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The Cattle Business - Virginia Retained Ownership Program Begins 4th Year

Livestock Update, August 1997

Bill McKinnon, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

The Virginia R.O.P. or commingled retained ownership program begins its fourth year of operation this fall. In three years of the program, over 650 head of steers and heifers have been consigned and finished in feedyards in Iowa, Kansas, and Virginia. Almost every southeastern state now has a similar program in which individual producer can consign as few as five head to cooperative feedout program.

The R.O.P. is sponsored by the Virginia Cattle Feeders Association in cooperative with Virginia Cooperative Extension as an educational project. The program has three primary goals: 1) to help Virginia feeder cattle producers learn more about the larger cattle industry, especially the feeding and packing sectors; 2) help feeder cattle producers gain feedback on the feedlot and carcass performance of the cattle they are breeding; and 3) help producers learn more about custom feeding as a marketing option.

One producer who has participated in the program the last three years has significantly improved the carcass performance on his steers. From his first year in the R.O.P. the percent cattle grading Choice on the rail rose from 20% to 45% last year while still maintaining over 3 pounds per day average daily gain. Additionally, this producer improved the cutability of his consignment, cutting backfat from .5 inch to .29 inch, without losing ribeye area (12.4 sq. in. vs. 12.6 sq. in.) and improving Yield Grade from 3.33 to 2.69.

Consignors receive individual gain and carcass performance information on their cattle. Additional interim progress reports will also be issued. A feeder cattle value is assigned to each steer or heifer at the time of shipment so that an ultimate profit/loss closeout can be calculated. The finished cattle will be marketed on an individual carcass value basis.

The cattle will be fed this year in one of two feedyards in Kansas which are set up to handle individual cattle performance data. The early fall shipment targeted at fall calving cow/calf operators and yearling producers is scheduled for September 20. Another shipment better suited to spring calving operations is slated for December 2. The R.O.P. program is open to both steers and heifers, given there are sufficient numbers of each. Consignments need to be made on the accompanying form by the first of September so that take-up arrangements can be made. Take-up points are selected based upon the area from which the cattle are consigned.

It is strongly recommended that calves in the R.O.P. shipment be backgrounded on the farm. During the backgrounding period calving should be vaccinated against clostridial diseases, respiratory viruses ( IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV), and pasteurella. Calves should be dewormed as they are weaned and treated for grubs before shipment. During the background phase the cattle should be feed and water trough broke so they are trough-wise when they walk off the truck. The backgrounding period is suggested to last a minimum of 45 days to get calves over the stress of weaning and well started on feed. Targeted gain during the backgrounding period ought to be in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 pounds per day. Specific backgrounding guidelines are available through the local Extension office or through the local veterinarian.

For more information regarding the Retained Ownership Program, contact Jim Johnson at the Virginia Cattlemen's Association (540/992-1009) or Bill McKinnon at Virginia Tech (540/231-9160).

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