The key to making cattle more competitive in the bidding world is in their genetics, and the growing programs that document them.
“That is happening because buyers are utilizing data points, whether that's through harvest or in these programs that are identifying cattle with better genetic merit. Because we know that there's too much risk involved in feeding an average calf, when we can feed an above average calf or better specifically said, that we can pay a premium on the cattle that deserve a premium, and help us to make smarter risk management decisions when we're purchasing calves to feed,” says Clint Berry, Superior Livestock rep., Gainesville, Mo.
Taking advantage of resources and programs like AngusLink will shine a light on calves with highly sought-after genetics.
“The nice thing it does is it allows a third party verifier to quantify a genetic merit prediction on the calves that are selling. It also forces our commercial bull customers to have an accurate inventory of the bulls in their herd, and allows them to do a better job of looking at those and identifying, let's say the least favorable, and making long-term decisions that are better for their profitability,” Berry says.
With no more than 20% of commercial calves kept as replacement heifers, 80% of each calf crop should be geared to make a profit in the feedyard.
“We need to concentrate on those profit drivers too, on behalf of our commercial bull customers, even if they're not directly pulling them from you on sale day, that doesn't mean that it's not your responsibility as a seedstock producer to give a full picture of the whole profit margin and improve the profitability throughout the balance of those bulls on their EPD profiles,” he continues.
Profit drivers may vary by source, transportation and many other factors, but the primary driver is always the same.
“When you break it all down, and you put calves into a feedyard, and they line up at a bunk, they're in the same exact environment, they've got the same health protocols, and they're receiving the same feed ration, and we see the difference in profit margins on a pen of cattle that can vary as much as $400, up and down; that tells you where the big price driver there is, and that's in genetics,” Berry says.
Berry says the best way to improve a herd is by working with the bottom half more than the top half of genetics.
“Because we make most progress, not from making the better into the best, we make the most progress from making the average into the better. And that's where these tools can really benefit, regardless of which section or segment it is, whether it's the seedstock producer, the cow calf guy, the feeder, anywhere through that chain, you can utilize those tools to help you make smarter decisions,” he says.