Cost of Gain and Cost of Grain

US - Beating the gap between weight gain inputs and fed prices can only be done with good cattle that add premiums, concludes Larry Coah, Vice President of Angus Beef Brand after reviewing two specialist's reports on beef weight gain economics.
calendar icon 17 June 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

When does the cost of gain (COG) exceed the fed-cattle price? Historically, it almost never does, unlessweather-related feeding conditions ramp up those costs. Until now.

Shawn Walter, head of Oklahoma-based Professional Cattle Consultants (PCC), delved into the dynamics in a recent newsletter and noted COG on a live cattle basis has persisted in the $135/cwt. area since March, with fed prices hovering around $125. That’s a staggering spread for cattle feeders to absorb – nearly impossible without better cattle that beat the spread and add premiums.


Such pressure helped build a new mindset that looks at grid marketing and carcass gain vs. cash sales and live gain in those last weeks on feed. Still, it’s striking to look at how liveweight COG has changed in the past five years.

Justin Waggoner, Kansas State University feedlot specialist, shared data (Figure 1) that showed for the first 17 of 22 years, COG averaged around $50 to $55/cwt. Then in 2007 the “ethanol era” had its impact.

So how does COG relate to the kind of Certified Angus Beef acceptance rates we’ve seen? Looking at our feedlot database, two things become apparent. As closeout average daily gains improved, CAB® acceptance improved, but corresponding feed efficiency was a bit off.

The net effect in COG for higher grading cattle was slightly lower in a PCC white paper (Table 1), but practically about even. That casts doubt on an old adage in cattle feeding: to get high levels of Prime or premium Choice cattle, they have to be fat enough to give up COG.

That idea does not fit the kind of cattle we have now. We can successfully hit today’s consumer targets without having to absorb higher COG levels.

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