Cattle feeders routinely see wide variation groups of cattle they feed in performance, value and profitability. Some of that variation relates to management before the cattle arrive, which has led to marketing programs designed to capture value based on verification of health and weaning practices back at the ranch.
Much of the variation however, is due to genetics. Buyers, through experience, often learn that calves from certain ranches perform better than others, and return to buy those calves year after year based on reputation. A new program from Verified Beef, called “Reputation Feeder Cattle,” (RFC) looks to extend that concept by helping ranchers quantify the genetic merit of their calves while also providing age, source and process verification for potential buyers.
Prior to the Leachman Cattle of Colorado bull sale this week, Darrell Wilkes, PhD, from Verified Beef, outlined the program for ranchers. Feedyard closeout data show the wide variation in value of cattle, Wilkes says, with the top 15 percent averaging $84 per head above the mean. The true breakeven purchase value for a $650-pound steer coming into a feedyard ranges from $0.90 to $1.80, and about 83 percent of the variation was due to highly heritable traits.
The Reputation Feeder Cattle certification includes a patented Genetic Merit Scoreard program to provide an objective, fact-based indicator of the hidden genetic value in a set of calves, with the idea that feeders can predict how the cattle will perform and the rancher can get paid for producing superior cattle. The Genetic Merit Scorecard produces a specific estimate of the incremental value relative to a national average, expressed in dollars per hundredweight, and based on the EPDs of bulls used in a herd over the previous 10 years. The ranking is based on EPDs for six traits of key importance to cattle feeders:
- Average daily gain
- Carcass weight
- Feed-to-gain ratio
- Ribeye area
- Yield Grade
- Percent Choice
Verified Beef compiles the EPD information for participants, provides program ID tags and posts the participating cattle and their rankings to an RFC Show List.
Cost for the program ranges from $7.00 per head for producers registering fewer than 200 cattle to $5.50 per head for those registering more than $2,000, with an additional $0.60 per head for electronic ear tags instead of panel tags.
For more information, visit the Reputation Feeder Cattle website.