NALF, Tyson alliance offers new possibilities | TSLN.com

NALF, Tyson alliance offers new possibilities

Commercial cow-calf ranchers and cattle feeders looking to capture some extra dollars for the Limousin-influenced calves in value-added programs can now look to the new alliance with NALF and Tyson. Photo by Amanda Radke

NALF/Tyson alliance offers new opportunities for commercial ranchers, cattle feeders

By Amanda Radke

The meat case in grocery stores today is loaded with choices to meet the diverse needs of today's consumer. These choices range from highly-marbled USDA Prime steaks, to lean and low-fat beef, to all-natural, organic, and everything in between. For beef producers, these programs vary based on the levels of verification they must achieve, the standards they must meet, the documentation they must keep, and increased management they must practice to earn premiums for their cattle.

Mark Anderson, North American Limousin Foundation (NALF) Executive Director, says thanks to the strides of seedstock breeders across the country, the diversity of today's Limousin cattle allows them to meet the standards of various branded programs.

“I would encourage cattle feeders to get in touch with NALF and learn more about how they can get qualified to feed these cattle and build relationships with Limousin breeders to procure the kind of genetics they need to be successful in these programs.” Jerry Wulf, Wulf Cattle

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Anderson says, "The ability of Limousin cattle to hit the mark on many of these different programs has never been more evident than it is now. Most Limousin seedstock breeders have not lost sight of Limousin's ability to enhance yield grades while making marked improvements in quality grade. The advantages are also apparent when feed efficiency is evaluated and Limousin cattle's positive impact on dry matter feed conversions. The benefit of using Limousin cattle in a crossbreeding program is a higher cutability carcass in terms of both dressing percentage and lean yield."

In July, NALF announced a partnership with Tyson Fresh Meats to offer commercial cattle producers and cattle feeders the opportunity to market cattle through existing branded beef programs including: Open Prairie Natural Angus (Global Animal Partnership, GAP), Open Prairie Natural Angus (Non-GAP), NHTC (non-hormone treated cattle), and the Lim-Choice grid.

"These programs will give Limousin seedstock producers the ability to attract more commercial buyers to utilize their genetics, particularly into natural programs where the heterosis advantages of using Limousin bulls crossed into straight Angus and Red Angus cows become apparent," said Anderson. "This cross will ultimately capitalize on advantages in yield grade, feed efficiency, and increased cutability, while still being able to hit the Choice quality grade. The advantages gained by using Limousin genetics in this terminal cross will be valuable to the producer, feed yard, and packer, where the effect of implants and beta agonists are negated and the cattle have to solely rely on their genetic merit."

On September 29, Anderson spoke in Mitchell and Fort Pierre to discuss these new opportunities with local Limousin breeders, commercial ranchers and cattle feeders.

"Premiums for qualifying cattle under the NALF/Tyson procurement agreement for these programs are substantial depending on the program and the time of year the cattle are marketed for harvest," said Anderson. "Commercial cow-calf producers will be able to increase the value of their feeder cattle by purchasing Limousin and Lim-Flex® bulls to use on their Angus or Red Angus based cow herds, and marketing the resulting progeny though these programs."

While NALF is hoping to build demand for Limousin genetics, Tyson already has existing, ongoing relationships with several NALF members who are feeding a large number of cattle successfully into these programs, including Wulf Cattle, of Morris, Minn.

"Wulf Cattle has been supplying Tyson with Limousin-cross cattle for these value-added programs for the last seven years," said Jerry Wulf, of Wulf Cattle. "I've always been bullish on Limousin cattle, and for decades at Wulf Cattle, we've proven that the Limousin-cross works extremely well when feeding cattle for value-added programs such as NHTC or natural. You take away implants and beta agonists, and Limousin genetics fill that void very well."

When NALF was in the planning stages of developing the Lim-Choice grid with Tyson, Wulf Cattle was at the table to discuss ways to create opportunities for ranchers and cattle feeders who choose to use Limousin genetics in their operations.

"The dialogue that I had with NALF as we helped build this program is we want to work together to help procure cattle for not only our operation, but for other cattle feeders that want to feed for these programs," said Wulf. "We want to work together in this and not against each other. We hope the NHTC and natural programs for Tyson can continue to grow, and as they grow, I think Limousin-influenced cattle are, without a doubt, the right fit to fill those value-added markets."

Of course, qualifying and staying in compliance with these programs can drastically change the way operators currently manage their businesses; Wulf offers some advice for cattle feeders looking to get started and take advantage of these value-added opportunities.

"I would encourage cattle feeders to get in touch with NALF and learn more about how they can get qualified to feed these cattle and build relationships with Limousin breeders to procure the kind of genetics they need to be successful in these programs," said Wulf. "These programs aren't for everyone. I takes a higher level of management — everything needs to be documented, keep the cattle natural, meet humane animal standards, keep the livestock hormone free, be third-party verified and check and cross-check everything to stay in compliance. As one would expect, Tyson is very adamant about getting it right; there's not room to cut corners. We are happy to walk cattle feeders through what it takes to be successful in these programs."

Robert Scherer, Tyson Foods cattle procurement, says Limousin genetics help to address a growing problem in the beef industry — too big and overly-fat cattle.

