7 minute read

Beefmaster in the feedyard

THE QUALITY BREED IN THE FEEDYARD

from Beefmaster Breeders United

“At one time, Beefmasters were the animal that if you put them on live, you were going to take a $1.00 to $2.00 hit…Now they’re showing premiums as high as $100 per head or better,” said Mark Sebranek, chief operations officer for Nextgen Cattle Feeding’s Riverbend Feedyard. From docility to dry-matter conversion and dressing percent, Sebranek says Beefmaster x Angus cattle are “the quality breed in the feedyard.”

“For the longest time, I thought there wasn’t anything better than an Angus x Charolais cross in the industry,” Sebranek said. “I thought the ‘smokey’ was the best animal out there. But over the last few years working with the Beefmasters, I have a hard time not picking the Angus x Beefmaster as the quality breed in the feedyard.” Sebranek said genetic traits are easily passed on when breeding to Beefmaster. He explained when crossing with Angus cattle, “the IMF seems to really influence them coming off the Angus side into the Beefmasters.” “From there the Beefmasters bring the Angus genetics a whole bunch of quality in other places like the dressing percent, performance, as well as the size and scale of the animal,” Sebranek said. “It all goes back to the hardiness of the animal, their heterosis. Due to that heterosis they’re not as much maintenance. Whether we’re down in the south or further north like here in Kansas, they acclimate just fine to the weather. Ultimately, without issues caused by linebreeding like we may see in some other breeds, on average Beefmasters are just stronger, stouter and healthier.”

Lawrence Makuakane of Ella Mae Farms is a Beefmaster breeder in Kentucky who runs calves through Riverbend Feedyard. Makuakane began introducing Beefmaster genetics into his commercial herd in 2016. He now runs a cooperative of local commercial producers. Within a 20-month timeframe, the co-op will have run six pot loads of cattle through Riverbend Feedyard. At Riverbend Feedyard, very few health issues are seen in the Beefmaster and Beefmaster-crossbred cattle with only an occasional respiratory issue. Sebranek says these occasional issues are uncommon and much more infrequent than those in standard English breeds.

“One of the biggest reasons I initially transitioned my herd from just running all black cattle was the Beefmaster’s resistance to disease,” Makuakane said. “They’re less susceptible to disease, to bugs and to the climate. All those things really play out in the feedyard. Those are variables you have to consider passing on in your herd as intrinsic value, especially for retained owners.” In addition to being known for their health and heartiness, Beefmasters have earned a reputation in feedyards for their disposition. Makuakane said “Beefmasters are more docile, and that docility translates into more profitability.” If a calf can get up to the bunk and eat, then go lay down and not burn off all that weight, he’s doing his job,” Makuakane said. “The Beefmaster influence does that for us.” Sebranek echoed Makuakane explaining just how much of a difference disposition can make on gains and therefore profitability in the feedyard. “Disposition is huge in the feedyard, because we really have to watch the high-headed cattle,” Sebranek said. “I mean we’ll see them come off the trucks and a lot of cattle will have their heads up in the air and you’ve got to be prepared because they’re going to eat you. Usually with a higher-headed animal that animal is not eating like he’s supposed to because he’s always running to the back of the pen if someone goes by or is washing tanks etc. Then he’s running back up to the front. If he’s running, he’s wasting energy and taking weight off. When animals are that highheaded, they’re really only comfortable when we’re shut down at night and no one is around. We don’t see that in the Beefmasters. These cattle are easy to move, easy to work, they’re just easy. You may see the occasional high-headed

