New Year, New Expectations for Beef

– Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, OSU Extension Noble County

If you have consistently, or even occasionally, read my column in 2018, you should be aware that there are changes in store for the beef industry as we ring in 2019.

Some segments of the beef supply chain will expect cattle producers to be certified in Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) at the turn of the year. Ohio State Extension has been working with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and the Ohio Beef Council to provide certification programs for interested producers across the state throughout 2018.

Certification programs will continue to be offered in 2019. Upcoming Ohio BQA training opportunities are listed here. Training can also be Continue reading

Is Your Herd Focused on Meeting Demand?

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County (originally published in The Ohio Farmer on-line)

Despite the higher price, consumers want quality, and are willing to pay for it!

To say the least, suggesting it’s been a wild ride on the path to profitability in the cow-calf sector during this decade is an understatement. Beginning in 2009-10 cattlemen saw the most dramatic increase in cattle prices ever. From there prices climbed to the point where we experienced historic highs just four years later. As would be expected, at the same time consumers were experiencing historic high beef prices in the meat case.

What might not have been expected was that while lower overall beef supplies were causing these historically high live cattle and retail meat prices, demand by consumers for premium priced branded beef continued to climb Continue reading

It Is a Matter of Trust

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

Changes on the horizon suggest that simply having the best PRODUCT is no longer enough, merely telling the best STORY is no longer enough, and delivering great CUSTOMER SATISFACTION is no longer enough. We must also elevate consumer TRUST.

Over the past week or so, two of the largest buyers of beef in the U.S. have placed stronger requirements for the beef they will purchase in the future. McDonald’s and Wendy’s have both announced major policies that no doubt have their customers and societal pressures in mind. These policies will surely have an impact on all facets of the beef industry.

McDonald’s has announced that they will be collaborating with suppliers and beef producers to measure and understand the current usage of antibiotics in their top 10 beef sourcing markets. They will establish reduction targets for medically important antibiotics for these markets by the end of 2020. Starting in 2022, McDonald’s will be reporting progress against antibiotic reduction targets across our top 10 beef sourcing markets.

McDonald’s stated overall approach to responsible use of antibiotics focuses on refining Continue reading

BEEF 509 Set for February 16 & 22, 2019

Dates have been set for the 2019 edition of BEEF 509.

BEEF 509 will take ‘awareness’ and quality assurance to a whole new level for participants!

The BEEF 509 program is held to raise the awareness level about the beef that is produced and what goes into producing a high-quality and consistent product. The program will take place on two consecutive Saturdays, February 16 and 23, 2019.

The part of the program held on February 16 will include a live animal evaluation session and grid pricing discussion. Carcass grading and fabrication are among the activities that will take place February 23. The program will take Continue reading

What Are We Doing For Our Customers?

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

“Today’s consumer appears to be more willing than ever to pay for quality.”

Few enterprises are as productive as American agriculture. The American farmer is very good at their specialization: efficient food production. Farmers and ranchers are at their best when it comes to using recommended practices and modern technologies to achieve profitable yields from their available resources. However, one area that the typical producer is not as comfortable with is the subject of marketing.

For any business to achieve long-term success, they must strive to satisfy the wants and desires of their customers. The beef industry is no exception to this concept. Our competition for the consumer’s protein purchasing dollars is a fierce battle with the pork and poultry industries. This battle takes place domestically and across the globe. How is the beef industry working to meet the needs of our customers?

Today’s consumer is more demanding about Continue reading

Changes in Carcass Grade Over Time

– Andrew P. Griffith, University Of Tennessee (previously published by Drovers online)

The beef industry, similar to other industries, is constantly attempting to be more efficient and create more value in the product produced. Most cow-calf producers concern themselves with reproductive efficiencies and pounds of weaned calf per acre of land. These two things are important because a cow-calf producer cannot afford to have very many cows fail to wean a calf, and these producers are in the business of selling pounds with a limited quantity of land. Similarly, stocker producers work to reduce morbidity and mortality rates while also trying to pack on as many pounds as possible with their forage and feed resources. Producers from both of these sectors also attempt to add value by instituting management practices that reduce risk to downstream cattle buyers.

