Producing the highest quality beef in order to improve return on investment was the primary topic of the June 9 LSU AgCenter Beef Field Day held at the Central Research Station in Baton Rouge.

The Louisiana Beef Quality Assurance program is recommended to help producers make the most profit from their operations, said LSU AgCenter beef cattle specialist Karl Harborth.“It’s a value-added program to assure consumers that they are getting a high-quality product that’s been handled properly. Specifically, it comes down to proper management of the animals.”

Louisiana’s beef industry operates what are called “cow-calf” operations, where producers mainly raise the calves to a certain size and take them to the livestock auction for sale.

While following the beef quality assurance program, producers can continue to sell in this manner, but improve their bottom line by adding a few steps like improving the genetics on the farm and using as much of the available information as possible, said LSU AgCenter animal breeding and genetics specialist Matt Garcia.

“One thing we discussed was expected progeny difference, which is a statistical prediction of how a bull’s calves are going to perform compared to all calves from that breed,” Garcia said.

For example, calves from an Angus bull with a birth weight differential of plus three would be expected to be three pounds heavier at birth than all other claves within that breed.

Using ultrasound technology, LSU AgCenter animal scientist Tim Page showed how carcass traits could be observed as a way to know how an animal would be graded even before slaughter.

“Carcass composition can be determined on all species of livestock using ultrasound technology,” Page said. “The most common carcass traits evaluated with ultrasound include fat thickness, ribeye area, rump fat thickness and intramuscular fat or marbling.”

This is the same technology doctors use to monitor the condition of human babies in the womb.

“This technology has been used for diagnostic imaging of soft tissues in the livestock industry since the mid-1950s,” Page said. “This is a non-destructive, humane means of qualitative identification of muscle and fatty tissue of the live animal.”    

In today’s ever-changing market, beef producers must use every technology available to improve their production and to keep up with market trends.

“Value-based marketing has pushed commercial beef producers to produce cattle that will bring a premium when sold,” Page said. “This can mean the difference between a select carcass and a choice carcass, which, in some cases, relates to the difference between a loss and a profit.”

LSU AgCenter reproductive biology researchers Ken Bondioli and Glen Gentry explained how removing eggs from cows can be used in selective beef cattle reproduction programs.

LSU AgCenter state veterinarian Christine Navarre provided tips to save time and money in a beef cattle operation. One area where she said producers are losing money is with vaccinations. 

Improper handling of vaccines and incorrect injection site selection are two problem areas.

“Vaccines have to remain within the recommended temperature range, which means you may have to carry a cooler to the pen where you’re working,” Navarre said. “You need to also make sure that your injection site will not cause damage to select cuts after slaughter.”    

The field day concluded with a sponsored lunch by the Louisiana Cattleman’s Association and a tour of beef research units at the Central Research Station.