From the Fall 2003 issue of the Isa Informer

Questions provide keys to success

How do Beefmasters perform in the feedlot and packinghouse?

Very well. Our cattle will equal or surpass what any other breed can do. We are unique among seedstock producers in having fed and slaughtered a large number of our breed’s steer calves.Between l989 and l994, NewBeef fed 10,886 Beefmaster steer calves in two feedlots in the Texas Panhandle. The cattle were purchased as calf-crops from all over the U.S. and Mexico, and most were sold on formulas to Excel and IBP. The steers were fed a high-quality, corn-based ration in two well-managed yards. Beefmasters are consistent and predictable and equaled or exceeded industry standards in every important category. (See the results at right.)

In my 40 years of selling Beefmaster bulls, I have been asked many times about optimizing profits, how the market is made and retained ownership. I thought I’d answer a few of these questions and include the data on Beefmasters’ performance.

What should my bull-buying strategy be?

The bull business is very competitive, and good bulls, like computer software, are readily available at reasonable prices. Don’t even think of buying bulls from a breeder who does not have a short breeding season. His cattle are not productive. Purchase seedstock from people who have better cattle than you.Buy bulls that have been through a large, valid peer-group performance test. Use whatever numbers are important to you. Performance-testing is nothing more than an accounting system for genetic potential.

What is the price of admission/to the cattle business?

One load (50,000 lbs.) of properly immunized calves or yearlings to sell or feed. They can be steers and heifers mixed, and you can even team up with a neighbor, if you both buy performance-tested bulls and use the same 90-day breeding season.

How do you make a profit in the cattle business?

By retaining ownership of all your steers and heifers at least through the yearling stage when they weigh 750 to 850 lbs. Breed at least 80% of your heifers for replacements or sell them as replacements. Don’t ever sell over 20% of your heifers as feeders.

What is the most important management tool in the ranching industry?

The use of a 90-day breeding season which, over time, eliminates low-performers of both sexes and gives a uniform product to sell. Cows exposed over 90 days don’t calve every year. Calve every year! If you breed at l3 months and breed for a short season, you will eliminate genetic non-producers and low-producers. Nature will size your cows to fit your environment. You can still select for muscle, and natural selection will eliminate those families too heavily-muscled for calving ease.

What effect will using mediocre bulls have on my profits?

Mediocre bulls mean no profits. You will have a low-producing cow herd, which will command no premium if you decide to sell. Your steer calves will not command a premium because they will not be known as good performers.

Why is quality grade of so little importance?

Young, quality cattle fed to finish on a corn ration produce uniformly desirable lean, tender carcass. Calf-feds, the most desirable, grade lower than yearling-feds. This is taken into account in the market. The market has abandoned the grading system.Calves put on feed at weaning convert efficiently and develop tender carcasses with more muscle and less fat due to being earlier in their growth curve than cattle fed as yearling.

How do you increase net income off a given operation?

By increasing gross. Eliminate sale of low-dollar categories, such as feeder heifer calves, and thin cull cows in the fall.

What is a commercial feedlot?

A feedlot is a service/financial institution that sells feed and lends money. They are a valuable marketing and financial alternative as they’ll feed and finance anything you want, 365 days a year.

What are the components of price and profitability in order of importance under a value-based marketing system?

Here they are according to several publications:

  • Feed Conversion—Cost of Gain
  • Dressing Percentage
  • Days on Feed
  • Cutability – Yield Grade – % salable meat
  • Quality Grade

What shots should I give my calves?

It is important that they receive the following shots at about three months:
7-Way Blackleg
4-Way Viral (IBR, BVD, P13, BRSV)
Pasturella/Somnus (we recommend Poly-Bac B-Somnus)

Regardless of your plans at weaning, if you don’t give these shots, your calves will be vulnerable if stressed (and they will be).

From the producers’ perspective, what are the two biggest advances in the last 20 years?

Video sales and formula-pricing. Video sales put the competent small producer on the same marketing footing as the large producer. Formula-selling opened the way for value-based marketing by establishing the magnitude of the difference in value between the good ones and the bad ones.

Laurence M. Lasater,

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