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Backgrounding Cattle

cattle feeding at a hay troft
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Backgrounding cattle is a management and feeding program in which cattle are fed for a period of time after weaning and before they are placed in finishing feedlots. Backgrounding calves are similar to stocker cattle except in the northern tier states, where snow covers the ground in the winter and cattle are fed a forage-based ration instead of being sent to “stocker” grazing.

Backgrounding does several things. It provides time for calves to get through the stress of weaning and develop immunity through vaccines recently administered. Backgrounding adapts calves to a feeding bunk and totally mixed rations that may include grains, silages, distillers grains and hays. Backgrounding also delays marketing of calves for 35, 90 or more days after weaning.

Budget for Backgrounding 550 lb Steers


2023 Backgrounding Cattle

Get the latest information about backgrounding cattle from NDSU Extension specialists. These new videos for 2023 include Calf Health, Cattle Price Situation and Outlook, Economics of Backgrounding and Finishing Cattle in North Dakota, Weaning Considerations for Healthy Calves and Feeds, Alternative Feeds, and Cost of Gain.

Market outlook - What to Expect and Price Protection - Tim Petry, Extension Livestock Marketing Economist 

Budgets for Different Classes of Cattle - Bryon Parman, Ag Finance Specialist 

Rations, Feed Cost and Cost of Gain - Karl Hoppe, Extension Livestock Specialist 

Implants - What to Use and Value - Zac Carlson, Extension Beef Specialist 

Calf Health - What to Do After the Vaccinations - Jerry Stokka, Extension Veterinarian-Livestock Stewardship 

2023 Video Playlist
Remote video URL

Sources and Prices for selected Co-products produced in North Dakota

As of October 19, 2022

Commentary –   spot Corn Prices, $ per bushel

  • 6.26      Blue Flint Ethanol, Underwood
  • 6.28      Red Trail Energy, Richardton
  • 6.53      Tharaldson Ethanol, Casselton  
  • 6.63      Hankinson Renewable Energy, Hankinson/ Guardian Energy
  • 6.33      Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, Spiritwood

Corn price has dropped from last March but is still over $220 per ton. Co-products prices have followed the corn price.  Hay prices are variable depending on location and production.  Spring moisture helped hay yields and ‘prevent plant’ acres were subsequently planted to forage crops in eastern North Dakota.

Dr. Karl Hoppe
Area Extension Livestock Specialist
NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center

Coproduct Feeds 2022 (xx means no price quote available)