New Mexico State University research says weaning calves for at least 41 days before placing them on feed can increase their net return.

The study compared records of more than 800 steers entered in the New Mexico Ranch to Rail program over a four-year period. The records of individual steers were sorted based on how long they were preconditioned prior to entering the program: up to 20 days, 21-40 days, 40-60 days and 61 or more.

"Beef cattle weaned for 41-60 days prior to entering the feedyard gained faster, were on feed for fewer days and had the highest numerical carcass value," says Clay Mathis, New Mexico Extension beef specialist.

The lowest performing group (0-21 days) had an average daily gain of 2.9 lbs. day. The 41-60 days group increased to 3.3 lbs./day and also returned $43.89/head more than the bottom set.

"When financial risk associated with time is considered, the optimum preconditioning period is from 41-60 days," Mathis says, noting that group had the highest carcass value at $114.91/cwt. Those weaned longer than 61 days came in just 28¢ behind that, but the calves preconditioned the shortest time dropped to $111.77/cwt. in carcass value.

The overall message, he says, is that having the patience to separate weaning and shipping stress by 45 days or more can give calves the boost they need during finishing.
-- Steve Suther, Certified Angus BEEF LLC news release