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Breeding to Feeding program strives for feeder calf efficiency

Stephanie Kasper Published on 24 August 2013

Beef quantity and quality importance are on the rise.

Feedlots, packing plants and end consumers are demanding higher-quality meat, which means there is a need for more efficient feeder calves.

Wulf Cattle, the beef segment of Riverview, LLP based out of Morris, Minnesota, created a unique terminal-cross program called Breeding to Feeding.

This program features proven genetics on Limousin cattle. The farm was founded in 1955, and they have been raising and buying back Limousin-influenced feeder calves for 30 years. “We were cattle feeders before we were cattle breeders,” states Wulf Cattle President Jerry Wulf.

The Breeding to Feeding program began in 2012 as a way to increase the value of Jersey bull calves. The overall goal of the program is to have feed-efficient calves in the feedlot that produce choice or above carcass premiums.

In order to achieve this desirable carcass, crossing Limousin with Jersey cattle is optimal. Feed efficiency in feedlots can mean the difference between making money and losing it.

It is quite simple: Once semen is purchased, there is a buy-back of the calf produced through a contract. The calf is then put into one of the Wulf Cattle feedlots and Tyson Fresh Meats processes the majority of these Limousin, Lim-Flex (Angus and Limousin cross) and Jersey-cross feeder cattle.

“Bulls are selected specifically for crossing with dairy to improve the muscling and the feed efficiency of the calf,” says Adam Zeltwanger of Wulf Cattle.

The genetics are proven through Riverview’s dairies by having real-life dairy situations and calving observations and are then collected and sold by Genex, CRI.

Genex is part of this unique program as they collect data and market and sell the semen through their sales staff. Genex was first interested in the program because it brings together genetics and cattle premiums for dairy and beef producers.

“The partnership with Wulf (Cattle) completed the links in the supply chain. They bring excellent and desirable genetics and offer buy-back assurance. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Amy te Plate-Church, national alliance manager for Genex, CRI, explains.

Dairy farms incorporating this terminal breeding system are seeing guaranteed buy-back of their calves in addition to better herd genetics overall.

“Very specifically, a dairy can reduce the overhead cost of raising replacements because they can identify more precisely the number and quality of heifers needed as replacements,” Church continues.

Wulf explains, “The program brings solutions to both industries [beef and dairy] and adds value to the carcass at the processing plant.”

In addition to adding value to the carcass, the benefits do not stop there. The Limousin breed is a heavier-muscled breed with a higher-yielding carcass, and the calves are more feed efficient in the feedlot. “There are two million more feedlot spaces than we have feeder cattle to feed in the U.S.,” Zeltwanger says.

This means these feeder calves are in high demand. “We are looking for a supply of high-quality feeder cattle and what used to be a low-end feeder calf (Jersey) can now raise to a high-end feeder calf,” Wulf states. A dairy bull calf alone is not as valuable to the dairy farmer or the feedlot operator.

Feedlot assurance also plays a key factor in the success of this terminal-cross program. Anthony Ekren of Wulf Cattle says, “The feedlot, through contracts, can ensure that they will have a continuous supply.”

The quality of the feeder calves is also greater. “Jerseys alone produce a 7-inch to 8-inch ribeye and great marbling; combined with a Limousin’s 16-inch ribeye and lean meat, it ensures premiums,” explains Zeltwanger.

“With the Jersey being an obviously poor feedlot performer, and a Limousin being a strong and consistent feedlot performer, crossing them gets you all of the good stuff,” Zeltwanger remarks.

This strong feedlot performance brings a strong performance at the packing plant with the 2013 numbers showing 85 percent choice or above with yield grades averaging between 2 and 3, and some carcasses earning Certified Angus Beef premiums.

“When it comes to the carcass, it can be sold as a beef carcass rather than a dairy carcass, providing higher premiums as it delivers superior quality,” Ekren says.

Feedlot performance in the area of feed efficiency and growth rate in addition to improving genetics in the dairy herd are a few of the reasons the Breeding to Feeding program is so successful.

Dairy producers are looking for better ways to improve genetics, while feedlot operators are in search of consistent quality feeder calves. This program provides the best of both worlds as a win-win solution for dairy and beef producers.  end mark

Stephanie Kasper is a senior majoring in agricultural education at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

PHOTO
Jerry Wulf, president of Wulf Cattle, with a group of LMxJE feeder cattle at a Wulf Cattle feedlot. Photo courtesy of Amy te Plate-Church.

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