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Marketing economics: Lamb study compares marketing, feeding programs

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Lingle – A recently completed three-year wether lamb study, conducted at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC), compared the economic return found in marketing wethers in three different ways.
“We took a bunch of wethers and split them into three groups. One group comprised of the heavy end was sold at weaning, and we retained the other two groups. Of those retained wethers, one group was supposed to go on crop aftermath, and the other was to be fed a commercial pellet within a feedlot,” explains SAREC Farm Manager Bob Baumgartner.
He adds that both retained groups were fed to a target weight of 130 to 140 pounds, and then sold. After marketing all lambs, economic comparisons were conducted between the three groups.
“The first year we determined it would work best to put the crop aftermath group on beet tops, and we had them close enough that we could bring them in every night, then turn them back out in the morning,” explains Baumgartner. “They basically ended up with access to beet tops for eight hours a day, and water was in the corral, and that year their performance wasn’t the best.”
He continues that the amount of labor involved in maintaining that group wasn’t necessarily realistic either, but that they didn’t experience any death loss.
“The second year we re-did the whole project pertaining to the crop aftermath group. We got a movable calf shelter on skids and had water for them in the field, and didn’t gather them every day. They did a lot better with 24-hour access to the beet tops in addition to having water and shelter right there,” notes Baumgartner.
Average daily gains  (ADG) for lambs on beet tops for that year were at .48 pounds a day, and those in the feedlot gained .50 pounds a day.
“This year the goal was to do that again, but they ended up bringing the lambs down earlier, and we didn’t have any beet tops to turn them out on. So, we put them in the windrowed grass pasture and the first day we lost four head to predators. So we decided to bring them into the feedlot and provided them with a roughage-based diet, and compared that to the cost and gains of the group fed a high concentrate diet,” explains Baumgartner.
This year the high concentrate group gained .62 pounds a day while the forage-based group gained .32 pounds a day.
“There is the ADG perspective to look at, but we chose to concentrate on the overall economical aspect. We crunched some numbers to see if we were better off selling at weaning, or if we were better off to hang on to them and put more weight on them prior to selling.
“This year, even with the price of lambs, and feed, where they were it was better to hang on to them and sell them at the 140-pound range. This year those lambs fed the high concentrate diet received another $85 in return compared to those sold at weaning. The forage fed lambs received an additional $61 dollars over those sold at weaning,” says Baumgartner.
He says that last year the group fed a high concentrate diet lost money compared to those marketed at weaning, and the group turned out on beet tops showed additional profit.
“But, we didn’t have the dollar figures as far as labor or renting crop aftermath. If those had been incorporated, chances are we would have broke even or lost money on that scenario, also,” notes Baumgartner.
“This year I personally figured we would have made more selling them at weaning with the markets and price of feed where they are, but that wasn’t the case. It’s fun and interesting when you can compare markets and timing of marketing livestock compared to your feedstuffs and associated costs and see how that all figures into the total outcome,” says Baumgartner.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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