by Will Townsend and Chip Kemp
Imagine you had to find bulls for your operation but you didn’t know any breeders, nobody used EPDs, or even shared actual data. It’s obvious to anyone interested in building quality cattle and maximizing profit this would be a major blow to the bottom line.
Yet, this is how the feeder calf business exists today. Frequently, when purchasing quality feeder calves, we can receive crucial information regarding environmental factors such as management and health protocols, weights, etc. However, when it comes to genetic awareness, color and polled status are often asked to substitute for true knowledge. A common scenario, and at times the best-case scenario, is that the calf buyer has a previous relationship with the seller and has owned and experienced the performance of the seller’s calves before. In more rare cases, we may have some information on the seller’s bull purchases. Again, this is a powerful step forward. It provides at least some insight into a portion of the genetics within the program. However, in a data-driven world, this level of genetic awareness is woefully inadequate. Especially since the financial stakes for feeder calf procurement are even higher than the stakes for bull procurement. Understandably, most large cattle buyers have technology to estimate genetic and environmental performance on feeder cattle but that information is not public and, for obvious reasons, is kept to those companies. Therefore, price discovery as we know it today, most often does not take account the actual performance potential of a producer’s feeder cattle.
Attempts to determine relative value of feeder cattle have been made for a long-time; however, certain issues have made it difficult. The foremost limitation has been accurately gauging the profit potential in the largest genetic group within the beef industry — the crossbred calf. It is a known scientific fact that commercial beef producers wishing to maximize cowherd fertility and longevity must crossbreed. This not only provides them a sustainable and profitable cow base, but fortunately generates an end product that is known to be the best combination of growth potential and carcass merit — the crossbred calf. The history of the Feeder Profit Calculator (FPC) has its roots in ASA’s Terminal Index ($TI). The $TI was developed over a decade ago by ASA in collaboration with Dr. Michael MacNeil, who was a USDA research geneticist at the time. The $TI is an economic selection index designed for selecting terminal sires. Though $TI could do a reasonable job valuing feeder calves, it was determined that evolving $TI into a tool that could account for such things as a current accounting of prices/costs, heterosis, and non-genetic factors (e.g., vaccination status), would improve the accuracy of predicting feeder calf values. Dr. MacNeil, now with Delta G Genetics, was tapped to evolve $TI into that tool — the FPC. Many of the FPC’s non-genetic components were sourced by Dr. David Lalman of Oklahoma State University. Providing the most robust genetic awareness of crossbred calves requires the most robust multi-breed genetic evaluation. Fortunately, International Genetic Solutions (IGS) provides the ideal platform to generate unparalleled information on crossbred and composite feeder calves. IGS, along with its’ member associations, the science team at Theta Solutions, and scientific contributions by Dr. Matt Spangler of the University of Nebraska is ideally suited to provide the industry’s benchmark in gauging feeder calf value. The IGS Feeder Profit Calculator empowers producers to market with confidence and allows feeders to maximize their purchasing dollars.
Capitalizing on novel technology usually requires a tremendous learning curve and a major outlay of dollars. Not this time! The IGS Feeder Profit Calculator is unique. It will offer a level of genetic awareness of crossbred feeder calves that has not been previously possible in the beef business. The IGS science team, the IGS partner associations, and the world’s largest beef genetic evaluation database allows the IGS FPC to be delivered at no cost to producers. That is correct. No Cost!
Beef producers looking for a transparent and straightforward assessment of their calves will harness the power of IGS by simply making a call, sending an email, or visiting the IGS website. IGS and/or breed association personnel will request information on herd health, basic management protocols, the bull battery used in previous years, and insight into the makeup of the cowherd. The more thorough the inputs from the producer, the better the predictive ability of the FPC. While individual sire identification isn’t required, identification of the bulls used in the operation is required. Producers will be asked to share preconditioning information and the health program in place. The IGS FPC will be demonstrated at the 2017 NCBA Convention in Nashville, TN, and be made available to the public shortly thereafter. Three short demos will be held at the IGS booth each day of the convention. For producers who have interest in having their calves evaluated through the IGS FPC please contact one of the IGS breed partners or contact beef@internationalgeneticsolutions. com. Cattle feeders who are interested in integrating the capabilities of the IGS FPC into their purchasing decisions please use the same email. Additional information and highlights will be provided in the coming months.