Why wean calves?

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bird dog

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"I think with the excess supply of calves this time of year, buyers have the chance to get picky."

Definitely. More so the reason to wean. If you are not trying to produce what the buyers want, why aren't you? I know some folks don't have the facilities but building some would be on my urgent to do list.
 

J+ Cattle

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On May 1st I weaned a group of heifers and steers that had an average weight of 521 lbs.
So based on the market report posted I should expect to get $1.57 for the steers and $1.33 for the heifers had I sold straight off the cow. That works out to $817.97 for the steers and $692.93 for the heifers.
Instead I gave two rounds of vaccine and pour-on wormer and turned them out on good grass. On July 17th I weighed the group again and the average weight was 646, that's 1.6 lbs/day gain on grass and they were not implanted. So now let's look again at the market report for prices of weaned calves, I should expect $1.535 for steers and $1.495 for heifers (wow, I'm not used to seeing heifer prices almost as high as steers). That works out to $$991.61 for steers and $965.77 for heifers. By weaning for 77 days on grass I added a minimum of $173.64 in value to the calves not only in weaning them but in additional weight gain and at minimal cost because they were not on feed.
Now to put it into perspective....if you don't wean your going to have to sell 5 steers to receive the same money that I get for 4 steers. It's a low margin business already so don't make things worse for yourself.
 

GoWyo

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On May 1st I weaned a group of heifers and steers that had an average weight of 521 lbs.
So based on the market report posted I should expect to get $1.57 for the steers and $1.33 for the heifers had I sold straight off the cow. That works out to $817.97 for the steers and $692.93 for the heifers.
Instead I gave two rounds of vaccine and pour-on wormer and turned them out on good grass. On July 17th I weighed the group again and the average weight was 646, that's 1.6 lbs/day gain on grass and they were not implanted. So now let's look again at the market report for prices of weaned calves, I should expect $1.535 for steers and $1.495 for heifers (wow, I'm not used to seeing heifer prices almost as high as steers). That works out to $$991.61 for steers and $965.77 for heifers. By weaning for 77 days on grass I added a minimum of $173.64 in value to the calves not only in weaning them but in additional weight gain and at minimal cost because they were not on feed.
Now to put it into perspective....if you don't wean your going to have to sell 5 steers to receive the same money that I get for 4 steers. It's a low margin business already so don't make things worse for yourself.
What was the value of the grass they ate for the 77 days? No doubt still ahead, but there is feed and interest on those calves, plus a little risk for potential death loss or chronic sickness.

On edit: With weaning in the fall here, I really can't put them on pasture, so they will eat about 15 lbs. of hay per day. With hay at $150/ton here, that puts it at $.075/lb. or $1.125/head/day to feed hay. Over 77 days, my feed cost alone is $86.63 plus a little more for wasted hay.
 
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MurraysMutts

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What was the value of the grass they ate for the 77 days? No doubt still ahead, but there is feed and interest on those calves, plus a little risk for potential death loss or chronic sickness.

On edit: With weaning in the fall here, I really can't put them on pasture, so they will eat about 15 lbs. of hay per day. With hay at $150/ton here, that puts it at $.075/lb. or $1.125/head/day to feed hay. Over 77 days, my feed cost alone is $86.63 plus a little more for wasted hay.
And they will probably go backwards on hay alone.
By the time I feed em, inject em, implant em, wean em I've most likely lost money this time of year.
We have a couple places here that pay pretty good for unweaned calves. And I've done a whole lot less work and saved a whole lot of time, feed, and money in the process.
 

J+ Cattle

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Yes the calves did eat grass for an additional 77 days and it was during the summer growing season but the way I see it the calves ate much less grass than if I had 20% more cows which is what I would need to have more calves to sell to make up the dollar difference of not weaning plus added weight. I have my stocking rate adjusted to take the weaning period into account plus I also save back heifers for replacements. Is hay usually that price or is it more expensive than normal because of the drought?
 

Rydero

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My unweaned March calves are gaining weight too and I've yet to feed a bale. They've never gone backwards either.

It's more than a little amusing to quote a market report (3-5 cents a lb premium) then instantly say the premium is 10 cents but ok we'll go with that. 600lb calf = $60/hd premium - working them - 2 rounds of vaccine - increased death and sickness loss - feed cost - loss of gain during weaning. What kind of facilities can I afford to rush out to build for that "profit"? What if you only get $18/HD more like the report suggests, what would you do with all the money?
 

