Beef Cattle Browsing – October 2013

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

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.


Use of antibiotics in livestock is often blamed for increasing antibiotic resistance in humans. A recent joint report ( by the United Kingdom Department of Health and the Department for Environmental Food & Rural Affairs indicated the main cause of such resistance in humans is antibiotic use in humans. A report ( by the U. S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention “connects antibiotic use in animals and drug resistant infections in humans” but “the most urgent threats are posed by antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals as a result of heavy antibiotic use there”.


Angus steers initially averaging 905 lb were either 1) grazed on mixed species pasture for 84 days followed by ryegrass-clover pasture for 219 days or 2) fed in drylot on 80%-corn ration for 168 days. Results were:

     Trait     Grain     Grass
ADG, lb        2.95        1.68
Final weight, lb       1410       1353
Dressing %        63.1        58.4
Fat cover, in        0.51        0.40
Ribeye area, sq in        14.4        12.6
Yield Grade         3.6         3.0
Quality Grade    low Choice    high Select

All of the above except final weight were significantly different.  Grass-finished steaks were significantly more tender. But there were no significant differences in taste-panel juiciness, flavor intensity, flavor quality, or overall palatability; grain-finished tended to have slightly more intense, more desirable flavor.

Cost of gain was $0.07/cwt less for grass finishing. Based on the economic analysis in the paper, if a carcass price premium of 8% could be realized for grass finishing that system resulted in $62/head more profit.  However, without any premium grain finishing was $25/head more profitable.

(Prof. Anim. Sci. 29:298; Univ. of California)


Considering all the factors involved, it should not be surprising that financial returns from feeding cattle are not consistent. A recent report on Kansas feedyards showed how inconsistent returns actually have been. From January, 2002 to July, 2013 cattle have lost money in 88 months and made money in 50 months. The average from feeding steers was a loss of $38.43, with a range of $293.59 loss to $308.54 profit. Average from heifers was a loss of $25.41, with a range of $274.24 loss to $289.39 profit.

The longest sustained periods of loss were 18 months in late 2008 to early 2010 and 15 months from early 2012 to mid 2013. The longest sustained periods of profit were 15 months from early 2003 to early 2004 and 14 months from early 2010 to early 2011. Slight profit is projected for October and November closeouts.  NOTE: These figures are based on cash marketing and no risk management.

(; Kansas St. Univ.)


522 Angus steers and 395 Charolais steers were used to determine accuracy of DNA markers in predicting Residual Feed Intake. When the predicting and predicted groups were more closely related, accuracy was 0.58 for Angus and 0.62 for Charolais. When there was minimal pedigree relationship, accuracy was 0.29 for Angus and 0.38 for Charolais. Pooling data from the two breeds resulted in accuracy of 0.31 for Angus and 0.43 for Charolais. But when data from one breed were used to predict in the other, accuracy decreased to 0.10 to 0.22 depending on the prediction method. So, as has been shown in other research, utility of DNA markers is highest when the predicting and predicted groups are more similar.

[J. Animal Sci. 91:4669; Univ. of Alberta, Univ. of Guelph, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Lacombe, AB), Colorado St. Univ.]


We all know cattle of the same weight are not priced the same. As an example, before the federal government shutdown on market reports the most recently available price range, in late September, for 600-700 lb steers at the Oklahoma City market was $149.50-$172.00. Many factors enter into price including such things as type/breed, color, health, horns, etc. A factor not mentioned as often as these is age. My colleague Dr. Ted McCollum at the Texas A&M Center in Amarillo noted some recent figures from the Apache, OK, auction. Of cattle of similar weight, those identified as calves averaged about $9/cwt lower price than those identified as yearlings, which are generally healthier and often come with more efficient, compensatory gain compared to calves.


Liquid feed for beef cows is typically delivered by free-choice lick tank. Two studies evaluated adding liquid feed to hay. In the first study, 191 mature, dry, pregnant, wintering Angus cows received for 77 days either: 1) free-choice 35% CP liquid, 2) the same liquid added to bales at 10% of bale weight, or 3) 2.75 lb/day distillers dried grain plus solubles. The second study included 160 Angus and 20 Brahman X Hereford mature, dry, pregnant, wintering cows which received for 52 days either 1) free-choice liquid, 2) liquid added at 10% bale weight, or 3) liquid added at 15% bale weight.

Liquid feed was added by tipping bales on end, pouring liquid into the end, keeping in place for 8 hours, and turning bales back on side. All cows received free-choice approximately (dry-matter basis) 9% CP, 45% TDN bermuda grass hay. When fed, hay was 1½  to 2½  years old and had been stored uncovered on dirt or asphalt surface. Hay was fed in pipe round bale feeders with feeding space of approximately 1.5 linear feet per cow.

Change in weight and Body Condition Score was not consistent across treatments and studies. However, there were some statistically significant differences in hay waste. In the first study, hay waste from free-choice liquid (23.5%) was significantly higher than poured liquid (18.3%); DDGS (21.6%) did not differ significantly from the other treatments. In the second study, waste for 10% liquid (26.8%) and 15% liquid (23.9%) did not differ significantly but free-choice loss (31.7%) was significantly higher than both poured levels. The authors concluded that the pour method could reduce cost in supplementing beef cows.

(Prof. Anim. Sci. 29:552; Louisiana St. Univ.)


Some concerned with animal rights object to castration and the accompanying pain. Two studies investigated the effect of pain reduction at castration. In the first study, 3-4 month old Angus calves averaging 299 lb were either: 1) not castrated, 2) surgically castrated, or 3) surgically castrated and administered a combination anesthetic, hemostatic, antiseptic product currently approved in Australia for lambs. In this experimental study in calves, the product was applied to exposed spermatic cords before removal of testes. Based on two different measures of pain, the anesthetic rapidly reduced pain for up to 24 hours.

(J. Anim Sci. 914945; Univ. of Sydney, Australia)

In the second study, 127 Angus and Charolais-cross 8-month-old bull calves averaging 682 lb were either: 1) band castrated, 2) band castrated and treated with meloxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can be approved by veterinarians under extra-label use regulations, or, 3) sham castrated, i. e., handled the same as group 1 above but not castrated. Non-castrated calves gained more, but the study only ran for 28 days. Based on several methods of assessment, the drug treatment did not significantly reduce pain.

(J. Animal Sci. 91:4965; Colorado St. Univ., Iowa St. Univ.)


The World Trade Organization, at the request of Canada and Mexico, has established a compliance panel to review U. S. Country of Origin Labeling. Meanwhile, if nothing changes, the recently approved revised rules (eliminating commingled labeling of cuts from different countries of origin) will go into effect on November 23. And the WTO could sometime thereafter impose restraint of trade tariffs on some U. S. products, agricultural and not.

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