The Cattle Business: You Get Out of It What You Put Into It by Myron Edelman

Do your cattle sell for the average price? Do you ponder the thought of why some cattle sell for more than other cattle selling on the same day, that are seemingly the same? The better question is, what steps are you taking to ensure your cattle are reaching their full marketable value?

The fundamental value drivers of cattle health, weight, growth, efficiency and carcass value really do not change. However, words like “value-added” have taken on many different appearances over time. Most of us remember the beginning of USDA process verified programs (PVP). The most common PVP was source and age verification that once automatically added dollars to the bottom line. Now that age verification is less of an issue, it is much more common to see documentation of certifications playing a role in the final price of cattle. Those certifications may include: certified all-natural, humane handling, or documented vaccination protocols, which are certainly all common practices developed over recent years. Perhaps, what is more interesting is that fewer producers capitalize on programs that set them apart from the average when
cattle prices are at the highest point. As markets soften, ranchers are more likely to take extra steps to ensure their cattle bring the highest dollar amount possible.

Since prices peaked for the current market cycle back in 2014, ranchers and farmers are continuing to look for new mechanisms for putting distance between their cattle and the market average. What about science and prediction? Perhaps the most beneficial strategies for building prestige for producing the most sought after feeder cattle that demand better than average price or reputable high-level replacement females that garner premiums in the market can be found through genetic selection.

The American Gelbvieh Association (AGA) can assist producers with tools for management and genetic improvement through Smart Select Service (SSS). Recording the data points is simple and something that most producers already do as routine management practices. Examples of data points that producers need to record to benefit from SSS are individual cow identification numbers and birth dates, from their ranchers can record as much information as is suitable for their own operations.

What predictive information is provided by SSS? Feeder profit index (FPI) is indicative of how feeder cattle will perform in the feedyard. FPI is calculated from EPDs that most producers use in the bull buying process. Cow-calf producers can compare their cattle to the rest of the Gelbvieh and Balancer® population for FPI and make the decision of applying selection pressure for traits like growth, marbling and feed efficiency that directly impact the FPI measured in their cowherd through SSS. The mother cows on your ranch can also achieve a STAY score when enrolled in SSS; that is indicative of cow productivity over time. Applying selection pressure toward STAY EPD and the $Cow index will help increase that STAY score. As you can see, obtaining the ability to measure your cows’ genetic progress may speed the rate of genetic advancement and keep pace with the Gelbvieh and Balancer population, which is steadily improving, indicated in the graphics. Genetic information along with routine management information can all be recorded in $mart Select Service available through AGA.

I think we can all agree that it takes more than one small practice to build the high-quality distinction cattle producers are striving to achieve. A modern beef industry demands sound practices in herd health protocols, historical performance as well as genetic advancement. Why not allow the AGA to assist you, through SSS, in documenting your sound management procedures and genetic progress? If you put into your cowherd the power of information, what you get out of  your cowherd can be the difference between getting lost in  the mass of average cattle and being recognized and paid for supplying the best possible cattle on the market.