Rydero

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Not the same weight. Different sized group. Same home, same breed, same color, same quality? C'mon I can cherry pick too, lol. The OP quoted it, then contradicted it
 

MurraysMutts

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The above being said....

IF!!
If you have enough calves to make a load, I can see it making you money!
Or IF you go to sale that sells large enough groups of same kind to put together a load.
Or possibly an all weaned special sale.

I don't have those numbers..

Lots of the sales up here are erratic on steers vs bulls vs weaned vs unweaned.
Same kinds bringing same moneys.
Better kinds bringing less moneys.
I've seen unweaned bulls bringing more per head than weaned steers of same kind. Kinda weird.

The story I get is this, the folks doing the buying would rather have an unweaned, all natural calf to get on THEIR program. And they've had less problems doing it that way, vs buying pre-vac, weaned animals that don't match up with someone else's program and trying to match them all up.
I.e. different vaccinations, protocols, etc.
One group gets sick because the second group came from a different farm that has never seen that strain of disease, virus etc. Even tho all were on comparable vaccination protocols.
 
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Banjo

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I weaned some in a dry lot a couple of years ago with hay and ground feed for about 30 days ....i think they looked worse afterwards than before, certainly didn't seem to gain any weight. would have made just as much selling straight off the cow. i f you don't go at least 90 days on feed then i think its a losing proposition most times IMO. but, if you can wean on good grass like J+ you don't have to make a transition from gut bugs that digest grass to ones that digest grain. I wean all my heifers I'm gonna keep and bulls on stockpiled fescue....works really good.
 

GoWyo

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And they will probably go backwards on hay alone.
By the time I feed em, inject em, implant em, wean em I've most likely lost money this time of year.
We have a couple places here that pay pretty good for unweaned calves. And I've done a whole lot less work and saved a whole lot of time, feed, and money in the process.
I wean on grass hay, but it seems to be pretty good hay cut right after it headed out (never tested it, neighbors raised it on a meadow a mile away). On grass hay alone past experience says they will gain around 1.25#/day. Once I get them going I feed a grass/alfalfa mix hay every other bale and they will do around 1.5#/day. That is all I am trying to get from my replacement heifers. They weaned off averaging 630 (adj. 205 on Oct. 15) and will be bred last week of May (210 days away) at around 800-900 lbs. They only need to put on 1.3-1.5 lbs. per day to get there. Any more feed than that is a waste of money.
 

faster horses

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I wean on grass hay, but it seems to be pretty good hay cut right after it headed out (never tested it, neighbors raised it on a meadow a mile away). On grass hay alone past experience says they will gain around 1.25#/day. Once I get them going I feed a grass/alfalfa mix hay every other bale and they will do around 1.5#/day. That is all I am trying to get from my replacement heifers. They weaned off averaging 630 (adj. 205 on Oct. 15) and will be bred last week of May (210 days away) at around 800-900 lbs. They only need to put on 1.3-1.5 lbs. per day to get there. Any more feed than that is a waste of money.
That's what we always did, except we never had any alfalfa hay to feed; mixed hay would have been better as you are able to do. We just had straight grass, but we fed the best we had. We tried to cut it before the grass headed out, (that's when it has the most nutrition but you can't always do it at that stage--we have tested lots of hay and it's best when it is cut early as possible and still get some tonnage). We kept them on free choice loose mineral too. Our replacement heifers weighed 780# mid May. We turn the bulls in to calve the end of March. Our heifers done this way bred up in 30 days just fine.
 
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bird dog

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You are right Banjo, its not for everyone. Its not worth it for small producers except for the pride in knowing that you are supplying a healthy calf that will make the next owner some money and maybe build a reputation so that the buyer will want your calves in the future. To many people in this business don't care about the next guy and that is the reason that death loses in the feedyards have remained steady for the last 20 years.
Assuming you have a squeeze, facilities to wean are not much more than a small stout fenced enclosure with a water source where they only need to stay for a few days if you can move them after that to a grass pasture away from their dams. The calves should already have been vaccinated and implanted long before weaning to get the benefit of both. After that its just a booster shot and maybe another implant.

