There was a lot of good that came out of the early 1950’s. To name a few: super glue was invented, I Love Lucy premiered on CBS, Alaska and Hawaii became U.S. States, and growth promoting implants were developed for cattle. While super glue is very handy, and we all still enjoy watch a rerun of I Love Lucy, in terms of cattle production, growth implants are likely the most impactful thing on this list.
Growth promoting implants are a cost-effective means to increase the growth potential of a calf throughout all stages of its life. Decades of research show that implants consistently increase weights in nursing calves and during the stocker phase.
Do They Work?
The expected response of calves to an implant is well established. Typically, in nursing calves an increase in weight of 4% to 6% from birth to weaning is seen in calves vs. non-implanted calves. In a calf that weights 500, this would translate into 20 to 30 pounds of extra gains at weaning. During the stocker phase calves can be expected to gain 8 to 18% more weight across the grazing season if they are implanted.
Decades of extensive research and use has shown that implants consistently increase weaning weights. There tends to be some misconception from producers that there is not impact. However, it is difficult to see a 20 pounds difference in calves visually. An example can be seen Figure 1 (right). The black calf weighs 692 pounds and the white calf weighs 712 pounds. So while some producers have tried growth implants in their calves and stated they did not notice a difference, it can be said that even with a well trained eye for cattle weights or a set of scales, a 20 pound differences is hard to see/detect.
Return on Investment
Typical calf-hood implants cost around $2.00 per head. The average price for a 500 weight (pounds) steer at Dothan Livestock on Monday April 5, 2021 was $1.41 per pound. This would mean that utilizing a $2.00 implant that resulted in 20 additional pounds would increase the value of a calf by $28.20. That is a solid return on investment, especially in the cattle industry!
More detailed information on using growth promoting implants in calves and stockers can be found in: Implants for Cow-Calf and Stocker Beef Cattle