Like commercial producers everywhere, Teresa and Doug Mondani, who ranch near Ione, Calif., have been looking for ways to capture more dollars from their cattle so they can remain competitive during these tough economic times.
So back in 2005, the Mondanis enrolled their calves in AngusSource, an industry-leading, process-verified program developed by American Angus Association that verifies the age, source and genetics of their calves.
“We believe AngusSource has helped to increase the value of our calves by $5 to $6/cwt.,” says Teresa. “We’ve been very happy with the results so far.”
Cattle enrolled in the program are identified with the official AngusSource eartag and verification certificate, and their identification remains intact throughout the animal’s lifetime and through all marketing and production channels.
The eligibility requirements of the program are relatively simple, says Sara Snider, director of the program: “Cattle must be sired by a registered Angus bull. Calves must be enrolled by the ranch of origin and, at a minimum, must have a record verifying the birth date of the oldest calf within the enrollment group.”
In addition to the premium prices the Mondanis have received because of their participation in the program, they’ve also been able to obtain carcass data, which has been very helpful for the advancement of their breeding and marketing programs.
Armed with information, the Mondanis believe they can continue to make improvements in their genetics — and AngusSource allows them to communicate the past performance and quality of their calves to buyers.
“The data we’ve been getting back on our calves has been great,” says Teresa. “In 2007, our calves went 89 percent Choice with more than 50 percent of them qualifying for Certified Angus Beef (CAB).”
Information like that is worth a great deal in today’s marketplace, she adds.
An industry perspective
“AngusSource is really an inexpensive program for ranchers to participate in. We’re getting anywhere from $25 to $30/head premiums for age-verified cattle right now,” says Ron Rowan of Beef Northwest, an Oregon-based cattle feeding company.
For John Butler, chief executive officer for Beef Marketing Group, a cooperative of 15 feeding operations in Kansas and Nebraska, the benefits of AngusSource are too many to count.
First and foremost, the program allows him and others in his cooperative to accomplish their primary goal: to focus on developing value-added beef programs driven by consumer demand.
“As a procurer of feeder cattle as well as someone who offers competitive, retained ownership programs, AngusSource cattle come to us with a promise,” says Butler. “The AngusSource promise is that the cattle are of known genetics and they have the additional benefit of being age and source verified. AngusSource has become a trusted, credible PVP that fits well with the branded beef programs that we are involved with.
“The great thing about AngusSource is that it allows virtually any commercial producer to produce cattle that can be eligible for branded beef programs like Certified Angus Beef (CAB),” Butler adds. “And when those opportunities are open, I think there are pretty significant benefits in terms of real premium dollars for now having cattle that can be eligible for meeting the specifications of these programs.”
When it comes to qualifying for CAB, for instance, at participating plants AngusSource also allows cattle that are not 51 percent black hided to be eligible for CAB and CAB Natural because the producer can verify that the cattle were sired by registered Angus bulls.
“If your cattle have the AngusSource eartag — and even if they’re a smoky-colored Charolais-cross out of an Angus bull — they can still qualify for CAB, provided they meet other program specifications,” says Brad Peek of California-based Western Video Market. “That’s one of the great things about this program. In the past, that smoke-colored calf couldn’t have qualified. Now, with AngusSource, they don’t have to be black hided.”
Perhaps the greatest value of PVP programs like AngusSource is that they provide a direct information link between all sectors of the cattle industry.
California-based Harris Ranch is a leading U.S. beef producer, packer and exporter of U.S. beef to Japan.
“The one issue that dominated the attention of the U.S. beef industry in recent years was export market accessibility,” says Harris Ranch’s Mike Smith.
“When we lost many of our beef export markets several years ago, it’s estimated the U.S. beef industry was losing $3.5 billion per year, or roughly $150 for every fed steer and heifer marketed each year.”
A key component to recapturing, securing and expanding export markets, says Smith, is producer participation in programs like AngusSource. Japan in particular requires all beef imported into its country to be processed by USDA-certified plants and procured from suppliers who are PVP or USDA Quality System Assessment (QSA) certified, says Smith.
“Without question, the most restrictive export requirements imposed on us are from Japan,” he explains. “Not only are detailed and descriptive processing procedures and record-keeping required by these countries, but all beef and beef products marketed there must be obtained from cattle determined to be 20 months of age or younger at harvest.”
One of the key advantages to AngusSource is that cattle enrolled in the program can be accepted into most feedlots’ pre-existing PVP or USDA Quality Assessment (QSA) programs.
“For farmer-feeders who market directly to packers, AngusSource offers a Feedyard Umbrella Program for ranch-enrolled calves,” says Snider.
To help producers market their AngusSource cattle, American Angus Association’s commercial programs department is working with livestock markets across the country to organize and promote special AngusSource sales.
“These sales, held in conjunction with the livestock markets’ regularly scheduled value-added calf sales, allow producers the opportunity to work with others to market large numbers of AngusSource calves to potential buyers. That not only builds awareness of the program, but also demand for the cattle,” says Snider.
For Teresa, whose ranch has been in existence since the late 1800s, AngusSource is just one more way for her family to remain competitive — and to ensure future generations continue to raise cattle near Ione.
“I would encourage anyone that wants to put money in their pocket and promote their Angus genetics to take part in this program,” she says.
“We have really enjoyed the exposure that AngusSource has brought to our herd. We feel like our program is much more recognizable within the industry because of AngusSource — and that we’re much better positioned to produce quality products for consumers.”