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WHAT WE LEARNED IN SCHOOL ABOUT BULLS

Jay Nixon

I had the good fortune to attend the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association mid-summer conference and directors' meeting held recently on the campus of Texas A&M University at College Station. The meeting was combined with an advanced seminar on the subject of “what's under the hide” of a beef steer.

It was a very valuable experience for three reasons. First, the subject of the meeting, sponsored by one of the most traditional of all the producers' organizations in the country, indicated a new awareness among rank and file cattlemen that we must be concerned about our end product and how it affects consumer demand.

Second, we all got to see, first hand, up close and personal, the various factors that effect not only the value of typical beef steer and, in turn, how those same factors impact the acceptability of our product by our ultimate customer.

And third, the results of the test proved conclusively to me and, I trust, to most of the others the importance of breeding your cows to a bull that will enhance those factors. This last one also demonstrated that I have been right all along about what I have told you about selecting your bulls. I had to add that.

In the initial session of the program, we were shown videos and still pictures of four, auction market, feeder calves. We were asked to select, 1.) which steer would have the best average daily gain. 2.) Which steer would end up with a USDA grade of standard. 3.) Which would have a Yield Grade 4 carcass, and 4.) Which steer would make the most money from start to finish.

It wasn't a contest, only something to refer back to at the end to evaluate our own skills at judging a live calf. To me, of course, it was a challenge. I whipped out my old order-buying skills and with the keen eye of a seasoned cattleman, made my selections.

As it turned out, I missed three out of four of the questions. I did, however, get one right, and that was the question about which steer made the most money. I simply selected the only steer in the group that appeared to be by a sire breed of bull. He was longer, more muscular, had a better frame than the other three calves and appeared to have less waste about him. He was thin, but the potential was there. To me, his breeding told the story. If this sounds boastful, it probably is.

Three of the steers, numbers four, six and seven were red and one, steer 10, was black. These steers were bought by the Animal Science Department at a public auction on the same day. Steer four weighed 700 pounds and cost $54.50 per cwt. Steer six weighed 850 pounds and cost $66.50 per hundred. Steer seven, my selection, weighed 840 pounds and cost $62.50 per hundred and steer 10 weighed 760 pounds and cost $66.50. We didn't learn any of this until after we had made our selections.

The steers were fed identical rations for 130 days. They were killed and processed the same day with all information recorded along the way not only to the box but to the meat counter, and the results were displayed for all the see, along with all the statistics.

It was a terrific presentation that showed clearly all the many factors the govern whether or not an animal makes money. Two steers made money, and two lost money from start to finish.

Steer four made a total of $80.22. Steer six lost $45.03. Steer seven made $112.07 and steer 10 lost $11.48. Average daily gain among the four varied by nearly one and half pounds per day, with steer four leading the way with a gain of 4.51 pounds per day, while steer six gained only 3.05 pounds. Steers seven and ten average 3.83 pounds per day.

Steer six that lost $45, had a yield of 65.5 percent and a Yield Grade of a whopping 1.6. What killed him was a quality grade of Standard Plus that knocked the carcass price down to only $82.50. Steer 10 that lost $11.48, graded choice, but only had a yield of 62.9 percent and posted an unacceptable Yield Grade of 4.1. This knocked the price of the carcass down to an abysmal $79.50.

The number seven steer that made the whopping $112, had a yield of 67.5 percent and an impressive Yield Grade of 2.3. He graded Select Plus and his carcass value was $91.50. The number four steer had a yield of only 62 percent, but had a Yield Grade of 2.5 and a quality grade of Select Plus. His carcass price was also $91.50.

The weight of fat and bone in the carcasses of three of the steers was pretty constant at between 33 and 35 percent. However, steer 10, had a 40.6 percent loss in fat and bone.

What nobody in the course mentioned, to my amazement, is how important the bulls that produced these three calves must have been. That's where you get growth impetus, muscling, Yield, the percentage of waste, or drop as it is called, the amount of outside fat and all the other traits that make the big difference in whether or not an animal makes or loses money.

In this Annual Purebred Reference Issue of Cattle Today, we have a super opportunity to reflect on this. It is time to start looking at your cow herd and to begin thinking about what kind of good, big, solid, growthy, muscular, set of bulls you are going to use on them in the next breeding season.

If there is one decision you can make about your operation that will have maximum influence on the amount of revenue you take in, this is the one. Look at the ads in this issue. Make definite plans to visit some of the breeders who are represented. Study what they have to offer. If you wait until fall, it will be too late, and you'll go into the breeding season in the same shape you were in last year.

Do it, now. It will make you money.

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