This month’s At The Grill feature by William Torres (former Research Manager at Cattleland Feedyards and popular presenter at Gentec conferences) focuses on how to translate packing plant information into genetic change.
It’s been a long ~16 months of struggles, feeding and keeping your cattle alive. Now, your cattle are finally going to the slaughterhouse. Withing 72 hours or so, they will have been harvested, weighed, chilled, weighed again, and graded including yield. All of this information will come to you in a very complex report that includes carcass weights, grades, rib eye areas, payout and discounts.
Most of us pay attention first to the payout, followed by discounts, and then averages. But that’s the top of the iceberg. How do you translate packing plant information into genetic change? Here are some simple steps to help you out.
First, remember that bull or two (or 20) you bought in the spring a few years ago? Their theoretical genetic outcome (along with every other bull in your battery), is now being measured in real life. Let’s hope you kept up with your sires’ and dams’ offspring’s records.
Second, ask ahead of time that the carcass information be matched to each animal’s Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) Electronic Identification (EID) as this may not be a standard procedure at your plant. Commonly, all the information is matched to a carcass ID… but NOT to your EID.
Third, match the EIDs to your birth records. If you haven’t already, start a database that allows you to keep track of each offspring’s information, including harvest information. Ultimately, this is what allows you to track the outcome of your genetic decisions. Remember those Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) we talked about in February[SD1] ?
Data is everything, and as John Doerr said, you need to Measure what Matters! How you manage your data is what separates the cattleman from the hobbyist. This is HUGE, especially if you don’t retain ownership of your cattle. That’s why it’s also important to have a great relationship with your feedlot.
What decisions you make are unique to your outfit. For example, if you’re getting too many overweight discounts, it may not be a genetic influence but merely a management aspect that needs to be addressed. Maybe you already knew that you held on to your cattle too long, and there was going to be some adjustment to the schedule.
However, if you’re meeting or exceeding your contract expectations i.e.; minimum 70% AAA and you are consistently delivering 90+, maybe it’s time to renegotiate your grid. On the other hand, underdelivering will always cost you more; remember, you never get paid more for doing a great job but you’ll be penalized for not doing a good one.
Bottom line comes down to being realistic vs. what you were expecting. If you measure against true goals, you’ll be able to make proper decisions. I don’t have to remind ya’ll—but I will—that our industry is not a sprint race. Genetic change moves slowly like a never-ending marathon. Therefore, you need to make genetic decisions that will impact your operation for at least the next 10 years.
For more information, contact John Basarab [SD2] here at Gentec for help.