Value of Eared Feeder Cattle

Joe C. Paschal

When The Ear was first printed I was asked to write an article on how Eared cattle performed in the feedyard (ADG, health, and most importantly PROFIT). I used mostly the Texas A&M Ranch to Rail – South data that we conducted from 1992 until 2004 and fed several thousand head of Bos indicus influenced or Eared steers. Feeders in the South (and in the North I expect) know the value of these types of feeders especially if they are looking for cattle to come into the yards to gain rapidly and efficiently and remain healthy. In the recent past these cattle have in general been undervalued (in price) and it has made them attractive to feed in live animal based marketing systems that are looking for cattle to produce mostly US Select Yield Grade 3 or better carcasses and make money doing it.

Dr. Tom Troxel and Dr. Shane Gadberry, Extension Animal Scientists at the University of Arkansas, have been following and reporting on the value of feeder cattle in Arkansas (a snapshot of the of the type of Southeastern cattle in demand by northern stockers and feeders). Begun in 2000 and repeated every 5 years they looked at the prices paid in weekly livestock auctions in 12 locations in the state and the various phenotypic and genetic factors that affect them. Their phenotypic factors included gender (sex), group size, body fill, body condition and health (based on hair quality, eyes, preconditioning). As genetic factors, they included breed or breedtype (as best as could be determined), color, USDA feeder cattle muscle score and frame size, horn/polledness and weight. Price was converted to a standardized value and represented single lots only. The differences in value reported were those above or below the average for that year.

Jacobsen Ranch steers out of Braford cows and Gardiner Angus bulls and put sold in a premium program

Jacobsen Ranch steers out of Braford cows and Gardiner Angus bulls and sold in a premium program.

These results were reported at this year’s American Society of Animal Science Southern Section meeting in Orlando this past February. They found that as the number of lots with more than one head increased, the value of uniform multiple head lots, especially if more than 6 head, were worth $4.39 more per hundredweight in 2005 and $4.94 per hundredweight in 2010. About the same percentage of heifers were sold in each of the three years sampled (45-47%).  Fewer bulls were castrated in 2010 even though steers brought premiums of $5.18 (per hundredweight) in 2000, $6.00 in 2005, and $8.21 in 2010!Cattle that were gaunt or shrunk  were considerably more valuable than feeders that were full or tanked when sold. However feeder buyers preferred cattle that were in thin to average condition with significant discounts for cattle that were very thin or especially very fat. Very few cattle were considered unhealthy with 96-98% of the feeders being considered healthy each year. Documented preconditioning accounted for about 4% of the feeders sold. Healthy cattle were sold with at a premium but feeders considered unhealthy (dead hair, stale looking, sick, bad eyes, lame, etc) had discounts ranging from $8.95 (for sick) to $32.61 (for stale looking). Preconditioned cattle brought premiums of $4.68 in 2005 and $6.84 in 2010.

TAMU Ranch to Rail Steers

TAMU Ranch to Rail Steers

In their second report on the effects of genetically influenced phenotype on price, they reported that although the percent of Angus or mostly Angus-sired feeder calves have increased from 7.0% in 2000 to 18.2% in 2010, the average price premium declined 43%! Angus x Hereford feeders, which represented 5.1 to 8.1% of the cattle offered also saw a decline in premium the past 5 years of 36%. Angus x Brahman feeders, representing 9.7% of the feeders offered in 2010 increased in value with a slight premium in 2000 of $0.55 to $1.47 in 2005 to $3.03 in 2010, a 106% increase (and the highest premium increase for any breed or type)! The discounts for ¼ blood Brahman, representing 5-7% of the feeders sold had reduced discounts from 2000 to 2010 (-$3.64 in 2000 to -$2.05, a 43% reduction). Hide color was still important but less so. With 26.6% of the feeders black hided in 2000 and 45% black hided in 2010, premiums for black hides were only $1.86 in 2005 and decreased to $1.70 in 2010. Black hided cattle with a white face (9.8%, 11.1% and 11.9% in 2000, 2005, and 2010) had increased premiums from $0.68 to $2.62 to $3.01 during those years.

Other genetically influenced factors that they reported on included muscling, frame score and horn status. Percentages of cattle increased in the higher muscling categories, larger frame sizes and polledness (either genetically or dehorned). More value was attached (greater premiums or at least no discounts) to cattle with more muscling, larger frame size, and polled or dehorned feeders. Although these premiums may not have been great, the discounts for undesired types (muscle score 3, small framed, and horned cattle) were severe at -$21.78 for muscle score 3, -$16.42 for small frame, and -$4.25 per hundredweight for horned cattle in 2010. Less than 1% of the cattle offered were muscle score 3 or small frame in any of the three years while horned cattle dropped from 25.1% in 2000 to 9.2% of the cattle offered in 2010.

It won’t be enough to just breed Eared cattle. They will sure enough have to be good ones and fit the demands of the market based primarily on muscling (where the greatest discounts can occur) but the market is definitely interested in Eared cattle and will pay more of a premium for them than they have in the past.

In visiting with Dr. Tom Troxel about their work (disclaimer: Tom was our Extension Beef Cattle Specialist in Uvalde for several years before he went to Arkansas 21 years ago to head up their Animal Science Extension group – he is a good scientist as well as a good extension specialist!), Tom said that buyers were looking for cattle to go back on grass as stockers and their interest was in putting more Brahman or Bos indicus into the cattle since they have a real problem with endophyte infested fescue. The Bos indicus genetics and to a lesser degree, through hybrid vigor or heterosis, allows these crosses to be less affected by the endophyte toxicity and they tend to graze and gain and not show the more serious side effects seen in non Bos indicus cattle. Regardless of the reason for the increase in popularity (and value) of the Brahman crosses, they are definitely bringing more! If you are interested in visiting with Tom you might give him a call or email him at (501-671-2188) or ttroxel@uaex.edu .

Dr. Paschal is a livestock specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and is based in Corpus Christi, Texas. He can be reached at (361) 265-9203 or j-paschal@tamu.edu

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