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How Current Issues Affect Cattle Feed Efficiency

March 24, 2014
Angus Bull Express Ranch
Consider separating your breeding decisions by selecting bulls to keep replacement females out of versus the bulls that are targeted for calves to go to the marketplace.  

By: Katie Allen, K-State Research & Extension News

With recent years of drought hopefully behind them, many beef cattle producers are focused on rebuilding herd numbers. Selection of replacement females and herd sires for efficiency could help producers’ bottom line.

Bob Weaber, beef breeding, genetics and cow/calf specialist for K-State Research and Extension, said producers should consider separating their breeding decisions by selecting bulls to keep replacement females out of versus the bulls they are targeting for calves to go to the marketplace.

He calls this the "maternal-terminal decision point."

"I think for many commercial producers, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find bulls that do everything great in terms of producing both replacement females and improving calf performance to a terminal endpoint," Weaber said. "If you are a moderate to large-sized producer, I think it will become more important and easier to start separating those breeding decisions."

Purchasing gender-sorted semen to target replacement female production and using different semen for more terminally focused progeny is another solution, he said. This might help a producer be more competitive.

"Unfortunately, one of the downsides of being in a profitable phase of cow/calf production is producers take their eye off that ball," Weaber said. "We’ve had record high calf prices, and we probably will the next few years. So, their interest in dialing in their cost of production and changing those costs are maybe not quite as forefront in their minds as they were a couple of years ago when we had $8 corn."

As beef supply goes down, he said, the price of beef products will go up in the marketplace, and the industry is hopeful that consumers will still want beef products. As the industry grows, pricing scenarios change.

"More competitive producers will survive, and those who aren’t competitive won’t," Weaber said. "Efficiency plays a big role in determining ranch or farm-level profitability."

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