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

Loose Animals

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Loose animals can be livestock like cattle and horses or wildlife like deer and elk or even dogs and alligators. Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that vehicle-animal collisions are responsible for an annual average of 155 occupant deaths, and three out of four of these involve deer. These collisions also account for tens of thousands of injuries each year, according to the National Safety Council.

Trailer accidents, barn fires, escaped animals onto the highway, and animals caught in mud or broken through ice are all events emergency responder have been called to. Many districts do not have protocols, formal training or specialized equipment to rescue livestock. While the incidence of loose livestock is minimal in urban environments it can still happen. Loose livestock can be a frequent issue in some rural districts. Succession planning is a critical element of organization strategy. This relates to the Unites States Fire administration operational objective to Continue reading

Today, BQA Means More Than Just Needles in the Neck!

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

Simply becoming BQA certified is a start, but it isn’t enough anymore. Consumers want to be confident what we produce is nutritious, sustainable and humanely raised.

Do you remember when nearly everyone had a friend, neighbor or relative who had farm raised eggs, fresh from the farm raised meat, or milk straight from the cooler that you could make ice cream with? What about the days when no one questioned your livestock or crop management practices, didn’t question why you treated a sick animal with antibiotics in hopes of getting it well, and simply knew that if you were feeding it to your family, it was equally safe and nutritious for their family?

Unless you’re at least 40 or 50+ years old, perhaps you don’t.

Today, consumers are increasingly expressing concern for not only safety and quality in the foods they feed their families, but also animal health and the sustainability of the production systems their food’s raised in. These evolving consumer concerns have caused Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) to come to the forefront in most any recent conversation involving the future of our beef cattle market.

BQA originated in the ‘80’s due to injection-site lesions on cattle that started drawing the negative Continue reading

Eastern Ohio Beef & Forage School Begins October 2nd

The 2018 Eastern Ohio Beef and Forage School will consist of three consecutive Tuesday evening classes beginning October 2, 2018 at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station (16870 Bond Ridge Road Caldwell, OH 43724). Classes will be held from 5:30 to 8:00 PM and include a meal. The cost to attend is $25 flat rate for one or all three classes combined.

Call Guernsey County Extension at 740-489-5300, or complete this registration form to participate.  Please register by September 24.

  • October 2 will include Beef Quality Assurance Certification Training and Newborn Calf Care.
  • October 9 will focus on farm costs and profits with sessions on identifying and framing key factors in the cost of production and the cost of replacement cows.
  • October 16 will focus on forages and grazing with sessions on regenerating pastures after pipelines & winter feeding and improving water quality with forages.

Contact the Belmont, Guernsey, Monroe or Morgan County OSU Extension office for more information.

Beef and Forage Field Night

This year, in addition to researchers from The Ohio State University (OSU) showcasing their research, field night attendees will have the option to receive certification for Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) at the Beef and Forage Field Night at the Jackson Agricultural Research Station on August 23 from 5 – 8:30 p.m. Field night participants will be able to view the research plots and attend sessions that qualify for BQA certification. The research station is located at 019 Standpipe Rd., Jackson, OH 45640.

Dinner will be served at 5 p.m. and the program begins at 6 p.m. with BQA subject areas. Dr. Steve Boyles, Department of Animal Sciences, OSU, will Continue reading