Cattle Today

Cattle Today



In the current environment of high production costs and tight margins, beef producers need to pursue every option for improving economic returns. Toward that goal, John Queen has been tirelessly educating anyone who will listen on the benefits of value-added beef production.

Queen, who resides in Waynesville, N.C., is owner of John Queen Farms, located in the western mountain region of the state. The fourth generation farm was founded in 1917 by his paternal grandfather. Queen・s background includes many segments of the beef industry: cow/calf producer, stocker, backgrounder, feeder and grazer. John has been an auction barn owner and operator as well as an order buyer.

Currently, he is a partner/owner of Southeast Livestock Exchange, LLC, a video auction marketing company. Queen has served the cattle industry at the county, state and national levels. He is past president of the North Carolina Cattlemen・s Association, past president of the N.C. Cattlemen・s Foundation and past president of the National Cattlemen・s Beef Association (NCBA). And to say Queen has dedicated his life to creating new opportunities for future generations of young cattle producers is an understatement. In his book, it all starts and ends with value-added beef practices. Statistics prove he・s right on target.

Recently CattleFax outlined the benefits of value-added production and marketing systems in their 2008 report titled Stair Steps to Profitability. According to their data, performance history from the feedlot or packer adds $2 to $5 per hundredweight to the value of calves. Certified health, weaning and preconditioning programs add another $4 to $8 per hundredweight. Source and age verification add $10 to $25 per head, and qualification for natural- or premium-beef programs stack on another $3 to $7 per hundredweight. During 2005 and 2006, weaned, preconditioned calves brought $35 to $40 per head premiums over bawling calves. It is this opportunity that Queen wants to bring to the beef industry. As a matter of fact, Queen believes this is truly the only way the small beef producer will survive and flourish.

:The premiums are there, and various alliances, auction barns, branded-beef companies and other value-added marketing systems offer producers opportunities to receive top prices for their cattle,; outlines Queen. A challenge for many producers, though, is identifying programs or marketing channels that best suit their cattle based on type, management systems and other details.

When you mention :value-added; to Lisa Shelton, Queen・s Farm Manager, she sees it as how producers :should; take care of animals. :It・s more than just good genetics, vaccination program, good fly control, nutrition, stress reduction and record keeping. It・s good animal husbandry practices that pay you a dividend for your investment.

:For several years we spent our time backgrounding cattle in the southeast,; outlines Shelton. :Our definition of backgrounding is receiving a calf that we considered mismanaged V an unweaned calf that is shipped to a salesbarn with no history of a nutrition or vaccination program V and providing proper castration, dehorning, a proper vaccination program, solid nutrition programs and fly control,; the veteran farm manager says. :We hope we are convincing producers of the economic benefits this type of program can bring to their operation.

:The beauty of our value-added program,; Shelton adds, :that we implement through our video sales is that smaller producers can start putting together alliances with other smaller producers to benefit from producing like-cattle V same vaccination programs, same nutrition, same genetics, etc., so the buyers can by lots instead of single calves. It is a solid alternative to losing so much money on shrinkage in trucking them to a salesbarn. We spend a lot of our day talking to producers about this and helping them get their hands around the concept. It・s certainly the way cattle should be raised to be profitable to producers.;

One area that Shelton and Queen say is often overlooked V yet causes a lot of lost income in cattle operations V is proper fly control. :It is perhaps the least expensive management step you can make for so much return,; Shelton stresses. :Fly control is perhaps our number one task on the farm. We even had an entomologist come to the farm and show us where we could eliminate sources for fly development. We spend a lot of time keeping the farm as clean as we can. We utilize Permectrin CDS premise sprays to keep flies under control close to our barns and working facilities. We also spray directly on the animals in the pastures when fly pressures are high. But we depend on insecticide ear tags to be the stalwart of our fly control program. And Patriot is our number one tag choice.

:Of all the fly tags we・ve used, they・re far above the others in how well they work,; continues Shelton. :And we love their retention. We turn these cattle lose on mountain pastures and there・s lot of trees. These tags stay in and usually last the full season. We usually tag the animals in April/May and they work until we bring the animals off the mountain pastures around Labor Day. We have to have a long-lasting tag that we can depend on. We・re looking forward to rotating our Patriot tag out with the Avenger• ear tag this year to make sure we don・t eliminate our fly control options. The Avenger data looks solid and may give us another two to four weeks of horn fly control. That・s our idea of value-added.;

Queen and Shelton like to illustrate the benefits with numbers. :Because producers for the most part are traditionalist, one of the items that we have to show them is the value of an insecticide ear tag,; Queen adds. :Many ask us •why pay $2.00 for a tag when I can get one for $1.00? Aren・t they all the same?; We show them that even under normal fly pressures you can gain an additional .25 lb./day to .5 lbs/day when you have good fly control. Multiply that times four to five months (control period we・ve seen with Patriot), and we・re providing an additional 30 lbs./head to 50 lbs./head of gain with fly control.;

An expansive on-the-farm demonstration conducted in Tennessee in 2001 showed that backgrounded calves with insecticide treated ear tags gained 2.34 lbs./day compared to 1.6 lbs./day in untagged cattle. Over a 120-day period, this would produce an extra 88 lbs./animal. Further, in cow-calf herds, calves from herds treated with insecticide ear tags gained 2.84 lbs./day compared with 1.90 lbs./day for calves with no fly control. Over a 120-day period, this would total more than 100 lbs. extra weight to market. Further research trials have shown that 15 lbs. to 30 lbs. of extra weight gain can be realized by suckling calves over the summer grazing period when horn fly control is practiced. :As you can see, : Queen notes, :if you have a tag that only gives you two months control for $1, you・re losing a lot of potential gain and money due to flies. It・s simple economics and we・re trying to deliver that economic message to our producers. Most are listening.;

Fly control is an important element in overall good management practices on the farm. And Queen sums it all up: :With high production costs pinching cow-calf margins, and buyers pressing calf and yearling prices lower, it becomes increasingly critical for producers to cost-effectively add value and find the most lucrative marketing channels for their cattle. It all starts with a value-added approach to beef production and management.;


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