Tight feeding margins and increasing participation in value-based markets have raised the value of information for cattle feeders. Colorado State University researchers recently surveyed thirty-one feedlot managers who participated in a Certified Angus Beef Supply Development Conference to determine their current and desired levels of knowledge about the cattle they feed.

The researchers also asked the managers about their willingness to pay for access to more information about the cattle entering their feedyards. Information traits fell into three general categories – genetics, health/management, and herd history for feedlot and carcass performance.

Managers indicated that the average level of information currently available in regards to the cattle they feed was generally low and highly variable. Only vaccination schedule and single versus multiple herd sources were known for just over one-half of the cattle currently being fed. In general, the researchers note, information was more available for health and management history than for genetic origin or herd history for feedlot and carcass performance

The managers who responded to the survey indicated strong interest in knowing more about the cattle they feed. Those traits about which 90 percent or more of respondents desired more information included:

  • Yield Grade – 100 percent
  • Nutritional management, Quality Grade, feedlot gain – 96.8 percent
  • Breed composition, vaccination schedule, implant history – 93.5 percent
  • Morbidity/mortality and brand of health products used – 90.3 percent
  • Out or non-conformance history – 90 percent
  • Age of castration – 66.7 percent
  • Weaning age – 74.2 percent
  • Cost of gain – 74.2 percent

The survey also included a question about which traits would be worthy of premiums should the performance of the cattle fit the purchase criterion? The top seven traits upon which these respondents were willing to pay premiums were

  • Vaccination schedule – 83.3 percent
  • Quality grade – 80 percent
  • Sire and associated performance data – 79.3 percent
  • Feedlot gain – 76.7 percent
  • Breed composition – 72.4 percent
  • Yield grade – 70 percent
  • Implant history – 66.7 percent

All other traits were below 55 percent in terms of respondent's willingness to pay premiums. In their report, the researchers note that cow-calf producers should consider the need to collect and disseminate additional information about the genetics, management, and previous performance of cattle from their herds. Those with information are likely to have more power in the marketing process.