Many Midwest calves are already weaned, and producers are considering when the best time to market their calves is. Backgrounding for an additional 30 to 45 days after weaning is a great way to capture a premium for your calves and gives you an opportunity to ensure calves are bunk broke, healthy and ready for the next production stage.

Lundy erika
Extension and Outreach Beef Specialist / Iowa State University

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Iowa State data collected from Iowa feeder calf sales says preconditioned steers that went through a backgrounding phase brought on average $4 to $6 per hundredweight premium over steers that had not been preconditioned.

During backgrounding, calves are supplemented out on pasture or pulled into a drylot and fed low-quality forage sources to achieve cheap gains. Generally, calves are exposed to feedstuffs they will likely see in the feedlot, such as corn and distillers grains, to achieve at least 2- to 2.5-pound daily gain during the backgrounding phase.

Weaning and transportation are two of the most stressful events for young cattle. Stockmanship and low-impact cattle handling are becoming a hot topic across the Midwest and a great tool to acclimate cattle to human interaction and new environments while reducing stress.

During the backgrounding phase, doing something as simple as walking through calves regularly and walking calves to the bunk at feeding time are a few examples that can make a vast difference in cattle behavior and going on-feed in the feedlot.


Retained ownership or marketing your calves directly to a known feedlot is a great opportunity to gain closeout information and provides an opportunity to evaluate the genetics in your herd.

Communication between the cow-calf and feedlot sectors is key. If possible, informing the feedlot manager of previous vaccinations, processing and feedstuffs fed can have a big impact on success in the feedlot.

If you have additional questions about the value of backgrounding and preparing your cattle for the feedlot, consult your nutritionist, veterinarian and extension beef specialist.  end mark

Erika Lundy
  • Erika Lundy

  • Beef specialist - Iowa Beef Center
  • Iowa State University
  • Email Erika Lundy