Making the right weaning decisions

Oct 22, 2010
by WLJ

If you’ve decided to sell your calves, you need to determine how to maximize your return on what you’ve already invested. You may have already determined that selling immediately following weaning through conventional market channels is best for you. However, there are alternatives to selling your calves as a “commodity.”

Kansas State University research has demonstrated the potential values of weaning for at least two weeks prior to shipment to the auction market or to the feed yard. Other data have shown benefits of weaning at least 45 days prior to shipment and commingling. But most importantly, you need to ensure that you will get paid for any added investment you make in adding value to your calves.

The term “adding value” only applies if the buyer perceives the same value that the seller does. If the buyers at the sale you use don’t pay more for preconditioned calves, then preconditioning has no value, at that sale. However, other buyers, at other sales, certainly DO value preconditioning, and it’s your prerogative to seek out these buyers to get paid for adding true value.

This may also apply to other aspects of your calf crop. Perhaps your calves have excellent genetics for growth or muscling or marbling. Make sure to seek out the market which will give you the best value for your unique product.

There are certain grocery stores where, upon entry, the shopper makes a tacit agreement with the management: “I will pay you more for groceries but you must provide me with quality.” Shoppers don’t go to these stores looking to pinch pennies, but instead to buy high quality products with an assurance of sustained value. The same can be said for value-added sales. Buyers don’t come to a dedicated preconditioned calf sale looking for the lowest price, but for sustaining value, i.e. calves that will perform.

So before you make extensive investment in preconditioning, or after you’ve made a substantial investment in high-value genetics, make sure you find the market that will pay most for your added value. — Chris Reinhardt, Extension Feedlot Specialist, Kansas State University Extension