Profitability for commercial ranch is top priority

Posted August 24, 2012

Beef Profit Alliance challenged producers to add value throughout supply chain

Just as crossbreeding adds growth, fertility and longevity to hybrid cattle, the joint collaboration of two beef cattle breed associations yielded information, ideas and networking opportunities surpassing what either could have accomplished alone.

Profitability was the common theme at the first-ever, dual-breed Beef Profit Alliance seminar, and more specifically, profitability for the commercial rancher. The seminar – held at Kansas State University (KSU) in Manhattan, Kan., July 22-24 – was a joint effort of the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) and American Simmental Association (ASA).

Heterosis = Efficiency, Fertility and Profitability

Patsy Houghton, Heartland Cattle Co., of McCook, Neb., has expansive research and experience rooted in developing over 80,000 beef heifers in the past two decades.

“Crossbred cows’ first-service conception rates and pregnancy retention rates are 7 percent higher than straight-bred cows,” said Houghton, “and they will remain productive an average of one year longer.”

She continued by saying, however, there is a compromise. “Heterosis will increase birth weight by 4 percent, but the upside is that weaning weight also increases by a considerable average of 15 percent.”

Dr. Bob Weaber, KSU cow-calf extension specialist, simplified the cow-calf production objective – grow grass for the cows to harvest, converting that grass into pounds of weaned calf. The result is not only profitability for the producer, but a desirable lifestyle and an improved environment.

He stressed that for maximum profitability each operation must adapt its cow type and size to best fit the range and forage conditions. “The key is to optimize the cow’s size and her lactation ability to fit the environment, producing the most pounds – and number of calves – delivered, at the lowest possible production cost,” said Weaber. “Low-cost producers are generally more profitable.”

Profit Drivers in Feeding

It’s important for both seedstock and cow-calf producers to have a solid understanding of the feeding industry. Tom Brink, JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, LLC, the nation’s largest feeder with a 960,000-head capacity at 12 yards in seven states, markets 1.7 million cattle a year, most on a pricing grid. “You are in the beef business,” said Brink. “Feedyards buy your customers’ cattle making us your customers’ customer.”

He challenged seedstock producers to be diligent in selecting genetics that will leave a good fingerprint on the industry. “Genetically speaking, we need cattle that will grow and grade. Your genetics are going out there in the industry and having an impact in my world. Make sure it’s a good one.”

Brink also stressed the importance of receiving healthy cattle that grow and grade. “Health is an old problem but we still identify it as the No. 1 production problem. Many cattle still need stronger immunity when they leave home. If not, they de-value their penmates.”

Branded Beef Programs Add Value

Branded beef programs are designed to add value to cattle that fill a specific niche in the market. Top genetics enable producers to garner those extra dollars, according to Blake Angell of Meyer Natural Angus, Brian Bertelson of U.S. Premium Beef and John Butler of Beef Marketing Group. The panel of speakers also stressed better communication from their producers. “If we have previous feedlot and grid data, we have a better idea of how these cattle will perform and how we can maximize added value,” said Butler.

The panel emphasized ranchers can implement strong health and nutritional programs on the ranch that will create more profit margin at harvest time, as well as utilize added-value tag programs. The Red Angus Feeder Calf Certification Program (FCCP) verifies genetics, source and age, and the newly released Allied Access program verifies source and age without genetic restrictions.

To understand the importance of carcass merit, attendees were able to evaluate three live Simmental and three live Red Angus steers at the beginning of the conference, then view the six carcasses on the last day. Dr. Michael Dikeman, KSU professor of meat science, presented the official quality and yield grades, carcass weights, ribeye areas, dressing percentages and carcass dollar values, and explained what characteristics contributed to profitability.

“It is important for each beef producer to understand what they deliver to the consumer,” said Kevin Miller, Croissant Red Angus, Briggsdale, Colo.  “The genetics that each one of us provides makes an impact on value and quality all the way through the system. We all need to understand that value does not stop at the point where we market our cattle.”

We Are All Beef Advocates

Seventy-five percent of Americans have a favorable view of farmers and ranchers, but only 42 percent have a positive attitude toward the way food is grown. This disconnect, according to Daren Williams, executive director of communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), is a challenge to all beef producers to share their story with consumers.

“We are continually improving our methods and practices,” said Williams, “and we need to tell consumers. In the end, they just want to know that their food is safe and healthy.”

Williams stated that the world population will double in the next 40 years. Currently 7 percent of the world’s cattle are producing 20 percent of the beef – a testament to good management and production practices.

“Ranchers are the most trusted source to tell beef’s good story,” he said. “You are the original stewards of the land and the best caretakers of your animals. Tell your story – talk the walk!”

Sarah Jones, Red Hill Farm, Scottsville, Ky., agreed with Williams. “We are truly in the business of producing beef for consumers – not just live cattle on the hoof. Whether Red Angus or Simmental breeders, we must all be advocates for the beef industry – the industry that puts money in our pockets and food on our tables.”

Kevin Unger, manager, Decatur Co. Feed Yard, Oberlin, Kan., said, “The ability to take the information available and move quickly and decisively will become more and more important in this industry. Those that know their product will be better equipped to take these new advances and implement them into their operations to affect their bottom line.”

To view video coverage and slide presentations of each of the speakers, visit


For more information, contact:
Jennifer Noble, communications director
(970) 270-4019 •


Red Angus is an ideal crossbreeding solution for producers who want to add heterosis to their cowherd.

Tom Brink, JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, LLC, challenged seedstock producers to be diligent in selecting genetics that will leave a good fingerprint on the industry.

Blake Angell of Meyer Natural Angus, Brian Bertelson of U.S. Premium Beef, John Butler of Beef Marketing Group discussed branded beef programs.

Attendees evaluated live steers for carcass merit and profitability.

Dr. Michael Dikeman explained the official carcass results of the steers.

Daren Williams, NCBA executive director of communications encouraged cattle producers to tell their beef story to consumers.

Kevin Unger, manager, Decatur Co. Feed Yard said producers that know their product will be better equipped to increase their profitability.