Management decisions made the difference in quality beef: speaker

Cow-calf producers can use TCSCF reports to inform their decisions around breeding and management

Darrell Busby, manager of the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity Co-operative in Lewis, Iowa, spoke to cattle producers attending the Manitoba Beef Background and Feedlot School about what makes the difference in grading a profitability.

You only hit whatever you aim at, so you’d best aim high. However, it helps to know what the target actually is.

In the beef business, it is producing the highest-quality beef possible, an American cattle expert visiting Manitoba told the Manitoba Beef Background and Feedlot School held in Carman recently.

“Ultimately, our industry is built on this demand by the consumer and the consumer wants a high-quality product,” said Darrell Busby, manager of Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity (TCSCF) Co-operative and retired extension beef specialist for southwestern Iowa.

It costs less to produce that quality than we tend to think, he said.

“It’s an accumulation of doing the right things,” he said. “I think oftentimes when we talk about producing high-quality beef people say, that costs money to produce.

“Our data shows it does not cost more. It is actually more economical to produce quality beef.”

Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity (TCSCF), an Iowa-based service co-operative providing information to cattle producers, provides quality comparisons to help producers add more value to their production.

The TCSCF was founded by producers asking one key question, ‘what is the most profitable steer to feed?’

The program dates to the early 1980s, but became a service co-operative in 2002 owned by cow-calf consignors from southwest Iowa, said Busby who spoke to cattle producers about some of the key lessons learned in the program’s 30-plus years of operation.

Consignors — mostly from states south and east of Iowa and from Manitoba are early adopters of genetic evaluation tools and advice on best ways to improve calf health and performance, Busby said.

Moreover, they share the view that management practices should not have boundaries, and that everyone benefits when information is shared towards meeting that high-quality target.

“Our competition is not each other,” Busby said. “Our board has felt very strongly that we have to work together to become more efficient. That’s what the hogs and poultry have done. It’s our responsibility to share that information.”

Since 2002, a total of 97,446 steers and heifers have been consigned to the TCSCF Co-operative. Consignors receive reports with information on their animals’ performance at the feedlot, including average daily gain and carcass data.

It shows how each animal individually gained and how they graded, said Busby, adding the producer can then use that information to tweak their breeding, management and marketing programs.

“You get to see all the data in the final report of all the cattle in the pen so if you want to compare how your cattle gained and graded compared to your neighbours, that’s your opportunity,” he said.

This is all about the decline of commodity beef and the move towards demand-driven product, while making it possible for producers to benefit from their efforts in health and management, Busby said.

Nearly three-quarters of the cattle marketed today are priced on their individual carcass merit in the food chain, he added.

“In the U.S. system 74 per cent of fed cattle marketed today are on some kind of reward system for higher-quality calves,” he said. “There are rewards for producing higher-quality animals.

For the most part, producers like what they find out from participating in the TCSCF, he said.

About 35 per cent say they’re pleasantly surprised to find out just how good their calves are, while another 55 per cent say it’s enabled them to look for ways to improve, Busby said.

Naturally, not everyone’s happy though.

“Ten per cent are disappointed and think the TCSCF program is the worst idea in the world,” he said. “Telling a cow-calf producer his calves are not the best is worse than saying his daughter is real ugly.”

More information about the TCSCF Co-operative can be found online at:

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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