UT Expert Provides Tips for Starting Cattle Off Right

Picture of heifers grazing
Tennessee beef producers can increase profits by weaning and preconditioning calves. UT Extension beef cattle specialist Jason Smith gives tips to help make this profit happen. Image courtesy UTIA. 

Tennessee beef producers are constantly seeking ways to increase the profitability of their operations. For calves, research shows over and over again that properly weaned and preconditioned calves are more valuable, but it can be tough for producers to meet this goal. University of Tennessee Extension beef cattle specialist Jason Smith has some advice for how to make weaning a profitable investment.

“Simply put, pounds still pay. And most calves that weigh 500 to 600 pounds lose about 50 pounds at weaning. So producers must figure out how to wean their calves, manage them to recover the weight lost from weaning, and then gain additional weight as well in order to profit. It’s a big job,” says the expert.

Smith says that the value added premium for weaned and preconditioned calves is around four to five percent, and that this practice is ultimately the best for the industry as a whole. The best way to make the practice yield enough for a producer is to utilize time and nutritional management.

“Extending the weaning and preconditioning phase from 45 days to 60 days and managing the cattle to gain two to two and a half pounds per head per day will see an additional 120 pounds of weight gain overall. With that, producers can expect the value-added premium of both weight gain and weaning and preconditioning to be between $150 and $200 per head,” continues Smith. “With high quality forages, which are an economical source of supplemental energy and protein, along with a complementary mineral and vitamin supplement, most producers should expect to see a $30 to $50 per head return on investment.”

For more information and articles like this one, check out the UT Beef and Forage Center website at utbeef.com. Every month, specialists post articles on topics like profitability, calving, nutrition, disease prevention, forages and more. Producers can also contact their local county UT Extension office.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence in providing Real. Life. Solutions. through teaching, discovery and service. ag.tennessee.edu​.



Jason Smith, assistant professor and Extension beef cattle specialist, UT Extension, 865-974-3209, jason.smith@utk.edu​