June 2017
Feeding Facts

Feeding Strategies for Stocker Calves

It’s weaning time in Alabama. It’s time to wean those calves from our late-fall- and winter-calving cows. Many producers chose to background or stocker those weaned calves and sell them for delivery 60, 90 or even 120 days out. It’s also time to decide the feeding options to use on those cattle. Many have used a commodity or a simple 50:50 commodity blend and some prefer using a complete feed to achieve added gain on those weaned cattle. With that in mind, let’s consider our management and all of the options we have in front of us.

Consideration, first, has to be given to whether the calves have been raised on a farm or if they were commingled from several sources. If the cattle have been raised on your own farm or ranch, then the calves can be fed the ration they will be grown on before weaning. If this is the case, the calves should transition easily on to full feed. If the cattle are purchased from several sources, producers should consider hand-feeding CPC Jump Start to help with the stress of weaning, vaccinating and being started on a different feed source. Regardless of the source of the calves, plenty of good quality hay and clean fresh water should be available at all times.

Those who chose to feed a commodity or 50:50 blend need to consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of program. Most producers feed these cattle with self-feeders and allow them to eat all they desire. Commodity blends tend to cost less than complete feeds, but this stems simply from the fact that they are not complete in their supply of nutrients for optimal gain. In addition, some metabolic problems such as bloat and acidosis can also accompany the free-choice feeding of commodities and their blends.

In contrast, complete feeds tend to cost more per ton, but have fewer of the metabolic problems associated with feeds lacking a complete nutrient profile. While complete feeds cost more per ton, many times they are actually less expensive when looked at as cost per pound of gain. Yes, most of the time complete feeds put on a pound of gain for less cost. Less cost always equals more profit.

With the high value of cattle, death loss can be a factor with a profound impact on profitability. Losing one or two cattle to mortality can affect the profitability of your operation significantly. Likewise, cattle performing poorly because of a nutritional deficiency or metabolic issue can suck profits right out of your pocket.

These points were brought to light recently in a field trial in Alabama. One group of cattle provided free-choice access to a SHP/DDG blend gained 2.7 pounds per day with a cost per pound of gain of $0.97. A second group of cattle with similar genetics gained 3.35 pounds per day with a cost of gain of $0.78 per pound. This increased efficiency and added weight gain resulted in additional profits of $83.07 per head. I don’t know about you, but that helps put extra beans on my table.

Additionally, cattle fed CPC Grower tend to be in more acceptable body condition than those fed blends. The mineral-vitamin component and the nutritional balance of the feed promote more lean-body growth. Lean-body growth has been recognized by feed yards to allow cattle to come in and perform at an acceptable level for them, also.

As you begin grouping your calves post-weaning or putting groups of calves together, take a look at the CPC programs offered through Quality Co-ops. These quality complete feeds should improve the cost of gain, cattle health and cattle condition on your operation. They should help maintain cattle health and acceptability to buyers. More and more buyers recognize the CPC program and the performance of the cattle grown on this program. The cattle adjust to the feed yard well and their performance is predictable.

The bottom line is if we can’t help you make more money then you may not be around for a long-term relationship. Let’s do this together and let us try to help you increase your profits to help sustain and grow your operation.


Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If I can help any of you, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..