What Do Feedyards Look For In Feeder Cattle?

Ohio State University Extension educator Rory Lewandowski highlights the take-home message for cow-calf producers of the world’s largest cattle feeder.

January 13, 2012

2 Min Read
What Do Feedyards Look For In Feeder Cattle?

JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding is the world’s largest cattle-feeding enterprise, consisting of 12 yards in nine states and boasting a total one-time capacity of 930,000 head of cattle and marketing 1.7 million head/year. The likes and dislikes of an outfit like that should carry a lot of weight with cow-calf producers and Tom Brink, Five Rivers’ vice president of cattle ownership and risk management, is willing to give his opinion.

Speaking at the Cattleman's Roundup meeting in Gallia County, OH, last fall, Brink said Five Rivers wants cattle that have good performance potential as defined by a high average daily gain, a low feed-to-gain ratio, and a desirable finish weight. But, at least a third of the cattle they see do not have good performance as judged by those three criteria. He says cattle that perform well, grade Choice, have a Yield Grade of 3 or less, and a carcass weight over 850 lbs. is ideal.

The carcass weight figure surprised me because a few years back, carcass weights over 850 lbs. were discounted by some packers. This is no longer the case as demand for beef is strong and the cattle herd is in decline. Therefore, more pounds from fewer cattle is a necessity.

In addition, Brink shared data from Five Rivers feedlots comparing the performance of steers that produced a 700- to 800-lb. carcass vs. steers that produced a carcass of 850+ lbs. The heavier-carcass steers had higher average daily gain, better feed conversion and boasted a $45/head advantage over the lighter carcass steers, even with corn at $7/bu. According to Brink, the ideal steer finishes at 1,350-1,400 lbs. and produces a carcass of 850-885 lbs., and dresses 63-64%.

For those cattlemen who sell to feedyards, Brink says he considers the ideal steer as one that is 50-75% Angus as the genetic base, 25-50% Continental breed to provide muscling and to improve yield grade, and up to 25% of any other breed. In addition, he provided this list of what cow-calf producers can do to create more value in their feeder calves:

  • Use the right combination of breeds.

  • Use the right genetics within those breeds (cattle that will perform at a high level).

  • Utilize a health-protection program.

  • Put effort into post-weaning management.

  • Sell calves by uniform load-lot groups. Smaller operations can cooperate with neighbors or marketing groups to utilize similar breeds, genetics and post-weaning programs.

  • Utilize age- and source-verified programs.

You can download the audio of Brink’s entire presentation at http://go.osu.edu/BRINK .

For photos of the kinds of cattle JBS Fiver Rivers seeks, see the gallery at http://beefmagazine.com/1116-five-rivers-cattle/.

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