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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
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Beef Quality Corner -- Retained Ownership Update

Livestock Update, January 2000

Bill R. McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, Virginia Tech

The latest shipment of cattle consigned to Virginia's Retained Ownership Program left Virginia on December 1 headed to Decatur County Feed Yard near Oberlin, Kansas. The 160 steers and 34 heifers were consigned by nineteen different producers.

The cattle were shipped from Dublin, Steeles Tavern, and Winchester. Before being loaded each steer or heifer was weighed and a feeder cattle grade assigned. A current feeder cattle value will be assigned to each head based upon graded feeder cattle sale prices. By determining an opportunity cost on each steer or heifer at shipment time, the actual profit/loss from retaining ownership can be calculated on each head.

Many producers often wonder how the Virginia ROP cattle perform versus cattle from other regions of the country. The table below compares the average of two shipments of Virginia ROP steers in the fall of 1998 with other cattle on feed at Decatur.

Table 1.

1998 Va. ROP
Decatur Co. Feed
Yard Average
Average daily gain3.03   3.00   
Feed efficiency6.146.30
Days on feed140161
Starting weight690672
Average treatment cost$2.74$1.56
% Death loss.93.95
Carcass weight709733
% Grading upper 2/3 Choice12.111.2
% Choice46.343.8
% Select39.641.1
% Yield Grade 13.18.9
% Yield Grade 268.962.5
% Yield Grade 327.628.5
% Yield Grade 40.00.1
Added carcass value over
current live base price

The above date would seem to indicate that the Virginia cattle are slightly earlier maturing with more potential to quality grade than the average cattle fed at Decatur. The modestly better feed efficiency of the Virginia ROP steers also resulted in a lower average cost per pound of gain. The average treatment cost of the Virginia cattle was nearly twice as high as the average and suggests that the Virginia producers need to look closer at their pre-shipment health programs.

When cow/calf producers in the Virginia ROP program or some other feedlot and carcass information program receive the print out on their first shipment of cattle, there is a tendency to start picking cows to cull. Some producers immediately begin to identify some cows to cull and others to laud based solely upon the feedlot and carcass performance data or whether the cattle made a profit during the feeding phase. The table below presents data from a set of 17 steers from one herd participating the ROP program and illustrates the need to look at the whole picture, both weaning and feedlot and carcass performance.

The column "Net Start Value" is a function of weaning, backgrounding program, calf feeder grade and current feeder cattle price and says much about the cow's performance. Based upon only that information the owner might get the idea to cull the dams of #119, 118, and 122 and he might start bragging on #117, 109 and 105.

When examining the "Feeding Profit/Loss" column, the feedlot consultant might want the owner to cull #105, 114, and 116, while lauding the efforts of #112, 121, and 117. The cow/calf operator considering custom feeding or an alliance partnership for the long run needs to look at the whole job down by the cow. The "Total Revenue per Cow" column simply adds the profit or loss from feeding to the net value of the calf at shipment time. Looking at this combined performance measure identifies the mothers of #114, 105, and 116 as suspect. The owner might not want to be too quick to pull the culling trigger on the dam of #105. When examining why #105 failed to make money on feed, we find that he spent time in the sick pen, probably not a genetic issue.

From a more practical standpoint, producers probably do not want to focus on individual cow culling decisions based upon feedlot and carcass data. The more useful course is to identify groups of cows, particularly breeds, crosses, daughters of particular bulls, etc. that are not working. The same can be said when examining the sires of the various groups of calves.

The next scheduled shipment of cattle in the ROP program is March 22 to accommodate producers who wintered their calves. In planning ahead, additional shipments of ROP cattle will be scheduled in late September and early December.

ROP Consignment Form

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