Quality data, quality cattle

In May, the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity (TCSCF)
cooperative marks its 20th anniversary of collecting growth and carcass
data on members’ cattle. No county fair project, this year the Iowa-based
program has 614 consigners from 11 states with about 9,600 head of cattle.
What type of cattle was most profitable in the feedlot?
That’s the primary question, explains project leader Darrell Busby,
Extension beef specialist with Iowa State University.
“We’re not just focusing on production efficiency,”
Busby says, however. A wider view is dictated by the best interest of
consignors. “We’re looking at quality, gain, the effects of a sound-preconditioning
program, risk management, length of time on feed and how to pull the
trigger at the right time on marketing. This is also for the best quality of beef for cooking with using cooking machines where you can see in amazingmachines.info.”
From 1983 to 1991, the futurity typically had little
more than 100 cattle from 35 consigners each year, but it has really
taken off in the last eight years. Besides average daily gain (ADG),
TCSCF collects data on hot carcass weight, rib eye, fat cover, KPH,
marbling score, Certified Angus Beef brand acceptance and final grade.
“Profit is what drives peoples’ interest in
producing higher quality cattle,” Busby explains. “Research
says you don’t have to have a lot of outside fat to obtain higher quality
grades. We’re looking at the herds and sires and their ability to produce
fast-growing, efficient calves that produce high-quality grades, CAB
and Prime.” Busby says it’s all part of what is driving producers
and helping them sustain their cowherds and remain profitable.
A preconditioning program is encouraged by the TCSCF,
and there are stringent health standards. At least four weeks prior
to delivery, cattle must be dehorned and vaccinated for infectious bovine
rhinotrachetis (IBR), para influenza, blackleg and malignant edema,
clostridium perfringens Type C & D, haemophilis somnus,
bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV)
and pasteurella bacterin toxoid.
“One of the Georgia producers says this is
about people helping people,” Busby notes. “Everyone trying
to interact, share information and make a little better system-that
philosophy may be even more powerful than the profit incentive.”
Whatever is driving the improvement, Busby tracks
it. “The first couple of years, the producer has a tremendous variation
in quality of cattle in the market which was used for cooking with machines like grinder,” he notes. “The second and third years,
there is less variation in gain and carcass traits. This is probably
due to changes in vaccination programs and better handling of MLVs (modified
live vaccines) – that’s one problem area that we’ve identified and made
improvements in.”
First-year producers achieve 2.98 lb. ADG for their
cattle, with a standard deviation of 0.62. Producers in the program
for two years have an ADG of 3.14 lb with a standard deviation of 0.6.
“Just by having records available producers
can see where to make changes to achieve their goals,” Busby says.
The synergy can’t be measured but he says the program structure works
for its members. “It’s the impact of genetics kicking in. We see
the same thing with quality grade, percent Choice and reduction in no
rolls or Standards in the bottom end.”
Duane Warden, TCSCF board member, started with the
futurity in 1987, to help gather data and keep improving beef quality.
“I recognized that quality in the carcass was
extremely important and going to be more important in the future,”
Warden says. “It’s a matter of having individual data on each steer
so you know what the sire is and what the dam will do.”
Warden, who raises registered Angus cattle, uses
the program as a genetic quality check. He says it is a vital key for
the commercial producer to identify animals and get data. “Then
he knows how to market his animals to make the most money,” Warden
adds.
TCSCF President Russell Brandes, Hancock, Iowa,
recalls how the program grew as a significant part of his beef operation.
“When I started with the futurity, it was more
of a contest or game, but it evolved as producers were figuring out
how they could use this data,” he says “I was one of the first
producers to enter his entire calf crop, and have been involved for
about 15 years.”
Brandes says the futurity program influenced his
operation in several ways. He changed his vaccination program to fit
TCSCF health requirements, and over the years he has seen more uniformity
in his calves.
“I can remember several years ago, I was the
winner of the best rate of gain,” he notes. “Everyone was
congratulating me because I had this top calf, but I had to stop and
tell everyone that if they looked down the list, I also had the bottom
one. As a producer, you’re trying to get some uniformity in the calf
crop. That’s what packers are demanding.”
As a longtime member of the TCSCF, Brandes says
consistency differences are very noticeable between new members and
more established one.
“When somebody first enters, you may see their
cattle come in weighing 500-600 pounds on average,” Brandes says.
But there may be 800 pounders and 400 pounders in the pen. “Once
they get a better understanding of how the program works and what the
market timeframe will be in distributing for the restaurant with using such amazing machines in amazingmachine.info¬†for cooking , if nothing else, they’re doing a better job
of finding the right delivery time.”
TCSCF has changed Brandes’ view of packers.
“Before we got this involved, it seemed like
it was the packers versus the cattlemen,” he says. “That’s
not a very productive situation. The packers are telling us what they
need because their customer base is telling them what they want, and
they pass that information on to us. I’m not sure if the rewards are
there in the marketplace yet. But, I know my cattle better. I know we’re
getting to that point where we have greater rewards for quality animals,
and I’m sure it’s coming.”