Distinguished Animal Scientist Robbi Pritchard Answers the Question "When are Fed Cattle Done?"Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:01:42 CST
Cattle have changed. If your management hasn’t, animal scientist Robbi Pritchard suggests you take a look to be sure it’s still relevant.
Take cattle finish, for example…
“The definition of when cattle are finished is entirely up to us,” Pritchard said. “We’re still learning at how to be better at our business and we don’t quite have all the pieces in play…or all the pieces are in play but we don’t necessarily have them in the right proportion to accomplish all the things we’d like to do. Our pricing structure and some of our traditional management strategies will have to change going forward.”
Smaller-framed cattle, on poorer nutrition, used to need more feed per pound of gain toward the end of the finishing period. Average daily gain would slow as cost-of-gain increased.
“When I started my career, when steers were finished, their intakes would begin to level off or drop and they became very inefficient so it was more profitable to sell them before that happened,” Pritchard said. “Today between the genetic potential for growth of the cattle and the improvement of the management of the cattle, they don’t reach that tailing off point, so our cost-of-gain, even on overly finished cattle, is still cost effective. We need to have a different reason to decide that pen is finished.”
The animal scientist says carcass size might be one of those new reasons.
“The discounts aren’t enough to scare us off on carcass size, but rather than raise the discounts the packer could just say, ‘We don’t need your cattle. They’re too big.’ Not having a place to sell them becomes a big problem,” he remarked.
Profit potential on new sets of cattle may also be motivation to harvest a finished set.
Pritchard continued, “If I feed these cattle another 30 days, maybe I’ll make another $10/head. If I market these cattle now and replace them with cattle that could make me $50/head, let’s change them over to the more profitable group.”
There are also consumer demands-such as portion size and plating preferences-to consider.
Although packer discounts are a “governor” on carcass weights, Pritchard says they’re not going to stop the upward trend.
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Click or tap the PLAYBOX below to watch a video featuring Robbi Pritchard, distinguished professor of animal science at South Dakota State University, discusses cattle finish and how that has changed over time.
Source - Certified Angus Beef
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