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What Are Your Beef Calves Really Worth?

What Are Your Beef Calves Really Worth?
Enroll five in an SDSU finishing program and see how they perform in the feedlot and on the grid.

Sign up for SDSU's Calf Value Discovery Program if you'd like to find how your calves perform in the feedlot and on the grid.

The program is co-coordinated by Ben Holland, Extension Beef Feedlot Specialist and Julie Walker, Extension Beef Specialist.

"The Calf Value Discovery Program allows producers who might have been interested in retained ownership to participate and learn about custom feeding without taking the risk of placing an entire pen," says Ben Holland, SDSU Extension feed feedlot specialist.  "In addition, it allows cow-calf producers to get some information about how their calves perform after they leave the ranch. This information can help in making selection, management, and marketing decisions for their cowherds down the road."

How it works

Producers consign a minimum of five, 500 to 800 pound steers to the Calf Value Discovery Program. Cattle are then fed in an accelerated finishing program, financed by South Dakota State University, at VanderWal Yards, Bruce, S.D.

The Cottonwood Experiment Station near Phillip, S.D., is designated as a collection point for interested, western South Dakota producers. The Calf Value Discovery Program will provide transportation from the Cottonwood Station to VanderWal Yards. Producers may also transport their own cattle.

Cattle will be weighed by SDSU personnel periodically, and cattle owners will be sent performance updates and copies of their individual feed bills.

It costs cattle producers $15per head to enroll their cattle in the program.

Pre-shipping management

The cattle must be dehorned, castrated and healed prior to feedlot arrival. Cattle that must be dehorned or castrated at the feedlot will be so processed at the owner's expense. Calves do not need to be weaned or pre-conditioned to participate; however, program managers do ask that cattle producers let them know if the calves will be weaned or not, prior to arrival. All calves will receive a full series of vaccinations and de-wormer treatment upon arrival at VanderWal Yards.

The program reserves the right to refuse any steers that are outside the weight range or that have not been dehorned or castrated and healed. Feed, yardage and veterinary bills will be financed, and any death loss will be shared among all participants in the project.

Groups of cattle will be sold in truckload lots beginning approximately May 15. All cattle will be sold on a grid price system.

Sign-up Deadline Oct. 15

Send completed participation form and a $15/head, non-refundable deposit to: Calf Value Discovery, South Dakota State University, Box 2170, Brookings, SD 57007. Participation forms are available at

Make checks payable to: SDSU Department of Animal Science. Cattle will be received at the Cottonwood Experiment Station between 8 a.m. and noon MST on Nov. 7. Cattle will be received at VanderWal Yards between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CST Nov. 8 or 9.

For more information about the program, please contact Julie Walker, SDSU extension beef specialist, or Holland at 605-688-5460. You can also email them at  and

Source: SDSU

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