Selling Reputation Calves Pays

Nearly all calf buyers want to buy “reputation” livestock, but the roadmap to get there may be clouded.

Nearly all stocker operators and feedlots want matched sets of calves that are weaned, castrated, dehorned, familiar with water and feed sources and immunocompetent, said Oklahoma State University Beef Cattle Nutrition Specialist Paul Beck, in a letter to Extension agents called Cow-Calf Corner.




Immunocompetent means the calves can respond appropriately to stressors and disease challenges, Beck said.  Calves need to have a sound, balanced nutritional program and be free from internal parasites to have an immune system fit enough to withstand the marketing and transportation channels of the US beef production system.

OSU research showed finished steers that contracted and were treated for Bovine Respiratory Disease gained less and had lighter carcasses, costing the feedlot operator $20 a head for those treated only once to $75 a head for steers that were treated multiple times, he said.  Seventy-nine percent of the reduction was related to lower performance and carcass quality, while 21% was medicine costs.

Other research showed that gains, feed efficiency, ribeye area and marbling decreased significantly as the number of treatments for BRD increased, Beck said.




There are many preconditioning programs, he said.  The Oklahoma Quality Beef Network Vac-45 program, for example, requires:

  • The calves be weaned for 45 days or longer.
  • The calves be ranch raised (not purchased and put together).
  • Bull calves be castrated and healed.
  • Calves be dehorned and healed.
  • Calves be identified with OQBN ear tag.
  • Calves be vaccinated in accordance with one of three preset protocols.
  • The first option includes a respiratory disease vaccine including IBR, BVD, BRSV and PI3 and clostridial/blackleg at branding and again at weaning with the addition of a Pasturella pneumonia vaccine.
  • The second option has the same vaccine requirements but the first vaccination can occur two to six weeks prior to weaning with the booster at weaning.
  • The third option’s initial vaccination can occur at weaning and the booster 14 to 28 days post-weaning.




Since 2011, OQBN-certified calves have received an average premium of $12.62 per cwt over calves marketed at the same sale with no preconditioning, Beck said.  From 2012 to 2016 in Alabama, calves sold in a certified preconditioned sale at 500 pounds brought a $32-per-cwt premium to non-preconditioned calves, while preconditioned calves sold at 700 pounds had a premium of $21 per cwt.




The USDA reported formula and contract base prices for live FOB steers and heifers this week ranged from $141.69 to $142.01 per cwt, compared with last week’s range of $140.92 to $145.00.  FOB dressed steers and heifers went for $221.70 to $222.51 per cwt, versus $221.90 to $225.95.

The USDA choice cutout Monday was up $0.38 per cwt at $254.71, while select was up $1.81 at $250.22.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $4.49 from $5.92 with 75 loads of fabricated product and 27 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.

The USDA reported that basis bids for corn from feeders in the Southern Plains were up $0.10 at $1.25 to $1.35 a bushel over the May futures and for southwest Kansas were steady at $0.15 over May, which settled at $7.50 3/4, down $0.03 1/2.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Friday was $155.37 per cwt down $0.82.  This compares with Monday’s Mar contract settlement of $154.60 per cwt, up $1.47.