A look at the rate carcass values can change
By Fred Knop (6/10/2004)

As value-based marketing continues its fast growth and more and more commercial producers face the need to correct carcass deficiencies in their cattle, the question is often less about how to and more about how fast. 

It was this question that drew my attention to a report in this yearís sale catalog of Gardiner Angus Ranch, a highly respected seedstock operation at Ashland, Kan. The Gardiner family does a lot of research on their herd, which they often share with their customers. Although this yearís report was undoubtedly intended to promote the carcass genetics of their sale bulls, it, in addition, provided some interesting insight into the how fast question. 

The Gardiner data, as shown in the accompanying chart, shows impressive changes were created in intramuscular fat and ribeye area of fall-born, long-yearling bulls during a relatively short, three-year period ó   2000 to 2002. Think about it. Moving intramuscular fat percentages from 3.93 to 5.51 is a 40-percent increase. Moving adjusted ribeye area from 12.6 to 13.6 square inches is an 8-percent increase. Moving up the EPDs for intramuscular fat and ribeye area are increases of 30 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

I could write a column or more on the importance of each of these traits. But consider just these two points. First, as the percentage of intramuscular fat moves up from about 3 percent to about 9 percent, the meat of your animals moves closer to or into the lucrative Prime grade and your chances increase for collecting a lot of Prime grade premiums on the grid. 

Second, youíve done nothing but help yourself when you breed large ribeyes into moderately sized cattle, as the Gardiners have done. Ribeye size in relationship to carcass weight is an indicator of muscularity and a factor in calculating dressing percentage, yield grade and retail yield. These are factors that either pay off on the grid or in the live-weight bids of packer buyers.  

It is tempting to plunge right into the how to aspect of these changes, but remember the focus here is on the how fast aspect. What is important from the standpoint of your breeding plan is that the Gardiner experience provides an example of how significant change can be affected in a relatively short time. How close you can come to what the Gardiner family did in only three years depends on a lot of things ó your genetic starting point, your records orientation, your willingness to make changes, your willingness to invest in genetics, your willingness to track results. 

Instead of jumping into the how to aspect, letís do a how to fast. You have many of the same tools with which to work, as did the Gardiner family. The Gardiners believe ultrasound data collection, which was adopted by the American Angus Association in 1998, contributed greatly to their results by making it possible to reliably consider and use many more sires. Via semen selection, you have access to this same caliber of bulls in your breed if you breed artificially. You have a similar opportunity if you breed naturally, provided you donít get committed to individual bulls for too long.

You probably wonít find it possible to duplicate the Gardiner program on the female side, particularly if you have a commercial operation. About 75 percent of Gardiner calves are produced from embryos transferred from elite cows. But almost all of you can create a more potent cow base through deep, records-oriented culling. Donít be guilty of the error being committed by most producers ó trying to do too much through sire selection and not enough through your cows.

It goes without saying that it takes time to affect genetic change. I hope that the example given in this column will serve as a reminder that a lot can be accomplished in a relatively short time if the task is approached with serious intention.

To contact Fred Knop, write Drovers or send e-mail to fredlyn@aol.com