A total of 7,537 Oklahoma Quality Beef Network (OQBN) calves were sold at 10 value-added sales this past fall held at seven different Oklahoma livestock markets. The calves were sold in 851 lots from 177 producers with an average lot size of nine head/lot. Sale prices of non-OQBN calves that went through the same livestock market the same day were compared to OQBN calves. The OQBN calves sold for $7.84/cwt more than “run of the mill” non-preconditioned calves that sold the same day.

The sale-day premium, however, isn’t the whole story. The OQBN calves were weaned at least 45 days prior to sale. During these 45 days, most calves will gain about 2 lbs./day. Therefore, the OQBN calves weighed more than if they had been sold at a traditional weaning time.

In addition, the market for 400- to 600-lb. calves has historically been at the yearly low at conventional weaning dates in October and early November. By waiting the additional 45 days, the market improved dramatically this year, adding a substantial dollar value to the OQBN calves as compared to the sale price that these same calves would have brought in October.

Producers need to compare the value of the feed, labor and health costs of the VAC-45 OQBN program to differences in total sale price. In the fall of 2010, most producers sold the OQBN calves for enough more to realize a worthwhile profit above the feed and health costs of the preconditioning program.

Other interesting findings from the OQBN data indicated that age and source verification of all cattle was worth about $1/cwt. The bonus due to age and source verification was stronger (about $2/cwt.) in heavier, older yearling cattle.

Once again, the value of larger lot size was apparent. Lot sizes of 10 calves averaged $8/cwt. more than similar calves sold individually. This advantage increases up to truck-load size lots of 40-60 head where price increases were as much as $12-$13/cwt. as compared to similar cattle sold as singles.

For more information about the OBQN, go to www.oqbn.okstate.edu/.