Beef Cattle Browsing – April 2013

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

Beef Cattle Browsing is an electronic newsletter published by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University. This newsletter is a free service and is available to anyone interested in beef cattle.  Media, feel free to use this information as needed and cite Texas A&M University Beef Cattle Browsing Newsletter, Dr. Steve Hammack.


The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled last year, in response to a challenge from Mexico and Canada, that U. S. Country of Origin Labeling violated WTO fair trade agreements and penalized U. S. imports from those countries. In response to the WTO ruling, USDA has proposed some revisions of COOL. Under COOL, there are four categories of product:

  • Category A – U. S. origin
  • Category B – Multiple countries of origin including U. S.
  • Category C – Imported directly for slaughter
  • Category D – Imported beef

Under the proposal, country of birth, raising, and processing must be used for all categories. So (using examples of countries), the following would be in effect:

  • for Category A instead of merely saying “Product of the U. S.” the new label would  state “Born, raised, and processed in the U. S.”
  • for Category B instead of saying “Product of U. S. and Mexico”, the new label would say “Born in Mexico, raised and processed in the U. S.”
  • for Category C instead of saying “Product of Canada and the U. S.”, the new label would say “Born and raised in Canada, processed in the U. S.”
  • for Category D instead of saying “Imported from Australia” the new label would say “Born, raised, and processed in Australia”.

Also, muscle cuts could no longer be commingled, so the meat in a package of ground beef would have to come from the same category, and be labeled accordingly. Several cattle organizations, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, have objected to the proposal as requiring new, costly record keeping and also being unlikely to satisfy the WTO ruling. USDA must do something by May 23, 2013, when penalties on trade could be imposed by the WTO.


Animal welfare concerns increasingly affect beef production, and could conceivably affect implementation of some management practices. A study evaluated use of an injectable local anesthetic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in 3-month-old bull calves. Eight treatment groups included controls, dehorned, castrated, or dehorned and castrated, with or without pain relief.

Both surgical procedures significantly increased physical signs and blood chemistry indications of pain and reduced time spent eating; all of these effects were significantly decreased by administration of pain relief. Could such treatment one day be generally recommended or even mandated? Time will tell.

(J. Animal Sci. 91:935; Texas Tech Univ.)

Data were collected (during one week of each month from November, 2010 through November, 2011) from 17 federally inspected packing plants operated by 4 corporations. Through the use of instrument grading, over 2.4 million carcasses were evaluated, representing approximately 8.5% of national total fed steers and heifers. Notable results included:

  • Hot carcass averaged 817 lb, with 2% <600 lb, 3% >1000 lb;
  • Fat thickness averaged 0.54 in, with two-thirds between 0.33 in and 0.76 in;
  • Ribeye area averaged 13.7 sq in, with two-thirds between 12.0 sq in and 15.4 sq in;
  • Yield Grade averaged 2.86, with 16% YG1, 41% YG2, 34% YG3, 8%YG4, 1% YG5;
  • Marbling averaged Small49 (Low Choice) with 3% Prime, 23% Mid-High Choice, 39% Low Choice, 32% Select (recent industry data show higher Quality Grades);
  • Heifers had higher Quality Grades than steers, dairy had higher QG than non-dairy.

(J. Animal Sci. 90:5152; Texas A&M Univ., Pennsylvania St. Univ., West Texas A&M Univ., Colorado St. Univ., Oklahoma St. Univ., California Polytechnic St. Univ., USDA-ARS, USDA-AMS)

A recent symposium addressed current thinking on development of beef heifers. Highlights included:

  • Heifers developed more rapidly before typical weaning age, especially early-weaned and on high concentrate diets, reach puberty earlier, but this may not be economical;
  • Developing heifers to 60-65% of expected mature weight for breeding at 14-15 months, as has generally been recommended, does not appear to be necessary for good levels of reproduction;
  • Reduced nutrition for a period immediately post-weaning does not adversely affect reproduction, and is more economical, if heifers receive adequate nutrition later for compensatory gain to reach 50-57% of expected mature weight by breeding and adequate nutrition during breeding;
  • Compared to being developed to 60-65% of mature weight, heifers developed to 50-57% of mature weight (as detailed above) weigh less at breeding, gain more during breeding, have similar conception rates, calve as early, weigh the same at calving, and have higher lifetime retention rates and greater longevity only if nutrition is adequate after development;
  • Heifers of low residual feed intake (low RFI = higher efficiency) are leaner which resulted in later puberty and time of conception, but the same was not found in heifers of high residual daily gain (RADG);
  • Heifers that are never nutritionally restricted up to breeding may subsequently not be as adapted to typical range/pasture conditions where most beef cow herds are maintained.

(J. Animal Sci. 91: 1321, 1323, 1329, 1336; Univ. of Florida, Texas A&M Univ., Montana St. Univ., Univ. of Nebraska, New Mexico St. Univ., USDA-ARS at Miles City MT, Southern Utah St. Univ.)

Years of research and field observation have demonstrated that high ambient temperatures are detrimental to reproduction in cattle. The effects are known to be less harmful in Bos indicus, as opposed to Bos taurus, due to a greater ability in general to regulate body heat. Part of the difference due to genetic type may rest on early embryonic development. Heat shock is more detrimental during early embryonic development. Recent research showed that the effect of heat shock on early embryonic mortality is lower in Bos indicus than Bos taurus.

(J. Animal Sci. 91:1143; Univ. of Sao Paulo, Brazil.)

NOTE: This is just one example of many that cattle types originating in hot environments are simply better able to function under such conditions than types originating in temperate environments. It’s usually better to work with nature than against it.

A recent report reviewed 39 research papers on effects of stocker management on subsequent factors. Highlights were:

  • Stocker management primarily affects on-feed weight;
  • On-feed weight is affected by age, stocker ADG, and length of stocker period:
  • Increased age or on-feed weight resulted in higher feed consumption, ADG, and carcass weight but lower feed efficiency, days on feed, marbling, and tenderness;
  • In yearling cattle grown on forage, higher growing ADG resulted in lower feed consumption, ADG, and days on feed but higher ribeye area and no effect on marbling:
  • Stocker cattle owners should concentrate on factors affecting that phase of production while those owning during both growing and finishing should consider maximizing returns over both phases, not just one.

(J. Animal Sci. 91:508; Noble Foundation, Univ. of Arkansas)


The third Grassfed Beef Conference will be held this year May 30-31 on the campus of Texas A&M University, sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Department of Animal Science. Topics include overview of the beef industry, defining natural/grassfed/organic, growing forage, forage-based nutrition, cattle types for grassfeeding, preventive herd health, handling cattle for wholesome beef, carcass fabrication, consumer expectations, and grassfed marketing, economics, and sustainability. For information and registration see .




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