Participating in a value-added verification program is extra work, extra record keeping and extra management, but it means extra dollars in your pocket, says a survey of 100 U.S. sale barn operators.

Respondents ranked increased sale price as the top benefit to participating in certified health-, age- and source-verification programs, closely followed by the potential of attracting new buyers. The survey was conducted by the Livestock Marketing Association and Global Animal Management.

Three-fourths of surveyed market operators said exposure to these types of certification programs is important to compete for future beef markets, and 65% expect to see an increase in the number of cattle they sell that are enrolled in such programs. More than half currently sell cattle enrolled in these types of programs.

The survey found that sale barn operators reporting premiums have seen average increases of up to $5.37/cwt. for cattle with age and source verification, plus third-party health certification.
Burt Rutherford

U.S. beef producers and processors continue to improve the tenderness of beef, according to the 2005 National Beef Tenderness Survey (NBTS). Tenderness, as measured by Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF), has increased 18% since the last survey in 1999. At that time, tenderness had increased 20% since the initial survey in 1990.

Referring to the 2005 NBTS, researchers say, “The latest increase could be due to increased aging times, longer and slower chill rates, processors paying more attention to tenderness parameters, and participation in more programs focused on beef tenderness.”

Though tenderness has increased across all cuts, at retail, bottom round steaks continue to be the toughest.
Joe Roybal

A study of southern Oklahoma cattle herds found nearly 17% of the ranches had at least one bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) persistently infected (PI) calf in the 2006 calf crop; some had as many as 10-12 head.

Dave Sparks, DVM, Oklahoma State University Extension, says PI calves result when a susceptible cow is exposed to the virus between 40 and 125 days of gestation. During this time, the fetus inventories its tissue for the development of the immune system and categorizes the virus as its own tissue. When this happens, the calf can't respond immunologically to the virus, and becomes a super shedder.

Vaccination can protect herdmates, but these super shedders spread such large numbers of virus that they can overcome the best vaccination program. It's estimated BVD costs cow-calf producers in Oklahoma $50-$70/cow/year.

Sparks says PI calves shouldn't be sold. Since they don't pose a human health danger, many producers isolate them from other cattle and feed them until they're big enough to salvage via the local locker plant.

If you are having trouble weaning as many calves as you think you should, you might want to consider testing your calves, Sparks says.

For more on this handling topic, read Kansas veterinarian Dave Sjeklocha's commentary “Dealing with PI calves” and Clint Peck's story “Finding PIs” in the February issue of BEEF online at: www.beef-mag.com.
Burt Rutherford

Researchers studied the effects of certified health programs on the sale price of beef calves marketed through a livestock videotape auction service from 1995 to 2005. Reported in the Nov. 1, 2006 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the study evaluated 26,502 lots representing 3,205,192 calves sold through Superior Livestock Auction.

The results indicate that for each year of the study, calves that qualified for the two most intensive certified health programs, as determined by the livestock auction market, sold for significantly higher prices. This was in comparison to like calves without a certified health program, and that weren't weaned or vaccinated against respiratory tract viruses before delivery.

Price premiums for calves within the most intensive certified health program ranged from $2.47/cwt. in 1995 to $7.91/cwt. in 2005. Price premiums paid for calves qualifying for the next most intensive program ranged from 99¢/cwt. in 1996 to $3.47/cwt. in 2004. The percentage of the total number of lots in the two most intensive programs increased over time.

Based on these findings, researchers concluded that implementation of the most intensive certified health program consistently increased the price of beef calves, and these price premiums increased over time.
Alaina Burt