“There is nothing that pays better than implants,” Homer Eberly, Agri-Basics beef nutritionist based in Stevens, PA tells his customers. He sees a lot of implanting in the Ephrata area and finds nothing in the beef industry that gives a better return on investment to producers than implants. “As a rule of thumb, figure you will get an additional half-pound per head per day gain,” Homer says. That means a 100-day implant will put 50 pounds more on a steer than the same animal without an implant. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I’ve seen that same improvement in average daily gain time and again,” he says. Amanda Butterfield, Pennsylvania cattle specialist with Merck Animal Health, agrees. “Depending on the stage of production, whether cow-calf, stocker, or feedlot, an appropriate implant program can return $40 to $200 per animal,” she says.
In suckling calves, research shows that weaning weight is increased by 20 lbs. when implanting calves while on the cow. The economic value of implanting suckling calves in today’s market results in a net return of $48.50/head on a calf market of $2.50/lb., according to Butterfield. Implanting suckling calves results in a significant economic return for the producer who sells calves at weaning.
Weaned cattle either grazing forage or confined and fed a growing-type ration and implanted have been shown to increase weight gain by 25 lbs. and improve feed efficiency by 10-15%. The economic value of implanting weaned calves in today’s market would result in a net return of $54.25 on a feeder cattle market of $2.25/lb.
WHY THEY WORK
Implants increase protein deposition, Butterfield explains. Increasing protein deposition enables the animal’s natural metabolism to more efficiently convert feed to protein (muscle). “Increased protein deposition leads to increased weight gain and improved feed efficiency,” she says.
Research indicates that the implant response is due to a combination of a reduction in the amount of feed required for maintenance, reduced energy content of gain (more protein vs. fat), and improved efficiency of use of absorbed feed energy. These effects allow the animal to utilize the nutrition it is offered more efficiently without increasing metabolic needs. For this reason, Butterfield notes, implanted cattle can be fed the same as non-implanted cattle.
A number of implant programs can be used in cattle from birth to slaughter. There are over 25 implants available to producers and not every implant is suitable to every situation.
Feed company personnel, nutritionists, veterinarians and university personnel can help producers with advice on the appropriate implants to be used at each production phase.
“The magnitude of the overall response to implants in beef production may be influenced by the implant used, the length of time between implant periods, and the plane of nutrition the animal has available,” Butterfield says. Generally, the response to an implant will increase with increasing hormone dose, decreased time between implants, and increased energy available to the calf. However, positive responses have been demonstrated when implanting calves grazing low-quality winter range.
OTHER KEY FACTORS
One key to success has nothing to do with implants, themselves. “Money spent on a head gate and chute is money well spent,” Homer declares. “Implanting is not that big a job if it is done with the right facilities.”
Eberly finds that most producers who give up on implants are those who do not have the proper handling setup and become frustrated trying to get the actual job done. “Cattle are just too big to push around,” he says with a grin.
Some farm publications warn about grading issues with implants. In some areas, grading can be a problem – but usually not in Southeast Pennsylvania. Much of it has to do with the way local producers feed out steers.
“We buy our cattle lighter here in the Lancaster County area,” Homer says. “And we keep them longer on feed.”
Problems typically arise when a producer gets 9-weight cattle and puts them on a hot feed ration for 100 or 110 days. “We do better buying 6- and 7-weights and feeding them over 200 days,” Homer says. “Bring in a lighter steer and keep it on feed for longer and there is no need to shy away from how they’ll grade.”
“Properly used, tools such as implants can help increase profitability of a beef operation,” Butterfield says. For more information, she can be reached at 765-730-9302.
CALLOUT IF NEEDED
Implanting suckling calves results in a net return of $48.50/head on a calf market of $2.50/lb.