Money doesn’t grow on trees. However, it does grow on healthy cattle that are out grazing longer periods during the day. The more time calves spend grazing, the more they are going to gain and faster they are going to get to their market-ready end point.
Isaac Marcum at Paint Lick, Kentucky, discovered his appreciation for backgrounding cattle from his father, who managed the Eastern Kentucky University beef farm for more than 30 years, where he too backgrounded calves. Although both Marcum’s maternal and paternal grandparents owned cow-calf operations, as a self-proclaimed “part-time farmer,” he enjoys the buying, feeding and selling the calves more.
Marcum likes to buy a few pot loads of steers about twice a year, once in the winter or early spring and then again in the summer once those are sold. He backgrounds the calves on pasture. He relies on the same order buyer his dad did to buy the calves from the sale barn, all within about 100 miles from home, most of them in the Blue Grass Stockyards network. When it is time to sell his calves, they are sold back through the auction market.
“I’m a firm believer in the auction way to sell cattle. If you get two or three people that want the same thing that helps your sale price a little bit,” Marcum said.
Once he gets those cattle home and gets them straightened out, they go to pasture. This summer he was looking for an alternative to feeding them a commodity-based feed to save time during his busy day as a full-time Kentucky Farm Bureau insurance agent. His local feed dealer turned him onto the VitaFerm® 30-13% Protein Tub®, as an alternative to feeding every day. Once his calves took to the VitaFerm tubs, Marcum asked his feed rep about a mineral solution. That’s how he learned about the Gain Smart® Stocker HEAT® mineral.
“The first thing I like is the cattle will eat it. The mineral I was feeding before, it seemed like they weren’t eating very much of it. I don’t know if it had a bitter taste or what. The second thing, during the heat of the summer in July and August, when it is 90 degrees plus and really humid here in Kentucky, those cattle were out picking, eating grass almost all day. So, they weren’t shaded up and trying to stay cool. I think that is probably the best thing because the gain on those cattle has impressed me and made me a believer in the Gain Smart mineral,” Marcum said.
Marcum explained that during the five years since he’s been on his own backgrounding calves, he’s kept very detailed records. In a typical summer, when he supplements his calves with feed they will gain about 1.8 pounds per day. This year, his calves were solely grazing grass, but were supplemented with Gain Smart mineral. During the summer heat on grass with the Gain Smart, they gained 2.1 pounds per day, and the protein tubs were only out a portion of that two-month grazing period.
“I’ve never had cattle gain like that in the summer, especially with no feed, and I did see a lot less flies on those cattle. At the end of the day, pounds equal money,” Marcum said.
Gain Smart Stocker HEAT is a free-choice vitamin and mineral supplement for stocker cattle designed to balance basic nutrient needs to maximize efficient gain on grass pasture. The HEAT package helps prevent heat stress during temperatures of 70 degrees and above, or anytime cattle are grazing fescue. The Gain Smart Stocker contains organic copper and zinc plus added iodine for maximum bioavailability to the animal to support hoof health and immunity. It also contains Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying nutrient supply for maximum performance. Amaferm is research-proven to stimulate digestion and nutrient absorption of forage for optimum gain as well as maintain performance during heat stress. The HEAT package includes capsaicin to help maintain circulation to support animal performance and gain in both heat and fescue situations. Capsaicin is research-proven to support animals’ ability to maintain normal body temperature. It also includes garlic to deter insects.
Money might not grow on trees, but making a wise investment in a mineral program, helps grow calves. And as Marcum said, “pounds equal money.” With 0.3 pounds more gain per day, that means more efficient gains on fewer resources, and getting calves turned back to the auction market quicker for one Kentucky cattleman.