On a live-weight basis, average daily gains tend to decline late in the finishing period, possibly triggering shipment of cattle as cost of gain appears to approach or exceed the value of gain. However, as many finished cattle today sell on carcass-based grids, carcass gain becomes more economically relevant than liveweight gain. Research has shown that many cattle continue to efficiently add carcass weight even after liveweight gain drops off late in the feeding period. To evaluate the economics of carcass gain, researchers at Colorado State University analyzed 67,570 lots of steers and heifers fed between 2002 and 2008 in 212 feedyards across six U.S. feeding regions. They found carcass-based feed efficiency was the most influential factor in determining cost of carcass-based gain and net return per animal. Carcass-based average daily gains and days on feed, due to their combined effects on total amount of carcass weight gained during finishing, were the two most important determinants of value of carcass gain and the second and third most important contributors to net return per animal. The analysis showed profit was maximized by adding weight until cost of carcass gain exceeded the value of carcass gain, which required finishing cattle to relatively heavy carcass weights of 935 pounds for steers and 845 pounds for heifers. Those carcass weights translate to live weights of approximately 1,425 pounds for steers and 1,290 pounds for heifers. Results of the study were published in The Professional Animal Scientist.
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