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2002 Virginia ROP

Livestock Update, August 2002

Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, VA Tech

This fall, the Virginia Retained Ownership Program begins its ninth year of sending Virginia cattle to commercial feed yards to provide feedback for their owners. There will be a change in the cooperating feed yard in 2002. Steers will be sent to Southwest Iowa and fed through the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity program. The TCSCF is a cooperative program that includes several feedyards that custom feed and handle state-sponsored ROP cattle.

There will be two ROP shipment dates in the fall of 2002. A shipment on September 20 should suit the needs of fall calving herds and stocker cattle operations. A later ROP shipment on December 4 might better suit the calendar of spring calving cowherds. Only steers will be fed in the Retained Ownership Program in 2002.

With the industry movements toward more cow/calf operators retaining ownership in their calves and the increased importance of vertical alliances, more producers need information on how their cattle perform after weaning. The Virginia Retained Ownership Program was established to help producers learn more about custom cattle feeding and receive feedback on the feedlot and carcass performance of their cattle. The ROP program allows cattle producers to send as few as five head with other producers to learn how their cattle perform.

The ROP program commingles the calves of several producers into loads for shipment to the cooperating feedlot. At the time calves are delivered to the take-up points in Virginia, the calves are individually weighed, a feeder cattle grade is given, and a current feeder cattle price assigned to each calf. Once the calves arrive at the feed yard they will be allotted to pens and fed together. The feed yard will individually weigh the cattle at delivery, two weeks after delivery, at re-implant time, and at harvest. The cattle will be sorted into a minimum of two marketing groups per pen in an attempt to optimize the marketing endpoint of each steer. The cattle will be marketed on a carcass value grid.

The up-front expenses for participating producers include a $10 per head consignment fee. The consignment fee covers the costs of ROP ear tags, weighing the cattle at take-up, mailings, etc. The feedlot costs are financed until the cattle are sold. At closeout time, the consignors receive the value of the carcasses produced minus the feedlot costs.

Participation in the program allows producers the opportunity to receive individual feedlot performance on their cattle such as average daily gain, finished weight, health performance, etc. Carcass data collected includes carcass weight, back fat thickness, ribeye area, and quality grade. Consignors also receive interim reports on the progress of the cattle.

Analysis of the Virginia ROP profit history for cattle fed from December 1996 through December 2000 reveal that on average cattle feeding tends to be a break-even venture. Over the time period, there was an average loss of $4.62 per head which is very similar to industry-wide closeouts for the same time period. However, examination of the data reveals that the high profit third of the Virginia ROP cattle returned $88.57 per head to their owners. This profit was calculated by using current feeder cattle price at the time of shipment, trucking and feeding costs, interest charges, and individual carcass value of each calf fed. For producers who have made a strong effort to add value to their cattle through improved genetics and management, retaining ownership past weaning is a means of reaping financial benefit for these superior cattle.

Producers planning on consigning cattle to the ROP program should plan on weaning their cattle at least 30 days before shipment, conducting a complete vaccination program, and start the cattle on feed. Guidelines for a preshipment health program are available through the local Extension office. Consignment for the September 20 shipment should be made by September 5. For more information contact Scott Greiner at Virginia Tech, phone 540/231-9163 or email

Va. ROP Consignment Form PDF format

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