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What do Feedyards Want?

20 January 2012

Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator at the University of Ohio shares information from the Cattleman's Roundup meeting and Five Rivers Feeding.

I recently took the time to listen to a recorded presentation by Tom Brink of Five Rivers Feeding that was made at the Cattleman's Roundup meeting in Gallia County on August 27 of this year. Some of you may have been present at the Roundup to Mr. Brink, or maybe some of you have listened to the recorded presentation after the meeting. As I listened to the presentation I thought that Mr. Brink was giving information that would be useful to most cow/calf enterprises. So, for those of you who haven't had the opportunity to listen to the presentation, I'll offer here my summary and comments of what I heard.

Who is the customer of the cow/calf enterprise? One of the first points made by Mr. Brink was that feedyards are the customer for the cow/calf enterprise. It makes good business sense to know what your customer wants and to produce a product that meets the needs of the customer. Mr. Brink said that his perspective on telling cow/calf producers what feedyards want is based on the fact that Five Rivers feeds and markets approximately 1.7 million head of cattle each year. The majority of those cattle are sold on the grid, so they have the carcass data to back up their statements.

Five Rivers feed lots want cattle that have good performance potential as defined by a high average daily gain, a low feed to gain ratio, and a desirable finish weight. Mr. Brink said that at least one-third of the cattle they see do not have good performance as judged by those 3 criteria. Cattle that perform well grade choice, have a yield grade of 3 or less and, this surprised me, have a carcass weight that is over 850 pounds.

The carcass weight figure surprised me because a few years back, carcass weights over 850 pounds were being discounted by some packers. This is no longer the case as demand for beef is strong and the cattle herd is in decline. Therefore more pounds by fewer cattle is a necessity. In addition, Mr. Brink showed data from Five Rivers feedlots that compared the performance of steers that produced a 700-800 pound carcass vs. steers that produced a carcass weight of 850+ pounds. Those heavier carcass steers had higher average daily rates of gain, better feed conversion rates (less feed per pound of gain) and had a $45/head advantage over the lighter carcass steers, even with corn at $7 per bushel. According to Mr. Brink, the ideal steer finishes at 1350 to 1400 pounds and produces a 850 to 885 lb carcass (63-64% dressing).

For those cattlemen who sell to feedyards, Mr. Brink said that in his opinion, the ideal steer would have the following breed composition:

  • 50-75% Angus as the genetic base
  • 25-50% Continental breed to provide muscling and to improve yield grade
  • Up to 25% of any other breed

Mr. Brink concluded his presentation by providing a list of what cow/calf producers can do to create more value in a feeder calf. That list includes:

  • Use the right combination of breeds
  • Use the right genetics within those breeds. This goes back to those cattle that will perform at a high level.
  • Utilize a health protection program
  • Put effort in to post weaning management.
  • Sell calves by uniform load lot groups. For the smaller cattleman, this will be easier if neighbors or marketing groups are using similar breeds, genetics and post weaning programs.
  • Utilize Age and Source Verified programs

A few years ago I heard Henry Zerby, OSU meat specialist, talk about marketing in terms of push and pull. Henry said that it was much easier to sell something that the market wants as it is readily pulled into the market. Push marketing involves trying to convince the market that it should buy what you have produced. In his presentation, Mr. Brink told cattlemen what feedlots want. Do you know if you are producing the kind of cattle that meet those criteria?

Some of the topics that Mr. Brink talks about will be developed in depth during this year's Ohio beef school.

January 2012

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