Two efficiency measures that suggest the U.S. beef industry continues to produce more with less and continues to evolve are beef production per cow, and steer and heifer slaughter as a percent of the previous year's calf crop. Beef production/cow is the measure of total beef production divided by the total number of beef and dairy cows.

  • In 1996, beef production/cow was 580 lbs.; for 2002, that figure is 637 lbs., a 10% increase.

  • Over the past 10 years, the beef industry has added over 100 lbs. (20%) of production/cow.

  • Heavier carcasses and faster utilization, to better manage cattle throughout the system, are two reasons for the increase in beef production/cow.

  • In 1993, the industry harvested 66.8% of the 1992 calf crop. During 2002, the industry harvested 75% of the 2001 calf crop. That's up 1% from a year ago and 12% over the past 10 years.

What does this mean?

The industry continues to improve and adjust to the economic environment.

The industry has produced more with less.

The improvement in these measures suggests that without some steady improvement in beef demand over time, the industry doesn't need a tremendous amount of expansion at the cow-calf level during this cycle.

It also suggests that the impact of expansion could impact the market more dramatically both in the short- and long-term.
Cattle Fax

A review of the copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) status of forages and cattle in Montana and other Plains states indicates that Zn, and especially Cu, are deficient in forages of the Northern Plains. Moreover, supplementation with these trace minerals is needed for optimum reproductive performance and immune function in cattle.

John Paterson, the Montana State University professor of animal science and Extension beef specialist who performed the review, says deficiencies of these elements can impair reproduction and the immune systems of both males and females. Requirements in parts per million (ppm) of dietary dry matter are 10 ppm for Cu and 30 ppm for Zn.

Paterson's survey of grasses, legumes and grass-legume mixes showed that Cu and Zn were deficient in most of the forages sampled, especially the grasses. Molybdenum, which interferes with Cu utilization, was high in some of the samples. High amounts of sulfate in water (more than 500 ppm) also reduce Cu utilization.

Liver biopsy is the best indicator of Cu status, with a liver Cu concentration of less than 30 ppm considered severely deficient. A weighted average of samples in eight Great Plains states revealed that 33% of the cattle sampled had values less than 30 ppm. Meanwhile, in five Northern Plains states (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado), the weighted average was 41%.
(Paterson, 2002, Montana State University Extension Beef Newsletter, Dec. 2002, Vol. 8[1]:3). Reprinted from the Michigan State University March issue of “Beef Cattle Research Update.”

Irish researchers have reported the effects of research comparing grass versus corn diets on beef quality. Forty-five heifers were divided into three groups and fed either corn silage, grass silage or a 50:50 mixture of silages.

The researchers say beef from grass silage — fed animals had better overall quality in terms of color, lipid oxidation and vitamin E levels than beef from corn silage — fed animals. There were no significant differences in most fatty acids among the three dietary groups.

The results of this study show that if grass silage is substituted by corn silage in the diet of finishing cattle, it doesn't improve the quality of the beef held under retail display conditions. This finding is important from the consumer perspective.
Journal of Animal Science, June, 2002, 80:1556-1563. Department of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition, National University of Ireland, Cork.