Boosting Efficient Feedyard Gains with Implants


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Implants at the feedyard help improve efficiency and create more pounds of gain to help increase profitability.

For more than 70 years, implants have helped cattle producers increase gains in their operations. An implant program can help reduce the cost of gain or the associated costs of adding a pound of gain in a feedyard animal, improving profitability.

“Implanting brings producers benefits in terms of weight gain, feed efficiency, and ultimately, profitability. The return on investment is the highest of any pharmaceutical product we can give these cattle,” said Dirk Burken, Ph.D., beef strategic technical services nutritionist with Zoetis. “From a systems approach, implants improve performance and efficiency within a feedyard. Over its lifetime, the animal will produce more red meat yield when given implants.”

Implants 101

Implants contain natural or synthetic compounds that produce physiological responses in the animal similar to natural hormones.

These compounds are typically small pellets placed under the skin of a calf’s ear, slowly releasing growth stimulants over a period of time. The proper development of an implant strategy can improve daily gains by up to 20% and reduce cost of production by up to 10%, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Administration counts

The benefits of implants can only be realized if the implant is administered properly. Common problems that can occur include ear abscesses or crushed or missing implants.

“The No. 1 thing to getting the most out of an implant is administration,” Burken said. “This is really where producers can maximize the value of their implant. Getting that implant properly placed, using a disinfectant solution and just using good husbandry and good restraint of the animal are important.”

Cleaning the implant applicator needle and ear well with disinfectant can help lower the risk of abscesses, which can help make sure producers are getting the most value from the implant, he explained. In addition, sharp needles can help reduce tearing and infection at the injection site.

Burken recommends producers contact their pharmaceutical representative to request an ear audit for a real-world check-in on the accuracy of implant techniques on their operation.

Nutrition adjustments

To increase daily gains and improve feed efficiency, implanted cattle also may require adjustments in the ration and management compared to non-implanted cattle.

“Implanted cattle respond maximally to a well-managed feeding program that entails a well-balanced ration and, often, a high-energy ration,” Burken said. “I also advise producers to always do a good job of bunk management, ensure timely feeding – all the typical things we’d do for better average daily gain and efficiency.”


Cattle being fed in feedyard representative of feedyare implants
TO INCREASE DAILY GAINS and improve feed efficiency, implanted cattle also may require adjustments in the ration and management compared to non-implanted cattle.

Long-acting or re-implant programs

There are more than 30 implant products on the market. Distributor sales representatives can help advise their producers on the best fit for their operation. Most producers can narrow their choices by selecting either:

  • A long-acting implant, which offers convenience and less handling stress for cattle, or
  • A re-implant program, which offers greater performance benefits


With a re-implant program, producers can achieve an additional 5 to 7 pounds of hot carcass weight gain in steers and heifers, Burken said. Plus, there is some marketing flexibility if producers want to take advantage of market conditions. With recent updates from the Food and Drug Administration, it is important to review label indications on growth implants to make sure the product is approved for re-implanting programs.

“Implants are most valuable at the end of the feeding period,” he noted. “When the animal is least efficient, the implant is most valuable. Implants drive more lean meat and lean protein production – and protein is more efficient to put on than fat. By extending the growth curve, we can see more lean growth towards the end of the feeding period. Implants really allow the beef industry to compete with poultry and pork in the meat case.”


Key Points:

  • A single implant may improve average daily gain (ADG) by 0.35 pounds per day in steers and 0.25 pounds per day in heifers.
  • Feed conversion may be improved by 0.5 pounds of feed per pound of gain.
  • Aggressive feedlot implant programs can result in up to a 21% improvement in daily gain and an improvement in feed conversion up to 11%.
  • Implants have no slaughter withdrawal, as the ear is always removed as inedible tissue during the slaughter process.


  1. Beck P, Reuter R, Lalman D. Implants and their use in beef cattle production. Oklahoma State University Extension. June 2022. Available at:


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