Cow calf producers with the ability to handle calving off pasture should plan for a summer processing event. Early July for spring calving herds work well or when calve are about three months old. This offers a great time to evaluate any health concerns, deworm calves, and most importantly, add an implant. This should be done 90-100 days prior to weaning if possible to take full advantage of the implant and simplify re-implanting during weaning vaccinations.
Implant options for 150-400 calves are limited. Low proficiency implants such as Ralgro and Synovex C are the best alternatives for both steer and non-replacement heifer calves. Ralgo has been off the market for over a year and is not scheduled to be available until October 2018 or later. This leaves Synovex C as the best choice for calf implanting this summer. The Synovex gun has a larger needle but can be properly used on claves. According to Dr. Robbi Pritchard, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at SDSU, higher potency implants should be avoided until the calves are seven months of age and gaining 2.4 pounds per day.
Prepare by sorting the calves from the cows for easier and safer handling. Set handling facilities and head gates to properly restrain the smaller calves. Set-up a paint tray with a sponge soaked in alcohol or iodine to place the implant gun on and clean the needle on the sponge between implants. Be sure ears are clean at the implant sight. These steps will reduce ear infections and implant abscess to nearly zero. Implants should be administered under the skin in the middle 1/3 of ear and away from ear tags as shown in the diagram below
Research suggests that properly implanted calves can gain and additional 4-6% prior to weaning. Consider deworming or treating claves for flies with poor-on or fly tags at the same time. Adding deworming and fly control can get those weaning weights up 30 or more pounds/calf. Economics for implants offer one of the highest possible returns on investment, second only to products that reduce morbidity and prevent death. Examples from the links below explain how weaning weights can increase by 4%-6% in nursing beef calves that receive a single implant. Growth response is about 20% greater in heifers than steers, so implanting non-replacement heifers is very beneficial. For producers raising non-implanted cattle sold after weaning under certified implant free programs, review calf market results from the past four years at the second link. This may assist you in pricing your calves in either production system.
Summer processing may also be a good time to start your calf vaccination program. Contact your local Veterinarian or Michigan State University Extension Beef Educator to go over health protocols for your beef operation. Creating those professional relationships and getting a little advice will benefit your operation for years to come.