SUBSCRIBE NOW AND SAVE 3 months just 99¢/month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Consider backgrounding calves based on market conditions

Backgrounding is the term used when feeding calves after weaning to allow growth, improve animal health and delay marketing. Usually, backgrounding is done during the cold winter months and does not incorporate grazing.

Feed prices have almost doubled during the past year.

“While the Northern Great Plains drought of 2021 has affected feed availability regionally, the national price of feed has risen compared to last year,” said Karl Hoppe, Extension livestock systems specialist at the North Dakota State University Carrington Research Extension Center.

Cost of feed certainly affects cost of gain when backgrounding cattle, he said.

Backgrounding is the term used when feeding calves after weaning to allow growth, improve animal health and delay marketing. Usually, backgrounding is done during the cold winter months and does not incorporate grazing.

“Budgets for backgrounding are the most favorable profit-wise that I have seen in the past four years,” said Bryon Parman, NDSU Extension agricultural finance specialist.

ADVERTISEMENT

Budgets for growing calves at higher rates of gain always have a lower cost-per-pound gain, and this year budgets for growing heifers have the most profitable projections, Parman said.

“Nationally, the cow herd is decreasing in numbers, and better cattle prices more than likely will be seen in the future,” said Tim Petry, NDSU Extension marketing specialist. “Some of that already is occurring in the fed cattle market.”

While delayed marketing and adding weight drives backgrounding decisions, keeping cattle immunized and healthy is an important aspect of backgrounding cattle, said Gerry Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian.

“Getting over the stress of weaning and allowing vaccinations to develop immunity, plus providing booster vaccinations, adds value to calves,” Stokka said. “The period of weaning is a very stressful time for a calf and providing a comfortable environment, good feed and time to adjust makes backgrounding a good management process.”

Starting calves on feed is a big change from eating grass and nursing. Most backgrounding rations start with hay in the feed bunk, and then grains, coproducts and silage are gradually introduced into the ration, said Zac Carlson, NDSU Extension beef cattle specialist.

“These ‘step up’ rations allow calves to adapt to the new feeds,” Carlson said. “Also, silage and distiller grains have unique smells and tastes that are quite different than grass. Calves can be reluctant to eat something new. Starting calves on feed is very important for the health of the animal.”

To discuss these options in more detail, NDSU Extension created a video series that can be watched at bit.ly/NDSUbackgroundingcattle .

The video series has five videos on backgrounding calves:

ADVERTISEMENT

  • “Calf Budgets for fall 2021” by Parmon
  • “Calf health issues for fall 2021” by Stokka
  • “Calf market outlook” by Petry
  • “Feeds, alternative feeds and cost of gain” -by Hoppe
  • “Rations for backgrounding” by Carlson

For more information about backgrounding calves or the videos, contact an Extension agent in your county or Hoppe at (701) 652-2951 or karl.hoppe@ndsu.edu .

Related Topics: AGRICULTURECATTLE
What to read next
The update will be conducted through Zoom.
The free workshops will cover topics for the successful operation of diesel equipment.
Presentations are being held monthly.
Northern Plains Nitrogen has been on the city's radar for a decade.