Utilizing Carcass Traits
in a Breeding Program
by Kindra Gordon for Angus Productions Inc.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS (Jan. 29, 2010) — “The ultimate goal for beef producers should be to produce beef that creates a great dining experience, because that’s where the money comes from.” That was the message Larry Corah shared as he addressed attendees at the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) workshop hosted in conjunction with the 2010 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and NCBA Trade Show in San Antonio, Texas. Corah is vice president of Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB).
Value-added comes when the consumer is willing to pay more money for a product, he explained. “The message is pretty clear: Consumers want a positive beef eating experience.”
Corah emphasized that genetics and management are essential tools for achieving that goal of giving consumers a high-quality eating experience. With specific regard to artificial insemination (AI), Corah pointed out that AI is often used to generate better replacement females or seedstock bulls.
“So why can’t it be used to add value to the calf?” he asked. “AI should create value-added heifer calves and value-added steer calves [that are more likely to grade Choice].
In building his case to encourage producers to aim for higher-quality-grade calves, Corah reported that the historical dollar difference between the Choice-Select spread shows it does pay to produce cattle that grade Choice and higher.
He also shared research indicating not much is given up for going after quality. Corah said the impact on traits like maternal function is neutral, feedlot ADG is slightly positive, feed to gain ratio is neutral, and carcass weight is neutral.
“So you can go after quality grade and still maintain maternal function, growth and other attributes without having to compromise,” Corah said.
He acknowledged that cattle need to be marketed in the window of 0.5 to 0.65 inches of fat thickness. “That’s where management comes in. The bottom line is that the key drivers are genetics plus management to equal a great dining experience. And when you do that, there are dollars to be made,” Corah said.
From his experiences with CAB, Corah said that the industry is making progress in producing more, higher-marbled Choice cattle. “Genetic progress for quality is occurring. In the last 10 years we’ve seen an increase in the marbling EPD percentage among registered Angus sires,” he reported.
He added, “A decade ago the thought of hitting 30% CAB acceptance rate was thought to be impossible. But today, it’s achievable. With high-accuracy bulls for marbling, it is amazing what industry is getting back.”
As for the future, Corah said CAB is very bullish on the demand for premium Choice and Prime beef. As an indication, he reported that from 2000-2007 CAB beef sales were relatively flat, but in the last two years CAB has seen an increase of 80 million pounds in sales volume, which represents 14% growth. Corah said CAB anticipates that trend to continue for 2010.
That said, he re-emphasized the use of AI to produce quality genetics, as well as capture future opportunities new AI technology may offer. As one example, Corah cited sexed semen, which may “create interesting possibilities.” For instance, he suggested producers may want to use sexed semen to produce more replacement heifers out of first-calf heifers or to produce Angus steer embryos placed in lower-producing dairy cows — all as means to tap the growing beef quality market.
He concluded, “If you’ve got a brand with quality, it will sell. The market is here in terms of being able to keep growing it. We need quality beef to do it.”
The ARSBC program was developed by the Beef Cattle Reproduction Task Force to improve understanding and application of reproductive technologies, including AI, estrus synchronization and factors affecting male fertility. For additional coverage — including summaries, proceedings and audio for each presentation — visit the newsroom at www.appliedreprostrategies.com. For API coverage of the Cattle Industry Convention, visit the newsroom at www.4cattlemen.com.
Editor’s Note: This article is available as a news release to redistribute per an agreement between the symposium hosts and Angus Productions Inc. Click here to submit a request for a high-resolution photo of the speaker.