Cattle producers receive tips at Field Day

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Livestock Specialist Eldon Cole, right, discussed the Steer Feedout program, run through the University of Missouri since 1981, to gain a better view of the makeup and management of cattle herds, especially in southwest Missouri. At left is Mt. Vernon cattleman Steve Jones, who had the top steer in this year’s feedout. Murray Bishoff/Cassville Democrat

Steer feedout data shows half of cattle will not make money

Cattle producers received a briefing on the University of Missouri's steer feedout program and the value of using genetic studies during the annual Field Day program, held on Sept. 13 at the Southwest Research Center near Mt. Vernon.

Eldon Cole, Extension livestock specialist, reviewed findings on the feedout program since its inception in 1981, covering 362 herds, 7,298 head of cattle from five states. The goal, he noted, has been to improve the image of southwest Missouri feeder cattle. He noted herds over time had acquired many traits from dairy cattle and were not that highly regarded when the effort started.

The program accepts head of cattle, recommending middle examples rather than the best, and follows them through slaughter, evaluating the carcasses. Providers retain ownership and receive the profits accordingly. The industry goal, Cole noted, has been to achieve 70 percent of head graded choice, 70 percent usable meat in the carcass, and no discounts because of being too fat, too light, too old or other issues. The evaluation assesses genetics and management.

"Only half of the time will you make money if you have average cattle," Cole said.

The profit breakers, he noted, have been buying too high, a fall in the market, or death in the feedlot, as 1.5 percent of cattle sent to feedlots become ill and never make it to a sale.

Among lessons from the steer feedout are:

• Profitable cows come in all colors. Black is the most popular at present, though Red Angus are popular as well. Some colors reflect an infiltration of dairy herd traits, not desired in beef cattle.

• Since 2001, the average profit has been a $16.46 loss.

• Getting an accurate genetic overview of one's herd will usually take sending two or three head through the program.

• Cattle with bad eyes, a genetic trait, largely pink eye, are 34 pounds lighter at weaning and gain 34 pounds less while in the finishing phase.

• Buyers will pay more for cattle that have data describing them, back to the parents, using data to market herd mates as feeders or breeding stock. Cole stressed sellers must present the background information to the sale barn early, providing time for that information to be advertised and announced, rather than turned in at the last minute. He advised meeting the desired sales grid for the feedlot and packers involved will bring better prices.

• "Genomic testing (DNA) is going to be the name of the game in the future," Cole said.

Accompanying Cole was Mt. Vernon rancher Steve Jones, who had the no. 1 rated steer in this year's feedout program. Jones said he started participating because he wanted to know the makeup of his herd. He kept a data book and turned to artificial insemination as a way to improve his herd's overall quality. Jones said he does blood tests to check the quality of the DNA in his herd, and culls the bottom 25 percent to ensure the quality of the rest.

Two graduate research assistants with the University of Missouri described using DNA markers to assess cattle. Troy Rowan talked about genotyping bulls, forecasting future results. He noted a mother's score on a genetic test will reflect its calf's observable characteristics or phenotype. Mothers with higher scores will reflect the weaning weight of the offspring.

Holly Durbin discussed using genetic tests on hair shedding to help determine which cattle adapt better to heat. Those who do not lose their winter coating in the spring may not be genetically predisposed for hot weather climate, showing a 14-pound difference with cattle that shed more effectively.

Cattle with genetic hair shedding issues may need to be shaved, Durbin said, or sent to different temperature zones.

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