Economics of early weaning in northern great plains beef cattle production system


Early removal of the calf from its dam reduces forage needs of the cow-calf enterprise and has been found to improve BW gain and pregnancy rates in the cow herd. However, early weaning may not always be economically viable for producers and the risk should be considered carefully. This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of early and normal weaning of steer and heifer calves on net income at weaning. Calves from Angus xHereforddams were randomly assigned to one of two weaning treatments. Calves were either early weaned (EW) at 80-d of age or remained with their dams until normal weaning (NW) at 213-d of age. Calves assigned to EW treatment received a 17.5% crude protein and 0.82 Mcal/kg net energy diet for approximately 130-d in a drylot. All economic analyses were conducted at normal weaning for both NW and EW calves. At normal weaning, price of steers ($US/kg) was lower (P = 0.003) and weaned steer value ($US/steer) was greater (P < 0.01) for EW steers; however, no difference (P = 0.18) was found in price of heifers ($US/kg) and weaned heifer value ($US/heifer) between NW and EW heifers. Feed cost was increased (P < 0.001) in EW steers and heifers compared to NW calves. Net revenue for both weaned steers and heifers was reduced (P < 0.001) in EW calves due to the feed cost of the growing diet. This study indicates that early weaning calves at 80-d of age decrease weaned calf value and net revenue for the cow-calf segment.

Share and Cite:

Mulliniks, J. , Waterman, R. and Geary, T. (2013) Economics of early weaning in northern great plains beef cattle production system. Agricultural Sciences, 4, 219-223. doi: 10.4236/as.2013.45031.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Adams, D.C. and Short, R.E. (1988) The role of animal nutrition on productivity in a range environment. In: White, R.S. and Short, R.E., Eds., Achieving Efficient Use of Rangeland Resources, Fort Keogh Research Symposium, Miles City, 37-45.
[2] Waterman, R.C., Grings, E.E., Geary, T.W., Roberts, A.J., Alexander, L.J. and MacNeil, M.D. (2007) Influence of seasonal forage quality on glucose kinetics of young beef cows. Journal of Animal Science, 85, 2582-2595. doi:10.2527/jas.2007-0023
[3] Rutledge, J.J., Robison, O.W., Ahlschwede, W.T. and Legates, J.E. (1971) Milk yield and its influence on 205-day weight of beef calves. Journal of Animal Science, 33, 563-567.
[4] Robison, O.W., Yusuff, M.K.M. and Dillard, E.U. (1978) Milk production in Hereford cows: I. Means and correlations. Journal of Animal Science, 47, 131-136.
[5] Lusby, K.S., Wettemann, R.P. and Turman, T.E. (1981) Effects of early weaning calves from first-calf heifers on calf and heifer performance. Journal of Animal Science, 53, 1193-1197.
[6] Story, C.E., Rasby, R.J., Clark, R.T. and Milton, C.T. (2000) Age of calf at weaning of spring-calving beef cows and the effect on cow and calf performance and production economics. Journal of Animal Science, 78, 1403-1413.
[7] Myers, S.E., Faulkner, D.B., Ireland, F.A., Berger, L.L. and Parrett, D.F. (1999) Production systems comparing early weaning to normal weaning with or without creep feeding for beef steers. Journal of Animal Science, 77, 300-310.
[8] Spreen, T.H. and Laughlin, D.H. (1986) Simulation of beef cattle production systems and its use in economic analysis. Westview Press, Colorado.
[9] Blanco, M., Villalba, D., Ripoll, G., Sauerwein, H. and Casasús, I. (2009) Effects of early weaning and breed on calf performance and carcass and meat quality in autumn-born bull calves. Livestock Science, 120, 103-115. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2008.05.003
[10] Grings, E.E., Short, R.E., Klement, K.D., Geary, T.W., MacNeil, M.D., Haferkamp, M.R. and Heitschmidt, R.K. (2005) Calving system and weaning age effects on cow and preweaning calf performance in the Northern Great Plains. Journal of Animal Science, 83, 2671-2683.
[11] Waterman, R.C., Geary, T.W., Paterson, J.A. and Lipsey, R.J. (2012) Early weaning in the Northern Great Plains beef cattle production systems: I. Performance and re-productive response in range beef cows. Livestock Science, 148, 26-36. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2012.05.004
[12] Waterman, R.C., Geary, T.W., Paterson, J.A. and Lipsey, R.J. (2012) Early weaning in the Northern Great Plains beef cattle production system: II. Development of replacement heifers weaned at 80 or 215 d of age. Livestock Science, 148, 36-45. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2012.04.020
[13] Waterman, R.C., Geary, T.W., Paterson, J.A., Lipsey, R.J., Berger, L.L., Faulkner, D.B. and Homm, J. (2012) Early weaning in Northern Great Plains beef cattle production systems: III. Steer weaning, finishing and carcass characteristics. Livestock Science, 148, 282-290. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2012.06.024
[14] Vallentine, J.F. (1990) Grazing management. Academic Press, Inc., San Die-go.
[15] Barker-Neef, J.M., Buskirk, D.D., Black, J.R., Doumit, M.E. and Rust, S.R. (2001) Biological and economic performance of early-weaned Angus steers. Journal of Animal Science, 79, 2762-2769.
[16] Peterson, G.A., Turner, T.B., Irvin, K.M., Davis, M.E., Newland, H.W. and Harvey, W.R. (1987) Cow and calf performance and economic considerations of early weaning of fall-born beef calves. Journal of Animal Science, 64, 15-22.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.