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Management

Improvements in efficiency, carcass and immunity are highly sought by cattle feeders

Brighton, Colo. – If ranchers want to earn more money for their cattle, they need to upgrade their genetics and develop a solid management plan, according to Tom Brink, the founder of Brink Consulting and Trading of Brighton, Colo. 

Brink spoke about the genetic improvements leading to the development of these elite cattle during Beef Day at the Colorado Farm Show last week.

Genetics

“Producers, both seedstock and commercial, have worked hard on their genetics, and we’re seeing that at the feedlot level,” Brink told ranchers. “What I’m seeing overall is that the best end of the industry’s genetics are not just at the top of the bell curve, they are on a completely different bell curve than just about everything else. That isn’t something we could have said 10 years ago.”

Brink said more stockmen are investing in better genetics to qualify for special feeding programs to earn more dollars for the product they produce. 

“My friend Judd Butler, who runs the Gilcrest yard, said these high end cattle make all our old projections obsolete,” Brink stated. “These cattle finish at heavier weights 30 days earlier than the average calf.”

New options

The genetics that are available now were not an option in the past. Despite this, some ranchers are still producing poor cattle, Brink said.

“Ranching is a complicated business. There are many traits that are important. Cattle feeders are relatively easy to get along with. There are only a few things we ask for,” he mentioned.

Feeder priorities

Brink said the most important is cattle that will stay healthy. 

“We have a lot of technology, but we can’t build a lot of immunity in the feedyard,” he explained. 

Ranchers need to build immunity into their calves before they come to the feedyard, so they can withstand stress, comingling and a more intense environment than what they are used to. 

The consultant encouraged ranchers to keep the lines of communication open with the feedyard that purchases their calves. 

“Go back and talk to them in 60 to 90 days, and ask how healthy the calves are and if they are doing well,” he said. “Have a veterinarian talk to their veterinarian. Make sure there is communication because it can solve a lot of issues that come up.”

Efficiency and carcass

Feedyards also like to feed calves that can perform by gaining quickly and efficiently. 

“We manage the calves as much as we can, but it takes good genetics to do this,” he explained. “We don’t want a growth curve that goes on forever so the calf gets too big. We want to see a growth curve where the calf grows fast but levels out.” 

Ideally, a 750- to 825-pound steer placed on feed should finish at a yearling weight of around 1,400 pounds. 

Feeders like calves that will have a high quality grade when they are sold on the grid. Calves sold this way are valued according to carcass traits and value. 

“The quality grade drives the grid more than any other factor,” Brink said. “Cattle that grow and grade are winners.”

Ideal animal

After surveying several feedlot operators, Brink said they found the best performance cattle in their feedlots were close to being five-by-five cattle, meaning those that were five-pound gainers and five-pound converters, on a dry matter basis. 

Brink said these cattle can receive an additional $70 to $100 a head premium on the grid. 

“It is a total game changer in what those cattle are worth,” he stated. “The difference between average and the very best end is over $200 a head.”

“We see cattle all the time that can do this. We are comparing the middle of the bell curve to these elite cattle that will perform and have carcass traits,” Brink commented. “They are simply worth dramatically more than just about everything else.”

Valuable cattle

Brink told producers if they want to produce valuable commercial cattle, he recommends selecting genetics that fit their environment and management scheme but to balance those traits with above average growth and carcass value potential.

“We’re seeing more programs built around these very valuable genetics,” Brink said. 

“Producers won’t want to sell these better-than-average cattle at an auction, where no one knows their potential, for a very generic price,” he said. “They will be looking for ways to capture more value for the extra management decisions they have made to produce these elite cattle.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..