Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
March 2, 2000

The Cow Herd Segment

There are three segments to marketing beef. These are the cow herd segment, the feeding segment and the consumer segment. For many years the cow herd and feeding segments were the major concern for nearly all producers. There has been a shift in the emphasis of beef production and marketing from the cow herd and feeding segments to the consumer segment.

One of the major reasons for this is the change in consumer thinking which placed less emphasis on price and more on time required and ease of preparation, nutrition and tenderness. This was a positive move for marketing of beef.

Placing more emphasis on the carcass selection traits will move the final product in the direction the consumer desires. There are numerous carcass traits that have heritability estimates that will move the beef product in the desired direction of the consumer. Some of the major traits are carcass weight, ribeye area, fat thickness, marbling, percent retail product, retail product weight, fat trim, fat trim weight, percent bone, bone weight and the Warner-Bratzler shear force test.

The selection for each of these products starts with the cow herd and sire selection. Basically it is impossible for progress of any kind to be made unless there is a live calf. Nutrition plays a major role in reproductive efficiency. Nature dictates a specific priority for the utilization of nutrients by the beef cow. Body maintenance is the first natural requirement met by producing females. This is followed by the requirement for lactation, then the demand for reproduction is last. Reproduction may be looked on as a trait that is strictly luxury only if nutrition is adequate. During times of reduced nutrition which can occur as a consequence of inadequate feeding level and/or harsh environmental conditions, reproductive performance is the first to suffer and the last to recover. This is the reason it is so important to maintain adequate nutrition for the cow herd.

Single trait selection (selecting for one trait only) often becomes undesirable for maintaining the longevity of a marketable product. Multiple trait selection maintains a balance in the genetic input for developing and maintaining future replacements. An example of this is selecting for birth weight, weaning weight and yearling weight at the same time versus selecting for light birth weight only. After determining the selection pressure needed for maintaining replacement females, the next selection consideration for developing the final product is genetics that promote carcass quality.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - March 2, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT030200.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004