As calf prices tighten, value-added programs continue to gain in popularity. Now in its 16th 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 Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, which is affiliated with the Alliance, explained protocol for the terminal program requires bulls used 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. Alliance members reported as much as a 75-pound increase in weaning weights on calves last year, compared to weaning weights prior to program membership.
To put that into context, the USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System reported average weaning weights for steers and heifers across the country at 529 pounds. Average weaning weight for Alliance cattle (2009 through 2015) was 593 pounds--a 64-pound advantage. In a 50-head herd this would be 3,200 more pounds of beef to sell. Average daily gains on Alliance calves were more than 2.3 pounds. That level of gain is directly tied to those quality bulls, says Wells.
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"The reason the Alliance set that 20% number was with a goal of insuring 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 explained. Wells said the average weight for a 10-month-old Alliance calf is 775 pounds.
"At the feedlot level, they know that a top 20% yearling is programed to grow," he continued. "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 Alliance; with some 50 more in the pipeline. Wells said 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 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 Alliance member carrying 75 to 80 head.
Along with bull quality and breed, the Alliance does have 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," explained Wells.
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