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A recent study done by the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, investigates the predictive power of physical characteristics exhibited by steer calves, at and prior to weaning, on profits associated with weaned calf retention. Historically, retained ownership of beef cattle calves owned from birth through the finishing stage of production by a single owner, has been found to be a profitable endeavor for cow-calf producers. Despite these findings, observed evidence indicates many producers choose not to retain ownership. Three reasons that may explain this include tradition, cash flow needs of the business and risk. Producers who choose to retain ownership of their cattle face the risk of volatile markets and production challenges. This investigation explores the possibility that cow-calf producers may be able to mitigate a portion of these risks by selectively screening calves with specific physical characteristics.
The driving logic behind this study is that physical characteristics of calves are commonly expected to predict physical performance. Given that this expectation is true, physical performance contributes to and is one determinant of profitability.