Date of this Version
A 3-yr experiment was conducted with cows and their calves to evaluate resource inputs, animal performance, and carcass characteristics of two production systems. In the control system, cows (CON; n = 99/yr) grazed pasture and were fed hay during the winter, and CON steer calves were finished in the feedlot for 211 d after weaning. In the treatment system (TRT; n = 100/yr), cows grazed pasture and crop residue during the winter and were fed hay. Treatment steer calves grazed crop residue after weaning, grazed pasture in the spring and summer, and were finished in the feedlot for 90 d. Body condition scores after TRT cows returned from crop residue grazing were greater (P < 0.01) for CON than for TRT cows. Calving rates were similar for both groups (CON = 91%; TRT = 93%). In the feedlot, CON steers had lower (P < 0.05) ADG and DMI, but were more efficient (P < 0.01) than TRT steers. Treatment steers had greater (P < 0.05) final weight, hot carcass weight and longissimus muscle area, and decreased marbling score. The cost per weaned calf and weaning breakeven were greater (P = 0.07) for the CON system than for the TRT system (CON = $455.12, $0.91/0.45 kg; TRT = $421.43, $0.84/ 0.45 kg). When steers were priced into the postweaning phase on an economic basis, slaughter breakeven was lower (P = 0.01), and profit potential tended (P = 0.14) to be greater for TRT steers when they were sold on a live basis. When steers were priced into the postweaning phase on a financial basis, slaughter breakeven was lower (P = 0.03) and profit potential from the sale of steers on a live basis was greater (P = 0.07) for TRT than for CON steers. Economic evaluation of the total system resulted in greater (P = 0.06) profit potential for the TRT system when steers were priced into the system on either an economic or a financial basis and when steers were sold on a live basis, but no differences were observed when steers were sold on a grid basis. Despite differences in cow weight and body condition, calving rates did not differ between systems. Although calves were herdmates, feedlot performance and carcass characteristics differed between systems. The TRT system had lower weaning and slaughter breakeven, lower cost per weaned calf, and greater profit potential when finished steers were sold on a live basis.