Beef Cattle Browsing – June 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.


At least for now. The USDA issued its final order on mCOOL effective May 23. Any penalties for not complying will not be imposed for six months. The new regulations are essentially as proposed by USDA. Labeling will be more definitive as to country of birth, raising, and processing. To read the official USDA announcement go to

Supporters believe consumers want full origin information on labels and will pay more for strictly American product. Various sectors of the beef industry contend the new rules will be more difficult and costly to implement (and that any premiums will not be enough to offset costs) and will not satisfy the findings of the World Trade Organization on restraint of trade.

As a result of the USDA decision, Canada has asked the WTO to approve retaliatory tariffs on some U. S. products, including not only meat but also some grain and fruit products. Mexico is expected to take similar action. Since retaliatory tariffs are not necessarily limited to-in kind products, an American vegetable or fruit producer could object (and take political action) if export of his product is penalized by actions regarding another product. Restraint of trade issues can cut across many sectors.


Exogenous administration of synthetic bovine somatotrophin has been used by some dairy producers to increase milk production. However, because of unfounded concerns regarding human health, many countries prohibit its use and most U. S. retailers state they do not use milk from bST-treated cows. Since bST affects other hormones and physiological functions, researchers wondered if its administration might affect growth, puberty, and conception in beef heifers.

Fifty Angus heifers were weaned at an average of 208 days of age and 482 lb.  From then until breeding, one-half received injections of bST every 14 days. Approximately every 60 days, heifers were ultrasounded to estimate marbling, ribeye depth, and fat thickness. Treated heifers had significantly greater fat thickness, though ADG and final weight did not significantly differ and neither did marbling or ribeye depth. Significantly more treated heifers had attained puberty by the start of breeding, using estrus synchronization and timed AI. However, there were no significant differences in estrus synchronization rate or final pregnancy rate. (J. Animal Sci. 91:2894; Oregon St. Univ., Univ. Estadual Paulista of Brazil, Univ. of Missouri)


Almost all beef production begins with pasture/forage-based cow-calf systems.  “Conventional” or “traditional” beef production is usually assumed to involve grain finishing at some point after weaning. So, “alternative” production could be assumed to be anything not involving grain finishing. An April, 2013 34-page USDA report, “Alternative Beef Production Systems: Issues and Implications”, ( compares traditional and alternative systems. This publication summarizes USDA requirements for organic and grass-fed certification. “Natural” is defined by USDA only for product processing methods; a claim of “naturally raised” must adhere to no growth promotants, no antibiotics, and fed no animal by-products. Some highlights of the recent USDA report include:

  •  about 80% of U. S. beef is from grain-finished cattle; the rest is from culled beef breeding stock and dairy cows;
  • alternative systems generally incur higher production costs;
  • higher production costs may be offset by higher prices for product;
  • grain-fed beef is associated with higher marbling and tenderness but also higher fat;
  • higher USDA carcass quality grades can be difficult to reach under alternative systems that do not include grain finishing;
  • grass finishing requires long-term access to high-quality forages;
  • grass-fed (not finished) beef is similar to that from culled breeding stock/dairy cows,
  • it is possible to produce USDA-certified organic beef with grain feeding;
  • grass-fed beef has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but the amount of these compounds is very low in beef of any source;
  • cholesterol content does not differ in grass-fed or grain-fed beef;
  • some consumers associate alternative production systems with greater animal welfare;
  • some consumers are willing to pay more for alternatively-produced beef;
  • alternatively produced U. S. beef is currently about 3% of total but is increasing;
  • systems involving more time on pasture/forage increase greenhouse gas emissions;
  • alternative systems may offer economic possibilities under appropriate production and marketing situations.


For six consecutive years, purebred Angus and Charolais steers were evaluated for an average of 120 days on a high concentrate ration. Individual feed consumption was measured. Live weights were taken every 14 days and ultrasound measurements every 28 days. As expected, at the end of the study Charolais had larger rib-eye area, less external fat, and lower marbling.

