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Selection Decisions Committee

Factors Affecting Arkansas Feeder Prices
and Implications for Selection

by Barb Baylor Anderson for Angus Productions Inc.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 30, 2010) — A number of factors can affect the price of feeder cattle at the auction barn. Brett Barham, University of Arkansas Extension beef cattle specialist, is exploring what those factors are, and how producers can improve their selection decisions to try and earn higher sales prices. He shared some of his findings June 30 with participants of the 2010 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium and Annual Meeting in Columbia.

"Our objective is to compare genetic factors affecting feeder-cattle prices in Arkansas, and determine if discounts narrow or disappear as feeder-calf supplies decrease and selling prices increase," he said. "We conducted year-round surveys in 2000 and 2005. We are in the midst of our third sale barn survey for 2010. We try and collect data on 15%-20% of calves sold."

Typically, feeders sell one at a time in Arkansas sale barns, rather than in groups, and include bulls, steers and heifers. Barham gathers from livestock reporters at sales the data on frame and muscle scores, calf colors, breeds, sale weights and sale prices. Average prices for each of the completed years were established and then deviated to place all prices on equal ground.

"Most of the calves sold had an average body condition. Fat calves didn't appear to do as well in the sale barn. Full cattle were also discounted hard, while shrunk or gaunt cattle sold better than average," he said. "Most calves were in the 400- to 550-pound range and healthy."

Survey results found that feeders with large frames earned a small premium, while moderate-framed cattle garnered average prices. Cattle with muscle scores of 3 or 4 were discounted, while 1 and 2 were not. Premiums were recorded primarily for yellow, black baldy and black-hided cattle. Breeds earning premiums varied, but included Angus-based crosses.

"What we concluded is that several management strategies could help Arkansas producers enhance their sales prices: selling calves in groups, castrating bulls and selling them as steers, removing horns, improving health programs and paying attention to body condition and fill," he said. "Genetic factors also affected prices and should weigh into selection decisions."

Barham encourages Arkansas producers to select bulls for heavy muscle and consider polled breeds. And even though color or breed may impact calf sale premiums or discounts, he believes those results should not always be taken into consideration for bull selection.

"Those results should not affect breed decisions. Production goals and business plans should. Any producer could have good reasons why they selected the breed they did," he said. "Producers should also explore alternative markets and the timing of their calving seasons."

Barham spoke during the Selection Decisions Committee break-out session at the 2010 BIF symposium. Themed "Gateway to Profit," the 42nd annual research symposium and annual meeting was hosted by BIF June 28-July 1 in Columbia, Mo.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). 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.

API's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship by BioZyme Inc. through its significant gift to the Angus Foundation. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here.

Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., API publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus e-List, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the API Virtual Library.

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