AGF Steer Challenge, Scale & Rail Contest rebooted

Organizers are hoping to breathe new life into the American Gelbvieh Foundation’s Steer Challenge and Scale & Rail Contest.

Kinsley Feeders manager and American Gelbvieh Association Board of Directors treasurer Derek Martin said this is the first year the feeding has taken place at Kinsley, Kansas, and organizers have been trying to revive the contest in the past couple of years. He believes in the many benefits that come from a contest like this.

“It’s been a good program and good interest this year,” he said. “It was kind of a reboot of the program. We had kind of lost some steam and so we got it back up and going.”

AGF has primarily three focal areas—youth development, member education and research—in hopes to improve Gelbvieh and Balancer genetics. These two contests were initiated to help increase the volume of actual carcass data into the collection, grow the foundation for future projects, in addition to giving members an opportunity to work for breed improvement.

Martin hopes the owners who have cattle in the contests will be able to get enough money for their animals—equal to or more than what they would have received selling them as feeders. But that’s not the most important part of the contests.

“Secondly, and probably the most important in a deal like this is the information they get back on known sourced cattle,” he said. “We collected DNA samples, so there’ll be parent verified. The carcass data will contribute to the genetic evaluation of the breed.”

The foundation and Martin both believe they’ll be able to gain some valuable knowledge that way.

“And then third, competition,” Martin said. “And there’s even a prize if you win.”

More importantly though, is the knowledge gained from the data that results from the challenge and the contest. Tom Strahm, commercial marketing director for the AGA, said those who enter are able to learn about feeding performance.

“You get carcass data on all the animals who are sire identified by DNA,” Strahm said. “If somebody hasn’t been feeding their cattle or they have too small a group to feed out somewhere—we encourage them to take at least three that had been raised in the same contemporary group at their ranch—then there’s a little bit more value in those results.”

Ultimately those results could be included in the genetic evaluation for improving accuracy of growth and carcass EPDs. For instance, if a purebred breeder had some cull bulls that were castrated and not sold for breeding purposes, it’s a great opportunity for the breeder to learn about the genetics.

“That’s a good opportunity for a guy to get a little bit of data about how his cattle feed and how they perform on the rail,” Strahm said.

Those in the contest have to have DNA on file for the sires in order to be sire verified, and those animals entered get DNA collected and have to be sire verified to win prizes.

The Scale & Rail Contest is a sire-identified contest aimed to increase the flow of sire identified carcass data reported into the AGA database. This will help increase the data volume and assist in improving carcass traits, as well as an avenue for members to improve the accuracy of carcass traits of their herd sires.

The animals were delivered to Kinsley feeders during mid-December and will remain the property of the owners during the duration of the contest. Participants are responsible for the cost of feed, yardage, vaccinations, veterinarian cost associated with morbidity and loss due to mortality. All costs will be billed to participants directly by the feedyard. The feedyard will deduct any unpaid costs from the sale of the animal to the packer at harvest time from the gross revenue of the sale and the owner will be paid the net balance.

The steer must have one registered Gelbvieh or Balancer parent, and each ranch may contribute three or more steers from the same weaning contemporary group (same ranch, same arrival date and same harvest date). Animals have to have weighed a minimum of 750 pounds with maximum weight of 900 pounds by the time they arrive at the feedyard.

Martin said the entrants in both contests came from 10 consigners and averaged 759 pounds. One group was a little heavier at 868 pounds while another was 610, but the contemporary groups will be kept together. At the end of May the cattle were close to being finished. When it’s time to be marketed they will be sent to National Beef in Dodge City.

“I think I’m going to market two-thirds of them in about 30 days and one-third of them—just because they were lighter weight coming in—we’ll go about 20 to 30 days after that,” Martin said.

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The AGF Steer Challenge allows supporters of the foundation to donate a steer ($1,000) to the AGF and be designated to breed improvement such as research projects, updating DNA markers, and EPD and Index improvements.

Winners will be recognized and awarded based on each of the following contest categories: average daily gain and carcass value. There will also be a set of pen awards in carcass value. Individuals who donated the top performing steers will be awarded a cash prize at the conclusion of the project. Cash prizes of at least $2,000 for 2022 Steer Challenge if three or more steers are entered or donated. Cash prizes of at least $500 for 2022 Steer Challenge if less than three steers are entered or donated.

“So it does raise a little bit of money for the foundation, but most of the time that money’s paid back in prizes between the two different contests,” Strahm said.

Awards are given in a number of different areas like high average daily gain, carcass value or sire group.

But Strahm hopes besides the breed promotion and marketing information obtained from the contests for Gelbviehs and Balancers, he hopes the data that comes out of it will help show how including the genetics in a cow herd can help with average daily gain, feed conversion and carcass merit.

“It’s good information for these producers to learn something about what’s going on, because most of them are not feeding cattle anywhere else either,” he said. “They learn something about their genetics. The commercial people—they can learn something about feeding cattle that they’re selling to other people.”

If the contest data meets the requirements it can be included in the genetic evaluation for AGA.

“If a person would have 10 head in it, and there’s two different sire groups, and those animals all came from the same contemporary groups that individuals farm or ranch of origin, then it can benefit them for increasing the accuracy of the EPDs of the sire that’s used,” Strahm said.

For more information about the contests visit

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].