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Image 25 of Progress report (Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station) n.227

Part of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station

25 BACKGROUNDING GUIDELINES Curtis Absher, _]ohn_]ohns and Russell BreDalil Backgrounding is a relatively new term that refers to the grouping and growing of beef calves from the time they are weaned until they are put on a finishing ration, usually in confinement. Backgrounding rations generally have a high forage to grain ratio. Backgrounding offers several opportunities to Kentucky producers: (1) Cow-calf producers can _ expand their beef enterprise by selling more pounds without increasing cow numbers, (2) farmers with the ability to produce high quality forage can market it through cattle without maintaining a breeding herd and (3) cattlemen with special abilities can convert mismanaged calves into useful feeder animals. Most successful backgrounders expect to add at least 300 pounds to the initial weight of calves purchased. Considerable weight gain is of economic importance because: (1) the costs of buying, treating and other overhead expenses are spread over more pounds than when lesser gain is achieved, _ (2) if negative price margins are experienced the real economic gain has to come from positive feeding margins. Rate of gain should also be of concern to the backgrounder. As average daily gain increases the overhead cost and feed for maintenance are reduced per pound of gain. Therefore, more rapid daily gain is associated with lower costs per pound of gain. On the other hand cattle that gain rapidly enough to begin to fatten may be discriminated against at selling time. While the level of gain at which feeders begin to fatten is dependent upon the genetic makeup and previous management over fatness should not be a problem if the average daily gain is no greater than to 1.75 to 2.0 pounds. With rations balanced to produce gains of 1.25 to 1.75 per day 170 to 240 days are required to put on 300 pounds of gain. Therefore, 1 1/2 to 2 groups of cattle should be fed per year if a producer wished to keep his facilities fully occupied. Some of the major pitfalls of backgrounding programs are: (1) Mortality and morbidity can be high on light weight calves during disease outbreaks. (2) Severe negative price margins can be encountered. (3) High quality forage is essential! If it is not available supplementation costs can be high. (4) Heifers, unless they are purchased at light weights can be pregnant. (5) Backgrounded calves need frequent and regular surveilance. Sickness often follows weaning _ or shipping by two to four weeksafter it is thought the cattle are started on feed and are completely healthy. Physical feed requirements and management suggestions for backgrounding calves to achieve about 300 pounds of gain follow: I. Physical Requirements Recommended lot area Unsurfaced lot - 400 sq. ft. per animal Partially surfaced lot - 150 sq. ft. per animal Surfaced lot without shelter - 55 sq. ft. per animal Surfaced lot with open housing - 35 sq. ft. per animal Resting area in sheds or under shade Calves up to 600 lb. - 15 to 20 sq. ft. per animal From 600 lb. until marketing 20 to 25 sq. ft. per animal

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