October 2004 (MS Word)

All Aboard the Marbling Train Wreck!
At what point will common sense once again take precedence over marketability in making
breeding decisions? The fierceness of competition in the seedstock industry has caused many
knowledgeable cattlemen to defy logic, ignore breed roles and place undue selection emphasis on
highly marketable traits, while ignoring traits that truly drive their customers’ profitability.
Maternal breeds are chasing growth, ribeye area, yield and placing excessive emphasis on
marbling; while sacrificing reproductive efficiency, fleshing ability and docility. At the same time,
terminal breeds focus on color, birth weight, fleshing ability and you guessed it, marbling; while
sacrificing growth, muscle and lean gain. The merits of a terminal crossbreeding system have been
demonstrated to exhaustion, however, the “everything to everyone” mentality of nearly every beef
cattle breed, seems to be as ramped as ever. At a time when selection pressure for so many traits
appears misappropriated, marbling rises to the top of the list for both selection pressure and damage
to breed characteristics.
Have you ever studied carcass data on what most would label as “maternal” cattle. A cowherd of
about 5.5 frame score, moderate in growth EPDs, with good fleshing ability and average muscling.
For decades these cattle have graded 70-80% Choice or better. Yet today both British and
Continental breeds are destroying their purpose in the industry in an attempt to achieve 85-95%
Choice; and they are failing in their mission. “Maternal” cattle don’t have enough growth or lean
gain potential for you? Yet another argument for the terminal crossbreeding system.
A recent edition of The Seedstock Digest examined possible causes for the lack of improvement in
marbling. Some hypothesized that the market is staying more current and cattle are being marketed
with less finish, but general trends in carcass weight and an increasing percent in yield grade 4’s
would contradict that argument. One contributing factor is that the majority of breed associations
are adjusting carcass traits to an endpoint not used by the industry; days of age. How many feedlot
managers set an egg timer when cattle enter the yard and ship them to the plant when the timer
goes off? None. Cattle are generally managed in an attempt to achieve an optimal compositional
endpoint, like fat thickness Shouldn’t the drivers of genetic change be reflective of our industries’
management practices?
Americans have always suffered from a more is better complex, but at some point doesn’t the
incremental costs of gain have to be calculated on exaggerated genetic selection pressure for
marbling? I couldn’t find a Journal paper to quantify my arguments, but can’t we all observe and
forecast using some level of honest evaluation and common sense the results of this misguided
selection pressure? There will always be individual animals and herds that defy the norm, but step
back and generalize the direction this selection pressure is moving populations from a type and
kind perspective. Breeds whose strengths are maternal function are growing narrower-based,
shallower bodied and flatter sided. Selection pressure is simultaneously being placed on ribeye
area, retail product and carcass value, but cattle are actually becoming lighter muscled in relation to
their live and carcass weights. Terminal type cattle are moving in the same direction, flatter,
narrower and less muscular, seemly suffering from a defeatist “if you can’t beat’em, join’em”
attitude. Witnessing large successful British breeders running a within-breed terminal breeding
program so that they can sell breeding stock by popular sires and retain maternal replacements by
functional sires, is a sad state of affairs.
But, like nearly everything in life, money is the ultimate motivator. Seedstock breeders are in
business to make money; commercial cattlemen, calf buyers and packers have all bought into the
hype; paying absorbent prices for imaginary improvements in marbling. Huge potential exist for
breeds and breeders whom accept their role in the beef industry and chose to positively affect their
customers’ bottom-line.
Commercial Shorthorn?
Why not, the breed that once reined supreme over the American beef industry still possesses the
same innate strengths that put them on top; maternal excellence, and carcass quality.
In the early twentieth century, Shorthorn cattle dominated the United States and their roan pattern
became synonymous with good milking, efficient females that could wean a high percent of their
body weight. As fads and cycles evolved, the Hereford breed ruled the land and then faded away
when Angus assumed their current role as the largest breed in the U.S. The times have certainly
changed, but the value and place for Shorthorn cattle in the commercial beef industry has not.
The benefits of crossbreeding have been
documented and reported time and time again.
The advantageous of breed complementarity
and heterosis are real dollars in the pocket of
commercial cattlemen. Breed complementarity
is necessary to allow producers to take
advantage of the differing strengths and
weaknesses of each breed; since no one breed
can excel at all economically important traits.
Heterosis is the advantage of crossbred calves
over the average of their parents. Heterosis is
the closest thing cattlemen have to a “free lunch”. The best aspect of heterosis is that it has the
greatest effect on traits that are lowly heritable and difficult to improve through selection.
Traits like percent calf crop weaned, pounds weaned per cow exposed, cow longevity, and cow
lifetime productivity; are vital to a commercial producer’s bottom-line. These are also the traits that
are improved most by heterosis. A commercial producer running a straight-bred cowherd, of any
breed, is forfeiting real dollars through lower weaning weights, decreased fertility and decreased
cow longevity.
In today’s marketplace there is no argument that a premium is being paid for black-hided calves.
The question is how many deserve it? The black hide no longer represents high-quality, or even
identification of any one breed. White-marked cattle are often docked by fickle buyers, simply
because they can. But, in today’s environment of value-based marketing and retained ownership,
are commercial cattlemen ready to sacrifice their cowherd profitability for a couple bucks a head on
lighter weight, straight-bred weaned calves?
Shorthorn steers in the NCBA Carcass Merit Project included 25 crossbred Shorthorns, 15 of which
were black hided. Of the 15, 10 received the coveted CAB (Certified Angus Beef) stamp. A solidred Shorthorn bull on black cows will yield primarily solid black calves. Although the color
perception is a myth, the markets are a reality. This option allows commercial cattlemen to take full
advantage of crossbreeding while still producing calves that buyers will love.
The Shorthorn bull is an aggressive breeder that can cover many cows over a large, rough terrain.
He comes in packages ranging from a 5 to 7 frame and can be a solid red, polled, calving-ease sire,
proven by his registration paper and backed by performance data. His calves will be vigorous, fastgaining and wean heavy. His daughters will be excellent mothers that are docile, good uddered, and
wean a high percent of their body weight.
A study conducted at the Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) showed that Shorthorn calved
99.8% unassisted, posted the highest average daily gain from 200 to 400 days of age, had the
highest marbling and percent choice when adjusted for age, and posted the lowest yield grade when
adjust for fat trim; a truly spectacular and unique set of characteristics to exist in a single beast.
Shorthorn cattle will grade as high a percent Choice as any of the major beef breeds, but offer
definite advantages over their British counterparts. Shorthorn cattle produce noticeably leaner
carcasses with great advantages in percent yield grade 1 and 2’s. Shorthorns offer the ability to feed
to heavier weights while avoiding the excessive yield grade 4 and 5’s that have resulted from the
push for extreme marbling in Angus cattle.
The time is definitely right to incorporate Shorthorn genetics into your commercial cowherd. The
American Shorthorn Association and its’ members are working hard to provide commercial
cattlemen with profitable genetics. Visit www.Heterosis.com for discussion, feeder calf listing and
commercial female listing of Shorthorn influenced genetics or feel free to contact Nick Hammett at
816-582-5277, nick@shorthorn.org, or Fred Saunders at 406-788-9331, saunders@shorthorn.org,
for any of your commercial Shorthorn needs.
Shorthorn Launches Revolutionary Branded Beef Marketing Effort
The first ever breed association sponsored, natural, source verified, direct marketing, branded beef
effort is now underway at the American Shorthorn Association. Successful
marketing requires two key components; great people and a great product.
Shorthorn has both and that is why Durham Natural Gold Beef™ will be a
huge success. Durham Natural Gold Beef ™ is a revolutionary marketing
assistance program that will offer producers of Shorthorn genetics the
opportunity to market their consistently, high-quality beef product to
friends, neighbors, retailers and restaurants by purchasing marketing
materials from the American Shorthorn Association and marketing their
own beef under the Durham Natural Gold name.
Producers across the country will follow specific guidelines to ensure a consistent and valuable
experience when eating Durham Natural Gold Beef™. Calves must be at least 50% Shorthorn
genetics, a maximum of 25% Continental genetics, never administered or fed any hormonal
supplements or antibiotics, and be less than 20 months of age. Their carcasses must weigh between
550 and 900 pounds, grade Choice, yield grade less than 3.5 and have a ribeye area ranging from
10.5 to 15 square inches. The guidelines are further explained on the producer affidavit, which
must be signed and on file with ASA prior to purchasing labels and marketing materials.
Consumers are increasingly interested in the source and safety of their beef product, so all cattle
will be source verified and processed in government inspected facilities.
Shorthorn Bull Sales See Noticeable Increase
Commercial producers are finally seeing the light as over the last year Shorthorn bull sales have
increased in both volume and average. Many breeders, like Harold Bertz of Mayview, MO sold out
of bulls early and claimed demand to be much higher than supply. Others, like JR Ranch, Othello,
WA saw their Shorthorn bulls out-average their Angus bulls by over $1000.
Commercial producers like David Skoglund, of Canova, SD are realizing that Shorthorn bulls on a
Black Angus cowherd reap financial benefits over running an Angus bull. “To begin with, I can get
a better bull for less money,” Skoglund says.
Because of the hype surrounding Angus genetics,
low-quality and average Angus bulls are grossly
overpriced. Although Skoglund loyally retains
ownership on his Shorthorn-cross calves; red bulls
on black cows leave him with nearly an all black
calf crop. While Skoglund generally makes more
money by selling on a grid, the black calf crop is
worth more should he decide to sell the calves
through the sale ring. The calves just look like good
Angus cattle, plus he retains the benefit of added
pounds from heterosis and the more productive
cross-bred replacement heifers.
As the industry begins to measure decreases in weaning weight, less efficient replacement females,
worse temperament, slower gains and lower red-meat yields; the need for a source of maternal
heterosis will continue to become increasingly apparent.
Shorthorn “Proof Positive” Feedlot Program
Finally, a chance for Shorthorn breeders of all sizes to collect feedlot and carcass data on their own
genetics and prove the value of Shorthorn cattle! As the beef industry continues to place greater
emphasis on data, information has quickly become a requirement just to be considered by feedercalf buyers and commercial bull and female customers. Until now it has been extremely difficult
for small breeders, or even large breeders with only a few head not sold as breeding stock, to find
feedyard and packer partners willing to return data on a small number of head.
That is why the American Shorthorn Association has developed a feeding trial with an open
invitation to all Shorthorn breeders and their customers. Aside from providing valuable data to
individual breeders, this trial will serve as a benchmark for the entire breed, positive proof to show
feeders and packers Shorthorn cattle’s abilities and give breeders access to the PM Beef Ranch-toRetail Grid.
The cattle will be managed by Dean Freed of Horizon Beef, Sanborn, IA and fed by Wayne
Dekkers in Rolling Hills Feedlot, Hawarden, IA. The cattle will be harvested in three or more
outcome groups at the PM Beef Plant in Windom, MN. Delivery will be accepted the week of
October 15th. Look for great results on these cattle to be released next Spring.
Inagural WHR Gold Breeders Recognized
Having data on your cattle is quickly becoming the ante, just to play the game. In visiting cow/calf
operators, packer buyers and feedlots, all are willing to try new genetics; if it can be proven with
sufficient data that they will improve their bottom-line. Sufficient data for a breed means current
and complete feedlot and carcass data on thousands of head. But, buyers would much prefer
establishing relationships with individual producers whose cattle have previous data.
Accurate data recording and submittal takes discipline and effort. In an
attempt to recognize breeders for these efforts the Genetic Evaluation
Committee developed the Whole Herd Reporting (WHR) Gold
program. The WHR Gold program recognizes breeders that submit a
high percent of birth weight, weaning weight and yearling weight
records, as a percent of cows carried on their inventory. Breeders are
required to be on the WHR reporting system and carry at least 10 cows
in their inventory.
18 breeders met the qualifications for 2004 and they will be recognized at the ASA Annual
Convention banquet in Louisville. These breeders will also be allowed the use of the WHR Gold
Breeder 2004 logo. If you see these breeders congratulate them and thank them for their efforts in
making the Shorthorn genetic analysis more meaningful.
Brockmueller Shorthorns Freeman, SD
AAA Shorthorns Revere, MO
Brookwood Farms Ionia, MI
Bern-A-Dale Shorthorns Oakland, IA
Edward Spencer Trilla, IL
Dana Miller Family Goshen, IN
Rolyn Shorthorns Delavan, IL
V8 Shorthorns Boling, TX
H Clay Dean Blue River, WI
Robert Miller Fordville, ND
Hidden Hills Farm Isle, MN
Meadow Lane Farms Mayview, MO
Richard Holt Prospect, KY
Michael P Boettcher Fairchild, WI
Carrie Hart Fair Grove, MO
Alan Leap Flat Rock, IN
Willow Creek Stock Farm, Verndale, MN
Y Lazy Y Shorthorns, Corvallis, MT
8288 Hascall Street
Omaha, NE 68124