Beef Cattle Browsing – December 2007

Beef Cattle Browsing

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

December 2007

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.

The National Pedigreed Livestock Council has released data from their member organizations. The 15 largest beef cattle registries recorded at least 7500 animals.  No other association registered more than 3500.  Registrations of those 15 largest associations, and comparative numbers from 20 years ago, are shown below:

Breed 2007 Registrations Percentage of 2007 Total 1987 Registrations Change from 1987-2007
Angus 347,572 43.5 141,239 +146%
Beefmaster 18,202 2.3 35,091 -52%
Brahman 8,300 1.1 19,731 -58%
Brangus 25,097 3.1 27,755 -10%
Charolais 74,569 9.3 36,045 +107%
Chianina 9,270 1.2 9,397 -1%
Gelbvieh 36,222 4.5 16,429 +120%
Hereford1 69,344 8.7 171,409 -60%
Limousin 37,742 4.7 48,411 -22%
Maine Anjou 12,316 1.5 2,900 +425%
Red Angus 47,064 5.9 11,224 +419%
Salers 14,399 1.8 15.579 -8%
Santa Gertrudis 7,500 0.9 13,613 -45%
Shorthorn 19.700 2.5 19,557 +1%
Simmental2 52,258 6.7 76,375 -32%
TOTAL 779,555 100.0 644,755 +21%

1 horned and polled
2 includes Simbrah

Angus and Red Angus together had almost 50% of registrations. Breeds with the highest percentage increases from 1987 to 2007 were Angus, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Maine-Anjou, and Red Angus, although the Maines had very low numbers 20 years ago. Breeds with the highest percentage decreases were Beefmaster, Brahman, Hereford, and Santa Gertrudis.

By functional type, the four British breeds made up 62%, the seven Continental breeds 30%, and the four Brahman/American breeds 8%. Those respective figures in 1987 were 53%, 32%, and 15%. The increase in Angus/Red Angus can be at least partly explained by the advent of high-marbling marketing programs, which may also explain some of the decrease in Brahman/American.

Purebred registrations are about two percent of the nation’s beef cow numbers, which has not changed much over the years. According to the Council’s latest report, number of cattle registered per active association member is as low as three. The larger associations generally register more per member. But even the highest figure is 28 registered per member. Most members of registry associations have little impact on the genetic base of their breed. These members are essentially propagators of the genetics created by large, influential breeders. (Numbers from National Pedigreed Livestock Council 2007-2008 Annual Report.)

The USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service is soliciting comments on a proposed voluntary standard for a naturally raised marketing claim as a certified Quality System Verification Program.  Under the proposed standards, growth promotants from birth to slaughter are prohibited which includes “natural hormones, synthetic hormones, estrus suppressants, beta agonists, or other synthetic growth promotants.” Antibiotics are prohibited, including both therapeutic and low-level use of “sulfonamides, ionophores, coccidiostats, or any other synthetic antimicrobial.” Also, “feeding of mammalian or avian by-products is prohibited.” However, “vaccines, parasite control products, antibody preparations, and bloat prevention and treatment products can be used” and “vitamin and mineral supplementation is permissible.”

If adopted, this program “would not establish a new provision limiting the use of the term naturally raised.” That is, the term “naturally raised” could still be used even if some of the above restrictions are not followed, but without USDA certification. Also, this program would deal only with animal production practices, not the finished product or “natural beef.” Natural beef simply means the product has been minimally processed and contains no additives. If there is no ingredient label on a product, it is natural. So, there would be official USDA-certified naturally raised, naturally raised by whatever definition the producer chooses (not certified), and natural beef. Consumers could be even more confused.

Participation in this program would require submission to USDA of a naturally raised claim, which would require an audit of the production process. More information can be found at and comments on the proposal can be made at .(U. S. Federal Register 72:228, 11/28/07)

University of Illinois researchers studied the effects of limit feeding round bales of alfalfa hay from mid-September to mid-December to 72 dry, third-trimester Simmental cows. In the first year, cows were allowed access to 17.6% CP hay for either 3, 6, 9, or 24 hr/day. Hay consumption, in that order, was 11.9 lb, 18.7 lb, 20.0 lb, and 20.7 lb. Hay waste per day was 5.9 lb, 5.7 lb, 9.2 lb, and 13.4 lb. (There were no significant differences in waste as a percent of consumption.) Weight gain and body condition increased as time of access to hay increased. For hay priced at $80/T, access for 3hr/day compared to ad lib would save $1980 over four months in a 25-cow herd.

