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Virginia Retained Ownership Program Summary - Fall 2003 & Spring 2004 Placements

Livestock Update, November 2004

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

The following table presents a summary of the closeout information on Virginia Retained Ownership Program steers shipped in September, November and December 2003 and March 2004. A total of 557 steers from 30 individual producers, were placed on feed at five cooperating feed yards in southwest Iowa. The steers were fed in seven pens, and harvested on twelve dates between February 25 and September 21, 2004. Each pen was sorted prior to harvest to optimize the endpoint of each steer, and the cattle were marketed on a carcass-value grid with IBP-Tyson. Harvest endpoints were determined based on rib fat thickness (target 0.40-0.45 inches), composition of gain, and market projections. Due to the large number of harvest dates and fluctuating market conditions over time, carcass prices were adjusted to a weighted average price for the purposes of data analysis. For comparison purposes, data representing the average of the steers in the most profitable one-third and those in the least-profitable one-third are presented along with the average for all 557 steers. Retained ownership profit (or loss) for each steer was calculated as the difference between total carcass value and Virginia feeder calf value, less all feeding costs (feed & yardage, trucking, health, carcass data collection & program fees). Seven head of steers were not included in the analysis. These included six steers which died, and one alternatively marketed as a result of health problems.

Substantial differences in feed yard growth performance are evident between the profit groups. The most profitable steers gained 0.69 pounds per day faster than the least profitable steers, resulting in heavier live and carcass weights at harvest with similar days on feed. Correspondingly, the high-profit cattle had superior feed conversion - more efficiently converting feed to live and carcass weight gain. The superior health of the high-profit cattle likely contributed in a positive fashion to their growth advantages. Overall, approximately one in eight steers received one or more health treatments during the feeding period. Only one in fourteen (7%) of the high-profit group were treated, whereas one in four (24%) of the least profitable steers were pulled and treated one or more times for health reasons. Average cost for each sick pull was $25.94 per treatment, adding approximately $5 per cwt. in cost of gain.

More total carcass value on the rail was realized in the high-profit cattle as a result of their heavier carcass weights and higher grid carcass prices. Carcass fat thickness and average yield grade was similar across all groups, which was to be expected as steers were sorted at harvest with target fat thickness of 0.40 inches. While there were differences in ribeye area between the profit groups, these differences can be attributed primarily to differences in carcass weight with the heavier carcasses having correspondingly larger ribeyes. The most significant difference between groups for carcass merit was found in quality grade. The high profit cattle graded 98% low Choice and higher, with 27% qualifying for Certified Angus Beef (CAB; average and high Choice quality grades). This is above the industry average of 15% CAB certification rate. The low-profit group was 42% low Choice and higher, 52% Select, and 7% Standard grade. Research has demonstrated that poor health reduces quality grade in fed cattle. This may explain a portion of quality grade differences observed between the high and low profit groups. Yield grade distribution was very similar between the profit groups, as expected since the cattle were marketed at a target fat thickness endpoint. The high-profit group had a very desirable balance of quality and yield grade, exceeding the often-quoted industry goal of 70-70-0 (70% Choice, 70% YG 1&2, 0% "outs").

The weighted average base carcass grid price has been expressed as a low Choice, yield grade 3. During the time frame these cattle were harvested, the base price fluctuated between $123.40 and $144.94 cwt. (approximately $77 to $91 cwt. live). Similarly, CAB premiums ranged from +$3.47 to +$9.86 per cwt., and the Select discount from as low as -$1.45 to as high as -$15.75 per cwt. Yield grade premiums were fixed at +6.50 and +$2.50 cwt. for Yield Grade 1 and 2 carcasses, respectively. The combination of superior quality grades and desirable yield grades for the high profit group resulted in a weighted average grid carcass price advantage of $7.38 per cwt. compared to the low-profit group. This higher carcass price coupled with heavier carcass weights resulted in a $188 advantage in net carcass value for the most profitable steers.

