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Factors Affecting Feedyard Profitability

Healthy, fast-gaining cattle grade better and are more profitable.

by Troy Smith, field editor

“You won’t find another dataset like this anywhere in the country,” stated Gary Fike, “and the information gleaned from it is used by the entire beef industry.”

Gary Fike, a marketing specialist for the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA)

Fike, a marketing specialist for the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA), was talking about data collected since 1982 through the Iowa-based Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity (TCSCF). In a presentation delivered to the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium and Convention hosted May 31-June 3 in Athens, Ga., Fike stood in for retired Iowa State University (ISU) Extension Specialist and longtime TCSCF Manager Darrell Busby to explain what the program’s data reveal about factors contributing to cattle feeding profitability.

“Cattle feeders say the trick is to buy calves cheap and sell them high,” grinned Fike, admitting how that formula can work pretty consistently. He noted, however, that management implemented long before calves enter the finishing phase has huge impacts on profit or the lack thereof. Fike said the data clearly shows that management of calf health is a big factor.

According to Fike, TCSCF was founded as a way for participating cow-calf producers to retain ownership on some portion of their calves, receive feedlot performance and carcass data and use what they have learned to hone their operations. Common traits of TCSCF consignors are:

  1. 1) They are early adopters of genetic evaluation tools.
  2. 2) They utilize a team of advisors to adopt available technologies to improve calf health and performance.
  3. 3) They had become tired of someone else benefiting from their efforts in genetics, health and management.
  4. 4) They believe in working together and sharing information with other producers.

Fike said TCSCF producers’ retained ownership experience confirmed what every feedyard manager also knows — that dealing with sick cattle in the feedyard represents a major cost, not only from the expense associated with treatment and mortalities, but from the detrimental effects on feeding performance and carcass merit. TCSCF data consistently shows that the most profitable calf groups are those that do not have to be treated. They gain faster, convert feed to gain more efficiently, spend fewer days on feed and grade better for carcass quality.

The data suggests that producers implementing calf management programs, including well-planned vaccination and weaning well ahead of feedlot placement, reap consistent benefits. Weaned calves have shown a distinct advantage over non-weaned calves. The latter were 3.4 times more likely to experience bovine respiratory disease (BRD) than weaned calves, independent of differences in age, test center or vaccination status. Vaccine type matters, too, with calves vaccinated with killed vaccines being 2.2 times more likely to experience BRD than calves vaccinated with modified-live virus (MLV) vaccines, independent of other factors.

Compared to calves that became sick and were treated two or more times during the feeding period, untreated calves gained better [3.21 pounds (lb.) vs. 2.93 lb. per day], produced more Choice carcasses (52% vs. 42%), and were more profitable ($52.45 vs. -$137.30 per head).

The take-home message, according to Fike, is that healthy, fast-gaining cattle grade better and are more profitable.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Media. Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

Angus Media’s coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here. Look for additional coverage in the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Journal Daily, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA and Angus TV.

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