Get more profit from stocker calves!

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Stocker cattle represent a great opportunity to turn forages into profit for the savvy cattleman. With calf prices at near record highs, stocker calves represent a lot of potential gain, but also a lot of potential loss. The keys to a successful stocker program lie in pasture management, cost control and animal management.

Pasture Management

One of the cheapest things you can do to increase weight gain in your stocker calves is to properly fertilize and lime pastures. Properly fertilized forages contain more nutrients needed by cattle to gain weight quickly. The best way to fertilize and lime your pastures is to take a soil sample everal months before the forage growing season (for example, take a soil sample in the early fall for winter wheat or ryegrass). Based on the results of the soil sample lime and/or fertilize the pasture accordingly.

Another important aspect of pasture management is weed control. For every pound of weeds in your pasture there is one less pound of usable forages for your stocker calves. Your local Cooperative Extension agent can help you choose the correct herbicide and advise you on the correct time to apply them to remove unwanted weeds.

Cost Control

Obviously, to make money raising stocker cattle you have to sell the cattle for more than you put in them. Carefully controlling input costs like feed, medication, supplements, etc. and making sure that these items result in added benefits that are worth the cost is crucial. It is beneficial to keep a record of all costs incurred, not only for tax purposes, but to help you determine your breakeven costs for future years.

Proper Animal Management

When processing stocker calves, it makes sense to perform a few management procedures to increase their value. These include castrating bull calves and dehorning any horned cattle, as well as deworming and vaccinating all calves. The mere act of dehorning and castrating will increase the calves’ value by several cents per pound at sale time. Vaccinating and deworming cattle will reduce your death losses and increase productivity because sick cattle don’t efficiently gain weight.

Properly matching cattle-types to available forages will also maximize productivity and weight gain. The highest quality forages should be matched up with lightweight calves, while heavier calves can be placed on slightly more mature, less nutritious forages with no loss in production.

Make sure that calves have free access to water and a complete mineral supplement. A lack of either will reduce feed intake and thus reduce potential weight gains. It is also a good idea to supplement stocker calves with an ionophore to increase feed efficiency and weight gains. Feeding an ionophore to stocker cattle allows you to graze more calves on the same amount of pasture (without decreasing weight gain!) or graze the same number of calves for a longer period of time. Either way you end up with more pounds of cattle at the end of the grazing period as compared to not supplementing with an ionophore. More pounds at the sale barn means more money in your pocket!

How Does an Ionophore Increase Feed Efficiency?

The ionophores [monensin (Rumensin®) or lasalocid (Bovatec®)] alter the population of rumen bugs to increase the amount of “good” bacteria and decrease the populations of “bad” bacteria. These “good” bacteria produce higher amounts of propionic acid. The reason that this is important is that a calf utilizes acetic acid, butyric acid and propionic acid produced by the rumen bugs as energy. However, the calf is able to more efficiently convert propionic acid into energy than either butyric acid or acetic acid. More propionic acid means more energy for the calf, resulting in greater weight gains. The “bad” bacteria produce more acetic acid, butyric acid, carbon dioxide and methane resulting in more wasted energy from your forages.

Why STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks?

With so many options available, why are STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks the best option for stocker cattle operators wishing to feed an ionophore? STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks provide what is needed without the extra costs associated with unnecessary protein supplements. When high quality forages are available to stocker cattle, the protein levels in these forages are typically adequate to meet the needs of growing stocker calves, so extra protein usually isn’t needed. STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks provide essential levels of minerals and vitamins in addition to Rumensin® for added weight gain without the cost of protein that you don’t need.

STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks provide consistent daily intake resulting in maximum weight gains. Cattle can be expected to gain 0.20 to 0.25 additional pounds per day* as compared to those receiving no ionophore. This consistent intake means that input costs are known, allowing the stocker cattle operator to accurately estimate operating costs and determine breakeven costs. The average cost** for STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks is about $0.14 per head per day. Assuming that the value of the extra gain is $3.00 per pound, use of STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks results in an extra profit of $0.60 to $0.75 per head per day! Assuming a grazing period of 120 days we are talking about an added payday of roughly $90 per calf!

And probably the greatest advantage of the STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Blocks is their ease of use. These weather-resistant blocks can be placed right out in the pasture with the calves. Maintenance merely involves keeping the proper number of blocks available to the calves at all times.

In conclusion, a successful stocker operation involves several factors including: proper management of pastures; careful management of input costs; and proper management of the calves to ensure that they are efficiently and profitably gaining weight on available pastures. One very effective option, which will pay for itself in added weight gain is the STOCKADE® Rumensin® Pressed Block. For more information about these supplement blocks and how they can benefit your stocker operation, call 800-835-0306 to speak to a STOCKADE® representative.

Tips for Maximizing Stocker Performance

  1. Provide continual access to STOCKADE® Rumensin® Blocks at the recommended rate of 1 block per 5 head of cattle.
  2. Maintain proper stocking rates on pastures. Over-stocking reduces animal gains, while under-stocking reduces the pounds of beef produced per acre and increases production costs.
  3. Properly fertilize and lime stocker pastures to maximize forage nutritional quality.
  4. Manage forages for maximum performance. This includes rotational grazing systems, matching cattle types to available forage types, proper weed management and the harvesting or clipping of forages to keep them in a vegetative (highly nutritional) state.
  5. Maintain a proper health program. Deworm and vaccinate all calves at receiving and don’t forget about external parasites.
  6. Always provided access to plenty of clean, fresh water and try to limit the distance that cattle have to travel to water.


*While these results are typical, individual weight gains may be more or less than that stated due to differences in cattle types, environment, management practices, etc.

 **Costs will vary according to average intake rate as well as location. These costs are based on 4 oz intake per head per day.

Rumensin® is a registered trademark of Elanco Animal Health
Bovatec® is a registered trademark of Zoetis
STOCKADE® is a registered trademark of Ridley Block Operations