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'ibeef' Helps Put indiana Beef Producers On top

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Written Friday, November 06, 1998  

Indiana beef producers are practically lined up to participate in Indiana's Beef Evaluation and Economics Feeding program, IBEEF.

In its second year, IBEEF helps cow-calf operators evaluate their breeding and management program and compare sires within herds for feedlot performance and carcass merit. Last year, 15 producers with 144 steers took part in the program. This year, numbers are way up.

Forty-six producers have nominated 470 cattle for the 320 spots available. "The response was overwhelming and really pleasing," says Kern Hendrix, Purdue Extension beef specialist.

"The goal of the IBEEF program is to help cow-calf operators have a greater understanding of the quality and the consistency concerns faced by producers in raising feedlot cattle," says Phillip Anderson, executive vice president of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association. IBEEF is a cooperative effort between the IBC, the Indiana Beef Evaluation Program, Purdue Extension and Smoker Farms of Wanatah, Ind.

IBEEF producers nominate representative steers from their herds. Before they are shipped to the feedlot at Smoker Farms, the cattle follow a specialized health regimen, including specific vaccinations. This ensures that cattle in the program start off on about even ground.

The cattle are then fed alike, so cow-calf operators can watch their performance. This information can be key to cow-calf operators, because their steers often are sold to feedlots for finishing.

"For example, one gentlemen in the program last year had some cattle that just didn't perform very well. Being involved in IBEEF allowed him to see that first-hand and implement changes. He immediately sold his bulls to improve performance," Anderson says.

Producers pay for their cattle's feed and health care and then are paid by packers when cattle sell, just as feedlot operators would be.

"Only a few people involved in the program's management actually know what steer numbers belong to what producers. This is an information-gathering program, not a competition. It's designed to find out if Indiana cattle are meeting the needs of the packers and eventually the consumers," says Byron Fagg, a Purdue Extension educator in Washington County involved in the program.

Last year, one producer lost about $22 per head while another profited $96 per head. Hendrix says due to last year's poor cattle prices and high feed costs, average producers earned about $33 a head. He says he had hoped to see Indiana producers in the top 25-50 percent in profitability. "Producers can learn from producers with larger returns how to increase their profitability," Hendrix says.

All IBEEF cattle are steers born between Jan. 1 and April 30, and they must weigh at least 500 pounds by the mid-November delivery date. Producers nominate a minimum of three head of cattle, with dam identification, the sire breed, calf breed, and calf identification.

Costs are $25 per nomination, plus shipping, care and feeding and other costs. The average cost per head last year was $300. The average sale value was $836.50.

Last year, the cattle gained an average of 3.25 pounds per day, with an average carcass weight of 844 pounds. Hendrix says an average daily gain above 3 pounds is considered good.

The cattle averaged a dressing percent of 65.3, with 0.47 percent backfat, and 67.2 percent of them graded choice or prime. Hendrix says these cattle stacked up fairly well against industry standards, where a 63 percent dressing percentage is typical. He says the backfat on these cattle also was close to average, but there is room for improvement throughout the Corn Belt in the percent of cattle yielding prime or choice grades. For more information, contact Hendrix at (765) 494-4832 or at khendrix@ansc.purdue.edu.

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