Primarily due to a strong fed cattle market, retained ownership on this set of cattle was advantageous. The average steer returned an additional $62.85 over their assigned value as a feeder calf departing Virginia. This added value coupled with the original feeder calf value resulted in a return of $656 per head to the cow production unit. Tremendous variation in individual profitability existing among the steers fed. This is demonstrated by the $161 difference in average return from retained ownership between the high profit and low profit steers, which translates to a difference approaching $20 per cwt. as a feeder calf. This $161 difference is directly related to higher carcass values and lower feeding costs of gain for the high-profit steers. The cost of gain advantage of 8.5 per pound for the high-profit steers is attributed to their superior gain, feed conversion, and health. There was little difference between the profit groups in their assigned feeder calf price or total feeder calf value when they departed Virginia. The value differences estimated here agree with similar data collected previously through the Virginia Retained Ownership Program and elsewhere. Over the years, analysis of Virginia ROP data has demonstrated a $120-$200 value difference between superior and inferior cattle, regardless of the prevailing fed cattle market or feeding conditions.

This summary further emphasizes the importance of superior genetics and management. For producers who have made a strong effort to add value to their cattle through improved genetics and management, retaining ownership past weaning provides an opportunity to reap more of the financial benefits of truly superior cattle. The Virginia Retained Ownership 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. Gaining feedback on the feedlot and carcass performance of cattle is the first step for a beef producer in deciding on the future direction for the herd. For more information on the Virginia Retained Ownership Program, contact Scott Greiner at 540-231-9163 or

Closeout Summary: Fall 2003-Spring 2004 Shipments

Summary includes steers from 30 producers shipped between September 26, 2003 and March 27, 2004. Steers were fed in seven pens at five TCSCF cooperator feedyards in southwest Iowa, and marketed on one of twelve dates between February 25 and September 21 and harvested at IBP-Tyson, Inc. in Denison, Iowa. Weighted average carcass prices utilized in analysis to remove effect of variable market conditions across harvest dates.
  Group Average High Profit 1/3 Low Profit 1/3
  550 head 183 head 183 head
Growth Performance
VA shipment weight, lb. 669 685 657
Slaughter weight, lb. 1208 1276 1143
Days on Feed 162 160 164
ADG, lb./day 3.38 3.73 3.04
Estimated feed:gain 6.87 6.70 7.00
Sick pulls, % treated 13.5% 7.1% 24.0%
Carcass weight, lb. 744 794 696
Fat thickness, in. 0.43 0.45 0.40
Ribeye area, sq. in. 12.8 13.5 12.3
Yield Grade 2.7 2.7 2.6
USDA Quality Grade 74% CH- & better 98% CH- & better 42% CH- & better
0.7% Prime 2% Prime 0% Prime
15% CAB 27% CAB 4% CAB
24% Select 2% Select 52% Select
2% Standard 0% Standard 7% Standard
USDA Yield Grade 10% YG1 10% YG1 13% YG1
53% YG2 56% YG2 54% YG2
37% YG3 34% YG3 33% YG3
0.2% YG4&5 0% YG4&5 0.5% YG4&5
Base carcass price (CH, YG3), $/cwt. $134.77 $134.77 $134.77
YG premium/discount, $/cwt. $1.96 $2.05 $2.06
QG premium/discount, $/cwt. -$1.44 $1.88 -$5.40
Carcass price, $/cwt. $135.23 $138.68 $131.30
Total carcass value $1,006 $1,100 $912
Equivalent live price, $/cwt. $83.31 $86.21 $79.81
Actual feeder calf price, $/cwt. $87.99 $86.87 $88.50
Actual feeder calf price, $/head $593 $595 $592
Cost of gain, $/lb. $0.587 $0.546 $0.632
Feed cost of gain, $/lb. $0.433 $0.415 $0.450
Health costs, $/head $16.08 $14.76 $20.15
Retained ownership profit/loss, $/head $62.85 $142.67 -$18.64
Return to cow, $/head $656 $738 $573
True feeder calf value, $/cwt. $87.99 (base) $98.61 $77.64
True feeder calf value, $/head $593 (base) $675 $510


December 2004 Shipment

Name: _______________________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________



County: _______________________________________________

Day Phone: _______________________________________________

Night Phone: _______________________________________________

Email: _______________________________________________

  Steers Heifers*
Average Weight
(target = 650 lb.)
Weight Range
(500-900 accepted)
Average Age (months)    
Age Range (months)    
*please note that shipment of heifers is contingent on adequate consignment numbers

Preferred shipment location : ______________________________________

Shipment locations will be determined after all consignments are received and will be dependent on the number and geographic distribution of cattle to be sent.

Return with $5 per head consignment fee payable to the Virginia Cattle Feeder Assoc. by December 2 to:
Scott Greiner
366 Litton Reeves Hall
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: 540/231-9163
Fax: 540/231-3713

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