With value of gain approaching $100/cwt, average daily gain (ADG) of stocker calves on wheat pasture is a major concern this year. Gain is worth more than it has ever been, and producers should focus on making sure they manage for optimum ADG. Many input costs have also gone up in price, so you must be careful to also control costs to maximize profit in your stockers.
How to improve ADG in wheat pasture stockers:
Buy better quality cattle. Cattle with the genetic potential for growth are a better deal than inferior, slow-growing cattle.
Buy heavier cattle. Heavier calves will typically gain better and be healthier than lighter weight calves. Feedlots want heavy feeder cattle, so selling 900-pound feeders next spring shouldn't be a problem.
Implant aggressively. Use aggressive implants with the most potential to increase ADG. Consider re-implanting after 120 days. Use the proper implanting technique to make sure implants aren't wasted.
De-worm. Make sure you use the proper dosage of anthelmintic in every animal.
Get an efficacious dose of monensin into the cattle. The easiest and maybe most cost effective way to do that this year is by feeding a monensin-containing mineral free-choice. Feeding a monensin-containing supplement is also an option. Monensin helps prevent bloat as well.
Consider feeding a fiber-based energy supplement that contains monensin (OK Green Gold program). When fed at 2 pounds per head per day, this supplement can increase ADG by 0.4 pound. At current value of gain and feed prices, this supplement program pencils a profit. Plus you get the extra benefit of being able to see your cattle every day. For more information about the OK Green Gold program.
Watch for bloat. Have feed containing poloxalene on hand. When you see the first symptoms of bloat (typically in late winter), feed poloxalene immediately to avoid additional death loss. A 2 percent death loss is equivalent to reducing ADG by 0.1 pound for 120 days on every steer you sell.
Avoid mud. Reserve an area in or adjacent to each pasture where you can put cattle during inclement weather.
Manage "nontraditional" hazards. Patch holes in fences, realize that storms will cause icing of electric fences, don't let naïve stockers have access to iced-over ponds, etc. While these risk factors frequently don't materialize, they have all caused experienced cattlemen to lose cattle.
Manage shrink. Don't let your hard work get away by mismanaging the logistics of marketing.
Don't overstock. This is the hardest one. Don't let pasture go to waste, but make sure cattle have enough forage every day of the grazing season.
Make it a point to consider each of these areas, and then implement the decisions you make. Hopefully you can improve performance of your stockers and offset some of the high input costs we are all facing.