Profitability starts with genetics

Farm Forum

At one point or another, many cattlemen wonder: Do all black-hided calves bring the same price on sale day? How much emphasis do buyers put on the genetic value of those calves?

For about 14 years, Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) Supply Development has been conducting research to answer those questions. The study, titled “Here’s the Premium,” analyzed data from 10 markets that sold more than 300,000 calves in 13,794 lots. What they discovered is positive news for those who rely on Angus genetics.

Data from nine cooperating auction markets last fall showed an all-time high Angus premium. It was $5.30 per hundredweight (cwt.) for the combination of 504-pound (lb.) heifers and 511-lb. steers sold in 660 lots, compared to non-Angus contemporaries.

In addition, data from 13 years of marketing 4.9 million cattle in 40,799 lots on the leading U.S. video auction shows a clear dominance of Angus genetics. Most of the calves sold on the video include data on breed type, which consistently affects sale price.

The study has also found that the premiums for Angus calves have grown in a near linear trend for the past 13 years. So the answer is yes, known Angus steers and heifers bring more on sale day. But to tap into that added value, producers need to provide potential buyers with an idea of how the cattle will perform – and to verify that those black hides are, in fact, Angus-sired.

Verifying Angus genetics

The American Angus Association recognized the upward trend early and anticipated the need for an identification program that could differentiate simply black-hided calves from known Angus-sired calves. The solution – AngusSource. In 2003, the program began as a way to help commercial producers market their feeder calves and replacement heifers.

In 2005, AngusSource transitioned to a USDA process verified program (PVP) documenting source, group age and a minimum 50% Angus genetics. When calves enter the sale arena, program ear tags let buyers recognize the added value associated with each animal.

“This program has grown significantly over the past 10 years,” says Ginette Kurtz, AngusSource quality manager. “Our goal, every day, is to help producers better market their cattle and increase the profitability of their operation. We believe AngusSource does that extremely well.”

However, today’s beef industry is much different than it was a decade ago. Historically low cow herd numbers, coupled with widespread drought, have many cattlemen looking toward management strategies that increase the value of the calves they do retain. On top of that, consumers are demanding more information – like documented source – on the beef products they purchase.

A new plan for AngusSource will assist with both.

Introducing AngusSource Genetic

The American Angus Association is developing plans to better serve its members and their customers through an updated age-and-source verification program called AngusSource Genetic. It will continue to document Angus genetics, source and age, while also incorporating valuable information from the Association database. It will also improve user experience and reduce implementation hurdles on the ranch.

“Today’s cattle producers have a number of options when it comes to managing their herds,” Kurtz says. “By launching AngusSource Genetic we hope to streamline the process and make our program the easiest – and most reliable – genetic verification resource in the beef industry.”

The Angus breed boasts the nation’s largest beef cattle registry, and the new AngusSource Genetic program is designed to more closely align with those records, which are updated weekly. Commercial cattlemen using the program will be encouraged to take advantage of the Association’s suite of performance tools and records.

“Simplicity is key to all of our updates,” Kurtz says. “Enrolling in AngusSource Genetic will be a straightforward process, with the option to enroll even before calves are born.”

Once enrolled, AngusSource Genetic cattle are designated in two ways.

The first is an official marketing document that authenticates the genetic integrity and potential worth of the enrolled group of calves. The document will be available online and emailed to a targeted group of buyers who have expressed interest in verified Angus cattle.

The second way is a bright, neon-green ear tag. After supplying bull turnout dates, AngusSource Genetic can process enrollment and send program-compliant ear tags so they are ready when calving season begins. The Destron Fearing tamper-evident tag is available in three options: visual, e.Tag and ChoiceSet. These fade-resistant, laser-engraved tags have superior readability and retention.

“We feel confident that as the market changes, the value of record keeping is only going to increase,” Kurtz says. “When you see an AngusSource Genetic ear tag, it means that calf has been raised on an operation focused on quality, rooted in data evaluation and determined to move the industry forward.”

Interested producers are encouraged to contact the Association’s AngusSource department to learn more about the program or stay tuned to the website for more information as it becomes available.