n South African Journal of Agricultural Extension - Promoting profitability and sustainability in the backgrounding of beef calves : the role of agricultural extension

Volume 42, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0301-603X
  • E-ISSN: 2413-3221


There are indications that the backgrounding of beef calves will become more important in future as heavier beef carcasses are required. To increase the profitability of beef systems, backgrounding prepare weaned calves for finishing on high energy rations to promote rapid weight gain in a feedlot. Backgrounding operations may be pasture or dry-lot based or some combination thereof. The primary objective of this study was to investigate factors leading to poor average daily gain (ADG), high morbidity and mortality rate and the increased costs of gain. The secondary objective was to study the management practices followed in the backgrounding of beef calves concerning purchasing, adaptation, processing, raising, health management and marketing strategies. Forty questionnaires were administered to farmers, small and large feedlots doing backgrounding of beef calves. Data was generated by using the SUM equation and the means, minimum and maximum were generated by using PROC MEANS in SAS (2004). On-farm observations were employed in collecting data and discussions with other farmers and experts doing backgrounding of beef calves. According to this study, the ADG for summer differed significantly (P < 0.05) from that of winter as the ADG during summer was 22.2% higher than that of winter. However, the study also showed that the feed intake in summer differed significantly (P < 0.05) from that of winter with summer feed intake being 13% higher than winter feed intake. The production costs per calf in this study were R300.50±158.60 for feeding costs, R138.10±90.80 for remedies, R56.40±22.10 for processing and R37.50±24.30 for transport costs. It was also evident that parainflueza 3 known as flu was the infectious disease that mostly led to morbidity and mortality. With protozoal diseases, gall-sickness and red-water was the major cause of mortality. Mortality as a result of nutritional disorder including bloat and acidosis was reported by 37.5% of the respondents. The paper stresses the role of agricultural extension in the optimization of backgrounding systems.

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