Eight thousand calves were sold for premium prices last year through a program that is helping to increase profits for Pennsylvania beef producers.
Begun in 1995, the Pennsylvania Feeder Calf Pool traditionally has added 10 to 25 cents a pound to the sale price, according to Dustin Heeter, livestock-production educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Westmoreland County.
Pennsylvania calf-pool participants have earned between $100 and $145 more per head than other cattlemen in the state over the past five years.
The calf pool is a co-operative marketing effort that enables small-scale cattle producers to group animals of uniform sex and weight into larger lots.
“Producers who market in pools receive premium prices for their animals because buyers are interested in purchasing lots of 48,000 to 50,000 pounds at a time,” Heeter says.
A study conducted at Utah State University found that feedlot operations prefer to buy uniform lots large enough to fill at least one pen, typically numbering between 100 and 250 animals.
Penn State works with the Pennsylvania Feeder Calf Pool to provide educational services to producers concerning calf-pool management practices.
Extension guides producers through standard guidelines set up by the co-operative pool, such as vaccination and preconditioning programs, weaning and management practices, and time schedules.
Twenty-six cow-calf producers across western Pennsylvania participated in the Pennsylvania Feeder Calf Pool program last year, and its members’ efforts were rewarded with premium prices for their calves.