New Calf Value Discovery Program provides feedback

Sep 27, 2013
by WLJ

If a cattle producer sells their calves at weaning, most often they lose track of how those calves perform in the feedlot and on the rail. SDSU Extension Calf Value Discovery program allows commercial cow/calf operators to glean valuable feedback to help them improve their herd’s genetics, said Julie Walker, Associate Professor and Beef Specialist.

“One disadvantage of selling calves at weaning is too often there is very little feedback as to the calves’ feedlot performance and carcass characteristics,” Walker said.

“As systems are put into place in the feedlot and packing sectors, it is becoming easier for the next customer in the chain (feedlots) to track and benchmark the prior history of a ranch’s calves. In that case the advantage goes to the party with the most information. The question becomes, can a cow/calf producer afford to know less about their calves than a buyer does?” Walker explained that when cattle producers enroll their calves in the Calf Value Discovery program they are able to gain knowledge about their calf crop.

“Understanding how your cattle perform can provide you with more management options upon weaning with changing conditions,” she said.

No matter when you sell your calves, Walker said it’s important to understand how they perform postweaning.

“It affects your bottom line. Cattle buyers bid according to how they believe the cattle will perform. The CVD program allows producers to enroll a minimum of 5 head into the program with an enrollment fee of $20/hd. You will be provided feedlot performance and carcass characteristic at harvest. The 2013 enrollment deadline is October 15, 2013. Details about the program can be found at species/beef/calf-value/index.cfm.

Calves will be delivered to the feedlot on November 6 or 7.

Calf Value Discovery data from last two years

A realistic scenario, Walker explained that feed costs and weather conditions influence the profitability of calves enrolled in the Calf Value Discovery program. Table 1 shows the averages for the pen performance (feedlot and carcass) for the last two years. The difference between the most and least profitable animals was $635.59 and $774.60 in years 2011/2012 and 2012/2013, respectively. Average daily gains and carcass characteristics were similar between the two years.

“Feed efficiencies and dressing percentages were better in 2011/2012 compared to the year before.

That’s not surprising considering that weather conditions during the spring of 2013 were much less favorable than the in 2012,” Walker said.

Producers from South Dakota and Minnesota consigned a total of 244 calves in 2011/2012 and 184 calves in 2012/2013. The number of animals consigned by producers ranged from five to 73 head. In-dates were Nov. 8 and 9, 2011 and Oct. 23 and 24, 2012.

Cattle were fed a finishing diet based on high moisture ground ear corn, modified wet distillers grains, and corn silage as a group in a single pen. Cattle were visually evaluated for degree of finish and sold in semi-load lots when deemed to have approximately 0.4 inches of backfat.

Slaughter dates were May 11, June 1 and 15, 2012 (184, 205, and 219 days on feed, respectively) and May 3, June 17 and 29, 2013 (190, 204, and 217 days on feed, respectively). Animals were sold on a quality/yield grid at Tyson Fresh Meats, (Dakota City, NE).

To estimate what factors were associated with feeding performance or profit and quality grade for calves that finished the CVD program, calves were divided into thirds based on profit. Profit equals carcass value minus beginning calf value and feedlot costs. Table 2 contains the data from 2011/2012 CVD and Table 3 has 2012/2013 information.

Other than feed efficiency, Walker said the performance of the cattle was similar between the two years.

“What are differences between profit groups? The high profit group had heavier out weights, heavier hot carcass weight, and more choice or higher carcasses. The cattle that made money gained faster and produced heavier carcasses that avoided discounts. You may be asking why the differences between years in profitability. The simple answer is higher feed costs; average total feedlot costs were $565.31 in 2011/2012 and $671.11 in 2012/2013,” Walker said.

For more information about the program contact either Walker at 605/688- 5458 or Warren Rusche, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist at 605/882- 5140. — WLJ