This column follows up on my February column in which I began responding to readers asking for information on crossbreeding programs that include more emphasis on the terminal animal. With an eye on the pricing grids on which more and more terminal cattle are being valued, the question was, how do you do this?

I repeat-this is not an easy question to answer because most of what has been published about crossbreeding has been cow-calf focused. Earn an extra $100 per cow, it is said, by increasing weaning weights, cow longevity and lifetime productivity. This is well and good, but the packer's grid is blind to these factors. It is such factors as quality grade, yield grade, retail yield and carcass size that pay off (or don't pay off) on the terminal grid.

I prepared for this column by creating a data subset off a data bank I derived from the individual records of 912 steers fed out over a four-year period under the OK Feedout, a feeding program sponsored by the Oklahoma State University extension service. This gave me detailed carcass and performance data to profile various breeds and breed combinations.

I had hoped that these data could be covered in one column and that I could then move on to breed selection. No way! There are far too many factors to be studied and understood. For this reason, this column focuses only on the factors of yield grade and quality grade.

I found the data of interest for two reasons. First, they put some numbers to differences in cattle of different types at the carcass level. Second, perspective is established on how the principle of heterosis plays out in various breed combinations.

The data leave no doubt about which type of cattle excel in yield grade and quality grade. Note that the exotic breeds have a 30-point advantage over the British breeds at the Yield Grade 1 level, the level that earns the highest premiums on pricing grids. British breeds, of course, score higher than exotic breeds at the lower-value YG 2 level. But combine the percentages for YG 1 and YG 2, and you'll see the true strength of the exotics.

The evaluation reverses, however, when the focus shifts from yield grade to quality grade. According to these data, it is even more difficult for exotic breeds to grade High Choice or Prime than it is for British-breed cattle to hit YG 1. Of particular significance is that High Choice is where cattle can qualify for significant grid premiums, including the premium for Certified Angus Beef.

I'll leave it to you to analyze the effects of breed and type crosses. What caught my eye was the consistent inverse relationship between changes in yield grade and quality grade-when yield grade improved, quality grade fell. But what's at work here, heterosis or just breed complimentarity? If it is complimentarity, then the effects of heterosis indeed end when a calf is weaned.

No, we're not ready for the breed-selection step in this analysis. Knowing where the values lie according to breed types is very important, but there are other important things to consider. I have data on factors involved in dressing percentage and retail yield that will be explored in coming columns.

A couple of things need to be pointed out about these data. The numbers are based plainly on steers entered in the OK Feedout by participating producers. Although many breeds and breed combinations are represented, the data do not necessarily represent a balanced cross section of the universe of cattle breeds. The projectability of the sample (number of cattle by breed type) is unknown. More cattle, particularly the British x British category, would improve projectability.

To contact Fred Knop, write Drovers or send e-mail to fredlyn@aol.com