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The Cattle Business: Virginia Retained Ownership Program Begins 6th Year

Livestock Update, July 1999

Bill McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, Virginia Tech

The Virginia ROP (Retained Ownership Program) commingled feedlot program will begin its 6th year in September, 1999. The ROP program allows cow/calf producers to gain insight into the feedlot and carcass performance of the feeder cattle he is breeding and raising. A Virginia feeder cattle producer may consign as few as five head of steers or heifers to the program. The cattle are shipped as a group to a Kansas feed yard where they are fed and marketed as finished cattle.

The ROP program is sponsored by the Virginia Cattlemen's Association and Virginia Cattle Feeders Association in cooperation with Virginia Cooperative Extension with the support of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The program has three primary educational 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 producing; 3) help producers learn more about custom feeding as a marketing option. Since 1994, roughly 1600 head of cattle have gone through the ROP feedlot and carcass program.

The early fall ROP shipment is scheduled for Friday, September 24. Another shipment date which might suit spring calving operations is slated for December 1. For those producers who background their calves through the winter, an additional shipment will be scheduled for late March, 2000. All consignments for the September shipment need to be made on the accompanying form by the 3rd of September so that take-up arrangements can be made. Shipment points will be selected based upon the area from which the cattle are consigned.

The steers and heifers of known origin will be fed at Decatur County Feed Yard near Oberlin, Kansas. The Decatur lot markets the cattle through the Decatur Beef Alliance on a carcass value basis. The carcass marketing grid rewards cattle with both higher quality grades and better cutability. The cattle are sorted for marketing utilizing ultrasound and computer sorting software to minimize severe carcass while optimizing on feed performance. Criteria for marketing include avoiding minimum and maximum carcass weights, maximum backfat thickness of .43 inch, and avoiding the projected marginal cost of gain from exceeding the projected live market price per pound. This sorting regime avoids overfeeding.

Cattle of unknown genetic origin such as purchased stocker cattle will be fed at Hitch II Feeders near Garden City, Kansas. These cattle will also be sold on a carcass basis. The Virginia R.O.P. heifers that were fed at Hitch during late 1998 and 1999 were marketed to Montfort utilizing the Gelbvieh alliance grid. The three groups of heifers all averaged netting more dollars via the carcass grid then if they had been sold at the current live market price.

It is strongly recommended that calves in the ROP program be weaned and backgrounded on the farm before shipment. The backgrounding phase helps the calf make the transition from milk and mother to eating dry feed out of a bunk The backgrounding process should afford the opportunity to vaccinate the calves against 7 strains of the clostridial diseases, IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV, and Pasteurella.

Go to Consignment Form.

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