Beef Cattle Browsing – May 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.

Cattle feeders, packers, food service/distribution/further processors, retailers, and government and allied industry representatives were asked to assess the status and progress of:

  • how and where cattle are raised,
  • lean, fat, and bone,
  • weight and size,
  • cattle genetics,
  • visual characteristics,
  • food safety,
  • eating satisfaction.

Food safety was rated as the most important factor affecting the industry, followed by eating satisfaction, for all sectors except feeders.  In fact, if food safety could not be assured, those sectors would not purchase product even at a price discount.  Feeders ranked how and where cattle are raised and weight and size as most important.  Visual characteristics were rated lowest in importance by feeders and packers; food service/distributors/further processors and retailers rated cattle genetics lowest. Across sectors, price premiums from 6.8% to 15.7% were willing to be paid, being highest for lean, fat, bone by retailers and lowest for visual characteristics by feeders.  (J. Animal Sci. 91:1907; Colorado St. Univ., Oklahoma St. Univ., Texas A&M Univ.)

Calves were: castrated at 3 months of age, 8 months of age, or left intact; fed on a high-concentrate ration; and slaughtered at 10, 12 or 14 months of age. Castration at either age reduced ADG and feed efficiency. Bulls had heavier carcasses, less carcass fat cover, higher percent lean, higher percent bone, and lower marbling. Compared to castration at 8 months, 3-month castrates had lower ADG, no difference in efficiency, slightly more fat cover, lower percent lean, and higher marbling. Cattle slaughtered later (fed longer) had higher feed consumption, lower efficiency, no difference in ADG, greater fat cover, lower percent lean, and higher marbling. Immediately after slaughter there were some differences in tenderness, but this was not true after aging for 7 days. NOTE: Bulls are often fed for slaughter in some other parts of the world. However, due to considerations of some management problems and lowered carcass quality, bulls are rarely finished in the U. S.    (J. Animal Sci. 91:1129; Spanish Institute for Agricultural Research)

Data were collected in 2000, 2005, and 2010 at 10 weekly auctions involving a total of 137,894 head. Some results were:

  • premiums for steers and discounts for heifers were highest in 2010;
  • percentage of horns declined over the years and discounts for horns increased;
  • percentage of large frames was 56% in 2000, 66% in 2005, and 60% in 2010;
  • from 2000 to 2010, percentage straight Angus increased by 160% and blacks by 69%;
  • premiums for black and black baldies were lower in 2000;
  • spotted and striped calves were more highly discounted in 2010;
  • fewer calves were sold as single lots in 2010 than 2000;
  • premiums for group sales were higher in 2005 and 2010 than in 2000;
  • discounts for full or tanked calves were higher in 2005 and 2010 than in 2000;
  • discounts for very thin calves were highest in 2010 and for fleshy calves in 2005;
  • discounts for fat calves were highest in 2000;
  • less than 5% of calves were identified as being not healthy;
  • premiums for preconditioned calves increased over time.

(Univ. of Arkansas Extension Beef Cattle Research Newsletter, March, 2013)

Prior research has indicated altering relative composition of ruminal volatile fatty acids toward propionate may affect reproductive traits. Possible effect of direct supplementation of propionate is not certain. Beginning at calving, two-year old females were individually supplemented twice weekly with 0, 80g, or 160g propionate salt. Supplementation had no effect on postpartum interval, percent starting estrous cycle before breeding season, conception rate to AI, total pregnancy rate, cow weight, cow condition, or calf weight. (J. Animal Sci. 90:Supple 3-333; South Dakota St. Univ.)

The beef industry continues to be challenged by often misleading information on adverse effects of beef on heart health. The American Heart Association certifies food products as being heart healthy with its Heart Check mark. To qualify, a product must be low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium and contain at least 10% of daily need for vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber.  Six lean cuts of beef now have the Heart Check mark. Source must be from carcasses graded U. S. Select. The cuts are sirloin tip steak, bottom round steak, top sirloin fry, boneless top sirloin petite roast, top sirloin filet, and top sirloin kabob.


Those born from 1980 to 2000 have been referred to as the Millennials. There are about 80 million of them in the U. S. This represents a significant number of potential and actual consumers of beef. What is known of their eating habits, especially beef:

  • they view food as a cultural and social adventure;
  • over half say they have trouble choosing items in the meat case;
  • over half have been disappointed in a beef meal, versus about one-third of Boomers;
  • many have trouble cooking steaks and even burgers;
  • about three-fourths of them want information on steaks and how to prepare them;
  • they tend to buy the same cuts, but would diversify if they knew more about other cuts;
  • almost 40% of them eat out during a month versus less than 30% of Boomers.

It appears more education of Millennials about beef could be good for the industry. (Summary of Beef Checkoff Research in Texas Cattle Feeders Assn. Newsletter, 3/15/13)

Maybe not. From 1984 to 2010, over 612,000 Nelore animals were evaluated for:

  • weaning body size, muscling, condition, and preweaning gain;
  • weaning index (combining the above four traits);
  • yearling body size, muscling, condition, and postweaning gain;
  • yearling index (combining the above four traits);
  • scrotal circumference;
  • mature weight (four-year-old).

Females were managed on pasture and salt/mineral supplementation. Those not conceiving during a three-month breeding period were culled. Sires were selected primarily for higher yearling index, along with soundness and scrotal circumference. Heritabilities ranged from 0.20 for weaning muscling to 0.44 for mature weight. Genetic correlation between weaning index and mature weight was 0.30 and between yearling index and mature weight was 0.31. However, genetic trend for mature cow weight was not significant.

The authors concluded that selecting on the yearling index, which combines weight, size, muscling, and condition, could have favorably affected the growth curve by increasing immature weight but not mature cow weight. NOTE: Though it was not evaluated in this study, due to the prevailing production conditions perhaps larger, heavier females conceived at lower rates, were culled, and so average mature weight of those remaining was lighter. (J. Animal Sci. 91:20; Sao Paulo St. Univ., Brazil)

Heavier calves bring in more dollars than light calves. Light calves bring more per pound than heavy calves. So, how much do you receive for extra weight?

During the last week of April, national price/cwt for steers averaged: 450 lb – $172.70; 550 lb – $157.74; 750 lb – $135.79. Going from 450 to 550 got $90.42 more. That is 52% of the price for 450 pounders. Going from 550 to 750 got $150.86 but that was for 200 lb so the increase per/cwt was $75.43. That is 48% of the price for 550 pounders. Looking back 20 years ago, price was a little over half what it’s been recently. Nevertheless, back then going from 450 to 550 got you 55% of the 450 lb price. Going from 550 lb to 750 lb got you 56% of the 550 price.

Except for unusual situations, regardless of how good or bad price is, adding 100 lb generally results in getting about 50-60% of the beginning price. Is that profitable? It depends, on what it costs to add the weight. But sometimes we forget that the next 100 pounds is not worth the price for the base weight.

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