By the time you read this the spring bull sale season will be cranking up. Many breeders are planning their production sales and contacting their potential customer base. Realizing that customer service is critical when marketing your bulls, do not forget to remind buyers that NALF offers various services to assist them when they market their calves to both seedstock and commercial buyers. There continues to be many programs offered in the industry that offer premiums on cattle for age and source verification, natural programs or non-hormone treated cattle (NHTC) cattle. Please have them contact NALF to inquire about various marketing programs.
According to the National Beef Quality Audit, branded beef programs continue to increase at the retail level. If you’ve been to your local grocery store lately, you’ve probably noticed this in the beef counter as well. According to the audit, there was an average of 6.4 programs per processing plant. Plants have also modified the way they sort cattle as a result of these branded programs. Most are specifying days of harvest for these cattle to fit age and source requirements and specific branded programs versus sorting them on the rail as in the past. This basically means these programs are working at the wholesale and retail levels and are in demand at the meat case.
What does this mean for Limousin? In today’s ever-changing cattle business, this is a great opportunity for your breed. With export markets changing and growing along with the natural business continuing to expand, Limousin will fit the bill for providing cattle that can convert feed efficiently through genetics versus additives or implants that are utilized in conventional feeding programs. Our Lim-Flex cattle fit well into these programs while still offering the ability to hit the Choice quality grade, and our higher percentage cattle continue to work well in branded programs wanting leaner, Select cattle. I still believe this is the avenue we need to market and publicize if we want to achieve growth.
From the cow-calf side of the picture, we know Limousin offers a female that has stayability, high fertility and can pass superior performance onto her progeny. The commercial cow-calf producer with British-based cows can see the immediate effects of heterosis provided from Limousin sires in production traits like weaning and yearling weights, not to mention cow longevity and superior reproduction traits. Superior feed efficiency will remain critical to operating in continued drought-affected areas of the country which is exasperated by resulting high feed costs. Moderate cow sizes with lower maintenance requirements that reduce animal carrying cost will continue to be emphasized for the foreseeable future.
Limousin-cross feeder cattle still excel in terms of feed efficiency, dressing percentage, yield grade and cutability. Advantages achieved from heterosis in a crossbreeding program positively impact increased weaning weights and performance traits, and also translate into lower cost of gains at the feedyard where superior feed efficiency equates to higher average daily gains and lower dry matter conversion rates.
Having recognized the positive attributes of Limousin genetics, it is still important that we continue to work at increasing our marbling characteristics. Through the month of December, the Choice–Select spread was as wide as $20/cwt. For those of you unfamiliar with seasonality of the fed cattle market, this kind of spread is not typical until summer calf-fed cattle typically comprise the bulk of the federally-inspected daily slaughter. This is when younger cattle hit the slaughter mix and typically result in a higher percentage of Select grading cattle.
To some extent, the market may be continuing to send signals of where the retailer and consumer are showing us value lies. There is a reason Wal-Mart changed its beef program to feature Choice products nearly a year ago. Profitability and repeat business are common denominators in most successful business ventures. Continuing to select for cattle that comprise the positive production traits Limousin cattle offer, while striving to combine that with higher marbling EPDs, will result in an animal that is tough to compete with in all aspects of the beef industry.
What I am trying to convey is that Limousin have a great future over the course of the next decade, as long as we don’t forget our positive attributes and continue to strive for improvement on traits that can be improved upon.
The other key to making this breed a success is to market these positive attributes and convey the message to others in the cattle business. You have made great strides in making cattle that fit a tremendous number of branded, natural and conventional markets. Getting the word out is not only NALF’s job, but yours as individual breeders trying to make a living raising seedstock. The cattle business will always be changing, and adapting to those changes will be required in order to compete in today’s competitive protein business. Those that continue to fight change will disappear, no different than any other business in today’s highly competitive marketplace.
If for no other reason, utilization of the genomic profiler that is now available to NALF members should be taken advantage of to accelerate genetic improvement. No doubt, the new process has had some bugs as the transition has taken place. As time progresses the process should get smoother and turnaround times should improve.
Good luck in the upcoming sale season and stay focused on marketing. Should Mother Nature cooperate and the process of herd rebuilding begin, we need to be in the position to take advantage of the opportunity to grow.