Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cattle Industry - As I see It

Today started out clear and very cold for this part of Texas. The low was around 24 this morning. So far this winter we have not had to feed the cattle much. They have been getting about 150 lbs a week of range cubes and protein tubes. With only a .01 inch of rain this past week we will probably need to feed some hay by the first of February. I'm hoping the late winter and early spring will bring the rain. Our ranch needs three good years of rain and good growth of grass to put much needed organic material back into the soil. For twenty years before we purchased our land it was so abused by over grazing. Commercial producers must realize that they are in the business of producing forage (grasses) and not the production of cattle. Cattle are just one way of marketing the forage one produces. If one is to switch from cattle production to forage production, then the actual stocking rate of cattle can increase. This is very important with the increase cost of fuels. The list of inputs is amazing of how much fuel is put into one steer fed out in a feed lot. I'm sure I'll miss some of the inputs that are used: fertilizer for forage, fertilizer for grain, fuel for production and transportation of grain, transportation of cattle, electricity, production of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, production of cattle related equipment, fuel for tractors, and the list I'm sure expands.

The cattle industry is driven by a number of factors. The greatest is consumer demand. It impossible for one producer to drive consumer demand for beef. Yet one breed organization has been able to be a driving force in consumer demand, The American Angus Association (AAA). In 1978 the Certified Angus Beef Program (CAB) was formed by the AAA to specifically promote Angus Beef in this country. Their mission: To increase the demand for registered Angus cattle through a specification-based, branded-beef program to identify consistent, high quality beef with superior taste. I personally find the CAB somewhat misleading to the consumer as on their website:

I quote from the website: 'To receive the brand cattle must first be at least 51% black-hided or AngusSource ®...' You can read the rest. Essentially the beef you buy in the store that is certified is black cow. There are other requirements but when one considers the AAA registered only 350,000 animals in 2006 then not all of the beef sold under Certified Angus Beef is purebred Angus. The total beef production in 2004 was 24.5 billion pounds. One can certainly do the math. My hats off to the AAA for the greatest marketing program to influence consumers in the US.

I discussed forage production and the CAB program because we have Lowline Angus. I also briefly touched on stocking rates. The beef breeding in this country is totally driven on the CAB program. AAA last year asked producers to reduce the size of a carcass to 1000 lbs. In order to do so the size of individual animals must be reduced. Smaller size of the breeding herd in the US is of paramount importance when one considers the shrinking size of available agriculture land and the increase in the cost of grain products. Enter the Lowline Angus. The Lowline Angus is the next revolution in the beef industry of the US. There are approximately 850 to 1000 full blood Lowline Angus in the US. They are an Australian breed of Angus derived from orignal Aberdeen Angus genetics and are 70% the size of Aberdeen Angus. Over the last fifty years the cattle industry has assumed that bigger is better in the US. We have lost some of the reproductive efficiencies of our cattle breeds. The Lowline Angus can bring a smaller framed cow to commercial breeders when they carry 50% Lowline Angus genetics, increase stocking rates, and wean a 650 lb calf when bred to a 25% Composite Lowline Angus Bull. These cattle will qualify for the CAB program based on being 51% black hided. The increase stocking rates allows the producer to produce more pounds of beef per acre then is currently being produced by commercial breeders. Furthermore, the Lowline Angus have very high feed efficiencies as proven by Bovigen's GeneStar Testing for Feed Effieciency. This breed is capable of finishing on grass which becomes even more desirable to feedlots, as most cattle would only need 30-45 instead of days to finish in a feedlot for the desired taste consumers demand. Percentage Lowline Angus Steers finish in an average of 85-110 days compared to the normal of 150-200 days that are required. A very interesting article was put out by North Dakota State University on Lowline Angus in Feedlots (click on link):

NDSU Beeftalk Column

Angus have always been my favorite breed, especially the Aberdeen Angus type. The Angus in this country today is very different then the Aberdeen Angus. There are Aberdeen herds scattered throughout the US, but no longer the norm. Thus my immediate fascination and love for the Lowline Angus breed. The Lowline looks just like the Aberdeens just a little smaller. We are breeding both Fullbloods and Star 5 animals. Star 5 animals are Santa Gertrudis and Lowline Angus. We are breeding both black and red Star 5 animals. We will be reducing size, increasing calving ease, maintaining maternal EPD's and reproductive longevity. We invite you to come see this brand new Star 5 cross, the first in the in the Cattle Industry.

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