Cost of bulls in a stocker program during receiving period explored

What do intact bulls cost during receiving and how long do the impacts last?

May 15, 2024

2 Min Read

Intact bulls often receive price discounts at auction markets, with several market survey reports showing price discounts ranging from $5/hundred pounds up to $11.25/hundred pounds. As discussed in an article by Dr. Kellie Raper the Cow-Calf Corner Newsletter (https://extension.okstate.edu/programs/beef-extension/cow-calf-corner-the-newsletter-archives/2024/april-8-2024.html) the discounts at auction markets send market signals to producers to castrate male calves before marketing. But what do intact bulls cost during receiving and how long do the impacts last?

To answer this, a team at Oklahoma State University compiled records from receiving cattle in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma with over 1,965 bulls and steers to track performance and health status through receiving before a stocker program. Bulls were castrated by surgery or banding at initial processing. Calves from auction markets are often freshly weaned, unfamiliar with feed and water sources, and transported long distances. Comingling adds social stress and exposure to new diseases. Castration adds surgical stress and pain to these stresses.

It was found that calves received as intact bulls were 2.41, 2.25, 2.68, or 2.94-times more likely to have a first, second, third, and fourth treatment, respectively, than calves that were received as steers. Bulls were also 1.16-times more likely to be considered chronically morbid and 2.27-times more likely for BRD mortality than steers. The bulls in this analysis had 65% BRD morbidity, 5% were chronics and had 2.8% death loss compared with steers that had 44% BRD morbidity, 2.4% chronics, and 0.8% death loss. Average performance for calves received as bulls (1.58 lb./day) was more than 0.5 lb../day less than steers who gained 2.12 lb./day during receiving.

Total cost of receiving was $64/head higher for bulls than steers when costs of BRD treatment, chronics, and death losses were included, reported Paul Beck, OSU Beef Cattle Nutrition Specialist. The reduced gains of bulls during receiving also, reduced the value of bodyweight gain by $36/head compared with steers. We looked at the discounts on bulls to have equal net return at the end of receiving and found that bulls would need to be discounted $22/hundred pounds to be as profitable as steers at the end of receiving, Beck said.

Recent livestock auction market reports from the Southeast (Arkansas Department of Ag Mkt News, April 10, 2024; https://mymarketnews.ams.usda.gov/viewReport/2056) shows larger discounts for bulls than the above-mentioned market survey reports would suggest with discounts of $16.50/hundred pounds for 400- to 500-lb. bulls. This indicates that discounts for bulls is approaching what is necessary to achieve equivalent profits to steers for stocker cattle operations and is a sure signal to producers selling bulls that they are not desired unless deeply discounted, said Beck.

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