Managing Cost of Gain is Critical


CattleFax, one of the world’s most recognized livestock and grain analyst groups, says cattle feeders will likely need 20% more capital this year to maintain their operations than they did three or four years ago. For many commercial feedyards, that’s an extra $10 million or more.

It’s not your father’s feedyard anymore. And that means making sure that feeding efficiency and cattle performance are at their peak until the day cattle head to the packer.

A beta-agonist can improve feed efficiency at a time when operating costs are escalating at a record pace, says James Herring, CEO of Friona Industries LP, a major cattle feeding company headquartered in Amarillo, TX.

“Our company’s branded beef products go to seven major retailers and almost 3,000 stores, so it’s important that we maintain the high-quality eating experience for consumers, as well as strong production at the same time,” Herring says. “We’re interested in getting the maximum production out of an animal.  Optaflexx, a beta-1-agonist encourages beef production. And it has no negative effect on the eating experience.” 

Optaflexx is designed to be used the last 28-42 days of the feeding period. With no withdrawal, it can be fed up until cattle leave the feedyard, a trait that’s important to Herring. He says the use of Optaflexx helps Friona Industries maintain a 28- to 33-day feeding cycle in finishing cattle.

“We can dictate the time of sale for an animal,” he says. “We can maintain the production cycle to the exact days and performance profile. It allows us to get in front of that decision on sales. It allows us to feed exactly to the performance time.”

John Scanga, Elanco beef technical consultant, adds that Optaflexx helps cattle maintain their performance late in the feeding cycle. “In the last days of finishing, cattle become very inefficient,” he says. “Using Optaflexx in the last 28-42 days improves feed efficiency and dressing percentage. At a time when feedyard operating costs are escalating, improving the cost of gain helps feedyards remain in business for the future,” Scanga says.

The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University in Ames records monthly close-out information for typical cattle coming off feed in that region. For example, 750-lb. steers that went on feed in January 2011 for finishing in June 2011 had a total feed cost of about $433/animal. That included about $318 for about 50 bu. of corn alone and about $85 for about 1,800 lbs. of wet distillers grain.

If a combination of better feed efficiency and higher average daily gain can lower that $433 feed cost by 10%, there’s an extra $43 for the finished 1,250-lb. steer. The use of technology can provide a well-rounded program to promote feed efficiency and overall cattle performance, Scanga says.