The Louisiana Calf to Carcass Program was started in 1992 under the administration of the LSU Agricultural Center with support from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Cattlemen's Association, McNeese State University and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

To participate in the program, beef cattle producers nominate a minimum of three calves. The nomination fee of $35 per head covers the cost of trucking the cattle to the feedyard.

Performance data on the cattle provided to each producer addresses issues such as marketing alternatives, growth and feedyard performance, carcass quality, health, trucking costs and cattle shrink. The information is very useful for producers in making more informed decisions about management, breeding, genetics, nutrition and herd health.

Producers retain ownership of their cattle until they are purchased by a packer and slaughtered.

Twenty-six beef cattle producers from across Louisiana delivered cattle on Sept. 6, 2006, to one of two preconditioning sites — McNeese State University and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Four producers elected to precondition their cattle at home. Over 300 head of cattle were nominated for the 2006-07 program.

The Calf to Carcass Program preconditioning plan follows the Southeast Pride Health Certification Program. Upon arrival at the preconditioning sites, cattle were weighed, tagged (standard and electronic tags), vaccinated, and treated for parasites. An ear notch was taken from each calf to test for persistent BVD infection.

All cattle were vaccinated and later given boosters with an injectable BRD complex plus pasteurella vaccine and an eight-way Clostridial vaccine. The cattle received a metaphylactic antibiotic treatment upon arrival at the sites as well as internal and external parasite control treatment with an endectocide. The cattle were fed a medicated balanced ration as well as free choice hay designed for a 1-pound to 1.5-pound gain per day.

Dave Foster, federal market supervisor with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, determined feeder cattle grade and calf values before the cattle were shipped to the feedyard. The cattle were preconditioned for 32 days and then shipped to Henry C. Hitch Feedyard in Guymon, Okla., in October.

Preconditioning charges to producers were $46 per head. The charges paid for ear tags, medicated feed (provided by Nutrena at wholesale cost), hay and a minimal labor charge. There was no charge for pharmaceuticals because Fort Dodge Animal Health, Elanco Animal Health and Pfizer supplied them to the project at no cost.

After the cattle arrived at the feedyard, they were weighed and placed by weight into Pen 531 (steers), Pen 532 (steers), Pen 533 (steers), Pen 557 (heifers) or wheat pasture (steers and heifers).

The wheat pasture cattle (44 head) were later placed on feed in Pen 541. This one group of cattle was placed on wheat pasture to increase their weight before placement in the feedyard. Also, this group was source and age verified and received a $2.40-per-hundredweight premium when sold.

Cattle were fed Optaflex the last month on feed to increase weight gains.

The accompanying table contains the performance and carcass data on each pen of cattle. Six head died while in the feedyard — two of those died during a severe ice storm and insurance paid for them. One heifer was sold on the rail because of poor performance.

Average daily gains ranged from 2.47 to 3.59 pounds. The average beginning weight at the feedyard for all cattle was 608 pounds and average weight at sale was 1,251 pounds. The average carcass weight was 807 pounds.

The quality grades for this group of cattle were slightly higher than in past years for the program. Even though the cost of gains were higher this year because of corn prices, the cattle made a significant profit over feeder calf value because they gained well and converted well and the price of slaughter cattle remained high.

Since these cattle were sold on a live weight basis, there were no discounts given on individual carcass quality. If discounts had been given, the cattle that graded Standard would have been valued at a lower price. Also, cattle with carcasses over 950 pounds would have been discounted for being too large. Several cattle had yield grades of 4 or 5 and would have had price reductions. The greatest profit over the feeder calf value was a steer that made $407.

Anyone interested in participating in the 2007-08 Louisiana Calf to Carcass Program should contact me at tpage@agctr.lsu.edu or (225) 578-7906. Nomination forms are available online at www.lsuagcenter.com.