WV Quality Assurance Feeder Cattle Sales

Phil Osborne
Livestock Specialist
WVU Extension Service

Discriminating feeder calf buyers look forward to the West Virginia Quality Assurance Sales in Buckhannon, WV and Franklin, WV.

Each year, these statewide WV Quality Assurance (QA) Sales feature some of the finest genetics coupled with an industry accepted and proven health program. The QA calves have proven to be a valuable risk management product for buyers and producers

Quality Assurance Sales evolved from the early prevaccinated feeder calf sales held at Jackson's Mill in the mid 80s. Several producers prevaccinated and pooled their calves together into load lots and offered them each year on a board sale. The initial reason the producers began pooling was producers' inability to physically deliver all their calves to the barn due to distance and the long waits in line they faced to get unloaded.

The first sale in 1985 featured about 300 head of calves in five lots. The 1997 sales at Buckhannon and South Branch stockyards featured right at 3,000 head of calves.

In post-sale follow-up was conducted each year, calves sold on the board sale receive higher marks over the prevaccinated calves sold in the barn. Fewer of the board sale calves were treated for respiratory problems and shipping fever than calves sold in the barn. Since all calves were vaccinated the same, the only explanation for the difference, was the stress of hauling and assembling the barn sale calves challenged the immune system. The calves sold on the board sales were gathered and delivered to the destination in the same or less time than it took to prepare for an in-barn sale.

The QA sales use a two-tier health program. Calves in the Gold Program (Table 1.) undergo a complete prevaccination regime 14 to 21 days before weaning. The calves get a booster vaccination for the respiratory complex and are weaned at least 30 days before delivery.

West Virginia Quality Assurance

7-Way Clostridium
Lepto 5
Internal\External parasite

Boostered and weaned 30 days before pickup

Some producer pools have adopted the Gold Program for the convenience of being able to gather and assemble calves from a number of producers or from a larger market area. It can be quite a challenge to assemble three loads of calves with a 48 hour notice from 18 producers with cattle spread over 2,200 acres. Still, the real plus of the Gold Program is the success the buyers have had with the calves from an animal health and performance perspective.

The Silver Program (Table 2) is limited to the prevaccination component of the Gold Program and administration is required 14 to 21 days before delivery. The prevaccination health programs for the Silver and Gold tiers are identical. This allows buyers to choose from both tiers and co-mingle them in the lots. Becaise all calves have been treated the same, the booster programs administered at the feedlot will be more compatible. The expense of the vaccination program is minimal, usually $6 to $7.50 per head.

West Virginia Quality Assurance

7-Way Clostridium
Lepto 5
Internal\External parasite

Prevaccinated 21 days before pickup

QA a win-win

When preparing for sale, a little management goes a long way toward reducing the risk of shipping fever and protecting the reputation of your calves. A review of last year's feedlot closeouts show that calves requiring treatment cost the feedlot $20 to $30 per head.

Sometimes a real wreck occurs when calves have not been properly vaccinated and lack the immunity to ward off the challenges of respiratory infection. If the weather and other stress related conditions work against you, it is not uncommon for 30 percent or more of the calves to require treatment. You could even incur some death loss.

Granted, the QA calves command a little higher, but it's a win-win situation for both buyer and seller. Buyers get what they pay for. All calves eventually have to be vaccinated and weaned. The cost will be absorbed either before or after purchase. If vaccination and weaning takes place before the sale and before shipping, the return on the dollar and risk reduction will be realized in improved performance and minimal health-related problems. All calves in the QA sale are vaccinated in the neck region, subcutaneously if possible to avoid carcass blemishes.

An objective of the QA sale is to offer genetically superior calves with predictable performance. The term "Performance Advantage" is used to describe those calves sired by performance tested bulls (Table 3). The young sire evaluation programs, such as the Wardensville or the Southern Bull Test are good sources of performance advantage sires. A few of the pools offering calves on the QA sale have set requirements that all calves be sired by performance advantage bulls.

EPD Breed Minimums for Bulls Born
During 1995 & 1997

Breed Yearling Weight Weaning Weight
Angus 51.0 28.5
Charolais -1.5 -1.3
Gelbvieh 5.0 2.0
Hereford 50.2 29.2
Limousin 17.0 9.0
Red Angus 36.7 23.4
Salers 14.6 8.9
Shorthorn 24.8 15.5
Simmental 42.2 26.5
If a yearling weight EPD is not available for a particular bull, then the bull's weaning weight EPD must meet minimum established levels.

Minimum level for yearling weight Expected PProgeny Differences (EPD) for qualifying sires that have not originated in the test program has been set at the breed average for all breeds except Charolias, Gelbvieh, and Simmental. These three breeds inherently have greater potential for growth and the minimum is set at the top 70 percent of the breed. (See accompanying table for the EPD averages of some of the most popular breeds.)

As with any new program, early adoption requires the "payment of dues" and the challenges of a new learning curve before success is achieved. Some of the earlier marketing pools are beginning to benefit as quality and uniformity of their calves improve.

A 12-year summary of receipts from the Morgantown calf pool has shown a $77.00 per head advantage over the state graded feeder calf price. It is likely that most of the calves would have brought more than the average price without participating since many of the calves would have been above average anyway. However, when the group marketed its first calves there was very little difference from the average in price and pounds of calves marketed. With some established goals and objectives, the uniformity of the cattle improved over time with respect to confirmation and performance. The average weight marketed is now nearly 100 pounds above the state average, and producers still realize a price advantage above the state average of the graded sales.

Producers participating in marketing pools are beginning to realize savings in other areas, such as supplies, feed, vaccines, transportation and even sharing a trading of bulls. The feeder calf marketing pools allow small producers to function with the advantages of the large producer.

If you are interested in participating in a feeder calf pool, contact your county's West Virginia University Extension agent, your local livestock market, or a state Department of Agriculture cattle grader for contacts in your area.