By: Gary Fike, Director of Red Angus Commerical Marketing
It’s no secret that quality grade has been on a steady incline over the past several years. In 2005, about 56 percent of all fed cattle were grading Choice or Prime. Skip forward two years to 2017 and 78 percent of fed cattle are grading USDA Choice or Prime, according to CattleFax. The percentage of beef carcasses qualifying for the Prime grade reached an all-time high the week of Oct. 9, 2017, at 7 percent. Yet the Prime premium continues to climb! At one point in time this summer, the premium paid for Prime carcasses was more than $45 per cwt. On a 900 lb. carcass, that’s more than $400. If you had just ONE carcass that graded Prime on a load of 40 head, that’s an additional $10 per head. The message is clear: consumers, both foreign and domestic, are demanding high quality beef. Additionally, FCCP-tagged cattle on the Tyson Choice Plus grid receive a $4 per cwt. premium on cattle that grade in the upper 2/3 of Choice.
It pays to keep tabs on marbling when selecting seedstock/semen to use on your females. Carcass traits like ribeye area and marbling are moderately to highly heritable and it is not difficult to move the needle when selecting for those traits. Please keep in mind that we are not advocating single-trait selection, but don’t leave it out of the total equation when picking sires.
Not retaining ownership? Don’t care what happens or how calves perform after they leave your ranch or farm? Think again. Buyers know which rancher’s calves perform and grade, and which ones do not. The most POWERFUL information you can have on your calves to provide to buyers includes health programs, genetics, time weaned, implant status and lot size. Carcass data is even more valuable, but if you’ve never retained ownership or partnered with a feedlot on your cattle, you’ll never know. Creating demand for your cattle is a lot like consumer demand for beef: keep producing a quality product, and the buyers will return!