The results are in! Preconditioning, calfhood vaccination programs, selling on the carcass grid and sorting according to projected outcome are of keen interest to many cattle producers looking for increased profits and desiring to improve the quality and consistency of their calves. This year's Pick A Pen For Profit contest uses five pens of feeder calves as a backdrop to discuss these concepts.

Those that play "fantasy football" enjoy picking through players' statistics to determine why each team performed as it did. It's a similar concept in this contest. Analyzing each pen's health, feedyard, carcass and money statistics will help you better understand why the cattle performed as they did in the feedlot and in the carcass.

Additionally, you will learn about the potential benefits of preconditioning and good animal health programs, and how sorting cattle prior to entering the feedyard reduces the number of cattle that miss the beef industry targets for acceptable carcasses.

The Pick A Pen For Profit contest demonstrates that it is very difficult to predict carcass quality based on visual appraisal.

Unlike past years, the 2000 contest provided the information on each pen's pre-feedyard history. This information should have made it easier for you to segment the pens that would be the healthiest and most efficient from the sick, less efficient pens. It's the same principle at work in the real world - the more information you have, the better the odds of avoiding surprises.

Let's take a look at the results and study the lessons.