Adelina Valenzula

Gatesville, TX

Age 13 and under

One $1,000 Savings Bond & Trophy

Brandy Kieth

Tahoka, TX

Age 14-18

One $1,000 Savings Bond & Trophy

Michael Reiman

Butte, NE

Age 19 and over

One Free Trip To

2000 NCBA Convention (Up to $1,500)

Niman Ranch Feedlot

Left to Right: Debbie Rogers, Michelle Stokes, Rob Stokes and Domenic Cianfichi Petaluma, CA

Feedyard Team Category

$5,000 Of IVOMEC(r) Brand Products

Thanks to all those who played ball in the Fantasy Beef Quality Challenge and congratulations to those entrants that were drawn from each category and won the prizes provided by Merial. All total, there were 4,871 entries. These people said they either own or manage over 5 million cattle collectively.

Of all the entries received, not one person drafted the correct five steers, proving that it is extremely difficult to select the "best" or most profitable cattle based on visual observations.(See November BEEF for final results.)

Following are key points I hope you take with you from this year's contest.

* Good cattle come in all colors and breed types. In addition to selecting a breed, it is as important to select a bull that has good performance and carcass EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences). The same seven breeds were found in the Top 5 steers and the Bottom 5 steers.

* USDA Quality and Yield Grade of the carcass is only one portion of the net return equation. Cattle value is also influenced by animal health status, average daily gain (ADG), feed efficiency, initial feeder calf price, dressing percent and other carcass traits (i.e., carcass weight and dark cutters).

* Cattle that get sick often not only result in added health care expenses, but also have inferior feedyard performance and below average carcass merit. All of the Bottom 5 steers had ADGs in the feedyard less than 3 lbs./day and produced USDA Select carcasses.

* In a pen of cattle sold on a carcass grid, a great increase in the value of the pen would occur when reducing the number of discounted carcasses (i.e., Standards, Yield Grade 4 and 5, dark cutters and extremely heavy or light weight carcasses). The Bottom 5 steers in the Fantasy Beef Quality Challenge created a significant monetary drag on the rest of the cattle because of poor feedyard and carcass performance.

* Taking individual weights at the beginning of the feeding period and again at re-implant time can enable you to identify poor performers. Culling those poor performers at re-implant time and selling them, potentially makes the owner money with one exception, when the feeder cattle market declined significantly between the date the cattle were put in the feedyard and the day they were re-implanted.

* Calf management practices including a vaccination program, parasite control, nutritional program and a weaning period of at least 45 days can significantly add to the value of the calf. The challenge is to identify marketing channels that reward you for the added expense incurred when conducting this kind of program.