Change doesn’t have to be dramatic and sweeping to make an impact.
Bill Rishel, a registered Angus breeder from North Platte, Neb., says little gains in efficiency, functionality and carcass merit all add up.
For easy math, he uses a 100-head example.
“As a cow-calf producer, the number one traits for profitability are fertility, reproduction and herd health,” he says.
If an average herd has 90 head survive to weaning, what would five more mean?
Calving ease is one easy place to make that gain: “Years ago the only tool we had was phenotype,” he says.
“Today, when you add the genomics into the EPDs [expected progeny difference], we’re a lot further along than ever before in my life.”
Tools are available to pick the “right” sires and drive improvements in other areas, he says.
Those 95 calves move on to the industry average 205-day weaning, at 2.5 pounds (lb.) of weight per day of age (WDA). At just over $1.48 per hundredweight (cwt.), that’s $757.
But what if they gained more?
“That 5% increase, along with the five more calves—now you’re talking about some really big money,” Rishel says.
Such a percentage gain in weaning weights means WDA moves from 2.5 to 2.63 lb. That may not seem like much, he says, but figuring in all multipliers moves total calf price to more than $797, and $7,585 to the herd’s bottom line.
A boost in gain and efficiency could show up in the feedyard, too.
Increasing average daily gain (ADG) by that 5% would turn 3.4 lb./day into 3.57. On a 600-lb. total gain, that changes the per-head value by just $4.53, but measured on that 95 head it adds up to more than $430.
Feed efficiency can have much more effect, as improving from 6.2 lb. to 5.89 lb. of feed to gain a pound of beef, just 5%, creates a $35/head value difference. That’s $3,357 on the entire herd.
Efficiency and quality can be achieved in tandem, Rishel says, noting one last place to make an improvement: the cooler.
“Using genetic tools to make changes with highly heritable traits, now we can do something that impacts the entire industry,” he says.
Citing an Oklahoma State University sire evaluation study, he says 16 bulls with superior carcass traits added an average of $3.27/cwt. to the carcass value.