By Burt Rutherford
Let ’ s talk feed efficiency . That is , after all , very relevant to profitability in the cattle business , especially given today ’ s high feed costs .
But relevance is one thing . Reality is entirely different . And the reality is that feed efficiency has not received the focus it deserves as a key profit driver for beef producers .
That ’ s changing . Slowly , but it ’ s changing .
Here ’ s even better news : genetics and genetic tools exist to build cattle that are highly efficient while still meeting or exceeding the carcass quality targets that earn packer premiums and satisfy consumers .
LETS TALK Feed Efficiency
In its simplest terms , feed efficiency is the ratio of pounds of feed consumed to pounds of gain . So if you have two steers standing side by side at the feed bunk and one eats 6 pounds of feed to gain a pound and the other eats 5.5 pounds of feed to gain the same pound , the second one is more efficient .
Feedlot Health Management Services offers a suite of feedlot consulting services covering all aspects of procurement , production and marketing . The company is globally the largest of its kind and has clients in the U . S ., Canada , Mexico , Latin America , Kazakhstan , Russia and China .
It ’ s important to note that feed efficiency and average daily gain are not the same . In fact , in today ’ s marketing environment where most fed cattle are sold on carcass merit , average daily gain is only marginally important .
“ Just measuring gain alone does not tell you how well they ’ re converting ,” says Jerry Wulf , a cattle feeder , cow-calf producer and seedstock genetics supplier from Morris , Minn . “ Average gaining cattle with below average dry matter consumption that equates to good feed conversion and good feed efficiency have more value than the fastest gaining cattle that aren ’ t converting as well .”
He has the experience and numbers to back that up . He ’ s been collecting feed efficiency data on a pen basis in his feedyards for more than 30 years and individual data on the cattle in his seedstock operation for more than 15 years .
In any scenario , that ’ s good . In a time dominated by high feed costs , that ’ s even better .
“ If we talk about feedlot profitability , the biggest single driver is selling price ,” says Dr . Kee Jim , CEO of Feedlot Health Management Services . “ But that ’ s not something you can necessarily control . So then , feed efficiency or feed conversion is by far the most important production attribute .”