Calf marketing decisions: Are there opportunities for increasing income?

Sep 3, 2017


ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the latest Around the Block podcast, brought to you by Crystalyx brand supplements. Cow-calf producers are faced with calf marketing decisions that focus on the best ways to maximize profit potential. Tim Clark is a nutritionist for Ridley Block Operations, the makers of Crystalyx. So Tim, making sound calf marketing decisions isn't a one size fits all answer, is it?

TIM: No it's not, it really varies on each operation and the economic situation with cattle pricing.

ANNOUNCER: What are some of the economics of the market that can have an effect on that?

TIM: Currently, just with smaller calf prices compared to the last couple years, total revenue per calf will be less this year unless producers figure out how to either get larger calves by holding onto them, backgrounding them for a while and then selling them larger at a later date, and then also comes into play the seasonality of the market. Most of our spring-born calves are weighed in that October/November time frame, and high percentages are sold at that time, but that's also the lowest price point of the year per pound.

ANNOUNCER: So what's gonna be necessary to hold calves to a later date and market them at a heavier weight and increase the income per calf?

TIM:  The biggest obstacle is managing the weaning stress and these animals wean correctly and onto a dry diet. It's a stressful time for the calves just because they're making several changes all at once, not only nutritionally, being weaned and going off of milk on the dry seed, but it's grouping change as well. They're being separated from their mothers so there's a lot of stressors that are compounded right at that time. Just getting through that 30- to 45-day period right after weaning is the first critical step, and that's often one reason people will sell right at weaning, then they don't have to manage that part of the operations.

Related article: Calf marketing decisions: are there opportunities for increasing income?

ANNOUNCER: Are there facility limitations, too, that can have an effect?

TIM: It can, that could be a big part of it, having separate pens for the calves, or adequate additional pasture that you could wean the animals onto, and some producers may lack for facilities or easily working the cattle as far as getting the vaccinations in and treating sick animals.

ANNOUNCER: And that's a matter of feed stuffs that are available, and what's available?

TIM: Well, first and foremost you gotta make sure that you have enough forage on hand to get through the [fall and] winter feeding season for the cows outside of the drought area. This year most producers should be in pretty good shape as far as having available feedstuffs on the farm or being able to source it at a reasonable price.

ANNOUNCER: So there are available feedstuffs that are economical for the calves?

TIM: Yes, the backgrounding diet's gonna be very high forage diet, so you're really not placing them on a feedlot type diet, so you can utilize hay, some silage and minimize the amount of grain that you would need to feed, which can make for a very low-cost diet.

ANNOUNCER: Are there some Crystalyx formulas that will help in managing the weaning stress?

TIM: We have several of our stress-fighting formulas. They're more nutrient-dense than typical protein formulas that are designed for the cows. Those formulas typically have three-quarters to a pound intake is what we formulate them for, and it's a mineral profile that's specific for a mature animal. Calves at weaning will consume two to four ounces of these products, so the stress blocks have to be much more nutrient-dense, more highly-fortified to make sure that we're getting the nutrition package in a smaller intake.

ANNOUNCER: Are there specific formulas then?

TIM: Brigade is the more main stress-formula that we have which utilizes the bioplexes, the chelated/organic trace minerals, the selenium yeast, and it's quite a bit higher as far as concentration, both the trace minerals and vitamins, to address the lower intake of the calves. The newest version of our stress-fighting formulas would be the Battalion. In addition to the nutrient profile of Brigade, it's got the additions of chromium, which helps improve energy, metabolism and feed intake, and Actigen, which is a yeast cell wall product that supports gut health.

ANNOUNCER: Is there a time frame that they'll be up and consuming the right amounts of these rations in the box?

TIM: Typically, it's gonna take two to four weeks for a very high percentage of animals in a group to be hitting target intakes for the rations that are formulated for them, so that's the time frame that we would feed the stress-fighting formulas. You're looking at a 30- to 45-day period most times to get calves through this stress period where we'd utilize the stress-fighting formulas. Then after that, the animals could go on to a forage-based diet and utilizing one of our protein-type formulas.

ANNOUNCER: There's some obvious benefits, I would think, for improved digestibility by increasing available forage.

TIM: Crystalyx products are based off of molasses, so we're delivering very rumen-friendly carbohydrates and protein could stimulate rumen fermentation and enhance the digestibility of a forage. So we can do a diet that's highly based on forage, but yet it improves the digestibility with the Crystalyx products that we're delivering. The barrel is the feeding system, so it doesn't require a lot of extra equipment that cow-calf producers may not have.

ANNOUNCER: You gave an example, I think, of a customer that sold hay?

TIM:  Oh yeah, that was an interesting sales call, I actually ran a hay option. You either get some busted and split bales or some hay that's not of the quality that, it being the price, you would pick, so to utilize his excess hay he had bought a box and feeder cattle and started out feeding them a grain diet, to go with it. It ended up being time-consuming and a bit expensive, and he wasn't happy with performance. Convinced the individual to give the Crystalyx products a try. It saved him a lot of time when he put the barrels out. It actually improved the digestibility of the forage, and yeah, he actually went further when the animals performed better.

ANNOUNCER: Yeah, you mentioned he only had two complaints about it.

TIM: Yep, the hay lasted longer, and the cattle grew quicker than he thought they would.

ANNOUNCER: So not too bad, not too bad for complaints.

TIM: Not too bad. Yeah, and just to clarify, this isn't really a feedlot finishing-type diet.

ANNOUNCER: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TIM: These are high-forage-type diets to economically add another 150-200 pounds to these animals. As long as we can add pounds for less cost than what the current market is for, it's a win- win.

ANNOUNCER: Absolutely. So what's the bottom-line here as far as there are opportunities for increasing income when you're making your calf marketing decisions?

TIM: You don't have to be forced to sell right at weaning time, or until you can economically get the calves heavier, especially if you've got the available feedstock, and the Crystalyx products provide a very easy, convenient feeding system that will work for you. The main thing would be using the Crystalyx products as tools to help manage the stress. There's other management things that producers can do, some more stress weaning methods, whether it be fence line weaning or using the weaning [bags], which are actually just plastic nose rings, that keep the calves from nursing, that are still with the mother. They can actually be weaned in four or five days on pasture with the mother. It takes a little bit more effort on the producer's part, but splitting up some of the management things that we do with the calves, dehorning, castrating, vaccinating, some of those items can be done a few weeks prior to weaning that minimizes the total stress of the animal overall, compared to doing everything at once right at weaning time.

ANNOUNCER: That's it for this Around the Block podcast, brought to you by Crystalyx brand supplements, an easy way to provide affordable protein, trace minerals, vitamins, and phosphorus in a low-moisture supplement block that's available 24/7. Learn more about all that Crystalyx has to offer by going to It all adds up to results by the barrel.


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