Animal Science Florida Agricultural
Mimeograph Series No. 63-14 Experiment Station
RESULTS FROM THREE METHODS OF HANDLING AND
FINISHING STEERS AFTER WEANING
Marvin Koger, R. W. Rainey and T. J. Cunha
The possibilities for feeding of calves as contrasted with the usual
practice of feeding long yearlings is of particular interest in Florida
1. The high cost of wintering calves at a satisfactory level.
2. Wintering and summer gains during the year following weaning
are generally somewhat lower than those obtained in other
3. Achieving a satisfactory carcass grade is easier in fed calves
than in long yearlings for a majority of the crossbred type
cattle produced in the state.
4. Certain groups of crossbreds become heavy enough to incur a
weight penalty if they are fed as long yearlings.
5. Feeding as calves results in the cattle going to market at a
younger age thus freeing pasture and facilities for other
groups of cattle. -
In pasturing yearling cattle it is a common occurrence for gains to
diminish during July, August and early September, acc6nipniea by a loss in
grade. Practices which prevent this loss i. nrade should reduce the time
required in the feed lot, and if it can be done .cheaply enough' should in-
crease economic returns. '-
This trial was designed to 1) compare feeding of-calves with similar
cattle grazed for one season and fed as long yearlings and 2) to determine
the response to limited feeding of yearlings on pasture during the summer
months as compared with grazing without supplementary feed.
Forty-eight steer calves, yearly from 1958 through 1960, were randomized
to three groups for finishing as follows:
Group 1. Placed in the feed lot immediately and full-fed for 180 to 182
Group 2. Wintered to gain at approximately 0.5 lb. per day, grazed on clover-
grass pasture without supplemental feed from approximately March 1
to July 1, after which they were supplemented with 1 lb. of cotton-
seed meal and 5 pounds of ground snapped corn until September 15-
25, depending on feed supply for full feeding. The steers were
then full-fed in dry-lot until they obtained an estimated live
carcass grade of average good (an average of 72 days).
Group 3. Wintered similarly and grazed with group 2 steers until July 1,
after which they were kept on pasture similar to that grazed by
group 2 but without supplemental feed. They were placed in dry-
lot the same day as the lot 2 steers and scheduled on full feed
until they had consumed the same amount of feed that was consumed
by lot 2 during supplemental feeding on pasture and in dry-lot.
Due to inability of the market to accept the lot 3 steers at the
scheduled time, they consumed slightly more feed than lot 2.
It was concluded that this did not significantly influence the
outcome of the trial.
The calves were mostly crossbred type steers varying in Brahman breeding
from 25 to 50 per cent, There were a few steers of 1/8 Brahman breeding and
a few grade British steers. The average daily rations fed in feed lot are
shown in table 1. Weaning weights and initial feed lot weights were off
pasture with no shrink. Final feed lot weight was the pen weight less 4 per
cent shrink. The steers were all killed at the same plant. Carcasses were
chilled 48 hours in the cooler and Federally graded.
The results are summarized in table 2. The average age at slaughter
was 13 2/3 months for the calves and 23 1/2 months for long yearling steers.
As would be expected with this age differential, the long yearling steers
produced carcasses which were approximately 25 per cent heavier than those
from calves. In agreement with other observations, however, the calves had
higher grading carcasses, with approximately 50 per cent going into the Choice
grade, while very few carcasses from long yearlings were of the Choice grade.
Previous experience would indicate that a longer feeding period for long
yearlings of the breeding and in this trial would result in only a slightly
higher percentage of them grading Choice. These results reitterate the
principle advantage of feeding crossbred type animals as calves. It is fea-
sible to feed such calves to the Good-Choice grade. In feeding long yearlings,
however, few will reach the Choice grade, and there will be more Standard
carcasses than would be expected in feeding good quality British steers.
Lack of gradability in older crossbred carcasses is due partly to failure to
marble and partly to deficiency in conformation. In the younger age groups,
deficiency in conformation is not so obvious and the grade requirements for
marbling are lower.
Average economic returns were somewhat better for the long yearling
steers, although this varied markedly with years. During the last year of
the trial, the calves were heavier at weaning and the returns from feeding
calves were equivalent to feeding long yearlings. Throughout the trial the
heaviest calves gave the best response when put on feed. Extremely heavy,
fat calves generally should be fed or sold as slaughter calves since they
do not gain on pasture as well as medium weight calves and are likely to
become overweight if grazed over and put in the dry-lot as long yearlings.
There was no beneficial average effect from supplementing steers on
pasture during the summer months. The response varied with years, however,
indicating that under certain situations the practice may be economical.
Results here were too limited to generalize from this study.
Summary and Conclusions
Economic returns were slightly better from grazing calves for a year
and feeding as lonR yearlings than from feeding calves for 181 days immedi-
ately following weaning. Results from the two practices will vary widely,
however, with feed and pasture costs and beefprices affecting the results
obtained. Calves can be fed economically when:
1. Feed prices are moderate or low in relation to beef prices.
2. There is a premium for handy weight, high grading carcasses.
3. Heavy weight calves can be obtained at prices competitive with
Brahman-British crossbred type calves generally will compare more favor-
ably with long yearling feeders of the same breeding than British calves
will compare with long yearlings of British breeding.
The advantages for feeding calves are:
1. Animals are finished at a younger age reducing maintenance
requirements and increasing facilities available for other
2. Crossbred tyep calves can be finished to higher carcass grades
than can long yearling cattle of the same breeding.
3. Total feed requirements per pound of carcass are decreased
as compared with older beef.
The disadvantages of feeding calves are:
1. A higher requirement for concentrates.
2. Reduced possibilities for using roughages.
3. A longer period in the feed lot.
4. Difficulty in obtaining calves at prices competitive with
In this trial, there was no economic advantage for supplementing yearling
steers on summer pasture prior to dry-lot feeding.
TABLE 1. AVERAGE DAILY RATION
IN FEED LOT (POUNDS PER ANIMAL)
Ground snapped corn
TABLE 2. AVERAGE OF THREE YEARS RESULTS FROM DIFFERENT METHODS
OF HANDLING AND FINISHING STEERS AFTER WEANING
Group and Treatment
1 2 3
Fed Yearlings, Yearlings with
as limited feed pasture only
calves on pasture, before dry-lot
Weaning weight, Ibs. 458 457 463
Daily gain on pasture, lbs. --- 0.9 0.8
Weight into feed lot, lbs. 458 805 782
Daily gain in feed lot, lbs. 1.8 2.0 2.1
Days on feed 173 72 92
Age at slaughter, days 410 697 717
Final weight, lbs. 7601/ 941 972
Dressing per cent 59.7 59.1 59.2
Carcass weight 454 557 576
Carcass grade H.G.-Low Ch. Good Good
Days on pasture 0 390 390
Winter supplement per animal, Ibs. 0 400 400
Supplement, July 1-Sept. 23, lbs. 0 510 0
Feed per head in dry-lot 3,074 1,619 2,179
Total feed excluding pasture 3,074 2,529 2,579
Assumed pasture cost for year, $ 0 50 50
Total feed and pasture cost, $ 65 103 104
Initial value of steer, $ 110 110 111
Total cost, $ 192 220 224
Total return per steer, $2/ 207 249 259
Net return, $ 15 29 35
1/ Calves were fed for periods of no more than 182 days because they were fat by this time
and it did not appear economical to feed them to heavier weights.
2/ Includes pasture and feed costs plus 10 per day while in feed lot.