Estimating cattle rate-of-gain
Whether you're raising a small herd of cattle to sell or to use as beef for your table, it's important the animals grow at an economical rate.
Dan Loy is an extension beef specialist at Iowa State University. He says if cattle aren't gaining weight, they're not adding value. Feed is 60-to-70-percent the cost of production, so the faster the herd grows, the more likely you'll see a profit. The expected daily rate of gain depends on what you're feeding and what your goals are.
"If they're primarily on forage, grazing cattle, stocker cattle, 1-2 pounds a day would be typical. If you're feeding corn silage or kind of a moderate energy growing ration, 2-pounds a day would be typical," says Loy. "Cattle that are fed on concentrates, you know a finishing ration, a feedlot-type ration, most of those are going to be gaining over 3-pounds a day."
It's especially important to monitor when there are changes in diet. Forage quality can vary during the year and if it's in poor condition, the animals might not gain weight. The situation is also affected by environmental factors such as heat or cold stress.
The easiest way to track weight is with a scale, but if you don't have one, Loy says there are other options to calculate the rate of gain. One is to use the energy value of the feed.
"Basically we know from the net energy system how many calories it requires to put on a pound of gain," he says. "And so then you can use the net energy of the feed stuffs, and weigh the feedstuffs, and then calculate the rate of gain."
By knowing the starting weight of a calf and the desired end weight, you can calculate the gain needed each day to get it ready for market.
Use this worksheet for calculating livestock rate of gain
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