemen believe there’s a trend taking place – that there’s something we’re doing from either a management or genetic standpoint that is increasing the health risk and susceptibility of these larger-weight animals.

Another telling factor is that we’re seeing certain groups or lots of cattle with extremely high death loss, while others are well below industry standards. Thankfully, the occurrence level is low, but there are many factors that could be involved in this situation that it’s difficult to collect good data or quantify potential causes.

Perhaps it’s just a function of widespread drought or some other factor, and we’ll eventually find that this trend is an aberration. Perhaps, however, it’s a warning sign for the industry.


What are your thoughts? Have you noticed a trend? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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