Could Calves Earn More?

In this study, only 19% of feeder calves sold through video auction had received implants. ( Zoetis )

Recent video auction market sales data (from 2014-2017) busts the myth on premiums available for non-implanted cattle.

The report demonstrates no difference in sale price on a per-pound basis between implanted and nonimplanted cattle. In fact, implanted lots of cattle sold for slightly more than nonimplanted lots (184.12 versus 183.03 $/cwt). However, among cattle sold only 1,421 of 7,525 lots (19%) were previously implanted. Findings also revealed that of cattle sold as recently as last year, 55% of the nonimplanted lots did not receive any additional premiums from special marketing programs where implants are not leveraged.

So what does this mean for producers? Tom Short, PhD, associate director in Outcomes Research with Zoetis, analyzed the recent sales data and summarized how the results have a significant impact.

“If producers are not implanting their cattle, they are leaving money on the table,” Dr. Short said. “By not implanting cattle in hopes of receiving a premium, these cattlemen lost out on the added pounds and profit an implant could have offered. Data from this report also confirms that implanting more than offsets qualifying for special marketing programs where implants are not utilized.”

Room for Growth

According to Doug Hilbig, DVM, senior veterinarian, Beef Technical Services with Zoetis, implanted cattle often bring a premium for producers. “Implanted cattle have more muscle and frame — the look most buyers are after. Implanted cattle are also more likely to have been vaccinated. Through vaccinations against harmful diseases, they are more likely to have better health,” he said.

Why the variance across the industry? Dr. Hilbig believes this is due to different levels of education and awareness about the benefits and administration of implants. On the cow/calf side, there’s also a common misconception that implants only benefit cattle in a stocker or feedlot setting. But any cattle producer can improve weight gain with implants.

Calves implanted with Synovex® C gained an average of 19 pounds more than nonimplanted calves at weaning.3 At $1.77 per pound for weaned calves, that’s an extra $33 per head at sale time and a 30-to-1 return on investment.* That amounts to $3,300 in lost profit for every 100 head of cattle sold if producers opted not to implant.

Developing a Program

Dr. Hilbig recommends cattlemen work closely with their veterinarian or nutritionist to develop an implant program that is right for their own operation and to optimize their current implant program results. Having expert guidance on proper implanting techniques can help reduce any concerns a producer may have regarding implanting for the first time, as well. Dr. Hilbig assures that after implanting a few head, implant administration is simple.

“With the added weight gain from an effective implant program, it’s like getting one free calf for every 25 head implanted,” Dr. Hilbig said. “Cattle prices are in constant flux. One thing producers can know for sure is the value of their implant program.”

Please visit with your local veterinarian, nutritionist or Zoetis representative for more information. Additional resources, such as how-to videos on proper implanting techniques and more, can be found at

Do not use Synovex products in veal calves. Refer to label for complete directions for use, precautions, and warnings.