Sydenstricker wins profitability challenge

Sydenstricker wins profitability challenge
By: 
Austin Black
Missouri Cattlemen’s Association

As one of the top three cow-calf states in the country, Missouri offers a great opportunity for new feedlot and beef processing facilities. For several years, state agriculture groups have explored the possibilities of this endeavor. And with each idea, the benefit to Missouri beef producers becomes more evident.

The latest project to experiment with this ideology is the Top 100 Profitability Challenge conducted by the Missouri Cattleman’s Association (MCA). It was created to prove that cattle can be fed and harvested efficiently with the resources and environment offered in the state.

In its first year, the Top 100 Challenge included 26 calves from 19 producers. Calves were enrolled in the MFA Health Track program, which included a vaccination, castration, 45-day weaning and nutrition protocol. They were delivered to the University of Missouri-South Farm in early December and placed in a feedlot scenario with Growsafe feed bunks and watering systems. Through the help of the University research team, MCA used a formula that included daily intake and average daily gain to measure calf performance while on test. At the end of the test, calves were harvested and graded to determine which calf was the most profitable. And one calf grabbed the attention of everyone watching.

Stacking the genetics

The purebred Angus steer came from Sydenstricker Genetics in Mexico. He was sired by SydGen Wake Up Call 9446 and out of a half-sister to SydGen Trust 6228. Sydenstricker Genetics Manager, Ben Eggers, said the program and the results were confirmation of what he believed to be true for decades.

“Feed efficiency in particular has always intrigued me,” he said. With experience in performance testing bulls, Eggers was eager to see how his steers would do in a similar environment. “Missouri has a good reputation in the industry and we hope we’ve been a part of that. I thought this would be a good way to, either win, lose, or draw—see how the calf does and help promote MCA,” he said. “It’s always interesting to see if you can make any money feeding cattle.”

Eggers looked for calves with genetics that excelled in feed efficiency. Wake Up Call was a ¾ brother to SydGen CC&7, a bull well known for feed efficiency and docility. And Wake Up Call himself excelled in feed efficiency at the Midland Bull Test in 2010. “He was a very high marbling bull with good muscle,” Eggers said.

The dam was a commercial recip cow that Sydenstricker Genetics had raised and used for several years with good results. “We put one embryo in each recip, then they run with a natural service sire—which is how this calf was conceived,” Eggers said. “I think it’s really interesting to note that Wake Up Call was over nine years old at the time this calf was conceived.”

Eggers picked out three steers that combined the genotype and phenotype needed for good growth potential. “I picked out the ones that had the most stretch and growth and higher birth weights,” he said. “I’ve always seen birthweight as an important indicator of post-weaning gain.”

In a strange course of effects, Eggers top pick nearly died from anaphylactic shock at weaning. Not wanting to cause further problems, Eggers chose to not revaccinate and pulled him from the lineup. Still, he had confidence his remaining calves would be candidates for winning.

“We’ve had a fair amount of years breeding for genetics that can perform and have the carcass traits,” he said. Eggers admitted that there is little room for error when you only have a few calves to compete. Both calves would have to be nearly flawless to stay competitive. So Eggers focused on using proven genetics and preparing the calves to excel in growth and efficiency. “You could always get totally lucky and win one, but if you stack the deck [with genetics] you have a much better chance,” he said.

Until weaning, Eggers ran the calves with his weaned heifers to avoid creep feeding and then sorted them to their own grass lot for development. When the original delivery date was delayed, he focused on growing the calves slowly with grazing and limited supplement.

“We were trying to keep them coming on nice without putting too much flesh on them between weaning and delivering them to the University farm,” he said. In the end, his winning calf gained around 1.75 pounds a day weaning and delivery to the test center. As soon as the steer was delivered and adjusted to the new environment, he started growing fast. Eggers said his ADG was over 5.5 pounds a day while on test.

As the winner of the challenge, Sydenstricker Genetics will receive $3,000 and a prize package. Eggers said he is happy with the results and believes it adds credibility to the Sydenstricker program. “It’s probably given us a little more confidence in the Wake Up Call bull,” Eggers said. The bull spent most of his life at Amonett Farms in eastern Tennessee before returning to Sydenstricker Genetics a few years ago. Eggers collected semen before losing the bull last year and he plans to have several Wake Up Call sons on display at the award ceremony. “That will kind of be his day,” he said.

Investing in data

The Top 100 Challenge allows producers to invest in the association and gain valuable information about their herd’s genetic potential. Upon delivery, MCA buys 50 percent of the calf and receives 50 percent as a donation to obtain full ownership. Producers receive updated performance data throughout the program that includes daily intake, weights and average daily gain. When the cattle are finished, MCA sells the calf and provides all the harvest data to all contest entrants.

Sydney Thummel, MCA Director of Membership, said producers really liked receiving the full data set. “Most operations aren’t set up to get the data back and don’t have the capital to install a Growsafe system,” she said. Eggers agreed. “[The Challenge] is a good way to get real world data coming from all kinds of different farms and see how the calves really did in feed efficiency,” he said. By comparing their calves’ performance to others in the program, producers can see where they excelled and where they can improve.

Perhaps the biggest success of the program, though, was the participation from FFA chapters. Thummel said 23 chapters competed in a “Fantasy Feedout” to see who could identify the most profitable calf. “They came out in full force,” she said. A “draft day” allowed students to attend the South Farm, learn about cattle selection and choose which steer they expected to win.

Each chapter drew for their turn to pick a steer. “My favorite part was whenever you look at the order the kids drew in, some of the later picks performed better. So it was truly looking at the calves, not just the order of picking,” Thummel said.

How to enroll

This year, the program is sponsored by IDEXX, Elanco, MFA Health Track, University of Missouri-South Farm, Growsafe and Y-Tex. Producers will receive vaccinations, PI test kits, ear tags and a product care package to ensure calves are healthy upon entrance to the program.

To accommodate spring and fall calving operations, the program will also include a Calf Fed division this year. To be eligible, calves must be born in the spring 2020, weigh between 6-800 pounds at delivery and be weaned by or before Oct. 28. Delivery will occur in early December.

The Yearling Fed division will include calves born fall 2019. They must weigh between 750-900 pounds at delivery and be weaned by or before July 29. Delivery will occur Sept.11-13.

Producers can complete the enrollment form online or contact Sydney Thummel (sydney@mocattle.com) at least one week prior to delivery.

“The overarching goal of the program is to show that we can feed cattle in Missouri. We would like to be a program where the cattle are born, raised, fed and processed in Missouri,” Thummel said.

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