As calf prices tighten, value-added programs continue to gain in popularity. Now in its 18th year, the Integrity Beef Alliance is proving that meeting a series of best-management practice protocols can yield significant increases in weaning and yearling weights. One of the keys to this alliance’s success is a strict requirement regarding bull quality.
Robert Wells, livestock consultant for the Noble Research Institute, which is affiliated with the Integrity Beef Alliance, explains protocol for the terminal program requires bulls to be in the top 20% of the breed on expected progeny differences (EPDs) for weaning and yearling weights. Bull breeds used in the program include Black Angus, Red Angus and Charolais. Integrity Beef Alliance members report as much as a 75-pound increase in weaning weights on calves compared to their herds’ performance prior to program membership.
The average weaning weight for Integrity Beef Alliance calves (2009 through 2015) is 593 pounds, a 64-pound advantage. Taking that average across a 50-head herd, this 64 pounds adds up to 3,200 more pounds of beef at the sale gate. That 64-pound gain is estimated based on data from the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System. This shows average weaning weights for steers and heifers across the country at 529 pounds.
Average daily gains on Integrity Beef Alliance calves were more than 2.3 pounds. That level of gain, Wells stresses, is directly tied to quality bulls.
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“The reason the Alliance set that 20% number was with a goal of ensuring that every segment in the beef cattle value chain could be profitable and successful with these cattle. That quality level means the cow/calf producer can wean off and grow out--after a 60-day preconditioning program--a nice, big heavy calf,” he explains. Wells says the average weight for a 10-month-old Integrity Beef Alliance calf is 775 pounds.
“At the feedlot level, they know that a top-20% yearling is programmed to grow,” he continues. “We focus on health, and then we have the components of growth and conversion--all important when we look at the economics of the feedlot.”
This year, about 50 cow/calf producers are participating in the Integrity Beef Alliance, with some 50 more in the pipeline. Wells says those 50 are working to come into compliance with program protocols, including vaccination programs, tighter calving seasons and having a high-quality bull battery in place. Most producers use natural sire cover.
Once protocols are met, producers pay $1 per head each year for Integrity Beef Alliance membership. Current members are from Oklahoma and Texas, though Wells says producers from all states are welcome. There are no herd size requirements, with the average Integrity Beef Alliance member carrying 75 to 80 head.
Along with bull quality and breed, the program also has standards regarding cows. They can be no less than 50% British influence; no more than 50% Continental influence; no more than three-eighths Brahman influence; and no dairy, longhorn or corriente influence.
“We are following cues from order buyers and feedlots as to what they want their calves to look like,” Wells explains of the standards.
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