Following a presentation of the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) at the recent Beef Improvement Federation conference, representatives from across the beef chain offered their reactions to the results and observations of beef-quality issues.
The panel included Tom Woodward, general manager of Broseco Ranch, Dan Dorn, supply development coordinator with Decatur County Feed Yard, Art Wagner, vice president of cattle procurement for national Beef Packing Company and Dr. Norlyn Tipton, program quality manager, specialty meat companies, Sysco Corporation.
Woodward says Broseco Ranch focuses on beef quality assurance, with an understanding that consumer perceptions about beef production can be more important than facts. He believes cow-calf producers have a responsibility to begin the process of producing a wholesome beef product that provides eating satisfaction. Good genetics for carcass and production traits, coupled with sound vaccination and weaning protocols help set calves up for a successful transition through later production stages and help ensure beef quality. The ranch continuously trains its employees in beef quality assurance, helping them understand they are in the food business.
Woodward says the Red Angus operation retains ownership of feeer cattle through the feedyard, and thus selects for cattle that excel in marbling and growth characteristics. Broseco ranch has used individual electronic identification since 1995 to help record keeping and management decisions, but he says the Texas operation will continue using branding for identifying cattle.
Decatur County Feed Yard
From a beef-quality perspective, Dorn says cattle feeders often find themselves in the position of trying to upgrade the overall quality of cattle they receive in order to provide their customer, the packer, with cattle that meet their needs and specifications.
Inconsistency in cattle is one of the biggest challenges cattle feeders face, he says. Illustrating this variability, Decatur county conducted a profit audit based on performance and carcass data collected on 185,000 steers and heifers over a five-year period. The analysis cancelled out differences in market prices, feed costs and seasonal variability in performance, allowing evaluation of the effects of genetics alone on the profitability of an individual ranch’s cattle. They found the actual value animals entering the feedyard, based on in-weights adjusted to 650 pounds entering the feedyard range from a low of $550 to a high of $1,175 per head.