It is not uncommon for beef producers to raise the question on net profitability of different production approaches to feed out cattle to harvest weights. Some of the comparisons that often come into question are beef breed vs Holstein steers, or grass fed versus grain fed.
Recently Dr. Dan Schaefer – UW Animal Sciences Dept, Mr. Jim Munsch – Owner & Operator of Deer Run Farm, Coon Valley, WI, and I developed three enterprise budgets to look at the comparison of beef breed steers finished in 1) a confinement, corn-based or 2) a grazed, forage-based year around system. The third system included Holstein steers finished in a confinement, corn-based system.
Prices we used are current as of Spring 2018 and typical scenarios were used for all three production scenarios. The Holstein feeders started at 400 lbs while the beef steers were started at 500 pounds. Each scenario was taken to finish weights in accord with the appropriate cattle and production system. We used “middle of the road” cattle performance criteria to develop these comparisons.
A price premium was assigned to the forage-finished cattle similar to what might be realized by participating in a branded program in which the meat is distributed by the program and sold to grocery stores and restaurants.
The three enterprise budgets that we developed are presented in the following pdf file Feed-Out Programs Comparisons .
The spreadsheets that we used for these three scenarios are at the following links:
These and other spreadsheet tools can be found at the WBIC Decision Tools and Software page.
We highly encourage people to insert their own numbers into these spreadsheets for accurate comparisons in individualized situations.
To achieve cattle performance that is assumed for each scenario, familiarity with the production system is required in terms of breed composition, frame size, diet energy density, housing, use (or not) of anabolic implants, and body condition score of market-ready cattle. Please consult your county Extension livestock agent for guidance.