Beef Cattle Browsing – December 2004

Beef Cattle Browsing

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

December 2004

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.

It has been generally recommended that heifers be developed to around 60 % to 65 % of their projected mature weight by first breeding. Nebraska researchers developed 240 spring-born British-Continental crossbred heifers to either 53% (L) or 58% (H) of projected mature weight before breeding. Feed costs were $22/hd higher for H. At the start of breeding, H heifers were significantly higher in weight (689 lb vs 636 lb), Body Condition Score (6.0 units vs 5.6 units), and percent cycling (85% vs 74 %). However, there was no significant difference between H and L in percent pregnancy over the first 45 days of breeding, birth date of calves, calf birth weight, calving difficulty score, rebreeding percent, or calf weaning weight. These similarities in performance continued through second and third calves. (J. Animal Sci. 82:3094)

In the same report summarized above, 146 summer-born heifers were developed to approximately 60% of mature weight before breeding. Breeding began either August 5 (B) or at the same time, September 5 (S), as mature cows. Development costs for B were $11/hd higher. At breeding, S heifers were significantly heavier (by 24 lb) and larger in pelvic area (by 6 sq cm), but there was no significant difference in percent cycling at breeding or percent pregnant over 45 days. B heifers experienced significantly more calving difficulty (scoring 1.20 vs 1.0 on a scale of 1 to 5) even though calf birth weight did not significantly differ. Since all calves were weaned at the same time and B averaged 30 days older, B were 70 lb heavier in actual weaning weight and 22 lb heavier in adjusted 205-day weight. There was no significant difference beyond first calving between B and S in any reproductive or calf traits, except that B cows were significantly heavier (29 lb) by the time their third calves were weaned. First rebreeding averaged only 80%, which the authors attributed to diminished forage quality during breeding in September-October. (J. Animal Sci. 82:3094)

Here is some additional information, from the reports summarized last month, on factors affecting price (other than health/backgrounding management) in Superior Livestock video auctions. Data were analyzed from six auctions held from June to October of 2003 that included 386,190 head sold in 3,150 sale lots. All animals met requirements of one of the four Superior Livestock Value-Added Health Programs. Average lot size was 122.6 head, ranging from 50 to 850; average weight was 555.2 lb, ranging from 360 to 800; average price was $100.24/cwt, ranging from $79.85 to $134.25. A number of factors significantly influenced price. Steers brought $8.03/cwt more than heifers. Compared to lots originating from the South East region, Rocky Mountain/North Central brought $6.03/cwt more, West Coast $3.10 more, and South Central $3.06 more. Compared to “cattle with ear”, British/British crosses brought $3.98/cwt more and British-Continental crosses $2.55 more. Compared to lots called “very uneven” in weight, “uneven” lots brought $1.68/cwt more and “fairly even” lots brought $2.56 more. Dehorned/polled lots brought $1.32/cwt more than horned/tipped. Compared to lots medium heavy to heavy in flesh, medium brought $0.50/cwt more and light medium to medium $1.65 more. Compared to lots that were medium frame score, medium to medium large brought $0.68/cwt more and medium large to large $0.75 more. The only factors studied that did not significantly affect price were source (home-raised or purchased) and growth implants (yes or no). (Pfizer Animal Health Tech. Bul. SV-2004-01, June 2004)


Florida researchers compared performance of Brahman X Angus (B) females with that of Senepol X Angus (S) and Tuli X Angus (T). For 3- to 8-year-old dams, bred to Charolais sires, birth weight of calves from B (76.8 lb) was statistically significantly lighter than from S (84.5 lb); T (79.0 lb) did not differ significantly from B or S. Assisted birth for B (1.3%) was significantly lower than for T (8.4%); T (6.7%) did not significantly differ from B or S. Calf weaning weight out of B (592 lb) was significantly heavier than S (539 lb), which was significantly heavier than T (513 lb). At weaning, B calves were 1.2 inches taller than S and 1.7 inches taller than T. Weaned calf crop percent (calves weaned/cows exposed) out of B (86.1%) and T (86.5%) were significantly higher than S (70.2%). Mature (7-year-old) weight of B dams (1235 lb) was significantly heavier than S (1184 lb) which was significantly heavier than T (1128 lb). So, considering weaning weight, weaning percent, and calculated nutritional maintenance requirements of dams, B were 7.3 % more efficient than T and 30.5% more efficient than S. In this study of F1-Angus crossbred dams, Brahman were superior to those of two tropical-adapted non-Bos indicus breeds. (J. Animal Sci.82:2764)

In September of 2003 the spread between Choice and Select beef exceeded $30/cwt carcass. As recently as May of this year it was over $20, but by July it was below $3 and is now around $6-7. Such wide fluctuations are not unusual in the price of commodities, but what is the general trend? There has been a great deal of emphasis in the past few years to increase carcass quality grade. It may be working. According to the Seedstock Digest, James Minert of Kansas State University says that the percentage of cattle grading Choice or Prime was 50.6% in 2001, 51.8% in 2002, 52.4% in 2003, and 53.9% for the first nine months of 2004. Response of feeders to profit and loss also can affect carcass grade. Dr. Ted McCollum, Texas A&M Center – Amarillo, points out that feeders were making a lot of money last fall, cattle were being marketed quickly, some were “green”, the percent Choice dropped, and the Choice-Select spread widened. Recently, packers have not been as aggressive, feeding margins have been negative, feeders have been reluctant to sell, more cattle have been fed longer so percent Choice has increased, and the Choice-Select spread has narrowed. Regardless of the factors involved at any point in time, it seems the Law of Supply and Demand has not been repealed. (Seedstock Digest, 10/18/04; Ted McCollum personal communication, 10/29/04)

Comments are closed.