Cattle family makes a shift in the industry


Phyllis Coulter, Illinois Farmer Today

Sep 16, 2022


LEXINGTON, Ill. — A purebred Angus cattle producer for almost 30 years, Dave Duzan switched gears into a different segment of the beef industry.


The Duzans switched to backgrounding cattle about five years ago. They buy calves at 250 pounds, get them healthy, vaccinated and ready for the next step at about 700 pounds, and off to a feedlot.


“It’s working very well for us and our labor force,” he said.


Dave and his wife Kellie started this farm in Lexington in central Illinois “from scratch” about 35 years ago with purebred Angus cows. Over the years, they held 21 big sales.


Today, backgrounding cattle, or feeding weaned calves until they are feedlot ready, suits their team and land.


“We have two main jobs — to restore the calves to health and to put economical gain on them,” he said.


Backgrounding operations typically utilize forage as the primary source of energy, said Dan Shike, a beef nutrition specialist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. These operations can be grazing-based, where cattle graze pastureland, cover crops, or even crop residue. However, they can also be drylot or confinement operations where cattle are fed forage-based or co-product based rations.


Of the cow-calf operation before it and feedlot after it, backgrounding is the smallest of these three beef production segments in Illinois, but it is important, said Travis Meteer, University of Illinois Extension beef specialist.


Not every calf is backgrounded. Some go directly from the cow-calf operation into a feedlot, while others are held as herd replacement, he said...