As I mentioned before and what GoWyo is saying is your feed doesn't have to be much. You are wanting them straightened out first of all, gains come second. Mine are on decent pasture and get about 5 lbs of 14% creep, twice a week. After 45 days they have gained about 60 lbs. (more in the spring) They know how to eat and drink from a trough. They shrink very little at the sale. Its well worth it to me. The commission company I assign them to will buy them for his operation about half the time. He knows they are healthy and well taken care of even though the quality is less than others. This time of year they will go from the sale yard directly to wheat.
 

J+ Cattle

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Not the same weight. Different sized group. Same home, same breed, same color, same quality? C'mon I can cherry pick too, lol. The OP quoted it, then contradicted it
Compared to last week: Feeder steers and heifers sold 3.00-5.00 higher on limited comparable offerings. Demand moderate to good. Steer and heifer calves traded mostly steady. Calves that were long weaned and multiple rounds of shots sold 3.00-5.00 higher. Demand moderate to good, very good for weaned calves. Cooler temperatures are in the forecast for the rest of the week. Supply included: 100% Feeder Cattle (51% Steers, 4% Dairy Steers, 41% Heifers, 4% Bulls). Feeder cattle supply over 600 lbs was 60%.

I read it as the price was $3.00 - $5.00 higher compared to the previous week, not that the premium/lack of discount was $3.00 - $5.00.
If you don't want to wean, or don't think it pays out, it makes no difference to me, that's what keeps the backgrounder in business. I do it because I'm already doing it for the heifers that I retain and I want to get the top price for the steers. Not much trouble or added labor, mainly just a delayed payday.
 

GoWyo

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That's what we always did, except we never had any alfalfa hay to feed; mixed hay would have been better as you are able to do. We just had straight grass, but we fed the best we had. We tried to cut it before the grass headed out, (that's when it has the most nutrition but you can't always do it at that stage--we have tested lots of hay and it's best when it is cut early as possible and still get some tonnage). We kept them on free choice loose mineral too. Our replacement heifers weighed 780# mid May. We turn the bulls in to calve the end of March. Our heifers done this way bred up in 30 days just fine.
I will start bumping the replacement heifers with about 2 lbs. of 24-28% cake starting about 60 days out from breeding to get them off the alfalfa, but put a little bloom on them. Last year we had a pasture leased across the road for a heifer pasture, so as soon as they were done with the course of MGA to synch them, we turned them out for 2 weeks on grass before AI breeding. I think this was a better management practice than going from pen to pasture after AI breeding as they were adjusted to new grass pasture, came in for 3 days for AI with grass hay and then back out to pasture.
 

Rmc

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My number 1 priority is to make a profit . I think wearing calves is one of those regional things that their a huge differences if it increases profit or not .
Their are many other factors they play a roll as well. Number of calves,available feed, space ,time etc.
I my opinion if the next guy wants me to take additional time,costs, risk so he doesn’t have to needs to pay me enough more or it’s not happening. When it pays to wean we will.
But the last while it hasn’t been worth it financially to hold calves after weaning. So we haven’t. when it pays to hold after weaning ,for me , then I will. When it doesn’t pay I won’t. It isn’t my responsibility to make sure the next guy makes more money ,especially if it means taking money from my pocket.
 

Banjo

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If you wean on hay/mineral alone they will tend to get a hay belly. I did that one time and took a beating at the sale barn. it may not matter if your gonna keep them. Also, if cattle are too fat from silage, etc. they won't ring the bell usually but they may be heavier.
 

Rydero

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My number 1 priority is to make a profit . I think wearing calves is one of those regional things that their a huge differences if it increases profit or not .
Their are many other factors they play a roll as well. Number of calves,available feed, space ,time etc.
I my opinion if the next guy wants me to take additional time,costs, risk so he doesn’t have to needs to pay me enough more or it’s not happening. When it pays to wean we will.
But the last while it hasn’t been worth it financially to hold calves after weaning. So we haven’t. when it pays to hold after weaning ,for me , then I will. When it doesn’t pay I won’t. It isn’t my responsibility to make sure the next guy makes more money ,especially if it means taking money from my pocket.
Exactly. Put pride in one hand and money in the other and see which one fills up first. It's a business and intangibles don't pay the bills.
 

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