Beef cattle implants: Facts, safety, economics & sustainability

The cattle cycle seems to have found new life after more than decade of erratic behavior. With return to a “new normal”, it’s time to tighten the belt and look at ways to improve the bottom line.

Cattle produces have utilized all forms of technology to increase production and reduce costs. Most producers are very good at what they do, yet several still aren’t using the highest return on investment technology available in the industry, beef cattle implants.

I have this debate often with producers who don’t understand the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proven safety of implant technology, the feed savings and increased gains associated with proper implant use. Most producers are on-board and use the technology, but many are not fully utilizing proper implants at the desired growth phase or realizing optimal market value.

I often hear producer say, “We can’t implant, can’t handle the cattle when needed, don’t have time, don’t understand the benefits or just simply don’t believe implants are safe.” Often this topic can get emotional as some will never use implant technology and I fully support their decision, however, when losing $60+/head and not realizing any premiums at the market, I question their decision.

News and consumer survey reports rank hormone use in food production as one of highest concerns for consumers, and we are told the consumer is always right! This opens the door for product labeling that targets consumer’s feeling.

We should all use caution going down the road on label claims. I often see product labeled as “hormone-free”. These are clearly false claims, as no biological food product is “hormone-free”. Producers should be cautious about product claims and stick to facts about the safety of the products we raise and consume. We should not be pitting one production segment against another as we strive to increase market share on the same team - Beef! Diversification of our product is needed to increase market share. Let’s all work toward that goal.

Here are some recommendations and additional resource links below:

  • Clear your bias and do some science-based research on implant use for all phases of production.
  • Research the return on investment from implants and evaluate how it could affect your operation.
  • Determine the pros and cons for implant use with your management and marketing program.
  • If you choose not to implant, increase your product value by finding premium marketing options.
  • Focus on repeat customers at all levels of production and ask for input from your buyers. Are you hitting your marketing targets?
  • Consult veterinarians or Extension educators for assistance.

Michigan State University Extension will offer a BQA demonstration at the upcoming Michigan Cattlemen’s Summer Round-up. This will also include a hand-on cattle implanting demonstration.

Bottom line: Beef production is a way of life and a business that must be financially sustainable over the course of a cattle cycle. Implanting is one of the highest return on investment technologies available today. When used properly, it can significantly increase your bottom line. For more detailed resources on implant use, see the links below:

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