Beef Cattle Browsing – Vol. 25 No. 1

Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) for beef was in effect from March, 2009 through December, 2015. At that time, it was repealed by an act of Congress in response to challenges made by Canada and Mexico through the World Trade Organization. Interest has surfaced again to reinstate MCOOL for beef, including a recent resolution to that effect introduced in the U. S. Senate. Some organizations and individuals contend that MCOOL increased demand for beef produced from cattle born, raised, and slaughtered in the U. S. An analysis was conducted to examine this contention.

Demand for beef for the 3½ years after repeal of MCOOL was estimated through a monthly fresh beef demand index. Adjustment was made for variation in consumer disposable income and prices of competing meats. In summary, the analysis indicated that demand for beef increased 3.8% during the 3½ year period after repeal of MCOOL.

Some other research indicates most consumers want to know where their meat comes from but may not pay much if any extra for that information. But some proponents of MCOOL say consumers simply have a right to know the origin of their food. Debate concerning whether that is a right will no doubt continue.

( ; 9/30/2019)

The American Association of Bovine Practitioners has released guidelines for castration. They are:

  • Castrate as early as possible, ideally within 24 hours of birth up to three months of age;
  • Calves should be restrained for castration to reduce stress and risk of injury to both animal and human, using a squeeze chute, tilt table or other methods;
  • Castration should be by surgical removal or rubber rings;
  • Local anesthetics should be administered immediately prior to castration.

(AABP Guidelines; Aug, 2019)

A study evaluated three procedures for immunizing calves around time of weaning. A group of 159 Angus X Hereford steers and heifers averaged 173 days of age at weaning and 422 lb. Management was:

  • at branding (approximately 45 days of age) calves were vaccinated for Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) complex and clostridials;
  • at weaning, calves were preconditioned for 30 days on alfala-grass hay and free-choice mineral;
  • after preconditioning, calves were transported approximately 300 miles to a commercial growing feedyard for 150 days;
  • after growing, calves were transported 33 miles to a finishing yard, treated according to the facilities’ standard receiving procedures, and fed a 4-step finishing ration for 126 days.

Calves were assigned to one of three groups for additional vaccination for BRD complex and clostridials as follows:

  • vaccinated at weaning and 30 days later after preconditioning (CON);
  • vaccinated 15 days before weaning and 15 days after (EARLY);
  • vaccinated 15 days after weaning and 30 days later (DELAYED).

During the growing phase, ADG averaged 2.66 lb/day to 856 lb. During finishing, ADG averaged 4.1 lb/day to 1375 lb. There were no significant differences among treatment groups in ADG or end weight during any interim period or at conclusion, nor in any carcass characteristics. Overall incidence of BRD was sig.lower in EARLY but did not differ in CON or LATE. However, there was no sig. difference among the three groups in calves requiring ≥ 2 antimicrobial treatments or in death rate.

In conclusion, some effect was seen in preconditioned, grown, and finished calves in incidence of BRD, but not in number of treatments required or death loss. And neither animal performance nor carcass characteristics differed significantly.

(J. Anim. Sci. 97:2; Oregon St. Univ., Texas A&M Univ.)

Weaning weights are typically adjusted to the same age for comparing individual animals. In most standardized genetic evaluation programs the age is 205 days, i. e., a little less than seven months. This has been the “standard” for many years. Why?

In a paper published in 1946 by the New Mexico State College Agricultural Experiment Station, weaning weights of Hereford calves born from 1936 through 1943 were adjusted to the average age at weaning. That average? It was 205 days. (Average weaning weights over those years was around 340 to 350 lb.)

And so, 205 days became the standard used by many universities, performance testing organizations, and, later, breed associations in genetic evaluation through Expected Progeny Difference (EPD). How close is that age to industry practice? In a recent nationwide survey, average age at weaning was 8.3 months. Spring-calving herds averaged weaning about one month younger (average actual weight of 541 lb) than fall-calving (average actual weight of 553 lb).

NOTE: It seems likely that most genetic evaluation programs will continue to adjust to 205 days of age, for historical comparison purposes if nothing else. But commercial producers may want to use their actual weaning averages, especially to measure production in a given year.

(TRENDS 13:10)

January 1 cattle numbers have been released by USDA. After increasing since 2014, all cattle and calves declined less than 1% from a year ago. All cows and heifers that have calved, beef cows, steers over 500 lb, and the 2019 calf crop all dropped about 1%. Heifers over 500 lb barely declined but beef replacement heifers declined 2%. It appears expansion has stopped or at least slowed, at least for now.

(USDA-NASS; 1/31/20)

One factor closely followed by many in the industry is the spread between price for carcasses of Select and Choice USDA grades. During the first month of this year the spread was in the range of $2-4/cwt. However, during November to December that value was about$12-25/cwt. Where will it go? Depends on who you listen to. One thing is certain, it will change over time. NOTE:  Bonus for high-quality branded product (upper Choice and Prime) over low Choice has not changed much and has been generally in the range of $8-12 for a number of years.

Structural soundness is important in functionality and longevity. Some breed associations now address genetic evaluation of some factors affecting structural soundness, especially feet and legs. But to be effective in genetic selection, traits selected for should be passed on to progeny.

Visual evaluation, using a 9-point scoring system, was done on 18,885 Red Angus cattle. Twelve traits were scored and heritability estimates calculated. Only five traits were in the heritability range of 0.17 to 0.29. These were (in decreasing rank of heritability) rear leg side view, foot size, rear heel depth, front hoof angle, and rear hoof angle. Traits ranging from 0.08 to 0.15 heritability were rear claw shape, front side view, hoof orientation, front heel depth, knee orientation, rear leg view, and front claw shape. The authors concluded that at least some visually evaluated   hoof and leg traits could be moderately improved through genetic selection.

(Cattlemen’s Day Report 4:6; Kansas St. Univ.)

To get best response from vaccines it is important to always read and follow label directions. Don’t take for granted that you know what the label is going to say. For example, while it may seem like all vaccines have a 21-day withdrawal time before slaughter there are some vaccines that have a 60-day slaughter withdrawal. Additionally, product labels can change over time so always take a few minutes to review labels of vaccines used in your operation.

(From Jason Banta, Ph. D., , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator)


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