Retaining Ownership of Beefmaster Feeder Cattle

Published on Wed, 12/28/2016 - 1:31pm

Retaining Ownership of Beefmaster Feeder Cattle

By Bill Pendergrass, Beefmaster Breeders United

Beefmaster females have long been recognized as the industry gold standard for productivity and maternal excellence. However, many ranchers fail to recognize the feedyard and carcass attributes of Beefmaster sired steers.
Roaring Springs Ranch of Frenchglen, Ore., has been utilizing Beefmaster bulls on their crossbred cow herd in the high desert country of eastern Oregon. The ranch’s main emphasis has been on replacement female production, but the steers they produce must also perform on the range and on the rail, as a part of their demanding Country Natural Beef Program. This beef program is one of the beef industry’s most respected branded beef product lines.
With the first harvest group of Roaring Springs Ranch Beefmaster sired steers, it became evident that Beefmasters were way more than just a maternal breed. This is not a surprise, since the early 2000s several Beefmaster breeders have been involved with nationally-known branded beef programs, where collecting data and improving carcass value are keys to their success.
The first turn of Roaring Springs Ranch Beefmaster sired steers posted the following impressive statistics shared in table #1.

Based on industry grid marketing standards, 45% of the Beefmaster sired carcasses earned premiums based on quality grade, indicating their ability to marble. Additionally, another 40% earned yield grade premiums, which indicates the cattle were heavy muscled and lean in their body composition. By analyzing the average component carcass traits for the group, it is evident that these cattle were very consistent in their muscularity and marbling. These are the kind of cattle that earn premiums for the retained ownership or investment feeder, and satisfy the consumer’s demand for high quality beef.
The Beefmaster breed is serious about improving performance and carcass merit. In May 2016, Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU) released Genomic-Enhanced EPDs to allow bull buyers to confidently select younger animals with greater accuracy values, therefore significantly improving the rate of genetic improvement for a wide variety of traits.
In July 2016, BBU released the Beefmaster breed’s first selection indices: Terminal Index ($T) and Maternal Index ($M). For the first time ever Beefmaster bull buyers have high accuracy selection tools to fold into their crossbreeding programs to maximize heterosis and profitability.
While carcass traits and related carcass value is straight forward and easy to track, there is another area that is as important to profitability as carcass merit: feed efficiency. Beefmasters have a great reputation for being among the most efficient convertors in the beef industry.
Over the years, several Beefmaster breeders have retained ownership of their genetics to track feedyard performance and carcass merit. In reviewing feedyard closeouts on a sample of the data submitted to BBU, the following observations were made from standard feedyard close out data, shown in table #2.

As noted by the information in the table, performance and feed efficiency can go hand in hand. Given the number of feedyards in different environments and solid performance of Beefmaster genetics, it is obvious that Beefmasters excel in feed efficiency. Cost of gain is the second largest expense, behind purchase cost, for any cattle feeding enterprise. Feed efficient cattle significantly lower cost of gain, allowing more profit opportunity.
Other profit drivers that are seldom discussed include; animal health, immune system, dressing percentage and disposition. The unique genetic makeup of the Beefmaster breed has led to several advantages including a very strong immune system, which results in fewer feedyard deaths and health related pulls in the feedyard. These attributes result in stronger bids from buyers who regularly run purchase breakeven calculations at lower death loss percentages when they know the calves are Beefmaster sired.
Most cattle today are sold on grids, where cattle can earn premiums for higher quality and higher yielding carcasses. However, many ranchers overlook the fact that even grids are based on hot carcass weight. Cattle that have higher dressing percentages have a hot yield advantage in the plant bringing more pounds of carcass to the scale. It is not uncommon for higher dressing cattle to gross more per carcass than higher quality grading cattle. Many feeders find Beefmasters an attractive grid marketing option due to hot yield advantages provided by the Beefmaster body composition. Cattle must be able to dress, grade and yield in order to maximize any grid, and Beefmaster sired steers check off all three.
Profitability comes in many packages and smart operators are quick to find alternate routes to a desirable end point. While the industry generalizes profitability with high marbling carcasses, the truth is there are other data points that affect profitability more than just marbling. In today’s marketplace, ranchers must consider all of their options and chances are that efficiency and performance will impact the long term profitability of their operation more than marbling will. Beefmasters are a central part of a planned crossbreeding program that will help cattlemen balance carcass merit, efficiency, performance, fertility and maternal excellence.