While Pen 1 had the greatest carcass value/cwt. ($105.48), Pens 2 and 3 had the highest total carcass value ($838.26 and $852.64, respectively) simply because these steers produced heavier carcasses.

Sellers of cattle often want to determine whether to sell their finished cattle on a Live Cash basis or on a Carcass Grid basis. The Live Cash Value/cwt. for each pen of steers was $66, and the Carcass Value/cwt. was determined using the Carcass Grid presented in Table 2. To evaluate which method of selling was best for these pens, compare the first and last rows of data in Table 3 (Live Cash Value/cwt. vs. Carcass Value back on a Live Basis/cwt.).

If the carcass value back on a live basis was greater than $66/cwt., then it would be better to sell those cattle on our Carcass Grid. For this grid, a pen of cattle must have a dressing percent greater than 63% in order to beat the Live Cash price.

This grid gave equal value enhancement to pens producing a high percentage Choice or Prime carcasses (Pens 1 and 4) and pens producing a high percentage Yield Grade 1 or 2 carcasses (Pens 2 and 3). Pens that can do both have a significant advantage on this grid. At the time of the contest, the Choice-Select price spread was narrow. As this spread increases, Quality Grade gains importance on this type of grid.

Pen 4 had the lowest percentage of carcasses grading Choice and a high percentage of Outs. Therefore, it would have been better to sell these cattle on the hoof.

The irony is that it is easy to make the marketing decision after we have the data in hand, but the majority of cattle producers don't have that insight. If a rancher or feeder had knowledge of the feeding and carcass history on prior year's progeny, then they would have a tremendous managing and marketing advantage.

Bottom Line Advice 1. Learn about the feedyard and carcass characteristics of your cattle. Many state Extension programs have information feedback programs that allow you to put cattle on feed and get feedyard performance and carcass data.

2. Before selling cattle on a Carcass Grid basis, have a track record on how similar groups have performed in the cooler.

3. A proper health care vaccination program for weaned calves and backgrounding calves have great potential in improving feedyard health, growth and carcass traits.

4. To optimize cattle management, sort cattle into pens that are similar in frame size, weight and muscling. When these similar groups are properly managed, the number of Outs will be reduced.