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New Mexico State University

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New Mexico Ranch to Rail program helps ranchers produce top cattle

CLAYTON - Cattle producers who participate in a New Mexico State University feedlot performance program will receive detailed data about the marketability of their cattle.



Calves from beef producers are closely monitored in the Clayton Livestock Research Center's Ranch to Rail program, which gives ranchers detailed data about the marketability of their cattle. (Courtesy Photo by Manny Encinias)

Ranchers may enroll their cattle for the seventh annual 2006-2007 New Mexico Ranch to Rail program through Oct. 16.

"Never in the history of the U.S. beef industry has feedlot performance and carcass data, as well as documentation of management practices on a set of calves been so economically valuable to cattle producers," said program coordinator Manny Encinias, a beef cattle specialist for NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service based at the Clayton Livestock Research Center. "Most producers have no idea how their calves perform after they leave the ranch."

The Ranch to Rail program is designed to provide feedback to beef producers on how their calves perform in the feedyard and the carcass characteristics expressed by the calves' genetic makeup and previous management.

Producers will get feedlot performance data, carcass data and a theoretical breakeven analysis on each calf they test.

"The purpose of this program is for a producer to use each calf's data to determine whether they are on target with in-herd performance goals and those benchmarks established by the industry," Encinias said, "as well as utilize the expertise of specialists in the Cooperative Extension Service to provide selection and management recommendations to achieve those goals and benchmarks."

Roy Davis raises cattle on his Grassy Creek Ranch south of College Station, Texas. He has participated in the program since a similar program in Texas was discontinued and the New Mexico program began.

"It allows me to evaluate my herd and find the cows that aren't producing calves that are of the quality that I want," said Davis. "You can find the cattle that aren't at average or are below average. You can move your average up and you can work on improving the quality of your cattle."

Davis brought 40 cattle to the program last year and plans to participate again this year.

Cattle must be delivered on Nov. 8 to Double A Feeders, a commercial feedlot in Clayton that has served as the home of the New Mexico program since its inception in 2000. Ranchers may deliver their own cattle to the feed yard, or combine truckloads with other consignors, Encinias said. He can be contacted for further information about arranging delivery.

No nomination fee is charged for ranchers to enroll their cattle. Producers participating in the program retain full ownership and risk in their cattle throughout the test.

Each producer must enter a minimum of five steers to participate. Steers must weigh 450-850 pounds upon arrival. No weaning or preconditioning requirements are needed for cattle participating in the program. However, Encinias strongly recommends that all steers entering the program be vaccinated in accordance with one of the Value Added Calf management programs.

Marketing date for individual calves will be based on weight and ultrasound measurements to achieve maximum net return, along with input from feedlot management. All calves will be sold on a carcass basis with premiums and discounts for quality grade, yield grade and carcass weight.

Further information on the program and enrollment forms are available from Encinias at (505) 374-2566 or mencinia@nmsu.edu.