BY LAUREN L. HULSMAN HANNA, PH.D., ASSISTANT PROFESSOR; MICHAELLA A. FEVOLD, STUDENT; AND ROBERT J. MADDOCK, PH.D., ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF ANIMAL SCIENCES, NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY T he beef cattle industry remains a unique set of genetically diverse breed types, where each serves a often has inadvertent consequences on other cuts. For example, research has shown that consumers are willing to eat larger ribeye steaks, but often do not The Interplay of Frame Size and Production Efficiency What Is the Right Size?

the same dressing percentage, 12th rib fat depth and U.S. Department of Agriculture Yield Grade compared to carcasses from medium small and medium large framed steers. While small-framed steers produced smaller ribeye steaks (13.35 square inches vs. 14.37 square inches or 15.72 square inches), they did produce the largest ribeye steak in relation to their hot carcass weights (1.03 square inches per hundredweight vs. 0.89 square inches per hundredweight or 0.9 square inches per hundred weight). This bodes well for a beef producer if consumer preference, not pounds, is the driving force of production. What if you could have both though? The end result of any beef cattle operation is meeting consumer de mands, but a cow-calf producer must also weigh consequences of size on cowherd performance. So, what kind of cows can be used to get desirable offspring? A producer must first define what a desirable offspring is. If being sold for weaning weight value, then more pounds at weaning is desired. This can be accomplished either through bigger calves or more calves weaned. With the right crossbreeding scheme, bigger calves is not necessary. Rather,

purpose within the industry. Frame size, expressed as either a calculated or subjective frame score, provides producers an understanding of lean to-fat ratio potential in their animals. Research has shown that average harvest weight for beef cattle in the United States has increased more than 300 pounds in the past 40 years, with 100 pounds of that in crease occurring in the past decade 4 . This provides proof of increased aver age frame size of beef cattle across the industry. Large size does come with advan tages, such as improved production efficiency by lessening environmen tal impact and maintaining pounds of beef produced (i.e., the United States has reduced the number of animals fed by 10 million over the past 40 years). With larger harvest weights comes larger carcass weights. This has benefited consumers with a decrease in ground beef prices, but

realize the impact on thickness it may have to maintain specific por tion sizes (e.g., a 10-ounce ribeye with larger ribeye area would need to be cut thinner). Price, Quality Grade, color and shape are other characteris tics that drive consumer preference 2, 3 , where increasing carcass size can cause problems with maintaining these preferences. Since the mid-2000s, research at North Dakota State University’s (NDSU) Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) has focused on Ameri can Aberdeen-influenced offspring compared to conventional offspring types. Carcass data on steers from the two herds (“beef” vs. “range,” where range has Aberdeen influence) at DREC has been characterized based on frame-size groups (small, medium small and medium large) for a set of steers 5 . Small-framed steers (Aberdeen Angus base) produced carcasses with

Determining the “right” size cattle is dependent on production goals and income sources. Even so, bigger does not always mean better.

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