individual, but we have less problems with bad attitudes in Beefmasters.” Beyond their heartiness and docility, Beefmasters are also known for their gains, conversions, quality grades and dressing percent. Feedyard managers and producers alike are taking note and looking to increase the profitability of their operations by utilizing Beefmaster genetics. “Beefmasters are really strong on dry matter conversions. We’ve seen good performance on Beefmaster cattle as well as gains and conversions,” Sebranek said. “They’re looking awfully good on the quality grade side and hanging them up too.” Sebranek attributes the improved quality grade to more and more Beefmaster breeders retaining ownership through the feedyard and consistently making more informed breeding decisions. “With more Beefmaster breeders retaining ownership and feeding them, breeders are paying more attention to performance and selecting bulls that will better their animals’ performance in the feedyard,” Sebranek said. “Because of that, we’re seeing the breed improve. Plus, the bos indicus side of Beefmasters really helps with the dressing percent which makes a big difference. You know with every one percent increase over the plant average for dressing percent is $1.20 per pound back on the live price. That’s huge when you start hanging cattle up! “When we hang them up on the grid, and the plan average is 63.5 and a lot of these Beefmaster/Beefmastercrossbreds are doing 65… They’re 1.5 percent over the plan average. On that side of it they’re getting about $1.60 to $1.70 per pound or $15 to $18 over the market just for that. On a 1350 lb. animal, that’s $23 per head roughly. That’s what you’ll get on dressing percent alone. Not counting on grade or anything. On dressing percent alone, you’re adding $23 per head in value.” Makuakane is seeing these results in his herd and other local producers’ herds who have started using Beefmaster bulls. The producers in Makuakane’s co-op utilize the data collected by Riverbend Feedyard to run cross comparisons between their purebred Beefmasters, crossbred Beefmasters, as well as the operations running entirely black-hided cattle. “Riverbend Feedyard collects data and provides feedback to us,” Makuakane said. “One of the big things for us, that we notice is straight off the top, was a consistency in your yield grade. We noticed that Beefmaster-sired calves consistently, yield grade higher than other breeds and even other crossbreds. After comparing and contrasting that data, the general consensus within our co-op was that everyone needed to add some Beefmaster genetics into their herd so they can gain the advantages of heterosis and improve their yield grades.” Makuakane said you don’t have to give up black-hide premiums when using Beefmasters. Especially on Angusbased cows, you maintain a high-rate of black-hided calves which can easily reach CAB premiums as high as $40 per head. “You can still achieve those CAB premiums by using Beefmasters on black breeds because the majority of them are homozygous black,” Makuakane said. “But really where we see the greatest margin of improvements in just the raw data, is when we look at the yield grades of Beefmastersired calves, specifically that are crossbred. With this next load the co-op is sending to Riverbend Feedyard we artificially inseminated heavy to Beefmaster bulls. The benefit of artificially inseminating using Beefmaster genetics is two-fold for my co-op members. One, they didn’t have to go out and buy a Beefmaster bull and two, they will be seeing the translation of profitability in their herds due to the benefits of Beefmaster genetics. “Previously, most of my guys were getting yield grade three to four,” Makuakane said. “One of my guys got some yield grade fives and that meant $900. So, he was looking at a $17 loss on that calf. Another one of my guys used Beefmasters on 50 percent of his herd last year and on 100 percent of his herd this year. He hit yield grade two on 100 percent of his Beefmaster-sired calves. “Yield grade pays. Yield grade can actually out pay prime, because prime animals are lighter, but if you can get choice yield grade two, all day long, you’re talking about another $50 to $70 extra profit. Basically, you can out bid prime just by more yield. At the end of the day, pounds on the ground and pounds on the hook, that’s what we get paid for, that’s where the money is at.” Makuakane said his biggest complaint with Beefmasters is when it comes to buying calves back. Once producers see what these calves can do, they don’t want to sell them back. “The hardest thing is when you say to your customers, ‘I’m interested in buying your calves back,’ but when it comes down to it and they see the calf crop they get and those Beefmaster-crossed calves are 50 to 70 pounds heavier at weaning…They say ‘well we’ll just see what we get in the market,’” Makuakane said. “If you tailor your animals right, with just that touch of ear, it’s wide open. I mean your buyers in the feedlot or backgrounders putting those loads together they recognize these animals and it gets crazy. It turns into a price-chasing escapade and I don’t get a chance to buy calves back. They’re just that good.”