In the second year, access to hay (15.4% CP) was for 6, 9, or 24 hr/day. Consumption, in that order, was 19.6 lb, 22.4 lb, and 23.8 lb. Hay waste was considerably lower in this trial.  As in the first year, weight gain/body condition tended to increase as time of access increased, but the effect was not statistically significant. Across both years, the authors concluded that limiting access reduced hay loss while maintaining acceptable performance. NOTE: results might be different with hays other than alfalfa. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 23:366)

University of Arizona and VetLife Co. researchers used data from the Vetlife Benchmark Performance Program to study this question. Data included 175,256 lots (26.1 million head) of beef heifers, 212,011 lots (33.3 million head) of beef steers and 11,588 lots (2.3 million head) of Holstein steers. Result are shown below:

Item Heifers Steers Holstein
In weight 683 lb. 739 lb. 499 lb.
Out weight 1148 lb. 1262 lb. 1296 lb.
Feeding Period 163 days 164 days 289 days
Daily Feed Intake 18.9 lb. 20.2 lb. 18.2 lb.
ADG 2.85 lb./day 3.18 lb./day 2.76 lb./day
Feed:Gain 6.68 lb. 6.42 lb. 6.65 lb.
Cost of Gain $0.56/lb. $0.53/lb. $0.58/lb.
Death loss 1.45% 1.33% 2.75%
Choice and up1 61.6% 49.1% 57.5%
Yield Grade 1 & 2 55.0% 62.8% 69.6%
Yield Grade 4 & 5 7.4% 4.5% 1.3%
Dressing Percent 64.0% 64.0% 61.2%

1Choice, Certified Angus Beef, Prime combined

Holsteins started on feed much lighter and were fed much longer.(In desert Southwest feedyards, Holstein in-weights averaged only 322 lb compared to 570 lb in Central Plains yards.) Compared to beef steers, Holsteins ate less per day, gained less per day, were less efficient, and had higher cost of gain. Holsteins had lower dressing percent and better Yield Grades. Quality Grade for Holsteins was between beef heifers and steers. The authors noted that the earlier and longer feeding practiced with Holsteins would be expected to increase Quality Grade. (Proceedings of the 22nd Southwest Nutrition & Management Conference)

Oklahoma State University researchers studied various supplements and different methods of providing an ionophore to cattle grazing wheat pasture. Two trials were conducted in successive years using steers initially averaging around 550 to 600 pounds. Unsupplemented controls were compared to steers supplemented with free-choice mineral only or with mineral plus the ionophore monensin. Another group had the mineral-monensin mix free-choice and were hand fed soyhulls at 4lb/hd every other day. The final group got a complete mineral-monensin-soyhull supplement also fed at 4lb/hd every other day.

Response to the supplements varied between the two years. (Other work has generally showed additional weight gain from ionophore and energy supplementation.) However, there appeared to be little difference between providing mineral-monensin free choice, along with hand-feeding soyhulls, or including it with soyhulls to be hand fed as a complete supplement. The authors concluded that “the method of delivery (separate packages vs. a single package) for energy, monensin, and mineral supplementation is not important.” (J. Animal Sci. 85:3470)

The 2007 National Meat Case Study, funded by the Beef Checkoff, examined changes and trends in retail meat merchandising. The study included over 123,000 packages in 121 stores in 48 metropolitan markets in 34 states. Compared to a similar 2004 study, in 2007:

  • fresh meat occupied 66% of the self-serve meat case linear feet, up from 63%
  • beef and ground beef’s share of case linear feet (19% and 8%, respectively) did not change
  • average number of beef items decreased slightly but increased slightly for ground beef
  • more whole muscle and ground beef packages were case ready
  • about one-fourth of heat and serve packages were beef
  • more beef packages had added flavors or ingredients
  • more whole muscle and ground beef packages had on-pack nutrition labels and natural claims
  • the most common natural claims were antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and vegetarian-fed
  • more whole muscle and ground product was store-branded


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