Post-Labor Day ushers in the highly anticipated calf marketing season, predominantly because a significant portion of beef calves are spring born, leading to a notable fall calf run. Even though this summer saw auction volumes swelled by the drought-induced early calf sales, a sizable number of calves will yet be marketed by year-end.

With proper planning and management, producers have the opportunity to capitalize on high market prices through value-added sales this fall. Preconditioning not only improves the health and resilience of calves but also can significantly increase market worth. Certified preconditioning programs assure buyers of proper implementation of health and management protocols, giving them the confidence to pay more for those animals.

While additional costs will come into play and there is never any guarantee, research shows the probability of positive returns on a preconditioning program is higher and more consistent in recent years. Data from the Oklahoma Quality Beef Network showed over the last 12 years, program cattle earned an average premium of $13.05/cwt. Plus, as markets continue to remain high, buyers are willing to spend more for the reduced risk of sickness and death loss.

Nutritional naturally plays a significant role in any preconditioning program, serving as the foundation for health and growth. Distillers grain cubes and pellets shine in this scenario, offering highly concentrated protein and energy in an easy-to-feed, low-intake (less than 5 lbs./day) supplement.  Containing very little starch, DDG cubes can reduce the risk of digestive issues like bloat and acidosis often caused by typical mixed rations. Beyond that, the concentrated nutrients encourage bone and muscle development rather than depositing excess fat.

The nutrient profile of distillers grains makes DDG cubes a unique and valuable option for the growing sector of the cattle industry. The product is cost-effective, typically much cheaper per unit protein or on a per head per day basis than typical growing rations. Additionally, the product can be fed in a variety of ways, either in bunks or on the ground with free-choice roughage in any form — pasture, round bale, stalks, etc. One step further, feedlot buyers are willing to pay premiums for cattle fed DDG cubes as they have been shown to transition easier, convert better in the yard, and grade higher on the rail.

Hear Buffalo Feeders manager Tom Fanning discuss the benefits of feeding DDG cubes before finishing.  WATCH NOW

The fall calf marketing season offers forward-thinking producers a golden opportunity to amplify returns. Combining a quality preconditioning protocol with a DDG cube-cased nutrition plan, producers can ensure healthier, higher-performing cattle that will build a positive reputation and capture more value.


Talk with your local or regional livestock auction about future value-add sales and available programs. Most programs require a minimum 45-day weaning period, but larger premiums are often seen for calves weaned at least 60 days.

Thinking about retaining ownership? Check out the MHM RanchReady Finishing program for a simple, step-by-step process to take your calves all the way to finishing weight using only DDG cubes, rolled corn and a mineral pack.


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