COLLEGE STATION — The 1999 Texas A&M Ranch to Rail Program is accepting nominations for cattle deliveries in October, announced Dr. John McNeill, associate head for Extension at Texas A&M University s animal science department.
“Since 1991, almost 20,000 head of steers from 1,600 ranches in Texas and 13 other states have participated in the program that feeds consigned cattle at two locations, and collects feedyard performance, health information, and carcass data,” he said.
“We feel the program shows significant impact in several areas,” said McNeill, who cited increased producer awareness of feedyard health issues that impact cattle performance and carcass grade.
In addition, a large percentage of current and past participants have improved their cowherd selection practices. Many have changed sire breeds and revised their animal health management programs.
The program started in 1991 with 666 head at Randall County Feedyard near Amarillo. It was expanded to the King Ranch Feedyard at Kingsville in 1992. That move created the north and south components of the program. Today, these two locations have identical entry requirements, data collection and management practices, with only slight differences in feeding management protocols.
In 1996, Ranch to Rail-South was moved to Hondo Creek Feedyard at Edroy, north of Corpus Christi. Cattle are placed on feed in October at both yards, with southern steers started on feed early in the month, and their northern counterparts in mid-October.
Program officials like to see incoming steer weights between 500 and 800 pounds at arrival. In addition, weaning and preconditioning of at least 45 days prior to shipment, following the Vac 45 program, is highly recommended.
Arriving steers are sorted into feeding groups based on their live weight, flesh condition, and frame size. They are processed at entry and vaccinated for shipping fever or bovine respiratory disease complex. Cattle are implanted with a growth hormone, dewormed, and tagged with an individual identification and lot number.
Finished steers are sorted and sold as individuals, not by lots, after reaching their optimal condition and weight. The beef are processed by IBP in Amarillo and Sam Kane’s Beef Processors in Corpus Christi. Carcasses are tagged individually. Complete carcass data is collected to assist consignors in understanding the effect composition has on consumer acceptance of the end product.
Carcasses are sold in the beef on the rail based on USDA quality and yield grade using a grid system. Premiums are given for more desirable carcasses.
Feeding costs are financed by the feedyards for the duration of the program. Expenses are deducted from carcass value. Each consignor receives an individual report on feedyard performance, carcass merit, and financial results of their steers. Producers also receive a summary report of all steers consigned in the program.
Since 1991, over 14 collaborative projects have flowed from the program and reflect the concerns of cow-calf producers as well as the feeders. According to McNeill, these projects have involved many partners, including the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, animal health companies, other universities, and the Texas Beef Council among others.
Some projects have yielded data, derived from sampling steers on arrival to evaluate their blood serum status for copper, zinc, and selenium. These minerals are known to have an effect on the immune system of calves. Other projects have dealt with rectal temperature evaluations at arrival to help show any effects on subsequent morbidity and mortality. Still other tests have provided data on the use of pre-shipment medication to reduce morbidity. In addition, 400 steers were classed according to differing breed types and tenderness.
“This year, all steers were sampled for Neospora canum, a disease carried and transmitted by canines and known to cause abortion in cattle,” he said.
Southern steers, at-risk for BRD, were revaccinated to determine if the immune system could be enhanced before being exposed to the disease. All but one pen of steers were evaluated using ultrasound to assist in determining marketing groups.
“We will be taking consignments until mid-August,” he said. Consignors requesting transportation for their steers will be grouped for delivery. The cost will be prorated by mileage and deducted from the final amount due the consignor.
Consignors may deliver their own cattle. Delivery dates and times will be assigned to ensure a constant flow of steers into the yards. Participants may choose either yard, North or South, for their consignment.
“Previous years results have shown only minor differences exist between the geographic locations,” McNeill said.
For more information, contact your local county Extension agent or call McNeill at (979) 845-3579.