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Virginia Retained Ownership Program- Fall 2003

Livestock Update, August 2003

Scott P. Greiner, Ph.D., Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Virginia Tech

This fall marks the 10th year the Virginia Retained Ownership Program has provided the opportunity for cow-calf producers to attain valuable information concerning the feedyard and carcass performance of their cattle. Again this year, the VA ROP will cooperate with the Tri-County Futurity in southwest Iowa. The TCSCF is a cooperative program that includes several feedyards in Southwest Iowa that custom feed and handle state-sponsored ROP cattle. The TCSCF is coordinated through Iowa State University Cooperative Extension, with oversight provided by a board of directors comprised of cow-calf producers, veterinarians, feedyard operators, and extension educators.

Tentative shipment dates for cattle have been set for September 19 and December 5. Historically, the September shipment has consisted of fall-born calves while the December shipment has included primarily spring-born calves. Producers can send as few as five head of steers through the program. 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 or from the VA ROP coordinator.

The ROP program is designed to provide feedback to progressive cow-calf producers who desire information on the industry suitability and profitability of their cattle post-weaning. Participating producers will receive the following information on their cattle as well as group summaries for the whole shipment: average daily gain, estimated feed conversion, detailed carcass data (carcass weight, fat thickness, ribeye area, marbling score, USDA yield grade and quality grade), cost of gain analysis (feed, yardage, medical, and miscellaneous costs), and profit/loss closeout information on each steer. Retained ownership profit (or loss) for each steer was calculated as the difference between total carcass value and Virginia feeder calf value (based on grade and prevailing market price), less all feeding costs (feed & yardage, trucking, health, carcass data collection & program fees). Feeding costs are assigned on an individual animal basis, and derived from estimates of individual feed efficiency. An advance is available on consignments of ten or more steers. Progress reports on the cattle are provided at 35 days on feed and at re-implant. Progress reports contain interim weights and performance, health status, and projected harvest dates, market conditions, and other information to keep consignors informed.

During the finishing period, cattle are individually weighed at least four times. Each pen of cattle fed will be harvested on at least two different dates five weeks apart. The cattle are sorted for sale at finishing based upon several criteria. Two factors that primarily dictate the date of cattle marketing are fat cover (target .40 inch) and estimated cost of additional gain. The sorting is designed to prevent overfeeding while optimizing total carcass value. Steers are sold on a carcass value grid. The grid rewards both quality and cutability.

Analysis of the Virginia ROP profit history reveals that the opportunity exists to capture the value of superior genetics and management for producers willing to retain ownership. The VA ROP provides the opportunity for individual producers to explore retained ownership as a marketing option. By sending a small percentage of their calf crop, producers benefit by experiencing retained ownership yet have minimal financial risk. The information gathered and experience gained has been the first step for many beef producer in deciding on the future genetic, management, and marketing direction for their herd. For more detailed information on the Virginia ROP contact Scott Greiner, Extension Beef Specialist, Virginia Tech, phone 540-231-9159 or email

Consignment Form, Virginia Retained Ownership Program (PDF)

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