To Sell or Background Calves? – Introducing the BCRC Backgrounding Calculator



“Should I sell or background my calves?” is a question most cow-calf producers face every year. Producers need to project whether it will be profitable to feed their calves on a backgrounding program rather than sell them at weaning. There are many deciding factors including current calf prices, cost of gain, and projected feeder prices. These variables are all different for each producer, depending on their cattle, and their cost structure, therefore each operation needs to crunch their own numbers.

The Beef Cattle Research Council’s new Backgrounding Calculator can help make the decision. This decision-making tool is designed to identify economic opportunities and risks from backgrounding cattle. Continue reading

Corn Silage in Backgrounding Diets

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Recent columns indicated that corn’s potential to produce 50% higher silage (and starch) yields than barley may offset its 30% higher growing costs, provided the right corn hybrid is selected for the local growing conditions, and provided growing conditions cooperate. The higher starch content of corn silage also means that feedlot diets may need to be re-examined. If corn silage is supplying more starch to the diet, perhaps backgrounding diets can feed less barley grain, or maybe cattle can be backgrounded to heavier weights with a shorter grain finishing period, provided growth rates, feed conversion and carcass grade aren’t adversely affected.

Karen Beauchemin of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Lethbridge) recently published a Beef Cluster study examining whether replacing barley grain with corn silage in backgrounding diets impacted animal performance and carcass characteristics (Effects of feeding corn silage from short-season hybrids and extending the backgrounding period on production performance and carcass traits of beef cattle, doi:10.1093/jas/sky099). Continue reading