Industry At A Glance: Is There A Biological Top In Feedlot Performance?

The beef industry continues to make consistent strides toward improved productivity and efficiency.

Nevil Speer

October 14, 2014

2 Min Read
Industry At A Glance: Is There A Biological Top In Feedlot Performance?

Last week’s Industry At A Glance featured discussion around the enduring trend of heavier carcass weights over time. Most notably, a new record was established in September at 889 lbs., with seasonally heavier weights expected in the months to come. The discussion also included some of the contributors to the long-running trend. These include better genetics, more precise nutritional strategies, use of beta agonists, improved knowledge management and better overall cattle management.

Kansas State University produces a monthly summary of feedlot performance and feed costs across the state that dates back to 1990. The data series represents raw means from feedyards; as such, it isn’t weighted by the number of head reported. Nonetheless, the general trend provides some important insights.

The accompanying graph represents 12-month moving averages for both steer average daily gain (ADG) and steer feed conversion (on a dry-matter basis). Steers in 1990 had an ADG of 3.09 lbs./day and required 6.51 lbs. of feed for 1 lb. of gain. Fast-forward to 2014, and through August, the 12-month moving average is 3.71 lbs. and 5.92 lbs. for ADG and feed conversion, respectively.

Those gains represent improvements of 20% and 10%, respectively. It’s the equivalent of 1% and .5% annual improvement, respectively. It should be noted that the large spikes in the data series occurred because of harsh winter conditions in early 1993.

The beef industry continues to make consistent strides toward improved productivity and efficiency. Remember, these are averages, so there are cattle that far exceed these gain and efficiency benchmarks.

Similar to last week’s discussion on carcass weight, the inherent question surrounds the upper bounds of possibility. At what point does the industry reach or exceed some biological maximum in which these trends begin to level off? How soon might that occur? What drivers might cause a leveling-off, or a reversal, of the long-running trend?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


You might also like:

Photo Tour: World's Largest Vertically Integrated Cattle Operation

7 Common Fencing Mistakes

Why You Must Remove Net Wrap On Round Bales Before Feeding To Cattle

15 New Products From John Deere

Why The Cattle Market Is At A Critical Juncture

What You Need To Know About The Beef Checkoff Drama


About the Author(s)

Nevil Speer

Nevil Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, KY.

Nevil Speer has extensive experience and involvement with the livestock and food industry including various service and consultation projects spanning such issues as market competition, business and economic implications of agroterrorism, animal identification, assessment of price risk and market volatility on the producer segment, and usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Dr. Speer writes about many aspects regarding agriculture and the food industry with regular contribution to BEEF and Feedstuffs.  He’s also written several influential industry white papers dealing with issues such as changing business dynamics in the beef complex, producer decision-making, and country-of-origin labeling.
He serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
Dr. Speer holds both a PhD in Animal Science and a Master’s degree in Business Administration.

Contact him at [email protected].

Subscribe to Our Newsletters
BEEF Magazine is the source for beef production, management and market news.

You May Also Like