Beef Cattle Browsing – October 2009

Beef Cattle Browsing

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

October 2

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.

An analysis was conducted on projected effects of the proposed federal cap-and-trade legislation on agricultural producers. The study sample included 98 crop, livestock, and dairy operations in 28 states. Only 27 of the operations would benefit under cap-and-trade. The beneficiaries would be primarily producers of feedgrains and oilseed crops in or near the Corn Belt and wheat producers in the Great Plains. Most cotton and dairy producers and all rice and livestock operations would have lower net cash income as a result of cap-and-trade. (Texas AgriLife Research and Extension; Ag. and Food Policy Center Res. Paper 09-02,

Rate of gain, efficiency of gain, and payweight out of the feedyard are increased by using growth implants (estrogenic, androgenic, or combinations) and beta agonists fed the final weeks of finishing. In a 2007 study, implants added $71/hd value and beta agonists an additional $15/hd. However, these technologies reduce marbling, tenderness, and overall consumer acceptability and can increase frequency of discounted heavy carcasses and oversized cuts. So, they should be implemented by considering cattle type and market target. (Colorado State Univ.; J. Animal Sci. 87: Supple. 2, Abs. 229)

Unsubstantiated reports have indicated that nitrosamine, a by-product of nitrites and nitrates used in some processed meats, increases in adult humans the risk of glioma, a particular type of brain cancer. A recent study of 335 cases concluded there was no difference in incidence of glioma between subjects eating highest levels of processed meat and those eating lowest levels. In addition, neither vitamin C, vitamin E, nor other antioxidants affected risk of developing glioma. (Imperial College London, Harvard University; Am. Jour. of Clinical Nutr. 90:570)

Why do we put up hay for beef cows? Lack of winter forage is the most common reason along with occasional snow/ice, depending on the area. But if we have enough forage should it be baled or stockpiled for grazing? Some point to the potentially higher quality as a reason for haying. Dr. Ted McCollum, my colleague at the Texas AgriLife Center in Amarillo, recently did some calculations on this subject. He assumed that baled hay would be 6 percentage-points higher in TDN than the same forage if stockpiled and a cost of $30/T for cutting, baling, and moving hay. With those assumptions, up to $332/T could be paid for cubes to supplement the lower TDN in stockpiled grazing. Every situation is different and all variables should be considered. But maybe we should at least think about why we bale, and what we might do instead. (Ted McCollum, Ph. D, personal communication)

Ribeye area of more than 16 sq in is generally considered to be “non-conforming”. The basis of this is that a typical high-quality broiled 1- to 1/¼-inch-thick steak from the loin or rib of a carcass with large ribeye would be more than most people want to eat, or at least pay for. The 2000 National Beef Quality Audit reported that 5.3% of carcasses were over 16 sq in. The 2005 Audit reported 7.8%. Considering the steadily increasing trend in carcass weight, that’s probably even higher now. What about other cuts? Are all parts of a carcass with a ribeye area larger than 16 sq in “non-conforming”?

Cuts were fabricated from 14 muscles from carcasses with ribeyes ranging from 10.5 sq in to 18.0 sq in. In 7 of the 14 muscles, ribeye area did not significantly affect retail portion size or steak surface area. The authors concluded that ribeye area is not an accurate measure to determine total value of a carcass. In short, a measure used to determine the value of a cut used in high-quality steaks may unjustifiably lower the value of other cuts. This could be a particularly important factor in the types of carcasses where the loins and ribs are not destined for the high-quality steak market. (Colorado State Univ.; J. Animal Sci. 87:2935)

Cost per pregnancy is usually lower for natural service compared to AI. But that cost alone does not consider all factors affecting economics of these systems. A simulation study included:

  • herds of 30, 100 and 300 cows;
  • cow-to-bull ratios of 20, 30 and 40;
  • seven AI protocols.

As herd size increased, lower costs were more likely with AI. (With herd size of 300 and cow-to-bull ratio of 20, AI was less costly 83% of the time; with herd size of 30 and ratio of 40, AI was less costly only 5% of the time.) Costs favored AI as cow-to-bull ratio decreased. (At a ratio of 20 cows-to-bull, AI had lower cost 63% of the time; at a ratio of 30, AI costs were lower 46% of the time; at a ratio of 40, costs were lower only 14% of the time.

Economics favored AI from 33% to 49% of the time, depending on the protocol. Bull cost significantly impacted economics of natural service and semen cost was important in economics of AI. Premiums for genetic value were important in determining relative economic advantage of AI. In conclusion, with natural service, increasing the ratio of cows-to-bull, while maintaining conception rate, is an important factor to increase economic return. With AI, in general, value of calves must be increased to be an advantage over natural service. (Kansas State University; Prof. Anim. Sci. 24:588) 

It has been well documented that cattle of different types may not perform the same in different environments. American Angus Association data on postweaning gain were analyzed from the southeast (SE) and northwest (NW) regions of the U. S., involving over 40,000 records for each region from both spring and fall calving periods. SE had more fall calving records and NW had more spring. Genetic correlations between regions were higher for fall calving than spring. Correlations between seasons were higher for the southeast region. Correlation was 0.58 between spring NW and fall SE and 0.44 between fall NW and spring SE, both considerably short of 1.00. The authors concluded “it may be better for producers to select bulls based on performance in the calving season utilized in their production region.” (University of Georgia, Polish Academy of Science; J. Animal Sci. 87: Supple. 2, Abs.515)

At least to Canada and Mexico. Both have objected to mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (mCOOL) since it was implemented in the U. S. Now they have asked the World Trade Organization to rule on their objections. These two countries accounted for about 60% of our beef exports last year. The USDA says that labeling of origin has always been legitimate. But the response is that “origin” has meant the final place of manufacture. Under mCOOL, product from an animal born in country X, raised and slaughtered in country Y is labeled “Product of X and Y”, rather than product of Y as has been the usual system. One fast-food company has taken an interesting approach to designating origin. In a current television ad, the company indicates their burgers are made with “North American beef”. Time will tell what the WTO thinks about this dispute.

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