Jack Van Laar, CEED, Decatur County
The Midcrest Area Cattle Evaluation Program (MACEP), a steer feeding/carcass evaluation project for area producers, has operated for many years in the south central Iowa area. The past ten years the program has been conducted at the Petty Family Feedlot, a custom feedlot south of Leon in Decatur County. The program receives technical input, coordination, and management from ISU Extension livestock field specialist Joe Sellers and Decatur CEED Jack Van Laar. Follow-up meetings are held shortly following the last slaughter group to share results with producer participants and to get feedback for future conduct of the program. The program had been showing a steady decline in participation in recent years and program participants and staff discussed the need and benefits of the program and strategies to increase participation and ensure the program’s continuation.
All the current participants at the 2006-07 summary meeting were firm in their belief in the need for and benefits of this feedlot evaluation program. They felt the program not only gave them a value-added marketing option of retained ownership, but more importantly, helped them to evaluate the performance of their cattle beyond the feeder calf stage to make herd selection and management decisions. They collectively formed a strategy with Extension staff guidance to promote and conduct the program for the 2007-08 feeding cycle. This included more active and vigorous advertising and recruitment by both Extension staff and current participants to get new participants or draw back previous ones who for various reasons were no longer involved. This would include both direct mail and media in a concerted effort, but the key would be face-to-face personal contact with producers to explain the program benefits. The second part of the strategy would involve offering another feeding option, protocol and delivery date for non-weaned cattle (both heifers and steers) to fit a broader range of producer’s herd management systems and schedules.
Thanks to the new recruitment efforts of producers and staff, and the addition of the non-weaned groups of steers and heifers, the 2007-08 MACEP program boasted a total of 178 steers and 105 heifers from 14 producers. Compared to 58 steers and 16 heifers from 7 producers last year, this represented a 282% increase in animals and 100% increase in producer participants. This was accomplished during a period of time when feeder calf prices remained relatively high and all costs (feed costs especially) were escalating rapidly. Even so, these MACEP cattle posted feed costs of gain ranging from $52.19-$61.38/cwt and total costs of gain ranging from $74.16-$82.96/cwt as compared to average total costs of gain of Kansas Feedlot Summary cattle for April, 2008 (33,041 heifers, 20,313 steers) of $80.88/cwt. (steers) and $86.44/cwt. (heifers). Cost advantage per cwt. for the two MACEP steer groups was $5.67 and $6.72 with a per head advantage of $39.92 and $42.54 respectively. For the two heifer groups, these advantages were $10.38/cwt and $3.48/cwt or $64.88/head and $18.83/head respectively. This represents $11,483 in cost of gain savings for these cattle over the nine large Kansas feedlot cattle used in the comparison summary. These steers and heifers also compared favorably to the averages of 1,925 heifers and 5,402 steers fed last year in SW Iowa through the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity in daily gain, feed to gain ratios, and yield grade parameters. The only carcass parameter which fell significantly short of industry goals was Quality Grade % Choice (4 groups-27%/46%/49%/60% low choice vs industry goal of 70%). However, the environmental conditions during this feeding cycle may have played a role and there was general agreement that the lower cost of gain well compensated for this as did the narrow choice-select price spread such that producers did not receive a very heavy price penalty. The bulk of the cattle were also source verified and picked up a $30 premium per head on the first harvest and $25 premium per head on the second harvest.
At the summary meeting held in Leon this past June there was strong agreement among staff and producers that the addition of the non-weaned groups helped participation and even though feeding returns over all costs were calculated as negative (as they have been for about all feedlots during this period), participants continue to derive valuable herd management information from this program and want to continue it. One item they wish to explore is to have a risk management committee to utilize opportunities and make decisions to hedge or lock-in feed costs and market cattle prices.
140 Iowa Beef Center
Page last updated:
August 25, 2008
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