Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - This fall, beef producers in New Mexico can get detailed feedback on the quality of the cattle they produce through New Mexico Ranch to Rail, a free program that allows ranchers to track their animals through the feedlot to the packing plant.
This is the second year New Mexico ranchers have been able to take part in the program through a cooperative effort of New Mexico State and Texas A&M universities.
"Ranch to Rail allows producers who typically sell their calves at weaning and don't get any other information back to see how those cattle performed in the feedlot, what the carcass characteristics were and how profitable they would be farther down the line," said Clay Mathis, beef cattle specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.
Such information can help producers make sound decisions about their breeding programs to improve their cattle and bottom line, he said.
Feedyard information collected includes average daily gain, calculated feed efficiency, total cost of gain, a breakeven analysis and net return. Carcass evaluation will include weight, dressing percentage, ribeye area, fat thickness, percent of pelvic, kidney and heart fat, and U.S. Department of Agriculture yield grade and quality grade.
"This year there's going to be some new information for producers," Mathis said. "Because the cattle will be harvested at Excel Packing, which has some new technology, we will be able to provide each producer with an image of the carcass and ribeye from each of their calves."
To participate, producers must enter at least five steers that weigh 500 to 850 pounds each.
"We don't have an upper limit on number of animals," Mathis said. "One thing that's important to realize is that the more calves people enter, the better the information they can glean, simply by having more animals to derive data from."
New Mexico cattle will be received on Nov. 15, allowing producers about 45 days to wean their calves before entering them in the program, Mathis said. All cattle will be fed at Swisher County Cattle Company near Tulia, Texas.
To assure a spot in the test, contact Mathis at (505) 646-8022 by Oct. 15.
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