ORIGINAL RESEARCH: Production and ManagementWeaning weight trends in the US beef cattle industry
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ABSTRACTThe objective of this study was to characterize the trend over time for weaning BW in commercial cow-calf operations in the US beef cattle industry. The first data set contained weaning BW data from 4 enterprise analysis programs from 1991 to 2015. The second data set included mean forecasted delivery BW of sale lots of beef calves sold through Superior Livestock Auction from 1995 to 2016. The Superior Livestock Auction data were evaluated for 2 regions, north central/Rocky Mountain region and south central region, and were restricted to sale dates and projected delivery dates approximating those associated with spring-calving operations. The third data set included mean actual and adjusted weaning BW of commercial cow-calf operations participating in the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association from 1983 to 2017. Adjusted annual weaning BW reported from the American Angus Association and American International Charolais Association were used to evaluate the trend over time for Angus and Charolais bull calves from 1995 to 2016. Annual mean weaning BW from 3 of 4 different cow-calf performance and financial analysis programs did not change over time (P > 0.16). However, there was a significant linear increase (0.5 kg per year; P = 0.01) for weaning BW in data reported by the Kansas Farm Management Association. Projected delivery BW for north central implanted calves increased (P < 0.01) until 2006 and plateaued at 268.7 kg. Similarly, projected delivery BW for north central nonimplanted calves increased (P < 0.01) until 2007 and plateaued at 249.8 kg. In contrast, projected delivery BW for nonweaned south central implanted and nonimplanted calves increased (P < 0.01) over time with no significant break point and was best characterized by a simple linear model. Adjusted and unadjusted weaning BW reported to the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association increased until 1998 and 1995 and plateaued at 252.6 and 250.6 kg, respectively. The phenotypic trend for Angus and Charolais bulls was best described by a polynomial regression equation (P < 0.01) with declining rate of change in weaning BW. Substantial variation in the trend over time for weaning BW in commercial cow-calf operations exists within region and record program. Nevertheless, it is apparent that progress in calf weaning BW among commercial cow-calf operations has stabilized in some regions of the United States. Furthermore, weaning BW is substantially more variable in the southern states.

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