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Source: Certified Angus Beef news release

English-origin cattle have dominated U.S. cowherds for more than a century, but a recent online survey of 1,245 producers updates the details.

"We found that 34% of them run straight-bred Angus, having used no other breed of bull in the past three years," said Steve Suther, director of industry information for Certified Angus Beef LLC, which commissioned the study. "That's about four times the number of all other straight-bred herds."

Crossbred herds accounted for 58% of the total, and most of those used Angus genetics. Only 20% of all herds have no Angus genetics, and after accounting for non-Angus purebred herds, that means 89% of crossbred herds use Angus genetics. (See chart 1)

"Nearly 46% owned fewer than 50 cows," Suther said, "but results did not change significantly when small producers were excluded." Those with more than 200 cows or located in the North central region tended to use a slightly lower percentage of Angus bulls. In all, the survey represented 65,000 bulls, 55% of them Angus.

Ages 46 to 75 years made up 79% of producers, followed by those 30 to 45, and older than 75. The 3% younger than 30 were much more likely to use Angus bulls (70%), and those over 75 used the most other breeds. Except for those opposite ends, the older the producer, the more likely they were to use Angus bulls.

Bull usage in 2013 was recorded as 40.2% Angus only, followed by "multiple breeds including Angus" at 29.2% and "multiple breeds but no Angus" at 7.2%, Suther said. The rest were widely scattered among a dozen or more other breeds that showed as much as one-tenth the Angus level, such as Hereford at 4.2% (see chart 2).

Asked to name one breed that most represents the herd, producers named Angus 65% of the time. Twelve percent named other English breeds, with Hereford representing half of those.

"In a market where a single premium beef carcass may bring $2,500, a surprising 39.6% paid less than $2,500 for a bull in 2013, and only 11.2% paid more than $5,000," Suther said. Producers were similarly unwilling to invest in DNA technology, with only 8.5% willing to use it at current market prices above $15 per head.

Cross-tabulation by breeding system and other answers created profiles for various mindsets among producers.
Operators of primarily Angus herds led all others in stressing the importance of a bull being registered and backed by DNA information, while in management traits they chose feedlot performance and carcass data as top concerns more often than other producers.

Those who ranked individual carcass data as above-average importance numbered only 37%, but it was 41% among primarily Angus operations. Similarly, access to feedlot performance data was more important to 35.4% of all, but to 39.8% of Angus operations. By comparison, only 33% of those with other purebred herds ranked each of the two traits at more than average importance.

Crossbred herd managers ranked calving ease, breeder reputation and growth as the top three traits in bull selection.

Among those who ranked carcass data as a top management concern, 55.6% named carcass value and 44.4% named feedlot performance in the top three for bull selection.

"For the subset of those who operate primarily Angus herds, those numbers were 65% and 51.3%, which shows a significantly higher than average focus on what happens to their calves after they leave the ranch," Suther said. For those with no Angus genetics but favoring carcass data, the numbers were 50.7% and 41.4%.

The survey asked if respondents have retained more heifers in the past three years and if they plan to retain more in the next three. A similar question explored the past and intentions to buy females (see table).

By a margin of 58 to 42, they have kept more in the past and that ratio goes up by one for the next three years. On the other hand, fewer than 30% bought breeding females in the past three years and only 26% plan to buy in the next three. In both categories, disposition and calving ease ranked highest for bull selection, followed by breeder reputation.

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