Efficiency was calculated both as feed conversion (feed:gain) and residual feed intake (RFI). In this study, correlation within the two breeds between the two efficiency measures averaged 0.44 (phenotypic) and 0.60 (genetic). In both breeds, as has been found in many other studies over the years: 1) better feed conversion was genetically and phenotypically associated with higher ADG but; 2) there was essentially no relationship, either genetically or phenotypically, between RFI and ADG.

Genetic and phenotypic relationships were low in both breeds between either measure of efficiency and carcass traits. An exception was between RFI and fat thickness in Charolais, where more efficient RFI value (numerically lower RFI) was genetically, but not phenotypically, associated with lower fat thickness. This also has been found in some other studies, prompting some question as to whether more efficient RFI genetics could be related to lower fleshing ability in brood females, and possibly lower reproductive efficiency. However, Charolais are inherently leaner than Angus, so the relationship may differ in these breeds between fatness and reproduction in females.

(J. Animal Sci. 91:2067; Univ. of Alberta, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Lacombe, Colorado St. Univ.)


According to the World Watch Institute, in 2010 agriculture was the third largest source of GHG, after burning of fossil fuels for power/heat and transportation. However, from 1990 to 2010, emissions increased less from agriculture than from the other two sources. World Watch attributed this to improvement in energy efficiency by agriculture. On the other hand, World Watch, as with many other environmental groups, continues to blame pasture-raised livestock methane emission as a major problem and advocates lower consumption of meat and dairy products.

(, downloaded 5/13/13)


The 2007 National Beef Tenderness Survey revealed average aging time of steaks for restaurant use was 30 days, but with a range of 7 to 136 days. Almost one-third were aged for less than 14 days. Such variation can influence eating satisfaction. The report indicated that seasonal demand for steaks, which is highest in summer months, and consequent inadequate supply to meet demand may contribute to less aging before serving. One possible solution is to freeze beef after optimal aging of 14 days.

A study compared fresh ribeye rolls, strip loins, and top sirloin butts aged 14 or 21 days with the same cuts frozen after aging 14 days. Freezing procedures were: 1) blast frozen and quick thawed, 2) blast frozen and slow thawed, 3) conventionally frozen and quick thawed, or 4) conventionally frozen and slow thawed. One-inch thick steaks were mechanically tested for tenderness (by Warner-Bratzler shear force) and then prepared for taste panel evaluation. No significant difference existed between 14- and 21-day aging in shear force of either cut. Overall, the authors concluded neither freezing nor thawing method significantly affected shear force and taste panel results were similar to fresh, never frozen cuts. NOTE: Regardless of lack of differences as shown in this research, there is resistance among many consumers to purchasing frozen beef.

(J. Animal Sci. 91:483; Univ. of Nebraska)


Calf prices were compiled by Certified Angus Beef LLC at 10 auctions from 1999 through 2012, involving over 300,000 head sold in lots averaging about 20 head. Over that time, calves identified as Angus (compared to non-Angus) have continued to average highest prices and the premium has increased over time. In the fall of 1999 the average difference was $2.46/cwt; in 2012 it was $5.30/cwt. Note that“non-Angus” includes all others, which are not valued the same.

Data from Superior Video Auctions classifies breeding as primarily Angus, black and black white face, English and English cross, English-Continental cross, and cattle with ear. From 2000 to 2012, approximate price/cwt differences among those types decreased as shown in the following table:

               TYPE   2000   2012
Primarily Angus  $5.50  $4.50
Black and black whiteface  $4.00  $4.00
English and English cross  $2.00  $4.00
English-Continental cross  $2.00  $2.50
Cattle with ear   base   base







Angus calves, and those perceived to be Angus, generally sell at the top of the market.  However, in some markets, studies have shown other types can sell at the top also, especially some types of Angus crosses. Price variation can depend on a number of factors, such as year, region of the country, method of sale, and breed/type classification. (; Kansas St. Univ.)

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