2017 Calf-fed Holstein Demonstration Results

This report summarizes the calf-fed holstein demonstration comparing growth performance and economic data of implanted and non-implanted cattle by the PA Beef producers working group in 2017.
2017 Calf-fed Holstein Demonstration Results - Articles


Implants used in cattle increase feed efficiency. (Photo Credit: PA Beef Producers Working Group)

The PA Beef Producers Working Group, a collaboration of the PA Beef Council, Penn State Extension, Center for Beef Excellence, and the Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association, with support from the PA Department of Agriculture, has completed another demonstration, led by Penn State Extension, of calf-fed Holsteins reared for beef. Just as it did in 2016, the PA Beef Producers Working Group partnered with PA Department of Agriculture and JBS to provide the Holstein calf-fed demonstration and offered tours of the demo in conjunction with Ag Progress Days. The major difference between the 2017 demonstration was the emphasis on steroidal implants used to promote growth.

All Holsteins (40 head) were sourced from a single location, Cold Springs Farms, LLC, and placed on feed at the PDA Livestock Evaluation Center (LEC) on April 6, 2017. Prior to feedlot entry, steers were already started on grain and consuming approximately 10 lbs. of grain per head per day. Holsteins had also been previously implanted with Ralgro (36 mg zeranol; Merck Animal Health, Parsippany, NJ) in February of 2017. Steers weighed 697 ± 67 lbs. upon arrival and were 9 ± 1 months old. On April 7, the steers were stratified by body weight and randomly assigned to 2 groups of 20 hd. Group one received no additional treatment and simply returned to the pen to eat and grow. Group two was assigned to the implant treatment. Group two was implanted on d 1 with Component TE-IS (16 mg of estradiol, 80 mg of trenbolone acetate (TBA), and 29 mg of tylosin tartrate; Elanco Animal Health, Greenfield, IN) and again on day 116 with Component TE-S (24 mg estradiol, 120 mg TBA, and 29 mg of tylosin tartrate; Elanco Animal Health). Steers were transitioned on to a 62 Mcal ration (containing corn, silage, distillers dried grains, and minerals) over the course of 5 days. Cattle consuming the 62 Mcal ration ended up consuming 29 lbs. of feed (DM basis) per day—approximately 21.5 lbs. of corn per head and 3.5 lbs of distillers grains per head each day. Calves were weighed at arrival and data on growth performance were collected over the course of the demonstration. One steer in the non-implanted group died on day 159 of the trial. The death was unrelated to treatment.

Results will be discussed as steers with or without implants then. The implanted steers gained 0.51 lbs. more per day for the entire duration of the demonstration than the non-implanted steers (3.79 lbs. vs 3.28 lbs., respectively). Without separate intakes on the two groups, there was no way to differentiate feed conversion in this trial. However, feed conversion is an important economic indicator in the feedlot and will be tested in a research trial in 2018. Stay tuned!

As we saw in 2016, a large part of the success of this demonstration was attributed to the health of the calves. These Holstein steers were well started and came in with no health issues. The group as a whole dealt with very few challenges throughout the course of the demonstration. Management also played a role in the performance of these steers. The staff at the LEC ensured that these steers always had fresh feed in front of them for the duration of the 178 day trial.

The Holstein steers that were implanted weighed 1,371 ± 144 lbs. when they were weighed off test at the LEC and their carcasses ranged from 699 to 874 lbs. The Holstein steers that were not implanted weighed 1,282 ± 79 lbs. when they were weighed off test at the LEC and their carcasses ranged from 684 to 769 lbs. The steers dressed within 0.6% of one another (59.6% vs 59.0% for implanted vs non-implanted, respectively. The USDA Quality and Yield grades were variable and are shown in Table 1. Quality grades were reduced in cattle that were implanted, and this was not the case in 2016. However, steers only had 61 days on the last implant prior to slaughter. In an ideal setting, steers would have 80 to 90 days on the terminal (last) implant in order to ensure quality grade was not affected. For comparison purposes, the steers in 2016 had 76 days on their final implant prior to slaughter.

The economics on these cattle are variable depending on the scenario you choose to look at. In the LEC production system, feed cost $120/ton delivered. Additional costs considered included implants, bedding, yardage, medical, and chute time (labor). Cattle were bought and sold at true market price. Thus, in April, steers were bought at $0.85/lb and they were sold in October at $1.04/lb. Assuming a similar feed conversion (again, because individual intake was not possible), steers that were implanted netted nearly $60 more per head than those steers that were not implanted, just based on return of carcass value. Steers that were implanted had a cost of gain equal to $0.760/lb. whereas steers that were not implanted had a cost of gain equal to $0.998/lb.

Again this year, calf-fed Holstein steers fed in the PDA LEC system performed phenomenally well, with and without the implant. However, the net profit over the controls of $60 cannot be ignored. If implants are not used in the calf-fed system, producers need to evaluate the dollars being left on the table.

Table 1. USDA Quality and Yield Grade of Calf-Fed Holsteins in 2017

USDA Quality GradeImplanted (n=20 hd)Non-implanted (n=19 hd)
USDA Yield Grade = 110
USDA Yield Grade = 2137
USDA Yield Grade = 3612

1 All values represent the number of steers from a particular treatment and grade.