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CAB-LICENSED FEEDLOTS WORK TO PRODUCE "ANGUS BEEF AT ITS BEST"

When like-minded producers work together, they can accomplish more than the sum of their individual efforts.

That's why Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) launched the Feedlot Licensing Program (FLP) in 1999. It gathers information on management and genetics of Angus-type cattle in 63 feedlots in 12 states. More than that, it provides many good examples of cooperation.

"We're all about a quality endpoint," says Gary Fike, CAB feedlot specialist. "We're interested in talking to managers of yards who want to dedicate at least part of their business to getting the most out of high-quality, Angus-influenced cattle. Especially those who like the interaction with cow-calf producers."

The license defines the terms for FLP participation, including use of the CAB partner logo.

"We work more closely with these feedlots to help them collect data which they can use to manage cattle for Certified Angus Beef brand premiums," says Fike. Of course, cattle don't have to be fed at CAB-licensed feedlots to be eligible for the brand's premiums at licensed packing plants.

"CAB acceptance is solely determined by 10 scientifically based specifications, which are evaluated by USDA," says CAB feedlot specialist Paul Dykstra. "Marbling-or sufficient quality grade-is the number one hurdle that keeps cattle from meeting our brand's standards."

Being a licensed partner is an indication to Angus producers that a feedlot manager does not view their cattle as average commodities. The licensed feedlot can provide some level of individual animal management for optimum results.

The FLP database helps CAB identify what prevents cattle from marbling, among many other things. The company coordinates carcass data collection and reports it back to feedlots and their customers.

"We can't own cattle and our licensed feedlots can¡¦t feed them all," says John Stika, CAB president. "But by working with Angus producers and this network of feedlots, we can gather information that will influence 100 percent of the cattle."

That dataset now contains more than 1 million detailed rows of carcass data, returning a wealth of information about what affects CAB acceptance, says Fike. To make a difference with this data, dedicated feedlots need to enroll pens of cattle and help with the information flow, he says.

Jerry Bohn, manager of the 40,000-head Pratt Feeders yard, says it takes commitment at all levels.

"Our staff and our company want to be known as a feeder of high-quality cattle," he says. "They work really hard to get good cattle, get them into our system and then get the information back to the owner."

The last step is at least as important as the first one to Bohn, who wants to feed cattle that keep improving. "CAB helps us get that to the owners so they have information to digest and use to make changes in their operations, which in turn will be better for us and the consumer."

Named for its proximity to Pratt, Kansas, the feedlot licensed in 2003.

"We hoped to attract more of the higher quality Angus cattle to feed," says Bohn.

CAB indirectly assists feedyards in this effort through cost-share programs on advertisements, business cards or other feedlot promotions. Fike and Dykstra also offer their help at customer appreciation events and outreach to producer groups.

Feedlot awards and feature stories highlight those who are very successful at hitting the CAB target, Dykstra notes.

"We assist our cooperators in spreading the word about their business," he says. "The more success a feeder has with Angus-based cattle to fit our brand, the more we'll have a reason to share those examples with other people."

Mike Hora operates a 500-head feedlot near Washington, Iowa, where he feeds out cattle from his own cowherd and some customers.

"CAB is a great organization for the promotion of beef at all levels," he says. Hora licensed seven years ago and won national honors for his reserve champion pen of steers in the 2005 National Angus Carcass Challenge. "Being licensed is an impetus for me to do better," he says. "It has spurred me to better genetics and better feeding."

CAB completes data reviews, where each partner yard is benchmarked to the regional average for quality and yield grade. Seminars and training are regular features noted in CAB emails and newsletters.

Although there is no fee, participation takes extra time and work on the part of the licensees.

"Everybody would like to feed high-quality cattle, but I'm not sure some of them want to go through the process it takes to get access to them," Bohn says. "Some don't want to put in the extra effort, the few extra things we have to do for CAB."

Dykstra says management philosophy determines whether a yard is a good fit for the FLP.

"We want to form partnerships with feeders who factor in carcass quality as a portion of their profit scenario," he says. "We want our feedlots to have a willingness and desire to work with cow-calf producers and share feedlot performance and carcass traits. That lets us to bridge the gap between segments of our industry."

CAB and quality-focused feeders continue to work together to produce more "Angus beef at its best." For more information or for a list of CAB-licensed feedlots, visit www.CABpartners.com.

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