Feed Lot

DEC 2017

Feedlots and cow/calf operations in the beef industry who feed 500 or more has annually on grains and concentrates; maintain 500 or more beef cows; backgrounder, stocker/grower, preconditioner; veterinarian, nutritionist, consultant

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After years of trying to improve beef cattle, have we made enough progress yet? That question was asked and answered in the 2016 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA), the most recent since 2011. For those waiting for the answer, it's still "no," Mark McCully says. The Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB ® ) brand's vice president of supply says cattle are better, but there's plenty of room for improvement. The NBQA cites a lost opportunity of $15.75 per head in quality grade alone. "From our vantage point, we think it's bigger than that," McCully says. "Our demand curve would sure support that." A glance at actual beef grades vs. the NBQA targets of 5% Prime, 35% Premium Choice, 35% Low Choice, 25% Select and no Standards could lead some to pro- claim, "Mission accomplished." McCully sees more to achieve and says ranchers have the tools and beef ge- netics to do it. "We can still get better," he says. "Anything throughout the management of that ani- mal that sacrifices quality grade is an economic loss to the whole beef enterprise," McCully says. Along with weekly grading reports, the periodic NBQA results document quality-grade progress through the beef production chain: 71% of cattle hit Prime and Choice targets in 2016, the most in audit history, compared to 49% in 1995. That's good news for the beef industry, says Jeff Savell, Texas A&M University distinguished professor of meat science. He's worked on the audit since its 1991 inception and says the vast majority of cattle pro- duced find a good home in today's market. As those cattle get better, though, the demand ratch- ets upward for even more of the better kind. "So it's a bit of a moving target," Savell says. "Five years from now, when the next audit is published, end users will have a new set of thresholds." Discounts need not overshadow premiums in val- ue-based marketing, he adds. Market timing may encourage overfeeding at times, but there's little reason to let cattle get too fat in an at- tempt to hit high-quality targets, Savell says. Not with today's cattle genetics. "The relationship between external fat and marbling is at an all-time low," he says. That's an opportunity, McCully says, for seedstock producers to use selection tools available to maintain upward pressure on marbling while creating more val- ue down the line. "As genetic designers of the cattle and as the people who manage them, we need to keep yield grade (YG) and cutability in mind. Same with carcass weight," he says. The NBQA best illustrates room for improvement through calculating lost opportunities in dollars per head [see table 1]. Quality grade made the largest stride forward, cashing in on an extra $14.69 since 2011, but YG and carcass weight losses grew by $6.98 and $4.41, respectively. 22 FEED•LOT  December 2017 National Beef Quality Audits Reveal Improvement, But Also Lost Opportunity MANAGEMENT Table 1 – Lost opportunities in quality issues for nBQa-1991, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2011 and 2016 (using 2016 prices) 2016 2011 2005 2000 1995 1991 Quality Grade -$15.75 -$30.44 -$26.62 -$29.66 -$33.23 -$33.14 yield Grade -$12.91 -$  5.93 -$15.60 -$15.53 -$10.20 -$22.19 Carcass Weight -$10.88 -$  6.41 -$  4.46 -$  3.44 -$  5.68 -$  4.52 Hide/Branding -$  0.84 -$  1.95 -$  1.90 -$  2.39 -$  2.67 -$  2.43 Offal -$  8.68 -$  2.57 -$  2.63 -$  2.82 -$  1.59 -$  0.99 Total -$49.06 -$47.30 -$51.21 -$53.84 -$53.37 -$63.27 By Laura Conaway SOURCE: NBQA 2016

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