The feedlot perspective is very similar to stocker and backgrounding operations with focus on feed efficiency and cattle health, but there is also interest in carcass characteristics. Regardless of the marketing method (cash, formula, grid, etc.), cattle will be priced based on the actual or expected yield grade (YG 1-5) and quality grade (Prime, Choice, Select, etc.).

Quality grade and yield grade are two aspects of beef production that may or may not be considered at the cow-calf and stocker producer levels. There are certainly Continue reading

Quality in the Cow Herd

– Justin Sexten, Ph.D., Director, CAB Supply Development

Market cows often represent 15% to 25% of the herd’s gross income.

When you think of a “quality” cow herd, I suspect you see easy-fleshing cows with 500- to 600-pound (lb.) calves, each born unassisted in a 60-day window. A dream to handle, docile in every case, never a stray missing the gate. Calves top the market and feeders fight over who will own them every year.

That’s a pretty good picture, but let’s widen the view to a quality survey reported by McKensie Harris and others in the 2106 Market Cow Report of the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA). It does not conjure picturesque or pastoral scenes, but there are some interesting quality trends to take in.

Market cows, the culls you sell, are a key source of lean trimmings to the beef supply chain and often represent 15% to 25% of gross income. However, the decision to sell a cow is not an active management choice in most operations. Commercial cattlemen “market” cows as a byproduct of the cow’s inability to remain productive, not because they want to increase income from cull cows.

That’s certainly different from the feeder and fed cattle scene. For one thing, those Continue reading

Know the USDA Cull Cow Grades Before You Send Them to Market

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University

Some culling of beef cows occurs in most herds every year. The Beef Audits have generally shown that cull cows, bulls, and cull dairy cows make up about 20% of the beef available for consumption in the United States. About half of this group (or 10% of the beef supply) comes from cull beef cows.

Whether we are culling because of drought or to improve the productivity of the herd, it is important to understand the values placed on cull cows intended for slaughter.

Cows in body condition score 7 and above are “Breakers”.

The USDA market news service reports on four classes of cull cows (not destined to be replacements). The four classes are divided primarily on fatness. The highest conditioned cull cows are reported as “Breakers”. They usually are quite fleshy and generally have excellent dressing percentages. Body condition score 7 and above are required to be “Breakers”.

The next class is a more moderate conditioned group of cows called Continue reading

Too Much, Too Early

– Justin Sexten, Ph.D., Director, CAB Supply Development

Fall- and spring-calving herd managers don’t often find themselves facing the same decision as those who buy calves for backgrounding, but this is one of those times. Should you implant the calves and if so, what product should be used? Answers will vary, of course.

It’s simple if increasing gain is the singular goal. Given adequate nutrition, the return on investment to growth-promoting implants makes it one of the best dollars you can spend. But let’s examine that given: are there adequate dietary resources to support the implant? Data suggests calves need enough nutrition to gain at least a pound per day to make any implant pay. Few operations plan for gains lower than that, but for those who try to hold calves back to change marketing windows, this may be a consideration.

Another reason implants may not make sense is a contradiction with your marketing plans, such as those who sell natural or non-hormone treated calves (NHTC) at a premium. Implanting would limit marketing to conventional outlets, where facts may not support perceptions. I hear of ranchers forgoing the calf performance from implants because they think non-implanted calves bring more in the everyday market, but there’s evidence to the contrary. Calves that are verified Natural or NHTC may Continue reading

Use Your Eyes and Records to Decide Which Cows to Cull

– Michelle Arnold, DVM (Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, UKVDL)

Bad hooves or claws are an example of structural problems that adversely affect performance.

Which cows in your herd are consistently making you money? Every year, the cow-calf producer needs to critically evaluate each animal in the herd and decide if she is paying her upkeep. Open cows (those that are not pregnant) at the end of breeding season obviously are high on the cull list. With variable costs running $400-$500 per year per head and an additional $100-$300 in fixed costs, keeping open cows is difficult to justify financially. Beyond pregnancy status, what other variables are important to evaluate? Structural soundness, body condition score, age, annual performance, and disposition are significant factors to consider when developing a culling order specifically for your farm. This culling order is essentially a ranking of the cow traits you consider most important for a cow to be productive on your farming operation. Culling is exceptionally important during times of Continue reading