What Is the Future of Genetic Selection and Cattle Sorting Technologies in the Stocker and Feedlot Industries?

Monday, July 21, 2014: 10:00 AM
2101 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Robert L. Weaber , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Abstract Text: The US beef industry has experienced dramatic change over the past several years. The persistent drought throughout much of the US has resulted in a reduction in cow inventory. USDA reported that the January 1, 2014 all cattle and calves inventory was down 2% from 2013 now totaling 87.7 million head, the lowest since 1951. In the same report, USDA inventory of cows and heifers that calved totaled 38.3 million, the smallest since 1941. Contraction of cow inventory and resulting calf crop has created challenges all along the beef value chain. Large vacant capacity exists in the US feedlot and packing sectors. As a result of tight inventories, whole sale beef, fed and feeder cattle prices have reached record highs. High prices are shrinking per capita beef consumption to an expected 53 lb. in 2014, decreasing more than 10 lb in the last decade. An estimated 60% of domestic beef consumption is ground product. Consumers continue to be value driven choosing more ground beef in the marketplace for price and convenience. The US all steak price to ground beef price ratio has trended downward over the last decade from 2.5 in early 2004 to less than 1.7 in late 2013 indicating that all steak price hasn’t kept pace with the price increase in ground beef. Some suggest whole muscle beef cuts are becoming luxury items. While consumers continue to seek lower cost protein sources and lower cost beef, the industry’s production model remains unchanged. Most cattle are fed and marketed to maximize the value captured from middle meats, which comprise roughly 20% of the beef carcass, targeted to grade Choice average or better. This leads to substantial inefficiencies in the feeding and packing sector through overfeeding of cattle. In some cases the additional fat decreases the red meat yield and value of end meats which comprise the remaining 80% of the carcass. The beef industry’s current issues in product demand, high retail prices and lack of market targeted products call for substantial changes in the beef value chain in terms of cattle sourcing, genetics, management, pricing and marketing. Early targeting of cattle to an appropriate end-use based on genetic potential to efficiently meet a specified market target could substantially change the way cattle are managed in terms back-grounding and feedlot nutrition, growth promoting technologies, and sorting for optimal marketing to maximize individual animal profitability.

Keywords: Beef Cattle, Genetics, Selection