Did You Know?

Opinion
Jun 27, 2014
by WLJ

Dairy influence and black-hided beef cattle in the mix

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The first week in June saw total U.S. federally inspected cattle harvest at 614,000 cattle, which represents half a million steers and heifers and 114,000 cull bulls and cows. This is a decline of 5.8 percent from last year— reflecting the dramatic reduction in the size of the U.S. cow herd that we have seen developing for years.

What you likely did not know is the composition of a typical fed-cattle harvest. To start with, the percentage and volume of Holsteins in the mix surprises many. As reported by Dr. Tom Peters at the 2014 Plains Nutrition Council conference, Holsteins represent about 18 percent of the fed cattle industry. As the U.S. beef cow herd has declined, this percentage has increased because of a fairly stable 9.3 million dairy cows.

The other piece of the fed mix would be cattle of either Mexican or Canadian origin, which represent 10-12 percent of that harvest. Depending on the value of the U.S. dollar and drought conditions, this number varies annually. That leaves about 70-72 percent of the fed kill representing the various cross combinations of beef breeds.

Something else you probably did not know is what percentage of the fed kill is black-hided and eligible for Certified Angus Beef (CAB) evaluation. Of the total harvested, the ratio of black-hided (non-Holstein) today is about 63-64 percent. Excluding those Holsteins and considering only beef breed type, 76-77 percent are black-hided.

That is supported by the fact our survey data suggests 75 percent of the beef cow population contains some Angus and 55-60 percent of the bulls turned out this year were Angus. This increase in the use of Angus genetics has resulted in an annual increase of about 2 percentage points in black-hided cattle over the past 20 years. That trend only appears flat in the last five years because Holsteins have become a greater share of the whole during that time.

Looking to the future, the dairy herd likely will become an even larger supplier of product. In his summary of the dairy industry, Dr. Peters reported that the advent of sexed semen has changed how many dairy producers breed their cows to produce replacement females. Many will breed the top 60-65 percent of cows using sexed semen and leave 35-40 percent to be bred to beef bulls. Current cattle prices even support placing beef embryos in those cows. — Larry Corah, Vice President, Certified Angus Beef LLC

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