Two of the most underutilized tools in the beef producer’s arsenal are implants and wormers. Many producers do not take full advantage of the benefits that can be garnered from utilizing growth implants and wormers. Of all the products in the coolers or on the shelves of a veterinary clinic, these are the only two meant to increase returns directly through more pounds of beef, rather than by preventing losses due to sickness- i.e.- they make you money rather than trying to stop losses.
Implants are easily overlooked and viewed as optional by many producers. Many people lack confidence in properly administering the implant, so they just don’t do it. There are many implants to choose from, with advantages and disadvantages throughout, but consulting your veterinarian or nutritionist about an implant appropriate for your situation, is time well spent, and most will be more than happy to demonstrate how to administer the implant. Most producers say that after giving 10-15 implants, they feel comfortable with the process, even with new implants and implant guns.
Implants are routinely shown to increase weights in calves by 15-40 pounds over non-implanted cattle. This is true for every stage of production- suckling calves, weaned calves, and finishing calves. They increase feed conversion, sometimes by as much as 10%, creating more gain with less feed, and they create increased average daily gains, commonly around 0.1 pound/day.
Cow-calf producers that wean their own calves are looking at $1.25-$3.50 to implant their calves, depending on the implant chosen. Even if the implant only causes a 15 lb. weight gain, at $1.50/pound, the extra weight is worth $22.50, roughly a 6-18X return on investment, depending on the cost of the initial implant.
Heifers that might be retained as replacements should not be implanted at weaning, as it can negatively impact fertility.
Dewormers are utilized more commonly than implants, but sometimes as an afterthought. In my opinion, dewormers should be always be given at weaning. Reducing parasite burden helps increase calf appetite and weight gain, increases immune system function, and can help improve carcass quality grades.
By ridding a calf’s system of worms, its immune system can better function, creating better response to vaccination and decreased sickness, and it can also increase feed efficiency and weight gains. It can be difficult to put a number on the value of deworming because worm burdens are different depending on the weather conditions, pasture, etc., but usually, it generates more return than it costs.
As a general rule, I believe that generic wormers should not be used in calves, because they typically do not worm as effectively as name brand products. For a 500-600 pound calf, a name brand product will typically cost around $1.00-$1.50 more per dose than a generic product. Even if the calf has a low-worm burden, it only has to gain one more pound to offset the extra expense, with the potential for larger weight gains very possible.
As you wean your calves, please consider adding an implant and dewormer to your protocols. In a tough ag economy, the extra income they provide will be appreciated!