Sustainability is a word we hear a lot in the beef industry these days. Some of the nation’s largest buyers of beef are heavily focused on the topic right now and I don’t think it’s a topic that will go away any time soon. You’ve no doubt heard McDonald’s plan to source verified sustainable beef by 2016. Walmart is also developing plans to ensure the sustainability of its beef supply chain.
Sustainability means different things to different people. “If we’re not sustainable in what we do, we’re out of business,” said Nebraska cattleman Bill Rishel. “Many of us in the cattle business grew up thinking of sustainability as making enough money to keep ranching the next year. Of course that meant we had to care for our natural resources and manage them in a responsible way.
In the past two issues of TMR Corner we have explored how feeding a beef cow-calf herd with a vertical TMR mixer simultaneously decreases feed waste and increases animal performance. In this issue we will use that information to develop a cost-benefit analysis for adopting the use of a vertical TMR mixer on a moderately sized cow-calf operation.
1. More Is Not Better
We can all do the math. +100 is more than +90 on yearling weight. On milk, +30 is more than +20 and that means more pounds to sell at weaning, right? However, these EPD’s only measure output – not profit. Profit is output minus cost. Unfortunately more output usually comes from more inputs – i.e. more feed. Animals with higher EPD’s for yearling and milk don’t convert better, they just eat more per day. Bigger EPD, higher feed consumption cattle have bigger mature weights. In fact, the dam of the average +100 YW EPD bull weighs over 1650 pounds in good body condition.
Crossbreeding beef cattle offers two primary advantages relative to the use of only one breed: 1) crossbred animals exhibit heterosis (hybrid vigor), and 2) crossbred animals combine the strengths of the various breeds used to form the cross. The goal of a well-designed, systematic crossbreeding program is to simultaneously optimize these advantages of heterosis and breed complementarity.
Heterosis or hybrid vigor refers to the superiority in performance of the crossbred animal compared to the average of the straightbred parents. Heterosis may be calculated using the formula:
% Heterosis = [(crossbred average - straightbred average) ÷ straightbred average] x 100
Everywhere you turn there is another good reason to attend the “Rocky Mountain Round-Up,” the 2011 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Denver, Colo., Feb 2-5.
On one front are the high caliber speakers lined up to address attendees at the event’s general sessions. The Opening General Session Feb. 2 will feature Richard Picciotto, Fire Department of New York Chief and the highest ranking firefighter to survive the World Trade Center Collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. Chief Picciotto is the author of Last Man Down, which chronicles his harrowing experience that day. He will provide a gripping, first-person account of the catastrophe and emergency response.
Promoters and producers of grass fed beef have made a lot of claims about its nutritional and environmental benefits. One web-based marketer states, “100% grass-fed meats, from any kind of critter, are the most perfect food for man. Grass-fed meats will supply 100% of your body's nutrient requirements in perfect balance. Grass-fed meat is the ONLY food type you can eat exclusively and still have optimal body function.”
In 1986, believing beef was not only tasty but also a great health food, Bradley and her daughter Mary Lou launched B3R Country Meats, a beef merchandising program that grew into a company recognized worldwide for natural Angus beef.