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The Cattle Business -- Virginia Retained Ownership Program Begins 5th Year

Livestock Update, August 1998

Bill R. McKinnon, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

The Virginia R.O.P. or commingled retained ownership program begins its fifth year of operation this fall. In four years of the program, over 900 head of Virginia 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 programs.

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. As the industry moves toward value-based marketing, carcass grid pricing, and alliances, it is essential that the producer has a better understanding of where his cattle fit in the industry.

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 a final profit/loss closeout can be calculated. The finished cattle will be marketed on an individual carcass value basis.

The steers will be fed at the Decatur County Feedyard at Oberlin, Kansas. The steers fed at Decatur last year made the highest gains of any ROP cattle to date. Cattle within the Decatur Beef Alliance are sorted for marketing utilizing scales and ultrasound scanning and put into marketing groups based primarily upon four criteria: 1) Minimum carcass weight of 600 pounds; 2) Maximum carcass weight of 850 pounds; 3) Maximum backfat thickness of .43 inch; and 4) The additional projected cost of gain does not exceed the projected live market price per pound. This methodology prevents overfeeding and helps the cattle owner get a truer picture of the potential of his steers.

The early fall shipment targeted at fall calving cow/calf operators is scheduled for September 22. Another shipment better suited to spring calving operations is slated for December 1. For those producers who background their calves through the winter, an additional shipment will be slated for late March, 1999. The R.O.P. program is open to both steers and heifers, given there are sufficient numbers of each. Heifers will be fed at another Kansas feedyard other than Decatur County. All consignments for the September shipment 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 feed and water 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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