Beef Cattle Browsing – July 2008

Beef Cattle Browsing

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

July 2008

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 54th Annual Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course will be held on the campus in College Station on August 4-6. A variety of topics affecting beef cattle production will be discussed.

That’s the title of a recent report issued by The American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute on the shopping habits of people who buy meat. About 2/3 of shoppers visit conventional supermarkets to purchase groceries and that’s also where they buy over 90% of their meat and poultry. About 30% of shoppers buy groceries at supercenters, but they buy only 64% of their meat and poultry there, with most of the rest bought at supermarkets. Only about 3% of meat is bought at specialty butcher shops and 4% at warehouse clubs.

Price is by far the primary factor driving purchase of meat and poultry. About 70% of shoppers compare prices at different stores and almost 90% look at price when they’re in a particular store. Recipes, nutritional information, and customer assistance are minor factors.

About 30% of shoppers prefer certain brands of fresh meat but this rises to about 50% for processed product. About half buy in large quantities for freezing and later use. Most shoppers realize that meat is not cut and packaged in the store, but this does not tend to affect their perception of quality. About 80% of shoppers have access to a full-service meat counter in their store, but the majority of purchases still come from the meat case, except for specialty cuts or special occasions.

Shoppers average preparing evening meals with meat about four times each week. Over 85% prepare fresh meat at least once a week and over 50% do so three times a week. Beef and chicken continue to make up the vast majority of these meals.

About 20% of shoppers have purchased organic and/or natural meat in the past three months, and the 25- to 39-year-old age group is most likely to do so. Chicken is the predominant organic/natural choice of shoppers. These shoppers perceive organic/natural products to be more healthful and nutritious. (Summarized with permission of AMI and FMI)

Distillers dried grains plus solubles (DDGS) are a good source of fat and protein. South Dakota State University researchers studied the effects of DDGS on reproduction in pregnant 2-year-old heifers over two years. In the first year, 96 Angus-Hereford-Simmental heifers were evaluated, followed in the second year by a group of 105 predominantly-Angus heifers. Heifers were about 22 months of age and averaged weighing about 1070 lb. All heifers were managed in drylot for 90-100 days before calving and fed approximately 9 lb of ground 9% CP grass hay. In addition, about half received 6-6 ½  lb DDGS and the other half 7-7 ½ lb soybean hulls (SBH).

DDGS heifers gained 125 lb compared to 108 lb for SBH, but Body Condition Score changed little for either group. The groups did not differ significantly in calving ease, calf vigor, calf birth weight, calf weaning weight, expression of estrus, or pregnancy distribution. However, 94% of DDGS heifers became pregnant, compared to 84% for SBH. The authors concluded that DDGS was an effective supplement for heifers in late gestation. (J. Animal Sci. 86:1697)

University of Missouri researchers compared two fixed-time AI programs including 851 post-partum cows at two locations over two years. The CO-Synch + controlled internal drug-release (CIDR) procedure was used. This procedure involves administering gonadatrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and a progesterone-containing CIDR, then seven days later prostaglandin was administered and the CIDR was removed.  Cows were artificially inseminated either 54 or 66 hours after the prostaglandin treatment and were again administered GnRH at time of AI. Pregnancy rates were significantly higher for the 66-hour breeding, 67% versus 61% for 54-hour. (J. Animal Sci. 86:1519)

University of West Virginia researchers summarized results of post-weaning development on pasture of calves destined for marketing in West Virginia Beef Quality Assurance Sale marketing pools. Data were collected from 34 producers across three years. The average post-weaning period was 50 days. Nutrition consisted of grazing (primarily orchard grass, tall fescue, clover) and supplement (various combinations of corn, soybean hulls and/or commercial products) fed at average rates of about 5lb/hd/day (about 1% of body weight). Average daily gain was 1.98 lb/day, but ranged from 0.40 to 3.21.

Dr. Ted McCollum, Professor and Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at the Texas AgriLife Center in Amarillo, used results from the study to estimate the energy (TDN) required in grazed forage to achieve particular rates of gain.  Maintenance (no weight gain) required 51.5% TDN; 1 lb/day gain required 63.1% TDN; 2 lb/day required 74.7% TDN.  As a point of reference, the National Research Council Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle lists TDN content of some pasture/range grasses as follows:

  • Gramagrass, early vegetative – 60%
  • Gramagrass, mature -55%
  • Sudangrass, early vegetative – 70%
  • Sudangrass, midbloom – 63%
  • Wheatgrass, crested, early vegetative 75%
  • Wheatgrass, crested, midbloom – 61%
  • Wheatgrass, crested, post ripe – 49%

Note that, without supplementation, gains of 1 lb/day or higher would be achieved only on very immature grasses. (

It’s continuing to increase, but very slowly.  Fifteen years ago herds of less than 100 cows had a little over 50% of the total cow numbers. That’s now a little over 45%. Herds of 100-500 cows now have almost 40% of the cows, compared to a little less than 35% in 1993. Herds with over 500 cows have remained steady over the years with around 15% of the cows. (USDA)

Evidence continues to accumulate on the effect of ill health on feedyard performance and carcass merit. Iowa State University researchers and Certified Angus Beef ® staff studied those relationships in over 27,000 calves from 15 states fed at 10 feedyards in the Iowa Tri-County Futurity from 2002-07. Health status was classified as never treated at the feedyard, treated once, or treated twice or more. Distribution of those classes was 83%, 11%, and 6%, respectively. Results were as follows:

Trait No Treatment One Treatment Two or More Treatments
Average Daily Gain 3.21 lb 3.06 lb 2.95 lb
Days on Feed 170 179 183
Choice or Prime 72% 62% 53%
Standard 2% 4% 9%
Treatment Cost/Hd 0 $23.40 $54.07
Death Rate 0.1% 5.5% 14.1%
CAB® Acceptance 21.4% 17.2% 14.8%

(J. Animal Sci. 86, Supple. 2, Abstr. # 62)

Texas A&M University and Brazilian researchers compared measures of temperament and feed efficiency in Angus, Brahman, and Brangus bulls that averaged weighing 748 lb. Measures of temperament were velocity exiting a confined area (EV), frequency and intensity of movement while unrestrained in a chute (CM), and subjective chute behavior score (CS). EV tended to be negatively correlated with dry matter intake (DMI), average daily gain (ADG), and feed conversion ratio (FCR), but there was no relationship with residual feed intake (RFI). CS tended to be positively correlated with RFI (higher RFI = lower feed efficiency), but not with DMI, ADG, or FCR.

There were some differences among breeds. In Brangus, all three temperament measures tended to be negatively related to ADG and CM also was negatively related to DMI and FCR. In Brahman, EV was negatively related to ADG. But in Angus, there were no apparent relationships between temperament and efficiency. In general, poor temperament was related to lower performance and efficiency, especially in Brahman and Brangus. (J. Animal Sci. 85, Supple. 2, Abstr. # 89)

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