Adding Value to Market Cows

Dennis L. DeWitt, livestock field specialist

Iowa cow-calf producers rely on the sale of market cows for as much as 20 percent of their gross income. Typically the bulge in market cow marketing is in the fall months, and, of course, this coincides with the lowest market prices. The double- edged sword is: can adding cost to these beef animals also add value?

The Iowa Beef Center, in conjunction with CHIPS Northwest, Iowa Lakes Community College, and Iowa State University Extension, conducted a feeding demonstration program to examine whether a high-energy feeding program would achieve white fat status in market beef cows. Twenty-seven market beef cows from seven producers were delivered to Iowa Lakes Community College Teaching Farm in Emmetsburg for feeding and marketing.

The market beef cows performance after 94 days on feed was a 2.78 average daily gain, 12.03 pounds of dry matter per hundredweight of gain, $56.82 feed cost/cwt shrunk weight, and $87.81 total cost per hundredweight. Seventy-four percent of the carcasses were converted to premium white fat with .51 percent average backfat. The added value average profit per head was $74.06 per head.

It is imperative that producers be selective in the type of market cows that are fed for this type of market. One cow actually lost $63 while one made over $200. The market beef cows must have the potential for muscle thickness and good depth of body. They must be structurally sound, healthy, and thrifty. Before deciding to feed market cows, producers need to ask themselves what is the potential buy-sell margin, use good feedlot management practices, and make sure to have an end marketplace decided in advance. The success of this program has developed additional value added market cow feeding programs in Iowa.

Page last updated: July 8, 2006
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