Implanting Early Weaned Calves

As cattle producers ponder weaning their calves early in the face of drought conditions this summer, decisions are being made about processing those calves at the same time, writes Russ Daly, South Dakota Extension.
calendar icon 14 September 2012
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Russ Daly, DVM, DACVPM, SDSU Extension Veterinarian

Procedures such as pre-weaning vaccinations, dehorning, and castration are typically performed prior to weaning.

Another procedure common to the pre-weaning protocols of many cattle producers who plan to hold calves and feed them is that of implanting. Growth implants have long been accepted as valuable tools to improve calf average daily gain and feed efficiency.

Implanting young calves is not without some potential pitfalls, however. In general, calves need to have sufficient nutrient intake to feed the changes in the body prompted by the implant. During the period they are active in the body, implants work to increase the frame size of the animal, and then to lay down muscle tissue.

Implanting calves that are young and initially being brought onto feed may increase frame size and muscling, but fat will not be deposited optimally in the muscle, which limits the potential for the animal to exhibit a good degree of marbling later in life. Dr Robbi Pritchard, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at SDSU recommends that if early-weaned calves are going to be put on feed following weaning, a low-potency implant such as Ralgro ® or Synovex-C ® (for example) is indicated. Higher potency implants should be avoided until calves are at least 7 months old and gaining 2.4 pounds per day.

Cattle producers who implanted calves at branding or at pasture turnout should wait between 100 and 150 days before reimplanting, in order to avoid overlapping effects of the implants. At the same time, producers who are keeping those calves into the fall and winter should definitely plan to reimplant the calves during that time frame; otherwise any weight gained will be given back.

Regardless of the implant used at weaning, cattle producers retaining and feeding cattle should pay close attention to the duration, or “payout” period of the implant they are using. Producers should think ahead to use the proper combination of implant potency and duration of action for the rest of the feeding period, based on the type of cattle being fed. Overlapping payout periods, or gaps in implant administration may result in adverse effects on marbling scores or performance. Veterinarians and Extension specialists are excellent sources of information regarding effective implant programs.

September 2012
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