Calf Value Discovery Program answers many questions

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — High market values and low grain costs make the decision of when to market calves a difficult one for South Dakota livestock producers, explained Julie Walker, SDSU Extension Associate Professor & Beef Specialist.

“Presently, prices are good for calves, which would tend to favor selling at weaning. However, at the same time grain prices and cost of gain are lower this year, which tends to encourage retained ownership making the post weaning management decision more difficult for some producers,” Walker said.

Understanding how calves will perform post-weaning would help many livestock producers make the decision, Walker explained, pointing to the Calf Value Discovery Program (CVD) as a tool producers can use.

“CVD provides producers the option of enrolling a small number of calves and receiving feedlot performance and carcass data,” she said. “For those producers who have participated in years past, have the information they need to make the best marketing decision, regardless of the factors presented to them.”

She explained that the options growers have post weaning include:

1) Sell at weaning;

2) Background the calf;

3) Retain ownership.

She explained that according to surveys of past CVD program participants, the information they gleaned from the data they received was used to make the following decisions:

1) Make genetic decisions;

2) Negotiate better prices at weaning;

3) Understand how to best manage their calf crop (i.e. backgrounding prior to feedlot).

Background knowledge

The CVD program was started several years ago by Dr. John Wagner, SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist to provide producers with valuable information.

Through the program, data shows that just like cattle raised on a producer’s home ranch or farm, cattle prices, feed costs and weather conditions all influence the profitability of calves enrolled in the CVD program.

To view data collected over the last the last three years from calves enrolled in the CVD program, visit” No matter when you sell your calves, it’s important to understand how your calves perform post-weaning. It affects your bottom-line,” Walker said.

Cattle buyers bid according to how they believe the cattle will perform. The CVD program allows producers to enroll five head or more into the program with an enrollment fee of $20 per head. Producers enrolled in the CVD program will be provided with feedlot performance data as well as carcass characteristic data at harvest.

To learn more about the CVD program, visit contact Walker at or 605-688-5458 or Reid McDaniel, SDSU Extension Feedlot Specialist, or 605-688-5452.