Implanting Calves Equals Money in the Bank

Author: Kristy

MAY 15, 2014

By: University News Release

There are big benefits when it comes to implanting calves.
By: Warren Rusche, Cow/Calf Field Specialist, SDSU Extension

If someone was offering a deal promising that for every $1 invested there would be a $25 payoff four to six months later, how many takers would there be? Sounds too good to be true, but that is exactly the payoff from using implants on nursing calves this year.

Growth promoting implants are one of the most proven and effective technologies available to cow/calf producers. As long as the calf can obtain sufficient nutrients to support the extra growth, using one of the approved implants (Component E-C, Ralgro, or Synovex-C) should result in an additional 20 to 30 more pounds at weaning. A non-implanted calf that weighs 500 pounds should be worth $2 per pound this fall, or $1000 per head. Implanting would result in a calf weighing 520 pounds at $1.98 per pound (10 cent slide per hundred pounds), or $1029.60 per head.

Many producers pass up this technology believing that they will make up the difference in price premiums. In the earlier example the non-implanted calves would need to bring $2.06 to have the same dollar value as the heaver, implanted calves. Perhaps that premium will be there, provided that the right buyer sees them and that changes in the supply and demand for non-implanted calves don’t result in reduced or eliminated price premiums. It’s a much safer bet to count on the pounds being there by using implants.

Implants need to be given at the proper time to be the most effective. Research from SDSU has shown that calves from mature cows respond best when implanted early; calves from young cows should be implanted at preconditioning time for best results (Table 1). Those differences are due to differences in nutrient intake by the calves. Mature cows produce more milk; therefore their calves respond more when implanted earlier compared to younger cows. By August the response to the implant is driven by nutrient intake from forage. For that reason calves from young cows show a greater response when implanting is delayed, provided that there is adequate forage or feed resources to support that growth, compared to implanting those calves earlier in the season.

Table 1. Impact of implant timing and age of dam on the implant response vs. controls (lbs. /head)


Other considerations for using implants on nursing calves include:

  • Don’t use on newborn calves.
  • Don’t use on calves that are sick.
  • The general recommendation has been to not use in replacement heifers. While Ralgro, Synovex-C, and Component E-C are labeled for use in replacement heifer calves, there can be a reduction in fertility if given outside of the 45 to 90 days of age window. To avoid any potential loss in fertility, or difficulty in marketing heifer calves as replacements, the most conservative approach would be to avoid implanting replacement heifers.
  • On the other hand, heifer calves that are unlikely to be retained or marketed as replacements would respond well to an implant during the nursing phase and result in increased revenue to the ranch.
  • Finally, make sure that implants are placed in the ear properly. With a potential return of about $30 per head, it’s worth taking the time to make sure the job is done right.
Posted in In The Industry |

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