The 2018 production year is in full swing and cow-calf producers are looking forward to another successful calf crop in the Southern Great Plains. This past year has been an excellent year of growth for the Integrity Beef Alliance, both in participation numbers and in marketing opportunities for members. Additionally, Alliance leadership has taken several steps to further guarantee the program's future success. The program now includes more approved bull breeds, modified requirements for breed composition of eligible calves, additional marketing avenues and a changed sale format, and an Integrity Beef Premier Replacement Female Program.
Moving forward, the Alliance board of directors approved the inclusion of more bull breeds. In January 2017, the Alliance approved the official inclusion of the Red Angus breed. In August 2017, Herefords were approved as a bull breed. In December 2017, Beefmaster bulls became the most recent bull breed to be included. This is in addition to Angus and Charolais, which were already recognized as approved bull breeds. Furthermore, other breeds are now encouraged to contact the Alliance about developing a formal relationship with Integrity Beef.
Calf Breed Composition
Breed composition of eligible calves has been modified as well. Previously, the breed composition of the cow was capped at no more than 3/8 Brahman influence and no more than 1/2 Continental genetics. Now the emphasis is placed on the calf's genetics, which is the marketable product for Alliance members. The new protocols allow for up to 1/4 Brahman influence in each individual calf, based on phenotypic evaluation. The constraint on Continental genetics has been lifted. By easing the Brahman influence standards, producers who have F1 or Brahman percentage cow herds now have a venue to market their calves and be recognized for the added value built into their management. This move will allow for a more inclusive environment for cow-calf producers in the South and Southeast.
Noble Research Institute staff, working in concert with Alliance board members, have developed new marketing opportunities for Alliance members. The first of those new opportunities has manifested itself in the form of a value chain marketing alliance. This value chain was developed between Noble Research Institute and cow-calf producers to Innovative Livestock Services through the Beef Marketing Group, to Tyson Foods and Golden State Foods, and finally ending with McDonald's. The value chain is addressing efficiencies in developing a sustainably sourced beef product. Alliance members are in the first year of this relationship and are already seeing benefits of the vertical alliance that has been developed.
Additionally, the Alliance marketing committee took under consideration and acted on a recommendation from several feedlots to not commingle calves at the annual value-added calf sale. The Alliance board of directors approved the modified sale format, and the 2017 calf crop was the first in almost a decade to sell under individual ranch name and by ranch of origin group. The buyers' response was encouraging as the resulting bid prices at the value-added calf sale were very favorable to the members. Additionally, we saw an increase in the number of interested buyers.
Furthermore, the Alliance has continued to pursue member-only benefits with allied industry in the form of sponsorships and member-only pricing on goods and services.
Premier Replacement Female Program
Finally, the Alliance has continued to develop the Integrity Beef Premier Replacement Female Program. This program is designed for producers in the heifer development segment of the business to have an opportunity to subscribe to a uniform set of industry-recognized best management practices and be recognized and rewarded for producing a quality replacement female for cow-calf producers. This program starts with a weaned calf and culminates with a bred replacement female that is ready to be sold to another rancher. Aspects of the program include proper vaccination schedules; proper heifer development through breeding until she is marketed; and set standards regarding the bull to which the heifer is bred, including calving ease direct, weaning weight and yearling weight expected progeny differences (EPD) requirements. The expectation is the calves will come easy with minimal dystocia then grow out well and have heavy weaning weights for premier replacement female buyers. During the first few years of this program, buyers have reported back exceptional calving ease and calves that are weaning at weights very comparable to the mature cow herd. This program is proving that a producer can have the best of both worlds: low birth weight calves with heavy weaning weights.