Beef Cattle Browsing – January


While some beef packing plants have been closed over the last few years a new one is planned. However, it’s in Idaho. Caviness Beef Packers, based in Hereford, TX is partnering with J. R. Simplot Co. in building a plant in Kuna, Idaho. The plant will be capable of processing up to 1700 head/day and is expected to open in the fall of 2016. The plant will primarily utilize cull dairy cows from the Pacific Northwest and cull beef cows from the entire northern Intermountain region.

(Texas Cattle Feeders Newsletter of 1/9/15)


Samples were obtained from 2285 cattle (sired by 155 sires) finished on high-concentrate rations in California, Colorado, Iowa, or Texas. Carcasses were evaluated for marbling score, intramuscular fat content, machine shear force, and taste panel evaluation of tenderness, juiciness, and connective tissue. Heritabilities for those traits (in the same order) were 0.67, 0.38, 0.19, 0.18, 0.06, and 0.25. Genetic correlations with marbling score were 0.57 for tenderness, 1.00 for juiciness, and 0.49 for connective tissue; genetic correlations for those traits with intramuscular fat and shear force were similar to those with marbling.

These values indicate genetic selection for marbling should be beneficial for improving eating qualities. However, phenotypic correlations, as opposed to genetic, were not nearly as high, leading the authors to conclude that “marbling, used by industry as the major driver of quality grading and often used directly by consumers as an indicator of quality, is not a reliable predictor of eating satisfaction”.

(J. Animal Sci. 93:21; Univ. of Florida, Iowa St, Univ., Texas Tech Univ., Oklahoma St. Univ.)


A group of 213 spring-born, mixed-breed steer calves obtained from auctions were placed on feed in early November initially weighing 647 lb. All steers were managed in the same pen, with feed consumption measured on each individual. Each steer was tagged with a radio frequency transponder to monitor feeding behavior. Cattle were treated for internal and external parasites and vaccinated for clostridial diseases, H. somnus, BVD Type 1 and 2, PI3, and BRSV, and administered a long-lasting oxytetracycline.

For the first 35 days on feed, cattle were visually monitored morning and at noon for reluctance to move, crusted nose, nasal or ocular discharge, drooped ears or head, and gaunt appearance. Suspicious cattle were pulled and blood samples taken. Individuals with rectal temperature ≥ 104 F. or with severe signs of sickness were treated with an antibiotic and if there were no signs of improvement in 4 days with another antibiotic. Cattle were returned to the pen if temperature was below 104 F. and no severe sickness was detected. Cattle were considered to be have true BRD at pulling if there were ≥2 clinical signs, temperature was >104 F., or serum haptoglobin was above 0.15 mg/ml.

Cattle which consumed more feed during each time at the trough, visited the bunk more frequently, and had more time between visits to the bunk were less likely (P > 0.001) to develop BRD 7 days before visual identification of clinical symptoms. The authors concluded that these three characteristics of feeding behavior “had merit to predict the hazard of BRD in feedlot cattle 7 days before visual detection and could be used to develop predictive algorithms for commercial application in feedlot settings”. NOTE: Experienced feeders have long known that behavior can be a guide to subsequent sickness. This research documents some specific behavioral factors involved and suggests how they might be quantified into reliable predictors.)

(J. Animal Sci. 93:377; Univ. of Calgary, AB, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Lethbridge, AB)


Data were analyzed from 6834 cattle. Represented were British beef breeds (Angus, Hereford, and Red Angus), Continental European breeds (Charolais, Gelbvieh, Limousin, and Simmental), MARC III composites (1/4 each Angus, Hereford, Red Poll, Pinzgauer), and all possible first crosses among these.  Heterosis (sometimes called hybrid vigor) was calculated for birth, weaning, and yearling weight. For birth weight, heterosis was highest for crosses between British and Continental breeds followed by crosses among Continental breeds and then crosses among British breeds. The same ranking held for weaning weight. However, heterosis for yearling weight was highest for crosses among British breeds followed by crosses between British and Continental and then among Continentals. The authors indicated there were some differences in breed-specific crosses that might be exploited. But, in general, as has been found in most studies, heterosis was highest in cattle least genetically related.

