Beef Cattle Browsing – April 2006

Beef Cattle Browsing

Editor: Dr. Stephen Hammack, Professor & Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Emeritus

April 2006

This newsletter is published by Texas AgriLife Extension – Animal Science. Media, feel free to use this information as needed and cite Texas A&M University Beef Cattle Browsing Newsletter, Dr. Steve Hammack.

Most producers, and many consumers, are aware of Certified Angus Beef. Less known is that there are numerous Certified Beef Programs, under the requirements of USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service. According to the AMS web site, there are currently 44 certified programs. Thirty of these are for Angus influence (minimum 51 percent solid black body color, polled or horned, no carcasses with dairy conformation or excessive hump). Five, including CAB, are for the upper 2/3 of U. S. Choice (Modest00 marbling) or Prime. Two are for middle of Low Choice (Small50) or higher. Four are for Low Choice (Small00) or higher. Three are for Select (Slight00) or higher. Two are for Standard (Practically Deviod00) or higher. Ten are for multi-tier grade (Prime, upper 2/3 Choice, Low Choice, and/or Select). One is for non-hormone treated, Select or higher. And three are for carcasses from older animals (Utility or Commercial).

Eleven programs are non-breed specific, nine of which use CAB-type carcass specifications. Two programs are for Hereford influence, Select or Choice Grade, one of which is run by the American Hereford Association. Hereford is defined as: predominantly (51% or more) white face; white markings on jaw, forehead, and muzzle; traditional white markings on face and neck; no white on hip, shoulder, or side, such as spots, stripes or belts; body only solid red, solid black, or roan; no evidence of dairy breeding or excessive hump. And one program is for a “brand name specification”, requiring electrical stimulation, Select or Choice grade. More certified programs are sure to come.

In recent years, residual feed intake (RFI, difference between actual and predicted feed intake) has been studied as a measure of efficiency of feed utilization. The traditional efficiency measure, feed conversion, has been shown to be positively related to rate of gain and feed intake, that is, the animals with better feed conversion tended to eat more and gain faster. But RFI may not be related to intake and gain. If so, selection of breeding animals for low RFI would produce progeny with lower feed intake but similar weight gain. What about the meat? Idaho and Ohio researchers collaborated to study relationship in Angus steers between RFI and meat quality and palatability. (As in some previous studies, RFI was independent of ADG, but was related to intake and feed conversion.) Animals of different RFI did not differ significantly in any carcass traits. Steaks from high RFI (less efficient) steers tended to be lighter in color, produce lower off-flavor scores, and have less cooking loss. However, there was no significant difference in mechanical tenderness or in taste panel evaluation of the primary palatability factors, tenderness, flavor, and juiciness. (J. Animal Sci. 84:938)

The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, Nebraska, recently evaluated progeny of sires from the seven breeds with highest registration figures. Three of these were British breeds (Angus, Hereford, and Red Angus) and four were Continentals (Charolais, Gelbvieh, Limousin, and Simmental). Little difference was found among the seven breeds in weaning weight, finished weight, cow weight, or cow frame score. (British-sired were higher in marbling and lower in percent lean.) How has this happened? All of the breeds have continued to increase in weight. But, compared to the Continental breeds, over the last 20 to 25 years average EPDs of the British breeds have increased at a rate 55% higher for weaning weight and 50% higher for yearling weight. (Also, British milk EPDs have increased at even higher rates, compared to Continentals.) The breeds are definitely not being downsized, and there’s not much difference in size anymore. (Based on data received from Dr. Larry Cundiff, U.S.M.A.R.C.)


Maybe not very long, if protein supplementation is the goal. Researchers at the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma used mature steers to monitor forage intake when grazing wheat for 15, 30, or 45 minutes. Steers consumed about half as much in 15 minutes as in 45 minutes (1.7 lb dry matter versus 3.2 lb). Crude protein content of the wheat was 27 percent (DM basis). So, 15 minutes grazing resulted in 0.45 lb crude protein consumption. In 45 minutes, CP consumption was 0.85 lb. Relative to CP levels of common supplements, 15 minute grazing equaled (as-fed basis) 1.33 lb cottonseed meal pellets or 2.5 lb 20% breeder cube. In 45 minutes, the equivalent consumption was 2.5 lb and 4.75 lb. Just a little grazing can provide a lot of protein, certainly important if the amount of available wheat pasture is low. (Noble Foundation Ag News & Views, Jan., 2001)

Since 1976, the Livestock Marketing Information Center has estimated annual cow-calf returns less cash costs, including an allowance for fair market pasture lease. Returns are usually highest during initial periods of rebuilding the nation’s cow numbers. Such a high was reached in 1991, when returns averaged about $78/cow. But by 1996, returns were negative, about $90/cow. Conditions improved after that, reaching $7/cow in 2002, $86/cow in 2003, and $148/cow in 2004. Last year, returns decreased slightly, to $139/cow. Cow numbers are reported to be increasing, reversing the trend of the longest cattle-numbers cycle ever recorded. What will 2006 hold? The experts predict another good year, though how good remains to be seen.

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