East Central Iowa Beef Evaluation

October - December 2002

Ron Irvin, beef field specialist


Cow-calf producers, who lack the resources to feed out their own calves, are looking for the opportunity to 'test the water' with a sampling of their calf crop in a centralized steer test that provides them a measure of feedlot performance and carcass merit. In the process, they are evaluating the merits of retained ownership and the potential of adding value beyond weaning time.


The board of directors reestablished the East Central Iowa Beef Evaluation (steer test) in 2002 (no custom cattle feeder could be found in 2001). Eleven producers, ranging from Tama County to Jackson County , delivered 81 steers to a custom feedlot near Monticello . After a 30-day warm up, the calves were fed for an average of 162 days using standard ration ingredients. A field day was held in April so that consignors could evaluate progress of their steers, select one of two marketing dates and review the details of the two marketing grids that the cattle would likely be sold on.


Two consignors have commented that they did not truly understand the inner workings of marketing on a grid until they experienced it with a sampling of their own calves in the East Central Iowa Beef Evaluation. They saw the importance of minimizing 'out' cattle (yield grade 4's and heavy weights). Even though the choice to select discount receives major attention, consignors learned that yield grade premiums are an important factor in grid decision making. The 81 head made $12 per head over the Nebraska weighted average on the two harvest dates. Unfortunately, a $12 per cwt. decline in dressed price from mid-March to late May created a $50 per head loss in the feedlot phase, if one assumes a reasonable calf value at delivery time to the custom lot


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