Growing more pounds of beef efficiently makes sense for everybody from ranch to consumer, according to a longtime South Dakota feedyard nutritionist.
“Implants are probably the longest running, most consistent tool that we have. They've been around for 50 years and the track record is clean. They are safe. To use them effectively and add value to the system, we just want to make sure that we have the genetics of the animal, their growth potential, the energy that's available in their diet, their health, all coordinated so that we can make the most out of the opportunity,” says Robbi Pritchard, South Dakota ruminant nutritionist.
Producers have to consider all those factors and management plans when choosing from the products available.
“The implants come with a half dozen different levels of potencies. If you have cattle that are only going to be gaining two and a quarter to two and a half a day, you want it to be at a moderate potency implant,” he says. “If they are big framed cattle that are going to be growing at that growth rate, you might back up to a low potency implant because there's enough growth in frame potential in the genetic makeup of the cattle to make up for the difference in the implants.”
So many cattle have superior growth genetics today, their managers may wonder if they even need implants to further boost those gains. Consider any pen of non-implanted steers.
“The cattle will require just as many days as an implanted steer to be finished, but they'll weigh a hundred pounds less and the feed bill will be almost as big. The higher the growth potential is, the bigger that difference in weight would have been at the end,” Pritchard says.
Consumers may see or hear negative messages about growth implants, but they do have beneficial effects for those who enjoy beef.
“The benefit to the consumer is we can provide quality beef more cost effectively than if we don't have the implants. If you take away the implants, you have to have more cows to provide the same amount of beef. If we don't have those tools available, steers need to run on grass longer. While steers are running on grass, they would produce more methane. That would be considered less desirable and there's less grass in the world, and we could be doing something more productive like running cows on that grass, generating more food for them and keeping the carbon footprint per serving of beef smaller by using these tools the way we can,” he concludes.