(J. Anim. Sci. 93:46; U. S. Meat Animal Res. Ctr. at Clay Center, NB)


A monthly survey is conducted of attitudes and actions regarding food. In December, 2014, compared to one year earlier, consumers spent 3.9% more for food at home and 12.6% more for food away from home. Food at home comprised 66% of total dollars spent. In the future, consumers expect to buy more chicken than beef (and even less pork) and plan to eat out less. They expect beef, chicken, and pork to increase in price.

Across the board, consumers have become more aware of food issues, especially swine gestation crates, genetically modified organisms (GMO), E. coli, and salmonella, but there is decreased awareness of hormone issues. Compared to merely being aware of an issue, consumers are more concerned with poultry cages and less concerned with GMO and salmonella.

Consumers value taste, safety, and price as being most important in food purchases. Taste has become more important and nutrition less important. Interestingly, of factors affecting food value, animal welfare, naturalness, convenience, origin, the environment, and fairness are not considered as important as taste, safety, and price. However, when given two options that would be more effective in addressing challenges regarding food, 76% favored “a more ‘natural’ agriculture production system with more local, organic, and unprocessed crops and food” while 24% favored “a more ‘technological’ agricultural production system with more innovation, science, and research in crops and food”.

Regarding possible new products, the following percentages of consumers said they would eat or drink:

  • hamburger from lab-grown meat – 19%,
  • pizza made from a 3D printer – 20%,
  • protein bar made from insect flour – 21%,
  • individually wrapped slices of peanut butter – 34%,
  • nutritional drink to replace eating – 35%,
  • bread made from GMO wheat to reduce nitrogen fertilizer – 39%,
  • an apple that does not brown after peeling – 46%,
  • milk in a carton that changes color according to freshness – 49%,
  • rice with higher levels of vitamin A – 65%.

(Oklahoma St. Univ, Food Demand Survey, Vol. 2, Issue 8)


Coat color in cattle has been thought to be controlled primarily by what has been termed the extension gene. This gene has three forms or alleles, black, red, and “wild-type”. The wild-type is characterized by reddish brown to brownish black coloration with a tan muzzle ring. Dominance of these alleles has been thought to be black > wild-type > red. So, an individual with one or both black alleles would always appear to be black. New research crossing Angus (a Bos taurus breed) and Nelore (a Bos indicus breed) indicates things are not as simple as thought, at least in such crosses.

Angus and Nelore were crossed to produce F1 progeny which were then mated, producing F2 progeny. Genetic evaluation revealed that F2 individuals with two black alleles appeared to be black and those with two wild-type alleles ranged from nearly yellow to nearly black as expected. However, individuals with one black allele and one wild-type allele exhibited various degrees of reddening, visually classified as from lightly black/ mostly red to solid black; this contradicts the exclusive dominance theory at this allele.

The researchers wondered if some mutation in the extension gene in the Bos indicus cattle may contribute to the red color. However, even though some variability was found in the extension gene, analysis indicated cattle with the same variability in the extension gene varied widely in degree of blackness; they concluded that the variation in the extension gene did not contribute to variation in degree of black in cattle with one black and one wild-type allele.

Further analysis identified three other genes that appeared to be associated with variation of blackness. The authors concluded that more in-depth analysis is needed to confirm the exact role of these genes, or possibly others, involved in the modification of black color in cattle influenced by Bos indicus inheritance. At any rate, black may not always be black.

(Genetics Selection Evolution 46:4; Texas A&M Univ.)


Some restaurants have declared they will use materials derived from sustainable methods of production. One of these is McDonald’s, which appears to be having some difficulty defining exactly what must done for their purposes to be sustainable. We all know the importance of Starbucks in the retail coffee business. But Starbucks sells things besides coffee, in its various concoctions, including meat, egg, and dairy products.

  • Starbucks recently announced they will focus on
  • supporting responsible use of antibiotics to support animal health,
  • eliminating artificial growth hormones and, for poultry, fast growing practices,
  • addressing dehorning, tail docking, and castration, both with and without anesthesia,
  • phasing out gestation crates for pigs and cages for chickens.

Starbucks plans to establish a global standard this purpose. Where an adequate standard does not exist or is not enforced, they will use standards set for their U. S. business as guidelines. If problems occur with a supplier, Starbucks says they will work jointly to resolve issues. However, “there are times when we halt business due to the nature of issues and until adequate resolution takes place”.

(Summarized from Starbucks press release, 12/18/14)

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