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Integrity Beef Alliance: Marketing Value-stacked Calves

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The beef cattle industry has several Value Added Calf (VAC) programs through which beef producers may market calves. The Integrity Beef Alliance is one such program. Other VAC programs are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies (e.g., Pfizer Select Vac, Merial SureHealth, etc.), breed associations (e.g., Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Charolais, etc.), and state (i.e., Oklahoma Beef Quality Network (OQBN)) and regional programs (e.g., Northeast Texas Beef Improvement Organization (NETBIO)).

All VAC programs are designed to assist producers marketing preconditioned calves that are typically weaned for a minimum of 45 days (thus termed a VAC-45 program). Each sponsored VAC program has its own defined protocol. The Integrity Beef Alliance, a VAC-45 program that is led by cooperating producers and the Noble Research Institute Agricultural Division, adopted a stringent protocol that not only includes animal health and management requirements, but also includes genetic and animal performance requirements.

Integrity Beef Alliance members work collaboratively with Noble Research Institute consultants who provide technical program support. The mission of the Integrity Beef Alliance is to simplify cow/calf producer management decisions and increase the marketability of calves through the production of high quality, uniform, preconditioned calves that are age and source verified. The Integrity Beef Alliance is designed to be a terminal breeding program where produced calves have the greatest opportunity to be productive and efficient for each phase (calf, stocker, feeder) of the beef cattle industry.

The Integrity Beef Alliance has defined management protocols for both breeding cattle and for calves. These protocols are detailed on the Integrity Beef website. Breeding animals are required to follow a herd health protocol as prescribed by each producer's large animal veterinarian and maintain a breeding season no longer than 90 days. In addition, all new animals entering the program must test negative for PI-BVD. Breeding females are to be made up of at least 50 percent British breeds (Angus, Red Angus, Hereford), no more than 3/8 Brahman influence and with no Longhorn, Corriente or dairy influence allowed. Bulls must be registered Angus or Charolais with EPDs for weaning weight and yearling weight in the top 20 percent of their respective breed. Annual health records, papers on purchased bulls and production data are required by the Integrity Beef Alliance for continued participation in the program.

Calves are required to be sired by bulls meeting the Integrity Beef protocol, have individual identification, and be polled or dehorned. Bull calves are to be castrated, and all calves are to be age and source verified. Calves are then preconditioned for a minimum of 45 days, following a specific health protocol defined by the Integrity Beef Alliance. Calves are only eligible to be marketed as Integrity Beef Alliance calves if all protocol criteria are met.

Although Integrity Beef Alliance producers may market their calves at the time and location of their choosing, the Alliance hosts an annual commingled calf sale at OKC West Livestock Market in El Reno, Okla., which is usually held the first week of December. After following the stringent Alliance protocol, cooperating producers deliver their age and source verified, preconditioned calves to the stockyard for screening and commingling. Uniform calf groups are determined by gender, size and breed composition. These calves are marketed as "value-stacked, commingled, Integrity Beef Alliance calves."

Figures 1. and 2.

Analysis of the 2010 Integrity Beef commingled calf sale, provided by Oklahoma State University, revealed premiums of $6 to $20/cwt over non-VAC calves (Figures 1 and 2). As indicated by the charts, all VAC calves marketed - even those calves following VAC-45 requirements, but not sponsored/certified - during last year's sale received premiums over non-VAC calves. These results further illustrate the benefit of marketing value added calves regardless of the value added calf program.

In today's cattle industry, producers have the opportunity to add value to their calf crop at the time of marketing by implementing one of the recognized VAC-45 programs into their management practices. Participation in the Integrity Beef Alliance is by Alliance nomination only and is only granted after the producer meets basic requirements for herd health and management as described in the Integrity Beef Alliance protocol. For more information, go to integritybeef.org or contact Robert Wells, Integrity Beef Alliance Administrator, at 580.-224-6434 or rswells@noble.org.

Hugh Aljoe serves as the director of producer relations (consultation and ranch management) and a pasture and range consultant. He has been associated with Noble Research Institute since 1995. Prior to coming to Noble, he managed a 3,000-acre 1,500-head cattle operation in Texas. Hugh received his master’s degree in range science from Texas A&M University with emphasis in grazing management.