"We looked at the genetics of the Limousin and the cutability factor of these cattle to produce a leaner carcass on a nice size frame really works for us at Tyson," said Scherer. "When you cross a Limousin with a Red Angus or Black Angus animal, you get the marbling genetics from the English genetics, and you're gaining the higher cutability from the Limousin. Tyson prides itself on being a high Choice supplier to the consumer, and I think the LimFlex cattle will offer the marbling and proper ribeye size to fit our needs."

Scherer adds that he is happy to visit with cattle feeders about the existing programs that qualified Limousin genetics can fit into and is excited to work with NALF in this new partnership.

"When NALF reached out to develop an alliance with us, we realized that LimFLex cattle can fit into the future," said Scherer. "Natural Limousin beef fits the bill for what consumers are looking for, and I think this is a great opportunity for beef producers. We look forward to developing new relationships down the road."

"The branded premium natural programs with Tyson and the conventional Lim-Choice grid are programs that depend heavily on high quality- and superior yield-grading cattle," added Anderson. "Cattle that achieve both of these requirements while still adding more pounds in the production phases of the cow-calf and feeding operations, as well as the packing industry, are desired heavily at all phases in the production chain and ultimately to the consumer."

The announcement of the NALF/Tyson alliance has already piqued the interest of cattle buyers and auction markets. For Tom Martinez, a field representative for Yankton Livestock Auction Market, taking advantage of premiums offered through value-added programs such as these is a way to drum up extra dollars in a down-trending market.

"As cattle prices trend lower, it's the programs like this that are going to be the only way to recapture some of those dollars," said Martinez, at the informational meeting in Mitchell. "Commercial breeders need to help livestock auction barns understand the value of these calves, so we can help sell the cattle for what they are worth. These are the times where we are going to have to look at value-added programs and show that your cattle have more than other cattle out there, and I think this is one of those great programs that will help your cattle stand out among the rest."

While each of the four programs vary in the specific requirements, buyers at local auction markets will soon be able to recognize the Lim-Choice ear tag, which indicates qualifying cattle for these NALF/Tyson programs.

"Commercial cow-calf operators looking to make feeder cattle that will qualify for these programs in an effort to increase their sale value, along with capitalizing on increased weaning and yearling weights at time of sale, should contact NALF for a listing of various Limousin and Lim-Flex seedstock providers in their area," said Anderson. "Current Limousin breeders wishing to provide more information to their commercial bull buyers should also contact NALF for assistance in getting their feeder cattle qualified for these programs."

For more information on the NALF/Tyson premium programs, contact Mark Anderson at 303-220-1693 or mark@NALF.org

To market cattle through these programs, contact NALF to get your ranch or feedlot qualified. Here is a summary of the marketing options available through the NALF/Tyson alliance:

Open Prairie Natural Angus (Global Animal Partnership, GAP)

Naturally raised and produced cattle that receive no antibiotics, hormones, beta agonists, or sulfa drugs. Producer and feedlot must go through the GAP certification process with third party verification. Cattle must qualify on Tyson’s Open Prairie Natural Angus Genotype certification form, which requires parentage identification (Black Angus or Red Angus). NALF will require the use of Limousin genetics on the other half of the pedigree. Cattle must also be age and source verified which requires third party verification from a USDA approved PVP (Process Verified Program) company like IMI Global. Additional requirements of the GAP certification must be fully met, which means cattle must be raised and produced meeting defined animal welfare requirements in addition to defined humane handling practices. Cattle will be shipped to Lexington, Neb., for harvest.

Open Prairie Natural Angus (Non-GAP)

These cattle must meet all the requirements of option one, with the exception that they are not GAP qualified. Cattle must be approved through Tyson’s natural affidavit with protocols met at all production levels. Cattle must be age and source verified. Cattle will be shipped to Lexington, Neb., for harvest.

NHTC (non-hormone treated cattle)

USDA’s requirements to meet non-hormone treated cattle requirements for the European Union’s Export Verification (EV) program. Cattle must be third party verified, along with age and source verification, and meet all program requirements. Cattle will be shipped to Lexington, Neb., for harvest. Cattle must hit a threshold of 70 percent Choice or higher. There is no Angus requirement for NHTC cattle.

Lim-Choice grid with Tyson

Conventionally fed cattle that carry the Lim-Choice ear tag can utilize this grid. Cattle can be shipped to the nearest Tyson plant location for harvest.

Pricing

Natural and NHTC cattle can be priced using one of the following two options. Once an option has been selected, between selling cattle live or in the beef, that option will remain in place for that producer throughout the year on additional lots of cattle.

A: Live-basis – Cattle will be sold using the Nebraska live weighted average. Cattle will be weighed, picked up in the afternoon, with a 5 percent shrink. Tyson will pay the first 300 miles of freight.

B: Dressed (carcass) weight – Cattle will be sold using the Nebraska weighted average, dressed steer price with the feed yard paying the freight.

Premiums

Premiums for cattle committed to various programs can change. Once cattle are committed to Tyson by the feed yard, the premium will not change. Individuals wanting to commit cattle into the programs should contact NALF to get current premium quotes or check with Tyson procurement for cattle to be shipped under the NALF/Tyson agreement.

–North American Limousin Foundation