A report by the U. S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention“connects antibiotic use in animals and drug resistant infections in humans” but “the most urgent threats are posed by antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals as a result of heavy antibiotic use there.”

Effects of grain or grass finishing
Angus steers initially averaging 905 pounds were either 1) grazed on mixed species pasture for 84 days followed by ryegrass-clover pasture for 219 days or 2) fed in drylot on 80 percent corn ration for 168 days. Results were:

Trait Grain Grass
ADG, lb 2.95 1.68
Final weight, lb 1410 1353
Dressing % 63.1 58.4
Fat cover, in 0.51 0.40
Ribeye area,sq in 14.4 12.6
Yield grade 3.6 3.0
Quality grade low Choice high Select

All of the above except final weight were significantly different. Grass-finished steaks were significantly more tender. But there were no significant differences in taste-panel juiciness, flavor intensity, flavor quality or overall palatability; grain-finished tended to have slightly more intense, more desirable flavor.

Cost of gain was $0.07/cwt less for grass finishing. Based on the economic analysis in the paper, if a carcass price premium of 8 percent could be realized for grass finishing that system resulted in $62/head more profit. However, without any premium grain finishing was $25/head more profitable. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 29:298; Univ. of California)

Variation in feedyard profit or loss
Considering all the factors involved, it should not be surprising that financial returns from feeding cattle are not consistent. A recent report on Kansas feedyards showed how inconsistent returns actually have been. From January 2002 to July 2013, cattle have lost money in 88 months and made money in 50 months.


The average from feeding steers was a loss of $38.43, with a range of $293.59 loss to $308.54 profit. Average from heifers was a loss of $25.41, with a range of $274.24 loss to $289.39 profit.

The longest sustained periods of loss were 18 months in late 2008 to early 2010 and 15 months from early 2012 to mid 2013. The longest sustained periods of profit were 15 months from early 2003 to early 2004 and 14 months from early 2010 to early 2011. Slight profit is projected for October and November closeouts.

NOTE: These figures are based on cash marketing and no risk management. (agmanager.info; Kansas St. Univ.)

Predicting efficiency from DNA
522 Angus steers and 395 Charolais steers were used to determine accuracy of DNA markers in predicting Residual Feed Intake. When the predicting and predicted groups were more closely related, accuracy was 0.58 for Angus and 0.62 for Charolais. When there was minimal pedigree relationship, accuracy was 0.29 for Angus and 0.38 for Charolais.

Pooling data from the two breeds resulted in accuracy of 0.31 for Angus and 0.43 for Charolais. But when data from one breed were used to predict in the other, accuracy decreased to 0.10 to 0.22 depending on the prediction method.

So, as has been shown in other research, utility of DNA markers is highest when the predicting and predicted groups are more similar. [J. Animal Sci. 91:4669; Univ. of Alberta, Univ. of Guelph, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Lacombe, AB), Colorado St. Univ.]

Age effects on price
We all know cattle of the same weight are not priced the same. As an example, before the federal government shutdown on market reports the most recently available price range in late September for 600- to 700-pound steers at the Oklahoma City market was $149.50-$172. Many factors enter into price including such things as type/breed, color, health, horns, etc. A factor not mentioned as often as these is age.

My colleague Dr. Ted McCollum at the Texas A&M Center in Amarillo noted some recent figures from the Apache, Oklahoma, auction. Of cattle of similar weight, those identified as calves averaged about $9/cwt lower price than those identified as yearlings, which are generally healthier and often come with more efficient, compensatory gain compared to calves.

Another way to use liquid feed for cows
Liquid feed for beef cows is typically delivered by free-choice lick tank. Two studies evaluated adding liquid feed to hay. In the first study, 191 mature, dry, pregnant, wintering Angus cows received for 77 days either: 1) free-choice 35 percent CP liquid, 2) the same liquid added to bales at 10 percent of bale weight, or 3) 2.75-pounds/day distillers dried grain plus solubles.

The second study included 160 Angus and 20 Brahman X Hereford mature, dry, pregnant, wintering cows which received for 52 days either 1) free-choice liquid, 2) liquid added at 10 percent bale weight, or 3) liquid added at 15 percent bale weight.

Liquid feed was added by tipping bales on end, pouring liquid into the end, keeping in place for 8 hours, and turning bales back on side. All cows received free-choice approximately (dry-matter basis) 9 percent CP, 45 percent TDN bermuda grass hay. When fed, hay was 1½  to 2½  years old and had been stored uncovered on dirt or asphalt surface. Hay was fed in pipe round bale feeders with feeding space of approximately 1.5 linear feet per cow.

Change in weight and Body Condition Score was not consistent across treatments and studies. However, there were some statistically significant differences in hay waste. In the first study, hay waste from free-choice liquid (23.5 percent) was significantly higher than poured liquid (18.3 percent); DDGS (21.6 percent) did not differ significantly from the other treatments.

In the second study, waste for 10 percent liquid (26.8 percent) and 15 percent liquid (23.9 percent) did not differ significantly but free-choice loss (31.7 percent) was significantly higher than both poured levels. The authors concluded that the pour method could reduce cost in supplementing beef cows. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 29:552; Louisiana St. Univ.)

Reducing pain of castration
Some concerned with animal rights object to castration and the accompanying pain. Two studies investigated the effect of pain reduction at castration. In the first study, 3-4 month old Angus calves averaging 299 pounds were either: 1) not castrated, 2) surgically castrated, or 3) surgically castrated and administered a combination anesthetic, hemostatic, antiseptic product currently approved in Australia for lambs.

In this experimental study in calves, the product was applied to exposed spermatic cords before removal of testes. Based on two different measures of pain, the anesthetic rapidly reduced pain for up to 24 hours. (J. Anim Sci. 914945; Univ. of Sydney, Australia)

In the second study, 127 Angus and Charolais-cross 8-month-old bull calves averaging 682  pounds were either: 1) band castrated, 2) band castrated and treated with meloxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can be approved by veterinarians under extra-label use regulations, or, 3) sham castrated, i. e., handled the same as group 1 above but not castrated.

Non-castrated calves gained more, but the study only ran for 28 days. Based on several methods of assessment, the drug treatment did not significantly reduce pain. (J. Animal Sci. 91:4965; Colorado St. Univ., Iowa St. Univ.)

Update on cool
The World Trade Organization, at the request of Canada and Mexico, has established a compliance panel to review U. S. Country of Origin Labeling. Meanwhile, if nothing changes, the recently approved revised rules (eliminating commingled labeling of cuts from different countries of origin) will go into effect on November 23. And the WTO could sometime thereafter impose restraint of trade tariffs on some U. S. products, agricultural and not.  end mark

—Dr. Stephen Hammack is professor and extension beef cattle specialist emeritus at Texas A&M University. This originally appeared in the Beef Cattle Browsing newsletter.