Pre-feedyard history can greatly impact the feeding performance and packer value of cattle. You should have noted in the information in the October BEEF issue that the five pens of cattle in the contest varied widely in pre-feedyard management.

Feedyard Stats - Pens 1, 2 and 3 went through the VAC-45 program, which backgrounds the calves for 45 days after weaning and requires a regimented health vaccination program (http://animalscience-extension.tamu.edu/ranch/guidelines.html). Cattle in Pen 4 were purchased as young calves from a livestock market auction with absolutely no known history. Cattle in Pen 5 were shipped to the feedyard directly off the ranch.

The health status of each pen was directly related to how the cattle were managed prior to the feedyard period. Pens 1, 2, and 3 had 11/42 the percent death loss and 11/44 to 11/48 the per head treatment costs for sickness in the feedyard than Pens 4 and 5.

It appears the poor health status of Pen 4 transferred into the cooler with a low percentage of the cattle producing carcasses grading Choice and 19.1% of the steers producing a discounted carcass (Outs).

Pen 4 had the highest numerical average daily gain, but that may be due to compensatory growth. Compensatory growth occurs when the cattle are not provided enough nutrients for adequate growth for a period of time before entering the feedyard; then they make up for the early low growth when fed a nutrient-dense ration in the feedyard.

Remember, Pen 4 came from a livestock market auction in a drought-stricken area. Additionally, it has been shown that non-backgrounded calves going to auction are more stressed than backgrounded calves going to auction. This added stress results in non-backgrounded cattle having a greater potential for significant weight loss (shrink) between the ranch and market auction.

Pen 5 had the greatest per head treatment cost for sickness. This could be due to an inadequately challenged immune system and the stress of weaning these steers by shipping them from the cow to the feedyard.

Most ranch calves are healthy when they leave the ranch, but stress caused by weaning, transportation, changes in environment, etc. decreases the level of resistance to disease. When they reach the feedyard, they encounter an increase in exposure to disease. Effective vaccination programs at the ranch develop the immune system and raise the level of resistance to viruses and other pathogens.

Note that Pen 1 had the lowest cost of treatment per head for sickness, but had the lowest average daily gain and poorest feed conversion. Heifers often have lower rates of gain and feed efficiency than comparable steers.

Cooler Stats - Among the finished steers there was a wide variety of cattle types both between pens as well as within pens. Unfortunately, these variable groups of cattle produced variable results in the cooler. The ribeye pictured for each pen represents the average carcass produced, but the cooler data tell the real story. All the pens produced carcasses that had a wide range of carcass weights, quality grades and yield grades.

To evaluate which pens have the best overall carcasses, look at the % Choice or Prime, % Yield Grade 1 and 2, the % Outs and dressing percentages in Table 1.

"Out" is a term the industry uses to refer to carcasses discounted in price by the packer, including Standards (sometimes called No Roll), dark cutters, very heavy and light weight carcasses, and extremely fat carcasses (Yield Grade 4 and 5). Pen 4 had the highest percent of Outs followed by Pen 3.

Under the criteria described above, Pen 1 had the most desirable combinations of carcasses, although you would like to see fewer Yield Grade 3 and more Yield Grade 2 carcasses in this pen. This translates into Pen 1 having the most valuable carcasses per 100 lbs. of carcass weight.