Large frame, heavy-muscled Angus, Angus-cross, black- or mixed-colored feeders drew the highest prices, while the greatest discounts went to bulls, horned feeders and thin steers.

Kansas State University economics and animal science researchers teamed up to study factors affecting calf and feeder cattle prices at Kansas and Missouri auction markets. Surveys were conducted in fall 2008 and spring 2009 on more than 84,000 feeder cattle in 8,200 lots. Data recorded included sale date, auction-market location, lot size, sex, breed, color, body condition, gut fill, frame size, muscling, weight uniformity, horns, time of sale, weight and price.

Of all lots, 48% were steers, 42% were heifers and 10% were bulls. Lot weights ranged from 300 to 900 lbs. and averaged 584 lbs., while average lot size was 10 head, with a range of one to 287 head.

Exotic crosses comprised the most prevalent breed (51% of all lots), followed by Angus (22%), Angus/Hereford cross (7%), and other English crosses (7%). Black hair color comprised 41% of all lots, followed by lots of mixed color at 36%. Many of the lots identified as Exotic crosses were black in color.

Angus, Angus/Hereford cross and Exotic crosses received price premiums of $3.10, $2.73 and $1.78/cwt., respectively, compared to the Hereford base breed. Black-colored lots brought a $2.49/cwt. premium and mixed-color lots brought a $1.99/cwt. premium over red-colored lots.

Heavily muscled feeders comprised 94% of the lots and received a $6.62/cwt. premium over average-muscled cattle. Large-framed feeders received a 75¢/cwt. premium over medium-framed cattle; small-framed cattle were heavily discounted at $5.98/cwt.

Bulls were discounted $5.00-$6.00/cwt. compared to steers of comparable weight; 91% of all lots were polled or dehorned. Horned lots were discounted $2.18/cwt. and lots with mixed horned and non-horned cattle were discounted 70¢/cwt. Feeders in thin body condition were discounted $1.24/cwt. relative to feeders of moderate condition. Cattle carrying more than average fill were discounted 72¢/cwt.

Lot size, lot uniformity and time of sale affected sale price. As lot size increased toward truckload numbers, higher prices were paid. Non-uniform lots were discounted. Cattle sold during the third quartile of the sale brought the highest premiums.

Read the full report at — page 1.

Monitor sulfur content of distillers grains (DG) rations.

Cattle feeders utilizing DG in growing and finishing diets have long known to monitor animal health for signs of polioencephalomalacia associated with elevated levels of dietary sulfur. Recent research suggests to also monitor sulfur content of the diet to prevent performance losses.

The effect of high levels of dietary sulfur on feedlot performance and carcass characteristics was studied by Kansas State University animal science researchers. Crossbred yearling beef steers averaging 904 lbs. were fed finishing diets containing 30% dried DG with solubles for 140 days. Experimental treatments compared a moderate (0.42%) and high (0.65%) level of dietary sulfur.

Steers fed the high level of sulfur consumed less dry matter per day (20.4 vs. 22.4 lbs.,) and had lower average daily gain (3.07 vs. 3.48 lbs./day,) compared to steers fed the moderate level of sulfur. Consequently, the high sulfur steers produced 39 lbs. lighter-weight carcasses.

Cattle fed the high level of sulfur produced greater concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, the causative agent of polioencephalomalacia, in their rumen gas. One steer in the high-sulfur group was diagnosed with polioencephalomalacia.

The study's results suggest cattle feeders should monitor the sulfur level of incoming loads of DG products; and, if the average dietary sulfur content exceeds the NRC-recommended level of 0.4% for a prolonged period of time, consider altering ration formulation or DG sourcing.

Read the full report at — page 103.

Scott B. Laudert, Ph.D., is a beef cattle technical consultant and former Kansas State University Extension livestock specialist based in Woodland Park, CO. He can be reached at 719-660-4473.