Quality Assessment of Feeder Cattle and Processes Based on Available Background Information
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The 2011 National Feeder Cattle Audit evaluated 42,704 cattle in 260 lots from 12 Texas and five Nebraska feedyards to determine BQA adherence, the effects prior management and transportation practices had on feedyard performance and health, and established industry benchmark data so that future advancements and improvements in beef quality related areas can be monitored. This study suggested most feedyard managers and some cow-calf producers and stocker operators have implemented Beef Quality Assurance plans into their respective operations. Survey data documents that the many stakeholders in the beef cattle industry have followed BQA guidelines in an effort to improve the quality and safety of beef being produced. The lots of cattle traveled an average distance of 468 miles from their origin to the feedyard and spent an average of 185.7 days on feed. The majority of the lots were from a single-source origin. Of the cattle where feedlot performance data was available, they gained an average of 3.2 lb/day and converted at 6.2:1. Across all lots, the average animal cost per day was $3.30. Cattle in the feedyard appeared healthy with a 1.7% average death loss and 19.6% average morbidity rate. Processing costs averaged $14.47 per animal, and medicine costs were $5.22 per animal in the lot. The majority of lots had lot tags present in their ear (98.8%), were branded with at least one hide brand (64.3%) and were polled (79.8%). The cattle had primarily a solid hide color (70.7%) and were black (49.6%). Lots appeared uniform with 82.9% being termed slightly to extremely uniform and only 17.1% of the evaluated lots being assessed as slightly to extremely variable. Cattle that traveled further distances to the feedyard had higher processing costs, but in turn did not have differences in medicine costs through the finishing period. It appears the industry will need more communication across the different segments to ensure a sustainable future. Continuing to track cattle origin and what management practices have been done will be important so that cattle can be received with the appropriate processing protocol. Across-segment collaboration and communication provides economic opportunities for beef cattle producers.