Why is it that as an industry, agriculture seems to only measure success by the amounts we produce?
Why is it always important to raise the most bushels per acre, the most horsepower, the longest stock trailer, the largest weaning weights, or the heaviest calves at market time?
An old cattle trader from years past once said that the most profit you can make on a set of calves is made the day you buy them. What he meant was that if you did't buy them right, no matter what you did after that, they would not make money. He increased profits by controlling inputs.
That is what we as cattle producers need to concentrate on as we move forward in the beef business. We can continue to push production numbers to a certain degree over time, but the real money is going to be made by controlling inputs. We need to produce more with less. We need to improve efficiencies.
Approximately 65% of the variable costs in our business is feed cost. Whether it is grass, hay, or grain, the price of it has gone out the roof over the last few years. If we as producers hope to survive this onslaught, we must develpe and raise cattle that produce more on less.
That is what the measurement of residual feed intake has to offer the industry. With heritability of the trait at 40%, it is conceivable that we can improve feed efficiency by twelve to fifteen percent over three or four generations. that means that instead of spending $500 in grass and feed to raise a calf, you can do it for $425. On 100 head of calves that's $7500. That is money saved in the operation that drops straight to the bottom line. You don't have to get a buyer to pay you for it. It's not dependent on a premium or the markets. If you buy and use bulls with a negative RFI it's yours to keep no matter what.
The catch is, that just because a seed stock producer says they have efficient cattle does not necessarily make it so. The only wasy to measure feed efficiency accurately is throught the use of technology such as the Growsafe system. DNA tests do not accurately predict efficiency. The size of cattle does not accurately predict efficiency. The EPDs that are available to date by breed associations do not accurately predict efficiency. Anyone that tries to tell you differently is misleading you. Look for accurate, proven, predictabel data and use it to move your program forward into a more profitable era.
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