Performance and Economics of a Long-Yearling vs. a Calf-Fed Finishing System

August 2008

Univ. of Nebraska scientists analyzed research data from 1996 to 2004 to compare the performance and economics of calf- vs. long-yearling feeding systems. All calves in these trials were spring-born and purchased the subsequent autumn. The heaviest calves (644 lb) were placed directly into the feedlot and fed an average of 168 days (calf-fed), whereas the lighter calves (527 lb) were grazed on corn residue followed by summer grazing before entering the feedlot and fed an average of 90 days (long-yearlings). At the start of the finishing period, long-yearlings were 317 lb heavier than calf-feds (959 vs. 642 lb). Following is a summary of results (Griffin et al. 2007. Prof. Anim. Sci. 23:490).

  • Daily dry matter intake was significantly greater (P<0.01) for long-yearlings, but calf-feds consumed more total dry matter during finishing.
  • Long-yearlings had significantly greater avg. daily gain (P<0.01) during finishing than calf-feds, but calf-feds were 18.7% more efficient (P<0.01).
  • At harvest, long-yearlings were 84 lb heavier and had carcasses that were 53 lb heavier than calf-feds.
  • Quality grades were not significantly different, but calf-fed carcasses had significantly greater (P<0.01) fat thickness than long-yearlings (0.53 vs. 0.47 in.) and higher numerical yield grade (2.71 vs. 2.60).
  • Long-yearlings were more profitable than calf-feds due to their lower feed cost, yardage, initial animal cost, and greater final body weight.

Dr. Rick Rasby, Professor of Animal Science
Animal Science, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE