Deprogramming the Beef Industry
Deprogramming usually involves long-lasting, intense sessions to bring about a reversal of the mind following a brain-washing by a cult, sect or other sinister movement. But, hiring men in white coats to snatch cattlemen and hold them in a cheap motel room until they admit they’re not getting their money’s worth out of most seedstock purchases just wasn’t feasible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for seedstock suppliers making money. Most are good people who have paid their dues, but commercial producers paying $4000 to $7000 for commercial bulls that will likely suck the maternal efficiency out of their cowherd just can’t pencil out. In recent years the affects of overvalued seedstock has been masked by high calf and fed prices, but having seen the peak of this cycle where will buyers look next to improve actual profits?
They’ll likely look to seedstock operations that have proven and predictable genetics, strong customer service, and the notion of an actual program.
“Deprogramming” has nothing to do actually with men in white coats and brain washing, but refers to what has already plagued the beef seedstock industry; very few seedstock operations today even have a program. Real seedstock programs these days seem to be things of legend of which books are written. Few breeders possess the genetic minds of yester-years’ cattlemen who designed complicated and deliberate line-breeding programs allowing their customers to reap the benefits. Many of today’s top breeders are nothing more than propagators and multipliers who choose their AI sires from last years most highly used sire list and consume any boost from outcross genetics while bragging about performance. Where’s the appeal or romanticism in that?
Gone are the days when you look at a pedigree and the prefix of every animal in the pedigree belongs to the same breeder. One has to wonder why, after many generations, a seedstock producers’ own cattle would not be best suited for his own program and environment, but are just right for his customers’. Instead we have producers in Texas AI’ing to the highest ratioing bull from a herd in Montana lacking even an educated guess as to the genetic by environment interactions or the functionality and longevity of the bull’s daughters in the differing environment.
There is no place in today’s fast paced, data-driven industry for a breeder of discipline and principle. How would he ever win the race to record the first animal with 0.0 BW and 150 YW
EPD? But, if you look hard enough you can still find actual seedstock breeding programs lurking the shadows. Their not typically high-profile breeders with high averaging sales, but they are the ones who will prove to be the source for maternal replacements for many of today’s “top” programs. There are those that would say these breeders are sitting on the tracks waiting to get run over, but that may be a safer place than on a runaway train.
Cattle Cycle Downturn to Change Seedstock Production
As cattle prices decline over the next few years, commercial cattlemen will undoubtedly begin demanding more from their seedstock and its supplier. The past few years have been good for everyone with below average calves receiving phenomenal prices and good calves nearing the absurd price level. This affect has trickled down to the seedstock segment as well. The largest seedstock operations have moved large volumes of cattle annually at high averages calculating to astounding gross sales figures, but as we approach the downslope of the cycle, commercial buyers will begin to seek ways to improve their profitability and realize it’s more than just increasing returns. This epiphany will force commercial cattleman to examine how their seedstock purchases are actually affecting their bottom line and just what their seedstock suppliers are doing to help.
Commercial cattlemen will soon realize that smaller, unheard of, breeders without a $20,000 advertising budget can supply the same genetics at half of the cost. Sure they may only be 3 generations deep in AI sires compared to 10 generations of “top” breeders, but 3 generation accounts for 87.5% of the animal. Is there $2000+ difference in the genetic value of the remaining
12.5% of those animals? More importantly, they’ll find breeders that aren’t only multiplying popular genetics, but who understand that true, sustainable profitability of their customers demands focus on both the input and output sides of the profitability equation. As females who are sired by excessive growth, excessive ribeye area bulls of supposed maternal breeds who have over-chased marbling come into production, a renewed focus will be placed on maternal efficiency. Traits like reproduction, fleshing ability, udder quality and docility will have a greater importance.
There will also be a change toward lower input seedstock production.
Lower prices for commercial calves will translate to lower prices paid for seedstock requiring suppliers to find ways to produce seedstock more cheaply to survive, but also because longevity will play a more important role in commercial purchasing decisions. Bulls pushed to gain in excess of
4 pounds per day and heifers developed in feedyards simply don’t last as long under commercial breeding conditions. Survivability, longevity and bulls that will aggressively settle more cows annually, and in a lifetime, will be realized for their true economic value.
Customer service will once again become a focal point in the seedstock industry. In the last few years a focus on customer service has taken a back set to marketing inferior bulls that should have been castrated. In the seedstock industry of the next decade, successful suppliers will figure out how to put money in their customers’ pockets rather than take it out. The term, or at least concept, of the Full-Service Genetic Provider will once again become the goal or catch phrase of many seedstock operations. In years to come, seedstock suppliers will once again aggressively form relationships with alliances, feedyards and packers in an effort to command top dollar for their customers’ calves. There will be a growing trend to pool and commingle customers’ feeder calves and host special sales, develop customers’ heifers (both custom and for resale), and to assist in retained ownership agreements and partnerships.
Most importantly, there will be a renewed personal relationship between the seedstock supplier and their clients. The seedstock provider will understand the individual needs, goals, limitations and environments of every customer and fortify this understanding with personal communication and in-herd visits. The successful seedstock supplier will assist customers in making profitable
purchasing decisions and have the integrity to send them down the road to a competing seedstock supplier when they don’t have the product that best suits their customer’s needs. Money now spent to saturate the beef industry in full-page, full-color advertisements will be redirected toward satisfying current customer needs, increasing customer loyalty and profitability for all involved.
Heterosis will once again be discovered as a source for increased profits; mandating alternative breed selection is considered. Data available from these alternative breeds will finally be scrutinized by commercial cattleman who will realize there are profitable and viable options to today’s breeding program. Cattle that contribute maternal excellence, high marbling and provide much needed heterosis do exist. Breeders of these alternative breeds will adapt their breeding programs to the needs of their commercial customers and help prove the value of outstanding customer service, personalized relationships and impeccable integrity. Composite seedstock production will be a continuing trend to supply heterosis and breed complementarity in an easily managed breeding program and demand for high carcass merit, maternally-efficient composite seedstock will outweigh supply for years to come.
Sometimes You Need A Little Red to Keep You in the Black
As the US commercial cowherds continue down the costly path of becoming nearly straightbred, producers, buyers, feeders and packers are witnessing lower reproductive success, lighter, slowergaining cattle, and increased incidence of yield grade 4’s and 5’s compared to crossbred calves.
The initial boost in performance and profitability gained by injecting Shorthorn genetics into a straightbred Angus cowherd is remarkable. For those concerned about meeting live specifications for Angus-based programs, a solid-red Shorthorn bull will still produce black calves when used on an Angus cowherd.
A second option to take advantage of heterosis and breed complementarity is use of Durham Red composite seedstock. The
Durham Red animal combines the maternal excellence and docility of Shorthorn with the efficiency and calving ease of Red Angus. All registered Durham Red animals are backed by mandated performance reporting and incorporate EPDs of both the Shorthorn and Red Angus databases. Harold Bertz, a Shorthorn breeder near Mayview, MO, created Durham Reds this Spring. Bertz explains, “the Durham Reds will meet the needs of my commercial customers; providing calving ease, marbling and growth while also providing our operation with an alternative Shorthorn-derived product allowing us to expand our offering and sales volume.” Clint Anderson of Lakeside, NE is taking the reciprocal approach in making
Durham Reds by using Shorthorns bulls on Red Angus cows. Anderson says the maternal and marbling ability of Shorthorn in a red, polled package combined with his efficient Red Angus females make Durham Red ideally suited for his operation.
Shorthorn Viewed as Viable Option by Industry Leaders
The Shorthorn breed as a whole is striving daily to not only meet the needs of the commercial beef industry, but to also prove the value of current Shorthorn genetics. For years, the value of
Shorthorn has been documented, but largely unnoticed by commercial cattlemen. The Meat
Animal Research Center (MARC) Germplasm Evaluation proved Shorthorn to be fast gaining, high marbling and high yielding, and Australian research showed Shorthorn to have an exceptionally high frequency of tenderness genes. The NCBA carcass merit project proved Shorthorn sired
calves could grade 67% CAB, and the American Shorthorn Association’s own carcass database shows Shorthorn to average a 772 lbs. carcass weight, 12.9 sq. in. of ribeye area, .42 in. of back fat, with a yield grade of 2.8 and low-Choice quality grade.
Shorthorn has either failed to capitalize on these great data points, or many commercial producers have chosen not to take notice. All but a few that is. This Spring Shorthorn semen was used in structured sire tests by two leading herds with the right to retain Shorthorn sired females. Amana
Farms in Amana, IA bred 375 cows to 5 different Shorthorn AI sires and the JHL Ranch operated by Art Brownlee in Ashby, NE capitalized on two Shorthorn sires in their program. Shorthorn is also involved in a third structured sire test in conjunction with the American Simmental
Association and Hergert Feeding Company in Mitchell, NE. Other notable industry leaders purchasing Shorthorn semen this season were the Rex Ranch of Ashby, NE and Leachman Cattle of Colorado.
Shorthorn Producer Sees Merit in Marketing Own Beef
David McElhaney of Hookstown, PA has marketed his family’s beef for years, but the recent use of
ASA’s Durham Natural Gold Beef ® program has taken it to a new level. The Durham Natural Gold
® program was designed to provide marketing assistance to producers of Shorthorn beef who desired to take a more direct approach to selling their product. McElhaney realized that he was already producing beef that met the specifications of the program and decided to take advantage of the credibility associated with being part of an Association sponsored program and the high-quality marketing and labeling materials.
McElhaney explains, “Now when I meet a potential customer I have a more professional look to my marketing material and a program to which I belong that is larger than just myself. Being part of the program has allowed me to approach larger clientele including retail outlets and restaurants.” McElhaney states that by feeding his own cattle, that were not kept or sold as breeding stock, he adds significant value to a greater percentage of his calf crop. “Now, rather than taking my chances at the auction market and paying commission, I feed the cattle myself, taking advantage of Shorthorn’s feeding efficiencies and add a lot of value to the end product. By selling small combination boxes of beef product, I can gross anywhere from $1500 to
$1800 per head.” To learn more details about the Durham Natural Gold Beef ® program go to
Proof Positive Feedlot Program to Demonstrate Value of Shorthorn Genetics
The second Annual Proof Positive Feedlot Program, coordinated by the American Shorthorn
Association, will take delivery of cattle on October 17 th
and 18 th
. This year there will be approximately 140 head on feed at Kugler Feedyard, soon to be Darr Feedlot-South, in Cozad, NE and another 60 head in a test being conducted by Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, PA. All cattle will be harvested on a carcass merit basis under retained ownership of their producers. These producers will reap the benefits of feeding and selling Shorthorn cattle on the rail while collecting valuable data for their operations and the Shorthorn breed.
Heterosis.com Gets New Look
Shorthorn’s commercial internet presence has been dramatically updated to become a resource for
Shorthorn enthusiast and the beef industry in general. The site not only provides details concerning all of Shorthorn’s commercial and genetics programs, such as Durham Natural Gold Beef, Durham
Red and the Proof Positive Feedlot program, but users may also find information on ASA’s genetic evaluation, breed averages and trends, look up pedigrees and EPDs and information on ultrasound collection.
There is also a free listing service for Shorthorn feeder cattle and commercial females and a discussion board to stimulate conversion covering the beef industry and Shorthorn genetics. There is also now a resource center containing “must read” articles and the entire Beef Improvement
Federation Guidelines and Fact Sheets.
2005 WHR Gold Breeders Announced
The WHR Gold program, launch just last year, is designed to recognize and reward Shorthorn breeds for their efforts in outstanding data collection and submittal. Shorthorn’s Board of Directors approved the recommendation from the Genetic Evaluation and Database Management Committee to annually recognize breeders whom submitted a minimum of 95% of birth weight, 85% of weaning weights and 50% of yearling weights as a percentage of their females on inventory. The breeders must also be enrolled in ASA’s Whole Herd Reporting program. Recipients will be recognized at the Association’s Annual Awards Banquet and are permitted to use the 2005 WHR Gold logo in their signage and advertising. Congratulations to all on the award and thank you for your efforts and contributions to the Shorthorn breed.
BAKENHUS POLLED SHORTHORNS Columbus, NE
BROCKMUELLER SHORTHORNS* Freeman, SD
DANA MILLER FAMILY* Goshen, IN
HOBBY ACRES SHORTHORNS
J & J HUMPHREYS
K-KIM CATTLE COMPANY
LOVING POLLED SHORTHORNS
MAURICE & FAYE KORTHAUS
MEADOW LANE FARMS*
PEAK VIEW RANCH INC
Pawnee Rock, KS
Y LAZY Y SHORTHORNS*
* - denotes second year recipient
8288 Hascall Street
Omaha, NE 68124